For the first time in Tennessee's history, the Tennessee Democratic Party's Delegate Selection Plan includes a goal to recruite GLBT representatives to attend the Democratic National Convention (DNC).  

In preparation for the 2008 convention, Tennessee joins approximately 44 other states who have written similar goals for GLBT inclusion into their Delegate Selection by-laws. By contrast, only 13 states incorporated stringent goals for the inclusion of GLBT delegates in their plans for the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

“I think this new delegate selection plan echoes the diversity which makes our country so great. Inviting members of the GLBT community into the process of representing us at the DNC is indicative of the vastness of the ideals and values in Tennessee,” says Tennessee Democratic Party chairman Gray Sasser. “I am excited about the possibilities which exist within the GLBT community as we work together in public discourse.” 

The shift toward greater GLBT inclusion in the DNC comes largely due to the efforts of the National Stonewall Democrats, a grassroots organization that connects GLBT Democratic activists across the country. The Stonewall Democrats have worked with the DNC since 2004 to pass rules that encourage state Democratic parties to establish benchmarks for GLBT inclusion in their delegations, or at least actively involve GLBT members in community outreach efforts.

"These outreach goals are about much more than including GLBT delegates to the National Convention," says John Marble, communications director for the National Stonewall Democrats. "They also help state parties form better relationships with our communities and better understand the issues that are important to us."

Mike Vaughn, a Davidson County resident and member of the National Stonewall Democrats views the Tennessee Democratic Party's decision to actively seek GLBT delegates as a monumental opportunity.

He says, "for the first time in the history of the state, we have a chance to make sure that the specific concerns of the LGBT community are heard and the specific voices of our families are included at a local, a state, and a national level."

In addition to endorsing the candidate chosen by their constituents in the Tennessee Democratic Presidential primary, delegates to the Democratic National Convention also have opportunities to influence party policies and platforms in the 2008 Presidential election.

Vaughn says, "this may be nothing more than sticking a foot in the door, but it is a step. By including GLBT delegates in the convention and by being vocal, it may open doors for us to be involved in politics on a number of levels."

Marble agrees, "The more we can get GLBT people involved as delegates, the more we can potentially place GLBT people and allies in positions within the party to impact decisions that could affect and benefit our communities and our families."

Tennessee Democrats will select a total of 85 delegates and 11 alternates for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. According to the Tennessee Democratic Party's Delegate Selection Plan, at least two will be "GLBT Americans." The Plan also states, "Participation in Tennessee's delegate selection process is open to all voters who wish to participate as Democrats. Voters must be registered to vote no later than Sunday, January 13, 2008 to be eligible."

Middle Tennessee does not currently have a local chapter of the National Stonewall Democrats. For more information on the Stonewall Democrats contact 202-625-1382 or field@stonewalldemocrats.org.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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