Record number of out LGBT delegates headed to Democratic convention

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A record number of out LGBT participants – 534 – are planning to go to Charlotte, N.C., next week for the Democratic National Convention.

The number was released on Aug. 28 by the National Stonewall Democrats, the largest LGBT Democratic group in the country.

NSD said four years ago about out 350 LGBT people participated in the Democratic convention.

"What an amazing and inspiring convention this will be," said Jerame Davis, NSD excutive director. "With over 530 LGBT participants identified for this year's convention, we not only set a new record for LGBT participation in a national convention, we have sent the clearest message possible that the Democratic Party is the party of inclusion."

NSD launched Pride in the Party in 2007 to increase LGBT participation in the national and state Democratic organizations. Davis said that work paid off.

Rick Boylan, who directs the program, said, "An increase in the number of LGBT delegates is only the tip of the iceberg. By ensuring an open and inclusive delegate selection process, state Democratic Party organizations are witnessing an increase in LGBT involvement in Democratic campaigns, as well as Democratic organizing and fundraising activities. As the party has expanded its outreach to the LGBT community, the community has expanded its involvement in the party. We are seeing better working relationships with elected officials and more interest in pro-equality legislation at all levels of government."

NSD reports that there are at least 486 LGBT delegates bound for Charlotte next week, as well as 23 LGBT alternates, 20 LGBT committee members and five LGBT pages.

There are 11 out transgender people planning to participate in the convention – seven delegates, three committee members and one alternate.

NSD reported that Mississippi, Arkansas and Alaska will be sending openly LGBT delegates for the first time and that all 50 states will have LGBT delegates, also a first.

The largest LGBT group will come from California – 76 participants.

A history of LGBT delegates at the Democratic National Convention dates back to 1988, when the party’s delegate selection rules specifically prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The party also adopted a policy to reach out to gays and lesbians, at that time.

In 1992, according to NSD, the selection rules required state parties to recruit “groups that are significantly underrepresented in our Party’s affairs.”

Six years later, openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., along with other LGBT activists, founded the National Stonewall Democrats, which developed 120 chapters.

And since the 2000 convention in Los Angeles, NSD has kept track of out LGBT delegates at the party’s national parties. That year there were 161 LGBT delegates and 210 total out LGBT participants.

The number of out LGBT participants grew to 260 for the convention in Boston in 2004 and to more than 350 for the convention in Denver in 2008.

The Democratic National Convention begins Sept. 4 and culminates with speeches by Barack Obama and Joe Biden on Sept. 6.

The Republican National Convention, taking place in Tampa, concludes on Aug. 30 with Mitt Romney’s speech. About two dozen out LGBT delegates are attending.