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Denver Convention Comes out of the Closet

August 29, 2008

Denver, CO - The Democratic National Convention is being called one of the most "open" ever, in every sense of the word. During the convention in Denver, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus met and celebrated the highest number of openly gay delegates in the party's history.

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, the first national politician to choose to "come out" (in 1987), says that open attendance is a sign that tolerance is growing around the country.

"There was this fear after the election of 2004 that supporting LGBT rights was hurting the Democrats. That's gone, because in 2006 the Democrats won very big victories without having in any way backed away."

The caucus applauded Presidential nominee Barack Obama's support for ending the ban on gays in the military and for including protection for transgendered people in hate-crime legislation.

Of the more than 4,000 Democrat delegates, 275 are openly gay, according to the National Stonewall Democrats. This LGBT rights advocacy organization, founded by Frank, is affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Several pundits have criticised Obama for not doing enough to acknowledge the gay community. And a gay member of the Obama campaign staff says he believes Obama could do a better job of convincing the LGBT community that the senator will fight for equal rights. However, during the caucus, Frank became visibly upset about questions related to what Obama may, or may not, say publicly.

"Frankly, often these days, people use rhetoric as a substitute for reality. He's committed to all the legislative goals."

Released to coincide with the Democratic convention, a new Zogby poll reports that 60 percent of registered voters would support a qualified gay candidate for the nation's top offices. The Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute (GLLI) commissioned the poll. GLLI President Chuck Wolfe says the idea that any American child could grow up to serve as President has long symbolized opportunity and fairness in our country.

"These results prove that most Americans want to be fair to gay people. Our aspiration is to always see each other as individuals first, and though we may not always succeed at that, our underlying fairness and decency means that one day soon we will. This marks tremendous progress for our community and for the voting public."

Eric Mack/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - ID