Georgia’s LGBT delegates revel in Democratic National Convention

“For me personally, it’s been an amazing experience to see Democrats from all across the country come together in their unwavering support for the president,” McCranie said.

McCranie arrived in Charlotte, home to this year’s DNC, on Monday and participated in a few pre-convention events.

McCranie’s boss has also had a central role in the convention, McCranie said. Reed was not among the featured speakers but he has organized events for the Georgia delegation and met with the Obama campaign during the week.

Gay conservative groups, like the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud, attended the GOP convention in Tampa last week in hopes of gaining more inclusion into the convention process. Despite the gay presence, Republicans still pushed for a party platform that called for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions.

No one in Charlotte is advocating LGBT exclusion, McCranie said.

“The way the tidal shift is happening in our party, and some extent across the country, gays and lesbians have gone from asking for tolerance to asking for acceptance to asking for full legal equality. Tolerance and acceptance are no longer acceptable. Gays and lesbians want to be a part of every process. We’re not moving backward. We’re not turning the clock back, you can’t go backward,” McCranie said.

For Bob Gibeling, the LGBT Caucus secretary, the journey to Charlotte began long ago, under a very different political banner.

“I’m wearing my credentials that get me into the convention center. I’m also wearing a credential from the Republican National Convention from 1972. I’ve been politically active my whole life,” Gibeling told GA Voice by phone.

The extremism that gripped the Republican Party over the years forced Gibeling out, he said, but the final straw was a homophobic rant from candidate Pat Buchanan at the 1992 RNC.

Buchanan mocked Democratic “cross-dressers” and accused then-Presidential candidate Bill Clinton of representing the most pro-gay ticket in American history.

“I’ve been supporting Democrats since then,” Gibeling said.

Some of the most memorable moments for Gibeling have been the speeches given at the convention. First Lady Michelle Obama, Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and former President Bill Clinton have all been highlights, Gibeling said.

“We all knew [Michelle Obama] was bright, but we didn’t know she was as gifted as an orator and a smart politician in her own right. Bill Clinton’s speech was the most magnificent combination of facts and passion that I’ve ever heard,” Gibeling added.

Once the convention is over, all of the delegates will return to their home states with a renewed focus on the upcoming November general election. Volunteering, coordinating and organizing will be the goal for the Georgia delegation over the next several months.

The Georgia Democratic LGBT Caucus will host events and voter-signups between now and the election. It will also have a presence at many of the state’s upcoming fall Pride festivals, including October’s Atlanta Pride.

“The LGBT Caucus has pledged to the Obama campaign that we will provide volunteers to do phone banking or whatever is necessary until the election. We’ll be making sure that we recruit people. … It’ll eventually translate to a get-out-the-vote movement,” Gibeling said.

Thanks in part to a dynamic Tuesday night speech, First Lady Michelle Obama has won over many of the delegation’s participants, including Sheri Mann Stewart.

Stewart said the Human Rights Campaign luncheon Wednesday featuring the first lady was her favorite moment of the convention thus far.

“When we signed up for this event, we had no idea the first lady was there as our guest speaker. She came out and gave a wonderful, inspirational speech, then she spent another 15 to 20 minutes chatting with people. I took my sons to this event. They were the only kids there. She was so excited to see children there, she spent several minutes talking to them. I got to meet her, but they got a full conversation with her,” Stewart said.

Stewart said she felt Mrs. Obama truly enjoyed interacting with the HRC crowd.

“Her speech seemed very spontaneous. Much of it was just from the heart. It seemed in the moment. Several people shouted out different funny things. She would respond right in the moment. She kept that up, there was a little banter between her and the audience. You could tell she really enjoyed this crowd of people,” Stewart added.

All of the convention’s attendees are anticipating tonight’s acceptance speeches by Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. But the real work, Stewart said, will come after the convention is over.

“Really finding people to volunteer, getting out there and doing the work. On the ground, marching, doing the work. Wherever people are comfortable getting involved. This is going to be a tight race. Whatever happens, either moving us forward or going backward, we cannot afford to go back now that we’ve made progress.”


Top photo: First Lady Michelle Obama wows the crowd at the 2012 DNC (Photo by Duncan Wolfe via Obama for America)