Increased LGBT Presence at National Political Conventions
Judaism puts a lot of stake in celebration. There are days when we are explicitly commanded to be happy (are you ready for Sukkot yet?), mountains periodically skip like rams, and you cannot leave a Jewish wedding without the song running endlessly in your head, “kol sasson, v’kol simcha, kol chatan, v’kol kallah” (A voice of laughter, a voice of joy, every groom, and every bride). Jewish tradition doesn’t explicitly name political conventions as a simcha, but one could almost feel that kind of joy emanating out of Tampa and Charlotte these past two weeks. In Charlotte this week the LGBT delegates have been singled out as the happiest at the Democratic National Convention. And indeed the LGBT community has a lot to celebrate this week.
Coming off the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the decision to stop defending Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the President’s announcement that he personally supports same-sex marriage, the Democrats have put LGBT equality front and center at this year’s convention. The Democratic Platform officially endorsed same-sex marriage for the first time this year. States were encouraged to bring LGBT delegates and, according to CBS, a total of 486 came from all 50 states. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first openly Lesbian congresswoman, spoke in prime time on the last night of the convention. Michelle Obama declared in her speech, “if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love…then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.” Although the Republican National Committee adopted a platform this year that supports a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage, there were strides toward greater inclusion of the LGBT community the convention in Tampa. The Log Cabin Republicans (a Republican LGBT group) was invited to participate as a group for the first time this year, and LGBT focused events at the Convention drew their largest crowds yet. But Judaism demands that at every celebration, while we sing with voices of laughter and joy, we remember times of hardship and struggle. Even as we welcome the Democratic Party’s inclusion of LGBT voices and issues at their national convention, we must remember the pain and struggle of so many LGBT people in the United States today. Moreover we must demand action from the Obama administration and Congress on such important pieces of legislation as The Employment Non-discrimination Act, The Student Non-Discrimination Act, and The Safe Schools Improvement Act. And we must renew our commitment to marriage equality in every state and mobilize for the latest round of ballot initiatives this November: working toward equality in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, and fighting to stop a marriage ban in Minnesota. Only then can we truly talk about kol sasson v’kol simcha, kol kallah, v’kol kallah.
Benny Witkovsky is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant for 2012-2013 (image courtesy of Getty Images)