August 23, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Dems on track to break records with LGBT convention delegates

National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The upcoming Democratic National Convention is set to have a record number of openly LGBT delegates, although goals for some states aren’t being met, according to new data from the National Stonewall Democrats.

The organization as of Wednesday evening identified at least 470 openly LGBT delegates that are set to attend the convention, but more data is expected to become public at a later time. A total of 5,963 delegates are set to come to Charlotte, N.C.., for the event during the week of Sept. 3.

Having 470 delegates exceeds the goal of 418 delegates at the convention and is already higher than numbers from 2008, when 277 delegates participated.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said the numbers “for sure” mean Democrats are on track to have the highest number of openly LGBT delegates ever at the convention.

“We’re finally getting to the point where we get closer to appropriate measure of representation as compared to the population at large, although we’re not quite to that point,” Davis said.

Davis said the goals for LGBT delegates were set by the state Democratic parties as part of their affirmative action plans for the convention, but these goals had to meet the approval of the Democratic National Committee.

Additionally, Davis has identified a total of 518 official LGBT participants at the convention. In addition to the 470 identified LGBT delegates, these participants include 23 alternate delegates, 20 standing committee members and five pages. That’s also higher than the 365 LGBT participants who went to the 2008 convention in Denver and the 282 LGBT participants who went to the 2004 convention in Boston.

The numbers aren’t official and the DNC has yet to make public the final numbers. Davis said he isn’t sure when the official numbers will be made public, but they are expected to come out before the convention. The DNC didn’t respond to a request for comment on when the official information will be released.

Stonewall obtained complete data on LGBT delegates from 52 of the 56 jurisdictions that are participating in the convention, which includes all 50 states, D.C., territories like Puerto Rico and Guam as well as Democrats abroad. The final numbers could be higher because two states for which Stonewall has incomplete data are California and New York — which are expected to bring in many delegates, including many LGBT delegates. The two outstanding non-state jurisdictions are American Samoa and the Virgin Islands.

All 50 states and D.C. set a numerical goal for LGBT delegates at the convention, which is as low as one in five states — Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming — and as high as 74 for California. It’s the first year each state has set a numerical goal to send at least one LGBT delegate. Davis said each state for the first time will send at least one openly LGBT delegate to the convention and this year marks the first time Mississippi, Arkansas and Alaska will send openly LGBT delegates to the convention.

But not all of these jurisdictions are meeting their goals for LGBT delegates. According to Stonewall’s data, 37 have met or exceeded goals while 16 have fallen short of them.

The 16 jurisdictions that have missed their goals are Alabama by one, Alaska by two, California by seven, D.C. by one, Florida by 10, Georgia by one, Idaho by two, Indiana by two, Kansas by two, Massachusetts by one, and Missouri by four, Montana by one, Pennsylvania by one, Texas by one, Vermont by one and Virginia by six. But Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts and Texas were able to make up their deficits through non-delegate LGBT participants.

The 37 jurisdictions that met or exceeded their goals were Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Democrats Abroad, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Maine had a goal of two, but is sending eight.

New York was able to meet or exceed its goal based on the partial information obtained by Stonewall. California may still meet its goal after more final data is compiled. Guam is sending two delegates, and while the goal information wasn’t available, the entire delegation is only 12 people.
“Even with 16 jurisdictions falling short of their goals, the other states made up for it pushing us to 112.4 percent of the overall goal,” Davis added.
Davis said some states set goals that were “ambitiously high” and only nine jurisdictions are sending fewer openly LGBT delegates than they sent in 2008: Alabama, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Vermont and Virginia.

Additionally, Davis said he expects a record number of transgender delegates at the convention and estimated that about nine or 10 will take part.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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