With election season in high gear, Democrats are preparing an unprecedented convention next week that includes a mixture of live and virtual events, including components seeking to highlight the party’s commitment to the LGBTQ community.
The lineup leading up to Joe Biden’s speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination includes visibility for high-profile LGBTQ Democrats, including Pete Buttigieg and Danica Roem, as well as ratification of a national platform that includes the words “transgender women of color,” “non-binary,” “non-conforming” and “confirmation surgery” for the first time.
Those LGBTQ components will be integrated into the convention, which during the time of the coronavirus has been downsized to a largely virtual event, although operations will remain based in the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wis.
Buttigieg, who performed well in the primaries, was given a primetime slot for a speech Thursday night. That’s a high honor in a convention where many participants — with the exception of Biden and his newly selected running mate Kamala Harris — will be given short times to speak as opposed to time for a major address.
Meanwhile, Virginia State Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William), is set to have a role at the Democratic convention, although the exact nature of her presence is at this time unclear, Democratic officials told the Blade.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement choosing Roem to have a role at the convention “was an inspired decision.”
“In 2017, Roem made history beating Virginia’s self-described ‘chief homophobe,’” David said, referring to former State Del. Bob Marshall. “Alongside [Minneapolis City Council member] Andrea Jenkins, she began a revolution for increasing LGBTQ representation in government inspiring a community hungry for a seat at the table.”
Roem won’t be the first openly transgender person to address a major party convention. That distinction belongs to Sarah McBride, a transgender advocate for the Human Rights Campaign now running for a seat in the Delaware State Senate, who addressed the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Joe Solmonese, CEO of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, told the Blade the integration of LGBTQ rising stars in the event underscores Biden’s commitment to the community.
“Vice President Biden very clearly sees that LGBT people are part of the fabric, and they will be part of the fabric of the convention,” Solmonese said. “We’re asking lots of people to participate in all sorts of different ways.”
Also during the convention, Democrats are expected to ratify the quadrennial party platform, which includes many planks in support of LGBTQ rights, including a commitment to transgender health and support for the Equality Act, which would comprehensively ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination as a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act 1964.
Delegates are currently voting on the platform and voting closes Saturday night, a Democratic National Committee spokesperson said. Among them is language making the document the first to recognize transgender women of color, gender non-conforming people and the non-binary community.
Meghan Stabler, a Austin, Texas-based transgender advocate and member of the Democratic platform committee, introduced 26 amendments that were adopted as part of the draft platform to make the additions happen.
In an interview with the Blade, Stabler said it was important to create a progressive platform that was “as fully inclusive as possible,” which she said means recognizing different components of the LGBTQ community as well as intersectional issues, such as criminal justice reform.
“It isn’t about one particular issue,” Stabler said. “For trans people in society, we come up against everything from health care discrimination to criminal justice discrimination, and I don’t just mean by law enforcement, but also consider prosecutors, judges and even those that are in the jail system.”
Stabler, who said she expects delegates to the Democratic convention to ratify the platform, said she hopes the 2020 convention will serve as a model on which to base further progress in the 2024 platform.
“A fully functional America is one that is inclusive of everybody, right?” Stabler said. “Whether or not you are transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, it is the values that we hold true as Democrats that all Americans should be treated fairly and equally.”