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by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

365 open GLBTs at Democratic Convention
Some 365 openly GLBT delegates and other participants attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver - up from 275 at the 2004 convention, according to National Stonewall Democrats.

California led the way with at least 63 GLBT delegates, alternates, state committee members and pages, followed by New York with 28 and Florida and Texas with 21 each, Stonewall reported.

At the other end of the spectrum, states with a single GLBT attendee included Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi and Wyoming. And there were none from American Samoa, Nebraska, North Dakota and the Virgin Islands.

Stonewall said it was happy with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's selection of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., as his running mate.

"The Democrats now have a national ticket that is ready to lead our party to victory this November," said Executive Director Jon Hoadley.

The Human Rights Campaign called Biden "a proven and effective advocate for fairness and equality."

"Sen. Biden's record in the United States Senate is one of support and understanding that has been unwavering throughout his career," said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

As the convention opened August 25, speakers at the main podium addressed Gay issues.

"Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against groups, and straight against Gay," said U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who is ill with brain cancer.

Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias told delegates: "In just the last eight years, the Republicans have cut the value of the U.S. dollar almost in half and added $4 trillion to our children's debt. They've done this in just eight years. And now they want four more? As an investor, I yearn for a president who looks to financial heroes, not corporate lobbyists, for economic advice. As a Gay man, I yearn for a president who believes in equal rights for all Americans. But most of all, as an American, I yearn for a president that the world can root for and be inspired by. Because having much of the world on our side again would not only be good for our national security, it would be good for business. Vote Obama, my fellow Democrats. Because, boy, do we ever need a change."

Obama and the party platform are in agreement with Gay leaders on every Gay issue except marriage.

Obama has said he believes "marriage is the union between a man and a woman ... a sacred union - God's in the mix."

But he opposes constitutional amendments - state or federal - to enforce his definition of marriage, and supports civil-union laws that grant same-sex couples the rights of marriage.

On Tuesday, August 26, Michelle Obama attended a luncheon for Gay delegates and dignitaries, receiving a raucous reception.

"We can work together to repeal laws like DOMA and 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and we can oppose divisive constitutional amendments that would strip civil rights and benefits away from LGBT Americans because discrimination has no place in a nation founded on the promise of equality," Mrs. Obama said.

"In the world as it should be, anyone willing to put in an honest day's work can make a good living and support their family. [And] employers are held accountable for discrimination against LGBT Americans. The federal government fully protects all of us - in the world as it should be - including LGBT Americans, especially against hate crimes. That's the world as it should be."

Hillary Clinton mentioned Gays briefly in her Tuesday remarks to the full convention.

"I ran for president ... to fight for an America defined by deep and meaningful equality - from civil rights to labor rights, from women's rights to Gay rights, from ending discrimination to promoting unionization to providing help for the most important job there is: caring for our families," she said.

On Wednesday, openly Lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., addressed the convention on health care issues. She didn't mention Gay issues or her sexual orientation.

At the convention's end on Thursday, in his nomination acceptance speech, Obama said, "I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination."

Zogby poll: Americans would be OK with a Gay president
Sixty-five percent of Americans could support an openly Gay candidate for president of the U.S. and 71 percent would be fine with the appointment of an openly Gay Cabinet secretary, a Zogby International poll has found.

Sixty-seven percent could support an openly Gay vice-presidential candidate and 69 percent are OK with an openly Gay candidate for Senate.

"These results prove that most Americans want to be fair to Gay people," said Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Leadership Institute. "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."

Support for a Gay presidential candidate was highest among the youngest adults, people who live in the East or West of the nation, Democrats and independent voters, Asians and blacks, and Catholics and Jews.

Support came from 86 percent of people age 18-24, 66 percent of people age 35-69, and 60 percent of people over age 70. The lowest level of support (49 percent) came from people age 25-34.

Democrats were more supportive (77 percent) than Republicans (52 percent), and women (67 percent) were more supportive than men (63 percent).

Ninety percent of Asians said they would be fine with an openly Gay presidential candidate, followed by 69 percent of African Americans, 67 percent of Hispanics and 64 percent of whites.

Jews (89 percent) and Catholics (81 percent) polled much more open to the idea than Protestants (53 percent).

The mid-August poll questioned 1,089 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

There are more than 415 openly GLBT elected officials in the U.S., 10 times more than 20 years ago.

Indian tribe legalizes same-sex marriage
The Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon legalized same-sex marriage in August after tribe member Kitzen Branting, 25, and her partner, Jeni Branting, said they wanted to get married.

The tribe is a federally recognized sovereign nation and is not bound by the Oregon Constitution, which bans same-sex marriage.

However, the move may conflict with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.

It could possibly test the limits of tribal sovereignty.

Tribe chief Ken Tanner told the Oregonian newspaper that Native Americans are "sensitive to discrimination of any kind."

"For our tribe, we want people to walk in the shoes of other people and learn to respect differences. Through that, we think we build a stronger community," he said.

The tribe's culture committee reviewed tribal history and concluded that same-sex partnerships had been accepted with no exclusions from tribal citizenship, the community or spiritual activities.

Kitzen Branting told the newspaper, "I wanted my tribal family to say, 'Yes, we recognize that you are equal to any other tribal member, and you are just as important, and your spouse should have the same rights as any other spouse.'"

Jeni Branting said, "We just want to do what everyone else does."

The couple will marry in May in the tribe's meeting hall in Coos Bay.

Arkansans to vote on Gay adoption ban
A measure to ban adoption and fostering by Gay and other unmarried couples is set to appear on the November ballot in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Family Council Action Committee collected 85,389 signatures of registered voters to force the proposal to a vote.

In 2006, Arkansas' Supreme Court struck down a regulation that barred gays from becoming foster parents.

Opponents of the new proposed law said they will sue to remove the initiative from the ballot, arguing it violates the state constitution and has other legal problems.

Equality California gives $4 million to save same-sex marriage
Equality California announced August 26 that it has given another $1 million to the campaign to beat back a proposed constitutional amendment to re-ban same-sex marriage in California - bringing the group's total donations to $4 million.

Voters will decide the matter November 4. Three recent polls have found that between 51 percent and 54 percent of California voters oppose the amendment and between 40 percent and 42 percent support it.

"Thanks to ... the amazing generosity of many EQCA supporters, we have met the latest challenge by the Knights of Columbus [which recently gave $1 million in support of the amendment]," said EQCA Executive Director Geoffrey Kors.

"Unfortunately, the opposition has now made their next move. We've just learned that they have made a multimillion-dollar television ad buy in eight media markets across California and they are going to start weeks before most campaigns start running advertising."

"This is the fight of our lives," Kors said. "The supporters of Prop 8 have called this their last chance to win the culture war - and they are willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to ensure their victory."

Donations to fight the amendment can be made at

The California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May and the ruling took effect June 16. The court said the state constitution contains a fundamental right to marry and that the ban on same-sex marriage violated the document's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
pictures - top: Chuck Wolfe below: Michelle Obama

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