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Gay Rep. Polis Tells DNC That Families Are The ‘Backbone of Society’

Gay Rep. Polis Tells DNC That Families Are The ‘Backbone of Society’

by Karen Ocamb on September 5, 2012

(Openly gay Colorado Rep. Jared Polis at the 2012 DNC)

One of the overarching themes for Day One of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC Tuesday, Sept. 4 was reclaiming the concept of “family values.”  While the Republicans are making hairline distinctions between their harsh Party Platform and the positions embraced by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, there was giddy jubilation when Democratic Party leaders and delegates confirmed their love-and-diversity-based Party Platform that included the historic inclusion of support from civil marriage equality.

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a gay, wealthy businessman who  is in the leadership of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and is a program chair for their Red to Blue Program to re-take the House, became the first openly gay parent in Congress last December.  On Tuesday, in a speech that no doubt ruffled the feathers of antigay haters who can’t even conceive that LGBT people have families, let along “family values,” Polis said (see full remarks below):

“My name is Jared Polis, my great-grandparents were immigrants to this country,” he said. “I’m Jewish, I’m gay, I’m a father, I’m a son, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m a congressman from the great state of Colorado. But, first and foremost, I’m an American.”

And the America I believe in is the America Barack Obama believes in. It is the America you believe in. One where if you play by the rules and work hard, you can get ahead and succeed. One in which loving families of all forms are respected and celebrated as the backbone of society. One in which today’s divisions become tomorrow’s unity, in which we transcend partisan bickering and work together to forge a better future for ourselves and our families.

Perhaps none were more pleased than the record number 550-plus delegates, alternates and convention members to the DNC (see slideshow here)   The Washington Blade wrote about the standing room-only meeting at the LGBT Caucus:

Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Adviser to the President; Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Tammy Baldwin, the lesbian Democratic House member from Wisconsin who’s running for the U.S. Senate, were among a parade of elected officials and Democratic Party leaders to speak at the caucus meeting.

While greeting each of the speakers with loud applause, many of the LGBT delegates and convention participants said the big news of the day was the size of their caucus and its growth over the past two decades.

“History is being made this week,” said Minnesota gay delegate Rick Stafford, who serves as chair of the LGBT Caucus. “There’s over 550 LGBT Americans who are an official part of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.”

Stafford said that for the first time all 50 states have sent at least one or more LGBT delegates to a Democratic convention.

“Please let everyone know we are here to be seen and heard,” said Brandon Marcus, an out gay member of the North Carolina House of Representatives and one of 12 LGBT delegates and alternates from the Tar Heel state.

Marcus, who said he was proud to welcome his fellow LGBT convention participants to his home state, said he was certain that the cause for LGBT equality in North Carolina advanced this year despite the fact that voters passed Amendment 1, which added a provision to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

“The cause was not lost with Amendment 1,” he said.

Jarrett said efforts by the LGBT Caucus members and their supporters throughout the country on behalf of LGBT rights made it possible for the Obama administration to move forward with the president’s legislative and executive office initiatives on LGBT equality.

“With your efforts we have been able to move our country forward, I believe, in a fair way that respects everybody’s rights,” she said. “And that’s something that’s the foundation of our country and it’s something we can’t take for granted. We have to fight for it and make our country the more perfect union we know it can be.”

Jarrett received a prolonged, standing ovation when she added, “And I believe we are a more perfect union than we were four years ago.”

Sebelius made an extraordinarily important point:

 “A lot of what you heard about today is not the law of the land,” Sebelius said. “It really is administrative rules and regulations that are in place and which can be wiped out in a heartbeat. With a change in the White House much of the litany of what you’ve just heard is gone.”

A quick historical note here.  I suggest that this packed LGBT Caucus is due in large measure to the hard strategic work done by longtime DNC stalwart and Rules Committee maven Garry Shay. In 2006, only about 2% of the DNC was openly gay (no trans members at all) and Shay wanted to do something about that. He proposed a new Affirmative Action-type rule to improve LGBT representation.  However, he immediately faced an obstacle in the Black Caucus’ historic claim to the term “Affirmative Action.” DNC discord briefly ensued.

But Shay was undeterred and came up with new language that wound up getting the new rule approved. The first sign of success of the new rule came in 2008. But surely, the historic number of LGBT attendees at this historic convention also underscores the significance of Shay’s insight and perseverance.

In Dec. 2006 Shay wrote this:

From Garry S. Shay, California representative to the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee:

Dear Readers:

I have returned from the recent meeting of the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC, which I serve on.

I have been working for over a year to have adopted a Rule on Inclusion of the LGBT and Persons With Disability (PWD) Communities in the Delegate Selection Process.  At the last DNC Meeting, the Rules for Delegate Selection were adopted and included a Rule 7 which stated:

“Rule 7:  Inclusion Programs:
The Democratic National Committee recognizes that other groups of Americans in addition to those described in Rule 6 may be under-represented in Party affairs.

These groups include members of the LGBT community and people with disabilities.

The National and State Parties shall adopt and implement Inclusion Programs in order to achieve the full participation of members of these and other groups in the delegate selection process and in all party affairs, as indicated by their presence in the Democratic electorate.  As is already the practice in some states, State Parties may use goals to achieve these ends; however, in no event may such participation be accomplished by the use of quotas.”

Printed below are the Regulations adopted by the DNC Rules Committee implementing Rule 7 (Inclusion) and Rule 10A (At Large Delegates).  The two most important factors in these regulations are the fact that they require that a State Party identify the level of participation of the LGBT and PWD Community in the Democratic Electorate, the achievement of which is referred to as “full participation”, and further that they require the use of the At Large delegates to achieve that level of “full participation”.

I am quite proud to have been successful in having these Regulations adopted.

They will now be referred to the full DNC for adoption at its February meeting.

Garry S. Shay
Member, Democratic National Committee (CA) and
Lead Chair Rules Committee, California Democratic Party
Representing 7.1 million registered Democrats

 Rep. Jared Polis’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“My name is Jared Polis, my great-grandparents were immigrants. I’m Jewish, I’m gay, I’m a father, I’m a son, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m a congressman from the great state of Colorado. But, first and foremost, I’m an American.”

And the America I believe in is the America Barack Obama believes in. It is the America you believe in. One where if you play by the rules and work hard, you can get ahead and succeed. One in which loving families of all forms are respected and celebrated as the backbone of society. One in which today’s divisions become tomorrow’s unity, in which we transcend partisan bickering and work together to forge a better future for ourselves and our families.

Diversity is America’s strength, and only by working together, as one nation, can we form a more perfect union. That is why President Obama brought to Washington a vision for one America—an America in which we can overcome divisions of red and blue to make our country greater.

It is why he’s fighting to make citizenship a reality for young immigrants who go to college or serve in our military. It is why he repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” so that no person is prevented from serving the country they love because of whom they love. And it is why Barack Obama became the first sitting president in American history to show his personal support for same-sex marriage.

Consistently over the last four years, as our nation has struggled through the worst recession since the Great Depression, Barack Obama has shown strong leadership and taken on politics as usual. He has challenged our nation to come together. Barack Obama is the first presidential candidate to refuse contributions from lobbyists. He set the strictest ethics rules in the history of the executive branch.

His vision for one America, one in which we can overcome our divisions to make our country greater, continues to be an enormous challenge to Washington, D.C., a town with professional pundits and pols, whose entire livelihood is never-ending partisan bickering.

But ladies and gentlemen, now is our chance to tell the dividers no, tell the special interests and cynical Washington insiders no, tell the lobbyists and PACs no, and tell our fellow countrymen and women, gay and straight, Christians, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and nonbelievers, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian, east and west, north and south; it is time to tell them yes, together we are stronger, together we are better, together we are America.

And that is why we must continue bringing America together. So tonight, I don’t just ask my fellow Americans to respect my relationship with my partner Marlon and my role as a father to our son. I also ask them to respect the Christian family concerned about decaying moral values and crass commercialism. I ask them to respect the difficult decision of a single mother to bring a child into this world, because of her heartfelt beliefs.

And it is why we must help that courageous woman have the support she needs after her child is born. We celebrate Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs, even Republicans, because this is their future, too. Republicans mocked our desire to heal the planet, but we will heal it for Republicans too, and we will create jobs for Republicans too.

We are a diverse country, but we are one country. And we are at our best when we come together as Americans, not despite our differences, but in celebration of them. From the newest arrivals to our Native American brothers and sisters, we are one America. Barack Obama understands that together we can take on any challenge, and together, we can move our country forward. Out of many, one!

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