Challenging Conventional Wisdom: An Independence Day Look at GLBT Involvement in State and
National Party Conventions
June 30- July 6, 2000
4001-C Cedar Springs, Dallas, TX 75219
By Matt Lum
As banners of red, white, and blue wave in the American breeze this Fourth of July and
family and friends gather over BBQ and fireworks to celebrate Americas Independence,
gays and lesbians are sure to participate in the festivities.
But for many in the GLBT community, taking part in the political process that shapes
the very landscape and climate of our independent nation has not been as easy as buying
charcoal briquettes and a box of sparklers.
Mainstream American politics generally offer two choices: Vote Republican or
Democratic. And although Ralph Nader provides a Green Party alternative and other
Independent Party personas offer choices other than Bush and Gore, Americas history
indicates no chance of a non-Republican, non-Democratic candidate being elected.
What does it mean to be a Democrat? A Republican? Who decides a partys belief
system? Who decides what initiatives will be introduced? The answer lies in the
partys conventions and the delegates chosen to be the voice of platform referendums.
Walking the Plank
Long before the Primary elections this cycle, grassroots organizers, political action
groups, and involved citizens across the country began working in an effort to contribute
to the building of their partys political platform.
In the early stages of the process, any citizen in this land of the free has the
potential to introduce referendums at their partys precinct convention, usually held
the same night of the primary election. Here, they also have a chance to be elected as a
representative at the county level, promoting their ideas to a broader audience during the
In an effort to ensure gays and lesbians have representation with elected officials,
GLBT political groups around the state rallied long before the primary elections to
encourage community members to get in on the action. So, too, did the religious right.
As of now, both the Republican and Democratic parties in Texas have solidified their
platform at their state conventions. The platforms are a culmination of the approved
referendums introduced at all levels of convention camaraderie, and illustrate in writing
a political credo on which endorsed candidates are encouraged but not required to follow.
In the platforms emerging from each state convention, it is clear where gay and lesbian
issues rest with both parties.
The Democratic Party
"One of the most amazing things about the Democratic Party versus the Republican
Party is that in the year 2000, gay men and lesbians who are members of the Republican
Party are ostracized and even condemned in their partys platform, while at the
Democratic Party we are now an integral part of the process," said gay State
Representative Glen Maxey.
Indeed. The Democratic National Committee officially incorporated gay and lesbian
rights in their national platform twenty years ago. Austins Bettie Naylor was an
integral part of the effort. Through her work, the platform language was introduced to the
temporary committee, was adopted, then taken to the permanent committee, adopted, and then
included in the platform.
"In August of 1980 in New York Citys Madison Square Garden, that committee
adopted the plank and it became a part of the National Democratic Party Platform,"
After meeting June 10 in Ft. Worth, the Texas Democratic Party echoed the national
inclusion of gays and lesbians in party politics.
"Texas Democrats believe issues matter because public policy affects our daily
lives. Where others favor special interests or seek to have government impose their
version of "family values" on everyone, we offer common sense policies that
value all our families," said the newly adopted platform.
Not only are gay and lesbian issues represented in platform language, gays and lesbians
are active, welcomed delegates at local and state conventions.
"We sit on the State Executive Committee and Democratic National Committee. We are
welcomed as contributing voices and the Party supports our full civil rights," said
Tina Podlodowski is the most recent example of the Democratic Partys commitment
to including the GLBT community.
The Democratic National Committee National Chair Joe Andrew named Podlodowski, an
openly lesbian former member of the Seattle City Council, to the Democratic Platform
Andrew, who made his nominations based on recommendations from Vice President Al Gore,
and in consultation with DNC leaders said, "Tina Podlodowski will offer a valuable
voice in the drafting of our platform. Her participation reflects the strength of the
Democratic Party on issues of importance to American families and our leadership against
discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. With her leadership, I am
confident that we will put together a platform that embraces the ideals of civil justice
Also as a part of their platform, the Democrats vowed to ensure "Freedom from
discriminatory employment practices, including support for the Employment Non
Discrimination Act;" In addition, they support the passage of the James Byrd, Jr.,
Memorial Hate Crimes Act.
The Democratic State Convention has also demonstrated its inclusiveness of gays and
lesbians by permitting GLBT organizations with space at the convention.
In a stark contrast to the virtual lock-out of the Log Cabin Republicans at the
Republican State Convention, the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus was "warmly
welcomed by their fellow delegates," according to their press release. The group also
had a prominent location for their information booth in the conventions exhibit
"The shameful treatment of the GLBT community by the Republican Party here in
Bushs home state says a lot about the differences between the two parties,"
said National Stonewall Treasurer Ron Ellis from Houston. "This presidential race is
especially critical when you consider that the winner will likely be choosing a number of
Supreme Court justices, which could affect our rights for the next generation."
The Texas Democrats also "support education initiatives and services to address
the HIV epidemic, including increased access to treatment and therapy that improves
quality of life and encourages return to the workforce."
The Republican Party
For years in Texas, the Republican Partys Platform (under which current Texas
Gov. George W. Bush was elected) has contained what some consider disturbing references to
the homosexual agenda and lifestyle.
"Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have
been ordained by God, recognized by our countrys founders, and shared by the
majority of Texas," it reads.
In an effort to change the language of the platform to reflect a more inclusive GOP,
Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) in Austin and elsewhere around the state started before the
precinct elections with initiatives to put Republicans in precinct chair spots to allow
for gay friendly resolutions to be adopted.
According to Steve Labinski in Austin, more than 50 members of the gay Republican group
were among the 8,700 delegates to the partys state convention.
The LCR group also asked the Republican Party for space at the convention for their
information booth, but was never given the opportunity. LCR later publicly condemned the
"The group that runs the state party is very extreme and out of touch with the
mainstream voter and mainstream Republican in Texas," said Labinski. "We had to
ask them this year in order to make them come to a conclusion. The conclusion is they
think its fine to discriminate against gay Republicans."
It is not unheard of for state Republican Parties to allow LCR information booths at
their conventions. In Georgia and Alabama, LCR groups are allowed to participate with an
informational booth and in Florida, the Log Cabin group has been named an official
auxiliary of the states Republican party.
"This kind of exclusion is particular mostly to Texas," said Labinski.
"We want to be treated like any other Republican organization like the Young
Republicans, who might have a booth, or even advocacy groups like the Christian Coalition,
who have both been allowed booths in the past," he said.
Instead, the group had a "Booth in Exile" parked outside the George R. Brown
Convention center in Houston. Several Moderate Republicans stopped by to pick up
literature and talk with members, according tot LCR.
Democrats immediately claimed that Bush was intentionally distancing himself from the
very conservative and right-wing-controlled Republican Party of Texas. Bush later denied
such allegations, saying he needed to spend that weekend campaigning for President out of
"Obviously, If I have to campaign in Texas a lot, Ive got a problem,"
Instead, Bush appeared via videotape, saying things such as, "As governor of Texas
I have set a tone that is positive, hopeful and inclusive, and I will do the same as your
He later introduced his wife, Laura, who was warmly received by the conventions
Another key difference at this years state conventions could be seen in the
parking lot: Protests.
Along side members of the LCR, the Black Panthers were rallying as well. They carried
large guns and chanted.
Other protestors, such as the Equality Rally Team in Houston voiced concerns with the
Partys policies on gays and lesbians. The protest included an afternoon Tent Revival
in which Rev. Ray Hill gave a sermon in which Jesus went into the woods with one of his
"We were trying to tell them to be inclusive, and not to exclude," said Dan
DiDonato, business owner and President of the Equality Rally Team. "We also thanked
George Bush for making Texas #1 in executions and pollution."
The protest and precinct initiatives had little effect on the official Republican Party
of Texas Platform that later emerged.
"Elimination of Executive Orders The Party demands the elimination of
presidential authority to issue executive orders, presidential decision directives and
other administrative mandates that do not have congressional approval. Further, we demand
a repeal of all previous executive orders and administrative mandates."
In other words, the appointment of Gay Ambassador to Luxembourg, James Hormel, and
other orders that protect gays and lesbians, such as the recent Clinton Executive Order
that forces all school districts to include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination
"We also deplore forced sensitivity training," the platform says.
"We also oppose the recognition of and granting of benefits to people who
represent themselves as domestic partners without being legally married. We urge the
immediate passage by the Texas Legislature the "Defense of Marriage Act", which
would deny recognition by Texas of homosexual "unions" legitimized by other
states or nations.
And in a section entitled "Homosexuality" the
"Homosexuality - The Party believes that the practice of
sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes the breakdown of the family unit, and
leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary
to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our
countrys founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be
presented as an acceptable "alternative" lifestyle in our public education and
policy, nor should "family" be redefined to include homosexual
"couples." We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements,
recognition, or privileges including, but not limited to, marriage between persons of the
same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement
benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality
out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.
Texas Sodomy Statutes The party opposes the
decriminalization of sodomy."
The party also states, "We oppose the adoption of children by homosexuals."
Bush recently agreed to finally meet with a group of gay Republicans, a talk that was
kept mostly secret and involved only a few hand-chosen individuals. From the meeting,
however, Bush became "a better person," he said.
Talk also circulated that perhaps a gay Republican would speak at the Republican
National Convention to be held July 29 in San Diego.
"We have made some headway here in Texas, but the important thing to remember is
that top elected Republican officials in Texas, even Governor Bush, are having trouble
working within their own party," said Labinski.
He also noted that Bush and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have received criticism by the
party for displaying independent thinking and not towing the partys socially
conservative platform issues. The Republican Party of Texas continually passes resolutions
requiring various "litmus tests" for candidates and officials.
"It is great that the issues of concern to gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and
transgenders that appear in the Democratic Platform are all written by non-gay folks
without even so much as a request or prod from the gay caucus members," said Glen
Maxey. "Weve come so far that our civil rights are no longer for discussion
they are now for implementation and protection."
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