Though not the overriding concern at the Democratic National Convention, GLBT issues have already been hard to ignore. Tonight Sen. Kennedy spoke of Barack Obama's ability to overcome a number of cultural fissures, among them straight vs. gay.
The GLBT presence is palpable to those attending the convention. 6 percent of the delegates come from our community, the highest percentage ever. That number includes 2 delegates from Tennessee, which is a first. By the way, I just saw one of them, Marisa Richmond, on CNN, and it's clear she's having the time of her life.
The opposition is on hand, of course. Bartholomew Sullivan of the Commercial Appeal noted this message in the streets of Denver:
A religious contingent in the streets warned Democrats variously that they were doomed to hell and that they should follow the dictates of the Bible. Among their banners: “Homo-Sex – A Threat to National Security.”
Obviously the way the Democrats are framing their message on GLBT issues is more palatable to the general public than looking at them from the fantastical point of view of national security. The question is whether the Democratic message of bridging the divide can go head-to-head with the Republican strategy of either ignoring these issues or framing them in terms of the definition of marriage, an issue I think the Democrats will ignore.
But these strategies are gambles. The Democrats need GLBT votes, volunteers, and money, but they can't appear to be lurching too far to the left. The Republicans need to fire up their base, but saying too much about the definition of marriage will make them seem out of touch with most voters and perhaps even punitive.