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Point/Counterpoint: Excited for the Democratic Convention?

(Editor’s note: San Diego Gay & Lesbian News has an exclusive local media partnership with QNotes in presenting special LGBT community-oriented coverage of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which will be Sept. 4-6 in Charlotte, N.C.)

(Two short commentaries from qnotes editor Matt Comer and Bil Browning, founder and editor-in-chief of The Bilerico Project (bilerico.com), a partner in qnotes' special DNC coverage.)

Why I'm Not Excited About Going to the Dem Convention

by Bil Browning, The Bilerico Project, via The Bilerico Project

Back in 2008 I was so incredibly excited to go to Denver to cover the Democrat convention it was ridiculous. I'd never been to Denver or a national political convention. There was the Hillary vs Obama drama still going strong. And, most of all, I knew I'd get to see our first African-American presidential candidate get the formal nod to represent the Democrat Party.

Now it's 2012 and I'm just not excited at all about this year's convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. In fact, if I wasn't already committed to covering it as part of an LGBT new syndicate (and if Jerame wasn't in charge of National Stonewall Democrats and therefore playing a large role at the convention), I'd probably have skipped it altogether.

Why not? I've got four main reasons ...

  • First, I'm just not impressed with the location. I was excited to see Denver. I'd always wanted to visit. Hell, I've gone back often! But Charlotte, North Carolina? That doesn't excite me in the least. In fact, I have a negative view of the entire state (minus a few friends, of course!). Why? That leads us to number two.
  • North Carolina is not an LGBT-friendly state. They just passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage a few months ago. They have no pro-LGBT laws to protect me or my family from harm - and the state government is explicitly homophobic with the full backing of some of the most vociferous religious right nutjobs around. The Party knew that before they picked the location - even that they were about to pass anti-gay legislation. How does that make me feel about how important we are to the Party? Why should I give my hard earned dollars to a state that doesn't want me?
  • But we're not the only group unhappy with the location. Labor unions aren't happy either since none of the hotels delegates will be staying in are unionized. In fact, North Carolina has the lowest percentage of unionized workers in the nation - just 3.2% of all workers in the state. If I'm going to spend my money there, I'd like it to support a living wage for the folks working on my behalf. Nope. Not gonna happen.
  • And last of all, the Democrats have invited Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, to give the closing prayer. Dolan is one of the most anti-gay religious leaders in the nation. While I thought the outrage over Obama's invitation to Pastor Rick Warren to give the benediction at his inauguration was overblown, this one really pisses me off. Warren isn't known for his extreme anti-gay positions and rhetoric; Dolan is. It's a slap in the face of every LGBT delegate that's attending. How is it supposed to make them feel that the last person to speak at the convention is a man who says our relationships are an "Orwellian social engineering"? Fuck that. The Democrats may need the Catholic vote, but do they need it so badly they're willing to insult LGBT people?

I've heard that many LGBT delegates are planning to walk out in protest when Cardinal Dolan takes the stage. I hope they do. But, when you combine all of the above, I'm still perfectly willing to walk away now.

Charlotte Is the Place to Be for Democratic Convention (Counterpoint)

by Matt Comer, qnotes, via The Bilerico Project

On Wednesday, Bil penned a short commentary explaining why he's not excited about going to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week. It was well-reasoned, but, of course, I couldn't let it go by without a challenge.

Bil's first convention experience was in 2008 at Denver's DNC. He says he'd never been to Denver or to a national political convention. Bil says the "Hillary vs. Obama drama" still brewing at the 2008 convention and the chance to see the nation's first nominated African-American presidential candidate both inspired him.

Denver was indeed phenomenal. No doubt, Charlotte's DNC won't have the exact same level of excitement and anticipation. Nonetheless, Charlotte's hosting of the DNC is a milestone and I'm overjoyed to be a part of it.

Bil gave several reasons why he wasn't so excited about this year's convention. I respond to some below...

  • Charlotte isn't exciting? Bil has a negative view of North Carolina? Get outta here! We've got a beautiful city and a beautiful state. I'm not a Charlotte native, but I've quickly come to love the city I call home.And, as a native North Carolinian, I'll defend my good Old North State, just as the state song says, "Carolina! Carolina! Heaven's blessings attend her! While we live we will cherish, protect and defend her; Tho' the scorner may sneer at and witlings defame her, Still our hearts swell with gladness whenever we name her."
  • Bil is unhappy about North Carolina voters' recent decision to adopt an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment. Yes, it's sad that our state decided to take a step backward when it is so obviously clear our nation is moving forward. But, North Carolina is not an anti-LGBT state. History proves it.North Carolinians have been on the forefront of progressive battles in the South for decades. Our progressive Democratic governors and legislatures moved us through the turmoil of segregation and integration more smoothly than did our more southern neighbors. Our public system of higher education was the first in our new nation and for more than two centuries has created strong, able-minded men and women fit for public service, education, the sciences and arts.Our state legislature was, until recently, dominated by Democratic Party and passed both pro-LGBT and other progressive pieces of legislation like the first-in-the-South fully-comprehensive anti-LGBT bullying law and the landmark Racial Justice Act. It wasn't until the Tea Party swing in the 2010 midterm elections that our legislature turned red with anti-gay animus and finally passed the anti-LGBT amendment kept bottled up in committee for nearly a decade by our Democratic friends in Raleigh.
  • North Carolina has the lowest union rate in the nation. No argument there. Labor unions have a right to be upset at the pick. But, they should take a cue from me: When Charlotte was announced as a DNC host city finalist and eventually chosen, I spoke out forcefully about Charlotte's not-so-public record of support for LGBT people.I and other friends and colleagues pulled together to use the DNC's forthcoming national and international spotlight to move this city forward. Things still aren't perfect (but where are they?) and we have more work to do, but today, gay and lesbian employees of the City of Charlotte can rest assured they are protected at work. Soon, they will have access to domestic partner benefits. And, activists are hard at work ensuring our transgender brothers and sisters receive the same guarantees.Keeping labor's presence away from Charlotte is exactly the opposite of what will help here. Bring the unions on. Let their representatives interact with employees here. Let it be known that it was the DNC in September 2012 when the seeds toward full justice for our laborers were planted in Charlotte and in North Carolina.

In the end, it all comes down to perspective. The DNC's presence in Charlotte will give this conservative bank-town a run for its progressive money. It will open eyes at the possibilities. And, if played right, it will serve as a moment to leave a lasting progressive legacy in a city.

I'm excited about the Democratic Convention and have been ecstatically awaiting the day when all the activities kick off this weekend and next week. It is a proud moment for my adopted hometown and my native Tar Heel State. We've got good people here - people I know Bil and others will come to love in the short time they call this city home. And, if you could see my insides just jumping up and down with anticipation, you'd be just as excited as me. I hear excitement can be contagious.

So now, join with me: "Then let all those who love us, love the land that we live in, As happy a region as on this side of heaven, Where plenty and peace, love and joy smile before us, Raise aloud, raise together the heart thrilling chorus. Hurrah! Hurrah! The Old North State forever! Hurrah! Hurrah! The good Old North State!"

(2012 Democratic National Convention coverage is provided by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, the most-read LGBT news source in Southern California, and QNotes, the leading LGBT news source in the Carolinas.)