The LGBTQ Democratic National Convention

There will be a lot of history made at this week’s Democratic National Convention. Some will be highly visible – like prime-time closing night speeches by two high-profile LGBT leaders. Some will be totally behind the scenes –like the role of an openly gay man as the convention’s chief executive for operations.

The most visible difference this year will be that most delegates and press will not converge on the convention host city –Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Due to the corona virus pandemic, Milwaukee will serve as the “anchor” for activities, which begin Monday night, but the bulk of the convention will take place through broadcasts and livestreaming from locations around the country.

Openly gay former presidential contender Pete Buttigieg will deliver a speech Thursday night from a landmark in his hometown South Bend, Indiana. Openly lesbian U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, who was reportedly on a list of potential vice-presidential candidates, will deliver a speech that same night from the Milwaukee.

The Thursday night slots are most coveted. That’s because Thursday night is when the convention hears the acceptance speech of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Biden will be speaking from his home in Delaware.

Evening programming can be watched on just about any media platform one can think of –network television, Twitter, Roku, Facebook, etc. Each night begins at 8 p.m. EDT with entertainment, followed by speeches beginning at 9 p.m.

Tuesday, August 18: During the prime-time convention business meeting, viewers will see openly gay convention Secretary Jason Rae direct the roll call votes. Rae is a Democratic activist and partner in a media relations firm in Milwaukee. Speakers Tuesday night will include former President Bill Clinton and former Second Lady Jill Biden. And in a new format for a prime-time speech, 17 speakers, including three openly LGBT officials, will participate in delivering the “Keynote Address,” at 9 p.m. The three are Long Beach, California, Mayor Robert Garcia, Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Georgia State Rep. Sam Park.

Wednesday, August 19: LPAC (or Lesbian Political Action Committee) will host a “Salute to Tammy Baldwin” virtual event at 5 p.m., with recorded messages from a wide variety of prominent Democrats, including tennis legend Billie Jean King, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth, and Kyrsten Sinema, and many others. The prime-time convention will hear from vice presidential nominee U.S. Senator Kamala Harris. Other speakers will include U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and former President Barack Obama.

Thursday, August 20: The LGBTQ Caucus will meet again at 12 p.m. The last evening of the convention will include openly gay U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. And, of course, will conclude with the acceptance speech of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, speaking from his home in Delaware.

LGBT people have played noticeable roles in Democratic National Conventions since 1980, when an unofficial LGBT Caucus nominated D.C. activist Mel Boozer to be vice president. Boozer, a prominent African American and gay activist in Washington, D.C., gave the first-ever speech by an openly LGBT person to the 1980 convention. Since then, the LGBT Caucus has become an official entity of the national convention, and many openly LGBT people have spoken before the gathering, some in prime time.

At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, openly lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez of the Dallas County Police spoke just a couple of hours before the presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, did on the Thursday night of the convention. Valdez urged communities to do what they can to restore good relations between police and minorities. Other openly LGBT speakers that year included Chad Griffin, then president of the Human Rights Campaign, and U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, co-chair of the Congressional LGBT caucus.

About 12 percent of the delegates attending the 2016 convention in Philadelphia identified as LGBT. That was up from eight percent in 2012. Numbers are not yet available for 2020.

This year, former Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese is the Democratic National Convention’s CEO. Solmonese said the party has focused on “new and innovative ways to engage more Americans than ever before” through this convention.

The Republican National Convention will take place August 24-27 in Charlotte, N.C., with in-person attendance by a representative group of 336 delegates to cast votes on the first day. President Trump is expected to deliver his acceptance speech on August 27 from a remote location.