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An Inclusive
First Day at the DNC

An Inclusive
First Day at the DNC

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From Sen. Ted Kennedy's reference to erasing barriers between gays and straights to Michelle Obama's gripping primetime address to the largest-ever LGBT caucus meeting, The Advocate brings you Day One at the DNC.

Well-known LGBT supporter Sen. Edward M. Kennedy brimmed with emotion as he addressed the Democratic National Convention on its opening night Monday in Denver. "Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against group and straight against gay," Kennedy told the room of some 4,500 cheering delegates waving signs emblazoned with the senator's name.

Kennedy's appearance was a surprise given his brain cancer, which many thought would prevent him from attending the convention. But true to form, the 46-year Senate veteran persevered. "Nothing -- nothing -- is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight," he said, later pledging to "be there next January on the floor" of the chamber to work with a President Obama.

His speech got the crowd pumped for Michelle Obama's headline address -- "I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president," she said -- which ended the first day of the 2008 Democratic convention. Hours earlier, the first of two LGBT caucus meetings during the week took place, where the number of LGBT delegates -- 380, according to caucus chair Rick Stafford -- was trumpeted as a 41% increase over the 2004 total. "Our caucus will be unequivocal and enthusiastic in our support of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States," Stafford said.

Stafford was one of several speakers at the meeting, a gathering of LGBT delegates and convention participants in the Colorado Convention Center, where other caucuses and convention events take place before the main festivities begin later in the day at the Pepsi Center a few blocks away. Among those who addressed the caucus: Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin; Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the lead attorney in the California court case that legalized same-sex marriage there; and press-shy philanthropist Tim Gill.

Democratic National Committee secretary Alice Germond, who'll call the roll for Obama's nomination on Wednesday, knew exactly how to get the delegates going. "If you are LGBT...you are everywhere," she said in a booming voice. "You will make that critical difference of 1%, 2%, 3% in swing states, so that we don't have the hateful legislation we've seen proposed in the last four and eight years. We will change that!"

When Baldwin was introduced, she received a standing ovation from the room. "I started out a supporter of the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," she said to applause, quickly adding that both Clinton and Obama jointly asked her to be on the Democratic platform committee. "What an incredible honor and what an incredible sign of the two sides coming together," Baldwin said -- although die-hard Clinton supporters planned to rally in the streets of Denver on Tuesday.

As for the document she helped craft, which includes gender identity as a protected category for the first time and makes a point of including same-sex families, Baldwin said it was "by far the most pro-equality platform we've ever had. The language is unequivocal and we should be proud to support" it.

But it was Gill, who founded the pioneering publishing-software company Quark Inc., who arguably provided the most compelling remarks of the day. The man behind the Gill Foundation and the Gill Action Fund, whose mission is to knock off antigay state legislators by lavishly funding their opponents, described himself as a "career counselor."

"Rick Santorum is a wonderful example of a man who needed a change in career," Gill said, referring to the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, to cheers and cackles from the caucus. "And there are thousands of people in this nation that are really in need of a new career," namely the Sally Kerns lurking in many state legislatures.

"The Republican Party is controlled by a bunch of bigots," Gill added, underscoring the stakes of this November's elections, from the White House on down, "and the only way the bigots are going to learn is if we take their power away."

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