Tag Archives: Charlotte

Anti-LGBT law drives NBA to move all-star game from N.C.

The NBA will move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina, over the state’s anti-LGBT law.

The NBA issued this statement on its website:

“The NBA has decided to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte with the hope of rescheduling for 2019. 

Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.

“Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community — current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2. 

“We are particularly mindful of the impact of this decision on our fans in North Carolina, who are among the most passionate in our league. It is also important to stress that the City of Charlotte and the Hornets organization have sought to provide an inclusive environment and that the Hornets will continue to ensure that all patrons — including members of the LGBT community — feel welcome while attending games and events in their arena. 

“We look forward to re-starting plans for our All-Star festivities in Charlotte for 2019 provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter. 

“The NBA will make an announcement on the new location of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in the coming weeks.”

Commenting on the development, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, “Today the NBA and Commissioner Silver sent a clear message that they won’t stand for discrimination against LGBTQ employees, players or fans. The NBA repeatedly warned state lawmakers that their hateful HB2 law created an inhospitable environment for their 2017 All-Star Game and other events

“Nevertheless, Gov. McCrory, Sen. Berger and Speaker Moore doubled down on HB2 and refused to undo their discriminatory and costly error in judgment. Every day that HB2 remains on the books, people across North Carolina are at risk of real harm. We appreciate the leadership of the NBA in standing up for equality and call once again on lawmakers to repeal this vile HB2 law.”

Chris Sgro, executive director of the statewide LGBT group Equality NC, also commented: “North Carolina General Assembly leadership and Gov. McCrory repeatedly ignored the warning bells as businesses, conferences and entertainers left the state.

“From the beginning, NBA leadership has been clear that HB2 creates an untenable situation and jeopardizes the safety and comfort of their fans. The withdraw of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte came as the NBA took a principled stand against the discriminatory HB2 and the failure to repeal HB2.”

LGBT civil rights advocates made clear that Charlotte’s leadership is not to blame for the discriminatory legislation.

The city had adopted anti-discrimination protections last year.

Responding, GOP leadership enacted what has been called the worst anti-LGBT bill in the nation. It rolled back existing protections for LGBT people in Charlotte, removed municipalities’ ability to enact nondiscrimination ordinances and banned transgender people from using the public facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Earlier this month, the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned after a short session and it is not scheduled to reconvene until January.

In the nearly four months since passage of HB2, more than 200 major CEOs and business leaders signed an open letter calling for full repeal of HB2.

Also, major film studios and corporations, from PayPal to Deutsche Bank, have stopped investments in the state and conventions have withdrawn from the state.

And North Carolina cities no longer qualify to host NCAA events, including the Final Four.

Lost business has been estimated at more than $329.9 million.

Body cameras tape only 1 of 4 fatal cop shootings

Only one of the four fatal shooting involving police in Charlotte, North Carolina, were captured by body cameras since the force bought them for officers eight months ago.

The city spent $7.2 million to buy about 1,400 of the lipstick-sized cameras for each of its patrol officers starting in September.

But the cameras were not given to SWAT officers or members of tactical units who apprehend violent criminals.

Civil rights advocates like Susanna Birdsong, the policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, say that needs to be addressed to keep officers accountable.

“I think that they should be without question outfitted with body cameras. The need for transparency and accountability is heightened because there’s a risk that these encounters are going to be confrontational,” Birdsong told The Charlotte Observer.

But Charlotte’s force only has a limited amount of money, and Police Chief Kerr Putney has decided he would rather put more officers on the streets than get cameras for detectives and members of the force’s tactical units, said police Maj. Stephen Willis, who helped create the city’s body camera program.

“The $7.2 million we asked city council for was a large chunk of change,” Willis said. “We wanted to put the money where the work was being done, and that was in patrol.”

The department has not determined how much it would cost to put all its officers in body cameras and would not say how many officers are on SWAT and tactical teams, saying it could threaten their safety.

Requiring tactical units to wear body cameras could also jeopardize how they do their job. While body camera footage is not available under public records law, it is required to be given to people arrested and their lawyers. That footage could show police tactics, Willis said.

Officers involved in tactical units were involved in two fatal shootings by Charlotte police since September. An off duty officer providing security at a mall on Christmas Eve without wearing a camera killed a third person, and the fourth shooting of a man who witnesses said fired dozens of shots at police and taunted them was captured on a body camera.

Details of N.C.’s economic loss over anti-LGBT law

North Carolina’s Republican administration continues to defend its anti-LGBT law, House Bill 2 (HB2), but media outlets have documented the economic harm the law has done to the state, including backlash from the business community and the potential loss of federal funds. 

North Carolina Passed A Law Rescinding LGBT Nondiscrimination Protections.

On March 23, the North Carolina state legislature passed HB2, a “sweeping” law that invalidated local governments’ ability to provide legal protections for LGBT people and limited transgender people’s bathroom access in certain public bathrooms. The law came in response to a local ordinance passed in Charlotte that provided nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, including allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. [The Charlotte Observer3/23/16]

The Atlantic: After Weeks of Criticism, North Carolina Governor McCrory Is Attempting To “Blunt The Backlash” To Anti-LGBT Law.

On April 12, faced with a pending ACLU lawsuit and in response to weeks of national backlash, NC’s Gov. Pat McCrory issued a “nearly meaningless” executive order clarifying HB2. As The Atlantic noted, “there is no change to the transgender-bathroom conditions,” and it “does not restore cities’ right to establish local non-discrimination ordinances that apply to the private sector.” [The Atlantic, 4/12/16]

North Carolina’s Commerce Secretary “Doesn’t Expect The Legislation To Negatively Impact The State’s Economy.”

In an interview with the Triangle Business Journal, North Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary John Skvarla said he doesn’t expect the legislation to negatively impact the state’s economy:

In an interview, he said he has heard from companies “considering their options” but none that expressly decided to leave North Carolina because of the bill, which the LGBT community has decried as discriminatory to transgender people. “I have not had anyone ask any penetrating questions,” Skvarla said.

[…]

On Thursday, Skvarla said he has “not seen a diminution in the pipeline” of companies interested in an investment in North Carolina. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s business as usual,” he said. [Triangle Business Journal4/5/16]

CAP: HB2 Threatens More Than Half Billion Dollars In Economic Activity.

According to a report from the Center for American Progress based on publicly available estimates of the economic impact of lost or at-risk business activity or events, the North Carolina economy could potentially lose out on more than $568 million in private-sector economic activity through 2018. According to the report, the state has already lost out on $86 million and stands to lose upwards of an additional $481 million due to cancelled events, businesses leaving the area, and tourism declines if HB2 is not repealed. [The Center for American Progress4/13/2016]

WSOC TV: Charlotte’s Economy Suffers Due To Four Confirmed And Nine Potential Event Cancellations.

On April 11, local news outlet WSOC TV reported on the economic impact of HB2 in Charlotte:

Charlotte tourism sources told anchor Scott Wickersham on Friday that four groups canceled conventions because of HB2.

Nine were in talks but sources said they decided not to come to Charlotte.

Almost 30 more are on the fence because of HB2.

[…]

For those four confirmed events, there would’ve been more than 1,100 nights booked at hotels.

For the groups considering, that would have been more than 1,200 rooms booked and for the hesitant groups that’s nearly 90,000 rooms now hanging in the balance. [WSOCTV.com, 4/11/16]

Washington Post: Raleigh Stands To Lose Contracts For Multiple Events That Would Bring The Local Economy Millions of Dollars.

An April 12 Washington Post article reported on more economic impacts to the state from HB2:

Officials in the state are already reporting tourism losses and event cancellations due to the law. As of this week, five groups canceled events planned in the Wake County region, which would have brought the local economy more than $732,000, according to the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Another 16 groups were about to sign contracts to hold events and are considering canceling or changing their minds, according to a spokesman for the visitors bureau. These groups could bring a combined 73,000 people and $24 million to the region.

The visitors bureau did not identify these 16 other groups in a report released by Denny Edwards, president and chief executive of the visitors bureau. But the report did say that one of the biggest hits would come if Raleigh lost its chance to host an unspecified sports tournament, one that the bureau said could bring in $4.5 million to the local economy. [The Washington Post4/12/16]

The Atlantic: Bruce Springsteen Cancels His North Carolina To Boycott Anti-LGBT Law.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band announced that they were cancelling their April 10 show in Greensboro, NC. Over 15,000 tickets had been sold for the show and officials estimated the cancellation resulted in a $100,000 loss at the venue alone:

City officials did not have a dollar estimate for the lost revenue from foot traffic in restaurants, shops and hotels. Mayor Nancy Vaughan said it would be difficult to quantify as some concertgoers could have become repeat visitors to Greensboro.

“We had so many people that would have been able to see Greensboro, many for the first time, and now we won’t have that hotel and restaurant revenue,” she said. “My other concern is that acts we are currently in negotiations with could look at other venues. People we don’t have contracts with can just automatically take us off the list.”

The cancellation also means lost wages for some workers. At the coliseum, several hundred employees were scheduled to work the concert, according to Brown. [The Atlantic, 4/12/16]

The Charlotte Observer: Some High-Profile Sporting Events Have An Uncertain Future In North Carolina.

According to a statement from the NBA, HB2 could affect the likelihood of Charlotte “successfully hosting” the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. Other athletic associations have expressed concern over the new law, including the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the U.S. Golf Association, which conducts the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open. [The Charlotte Observer, 3/30/16]

Several Companies Have Canceled Multimillion Dollar Expansion Projects Due To Anti-LGBT Law 

WRAL.com: Citing HB2, PayPal Cancels Planned Expansion In Charlotte. PayPal announced on March 18 that they would open a $3.5 million complex in Charlotte, employing 400 people, and having an annual payroll of about $20.7 million. On April 5, the company retracted its decision, citing the governor signing HB2 into law, stating the new law “perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.” [WRAL.com, 4/5/16]

Associated Press: Drug Company Reconsiders Building $20M Factory In North Carolina Because Of Anti-LGBT Law.

The Associated Press reported on April 10 that “New Jersey-based Braeburn Pharmaceuticals said it is ‘reevaluating our options based on the recent, unjust legislation’ whether to build a $20 million manufacturing and research facility in Durham County.” AP further reported that the facility would create 50 new jobs, paying an average salary of nearly $76,000. [Associated Press, 4/10/16]

NY Times: Deutsche Bank Freezes Expansion In North Carolina, Citing HB2 As The Reason For Halting Growth.

The German “financial giant” withdrew plans to expand its technology development center in Cary, NC, which already boasts 900 employees, citing HB2 as the reason for halting its growth. The company planned on spending $9 million on the expansion, creating an additional 250 jobs that were expected to have a total salary package upwards of $21 million annually. [The New York Times, 4/12/16]

North Carolina Could Face Potential Loss Of Federal Funding And Other State Governments’ Spending.

The Washington Post reported on April 4 that at least five federal agencies are in the process of reviewing whether to withhold funds from NC in response to HB2:

The ongoing reviews at the Education, Transportation, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services departments are not yet complete, and it is unclear how much federal money might be involved. But the Obama administration’s decision to scrutinize what White House press secretary Josh Earnest described as “both policy and legal questions that are raised by the passage of this law” suggests that the measure signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R) last month could have major implications for his state.

Earnest said that “individual agencies are undertaking” the review, and the White House had not issued specific guidance on how to proceed. But he emphasized that President Obama said that “ensuring that individual Americans are not discriminated against because of who they love is something that the president feels strongly about,” and he was not surprised that North Carolina officials “are feeling some pressure” on the issue.

“I can just say that, more generally, this administration is committed to defending and even promoting the equal rights of all Americans, including LGBT Americans,” he added. [The Washington Post, 4/4/16]

 

Dem convention celebrates equality

LGBT Democrats say party leadership asked them for years to wait for a dividend on their loyalty – for the time when the party would fully embrace marriage equality.

“The waiting is over” was the oft-heard refrain from LGBT delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., held Sept. 4-6.

In 1996, when Democrats gathered at the United Center in Chicago for the convention that nominated Bill Clinton for re-election, the big question in the LGBT community was whether the president would say “gay” in his acceptance speech.

In Charlotte, the big question was how much attention the party would give to marriage equality.

The answer? A lot.

Speaker after speaker in the convention spotlight reminded delegates and their TV audiences that the party platform supports marriage equality, celebrates the repeal of the ban against gay servicemembers in the military, and strives for equality for all.

In his keynote address, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro said, “When it comes to getting the middle class back to work, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’ When it comes to respecting women’s rights, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’ When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’ When it comes to expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’”

In a rousing speech on Sept. 4, Newark Mayor Cory Booker talked about the “emboldened pathway toward the historic hope which has driven generations of Americans forward. It is our most fundamental national aspiration – that no matter who you are, no matter what your color, creed, how you choose to pray or who you choose to love – that if you are an American, first generation or fifth … who is willing to work hard, play by the rules and apply your God-given talents, (then) you should be able to find a job that pays the bills.”

Gay Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado introduced himself at the convention: “My great-grandparents were immigrants. I am Jewish. I am gay. I am a father. I am a son. I am an entrepreneur. I am a congressman from Colorado. I am always an optimist. But first and foremost, I am an American.”

To sustained applause, Polis said, “Tonight, I don’t just ask my fellow Americans to respect my relationship with my partner Marlon and my role as a father to our son. I also ask them to respect the Christian family concerned about decaying moral values and crass commercialism. I ask them to respect the difficult decision of a single mother to bring a child into this world, because of her heartfelt beliefs.”

In a quite different speech, actor Kal Penn, referring to his work in the Obama White House, said, “My favorite job was having a boss who gave the order to take out bin Laden – and who’s cool with all of us getting gay-married.”

Outside the glare of the podium spotlight at the Time Warner Cable Arena, Democrats still promoted gay equality, whether the audience was the morning gathering of Arkansas delegates at the Hampton Inn by the airport or the LGBT caucus at the Charlotte Convention Center.

LGBT caucus meetings took place Sept. 4 and Sept. 6, with delegates hearing from out legistlators Tammy Baldwin and Mark Pocan from Wisconsin, Polis and U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, and openly gay Democratic National Committee treasurer Andrew Tobias and DNC CEO Steve Kerrigan.

At a special luncheon on Sept. 5, first lady Michelle Obama addressed the LGBT caucus: “The one thing I want to point out here today is that we don’t want to make any mistake about it – this election is about even more than the issues that are at stake right now. It’s about even more than the candidates that are on the ballot this year. This election, more than any other in history, is about how we want our democracy to function for decades to come.”

The caucus, chaired by longtime activist and party loyalist Rick Stafford, was the largest in the party’s history, with more than 550 delegates and alternates. Some of the older members of the group remembered decades back, when the caucus could meet in a telephone booth.

“History is being made this week,” Stafford, of Minnesota, said.

Baldwin said, “The sheer size of this caucus is but one example of the progress we’ve made toward equality.”

Gay delegate Darrell Bouldin, over morning coffee on the first day of the three-day gathering, said he was proud to represent Tennessee and is “a big supporter of President Obama.”

Bouldin said he was most looking forward to the business of adopting the national party platform, which states, “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. …We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.”

“I’m really excited to vote for marriage equality,” said Bouldin, who was sharing a table with Wisconsin delegate Jamie Shiner, who was proud to be a transgender delegate to the convention.

Shiner praised Democrats for the repeal of DADT and supporting marriage equality and the pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It is critical to transgender people,” Shiner said of ENDA. “I get tired of hearing how some of my sisters and brothers are treated in employment. Some can’t even go to a rest room.”

Meanwhile, on the streets of Uptown Charlotte, voters and volunteers, activists and protestors mostly embraced the party’s positions on LGBT issues.

“Damn. I think gay marriage is the one thing we’re really agreeing with the party leaders on,” said Hank Webber of Tulsa, Okla., who participated in the Occupy Wall Street South demonstrations that took place during the convention. “The Democrats aren’t perfect on a lot of things, but I’m with them on that.”

Dyanna Johnson of Charlotte, who worked at a barbecue booth at the festival before the convention, said, “Baby, you love who you love. No one should tell you otherwise. I support the president.”

At the Human Rights Campaign’s booth at the festival, there was a long line for festivalgoers to spin a wheel and win a prize.

“I’m hoping to win an equality T-shirt for my baby,” said Julie Sawyer of Durham, N.C. “That would be a great way to get into a conversation about marriage with moms on the playground. You probably heard. There was a vote here in May.”

North Carolina voters, in the May primary, approved a constitutional amendment banning recognition of gay marriages and other same-sex relationships.

“I wish the vote had come after the convention,” said Marianne Kracker of Charlotte. “I think the outcome would have been different because, man, Democrats are fired up and ready to go now.”

Campaign connections

Obama for America has several tools to connect with LGBT supporters, including:

http://www.barackobama.com/lgbt

http://www.dashboard.barackobama.com

http://www.facebook.com/obamapride

There are no similar affinity groups for the Romney-Ryan campaign.

Anti-gay group charges homosexuality as fatal as drugs, smoking

A right-wing group, declaring that September is “Protecting Marriage Month,” claims that homosexuality is more threatening than climate change and warns of second-hand health risks.

The Center for Marriage Policy’s literature was distributed by some Christian right activists outside the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., last week.

Many dismissed the material as nutty or laughable, or both.

“This is spooky, kooky stuff,” said Charlotte resident Hal Turner, who was demonstrating outside the Time Warner Cable Arena for environmental reforms. “This is too extreme for even the Republican Party.”

Steve Hinkley, who was outside the convention protesting the proposed Keystone Pipeline, laughed at the literature. “For some reason I assumed everybody here would be on the left,” he said.

The right-wing center, in a flyer circulated on the streets of Uptown Charlotte, said, “Public policy must discourage promiscuity and homosexuality for the same reasons we discourage drug abuse and smoke.”

The group advocates criminalizing homosexuality in the United States, blames LGBT people for sexually-transmitted diseases, maintains bisexuals are the majority in the LGBT movement and argues that homosexuality is promoted in schools to the point that “it is considered an act of hate to question or oppose sexual perversion.”

A paper released for the group’s Protecting Marriage Month campaign says, “Why do we teach homosexuality in our schools while strongly encouraging our children not to use drugs or smoke? Fatality data indicates that promiscuity and homosexuality are at least as dangerous to health and life as smoking or drugs.”

The center’s David R. Usher and Cynthia L. Davis go on to write, “We can no longer give homosexuality a free pass because the grave healthcare burden it imposes on the rest of us. The taxpayers cannot ‘leave the room’ to avoid being harmed.”

The center was founded about a year ago with an endorsement from Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the anti-feminist Eagle Forum.

Obama’s speech to focus on goals, choice for a generation

President Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for another term later tonight. His speech will focus on a set of goals for the country and the choice “between two different paths for America.”

The president will ask the country to rally around goals on manufacturing, education, national security and the deficit to create jobs, expand opportunity and ensure an economy “built to last.”

Those goals, in a release that included excerpts from his prepared remarks, include:

• Create a million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016.

• Double exports by the end of 2014.

• Cut net oil imports in half by 2020.

• Support 600,000 natural gas jobs by the end of the decade.

• Cut the growth of college tuition in half over the next 10 years.

• Recruit 100,000 math and science teachers over the next 10 years.

• Train 2 million workers at community colleges.

• Invest in the economy with money not being spent on war.

• Reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade.

The president, according to an prepared remarks, will say, “But when all is said and done – when you pick up that ballot to vote – you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation. Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education, war and peace – decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come.

“On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties.

“It will be a choice between two different paths for America.

“A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”

Tonight at the Democratic National Convention: The schedule

Openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank and openly lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin deliver speeches tonight at the Democratic National Convention.

The program also includes remarks by Zach Wahls, the son of lesbian moms, and the showing of two videos – one about the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t’ tell,” the policy that banned openly gay servicemembers, and the other about marriage equality.

The program features other speeches, mostly from politicians but also from “American voices” and several actresses, and musical performances by James Taylor, Mary J. Blige and the Foo Fighters.

The schedule for the Democratic National Convention for Sept. 6, which begins at about 4:30 p.m. in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.:

4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.:

Remarks by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton of North Carolina, U.S. Reps. G.K. Butterfield, David Price and Mel L. Watt of North Carolina, Duke Energy CEO James Rogers.

James Taylor will perform, followed by the call to order, the invocation, the presentation of colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem.

The next speakers will be U.S. Reps. Donna F. Edwards of Maryland and Barney Frank of Massachusetts and former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt.

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. the program features U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a video about the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” remarks by Jason Crow, a performance by Mary J. Blige, remarks by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Los Angles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

There will be a video about marriage equality, followed by Zach Wahls, the son of lesbian moms.

The 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. program features Obama for America campaign manager Jim Messina, American voices Kenyetta Jones, Ryan Case, Ed Meagher, Martha Figueroa, Lucas Beenken and Rob Hach, nominating remarks for Joe Biden by his son Beau, the vote, and then a performance by the Foo Fighters.

Next, James Clyburn of South Carolina will speak, followed by actresses Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington, author and attorney Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, actress Eva Longoria, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

From 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. the program includes remarks by retired Adm. John B. Nathman, Angie Flores, second lady Dr. Jill Biden and vice president Joe Biden.

From 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. the program includes remarks by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and President Barack Obama.

Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, will deliver the benediction.

Democratic stars address LGBT caucus

Democratic stars and LGBT stalwarts urged LGBT delegates to the national convention to go home and get out the vote for Barack Obama.

And also to ask Republican relatives to stay home on election day.

The noon meeting of the LGBT caucus at the Charlotte Convention Center on Sept. 6 featured comments by second lady Dr. Jill Biden, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Obama-Biden campaign manager Jim Messina, Democratic National Committee treasurer Andrew Tobias, openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, among others.

Each speaker reminded the delegates that, when they leave Charlotte, to take enthusiasm and energy home along with their memorabilia and memories.

Each also reminded the delegates of the Obama administration’s record and policies on LGBT equality – from the dismantling of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to the refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, from signing the hate crimes reform bill into law to enacting executive policies protecting same-sex couples in family health care emergencies.

And each, at different moments, brought delegates to their feet to applaud.

Messina led off the speakers, telling delegates, “I am proud of how much you guys are doing on the ground.”

Tobias asked delegates to ask their Republican uncles – or other Republican relatives – to stay home on election day if they can’t vote for Barack Obama. He offered two reasons – out of love for the LGBT relative and because, if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, are elected “we are going to have a global depression.”

Biden reminded delegates there are only two months left before election day – with lots of work for campaign volunteers remaining.

Booker, who earlier in the week delivered a fiery convention speech in defense of marriage equality, quoted from Langston Hughes and James Baldwin and said, “Hate is hate, bigotry is bigotry … and inequality is inequality.”

The popular mayor also implied that he may run for governor in New Jersey – a post held by Republican Chris Christie, who vetoed a marriage equality bill earlier this year.

Christie delivered the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week and may run for president in 2016.

What’s happening tonight at the Democratic convention

“Americans Coming Together” is the theme for the Sept. 5 program of the Democratic National Convention, which begins at 5 p.m. at the Times Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.

Attendees – and viewers – can expect to hear a lot about immigration, choice and labor, as well as LGBT equality and the economy, including from former employees of companies owned by Bain Capital.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, the convention committee chair, will call the convention to order.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the first woman elected bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, will deliver the invocation, which will be followed by the presentation of colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and then the national anthem, performed by Branford Marsalis.

At the podium, early speakers including Chicago Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, a leader in the campaign to enact the DREAM Act, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California, Steve Westly of California, U.S. Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, Iowa deputy Ken Myers, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, non-voting U.S. Rep. Pedro R. Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, Advanced Energy Economy co-founder Tom Steyer, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass of California, U.S. Rep. Al Green of Texas, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

About 8 p.m., Denis Juneau of the Montana Office of Public Instruction will speak, followed by U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of  California, women of the U.S. Senate, Arne Duncan, Johanny Adames, former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, former Charlotte Mayor Harvey B. Gantt, singer Jessica Sanchez, Elizabeth Ann “Libby” Bruce, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Ed Meagher, Gen. Eric Shinseki, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sister Simone Campbell of the Roman Catholic social justice NETWORK and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.

About 9 p.m., the delegates – and a TV audience – will hear from Karen Mills, Bill Butcher, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, DREAM Act activist Benita Veliz, journalist Cristina Saralegui, women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke, CarMax CEO Austin Ligon, Karen Eusanio, UAW president Bob King, former employees of Bain Capital companies and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

At 10 p.m., former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal will speak, followed by U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and then the nomination process set-up, followed by the nomination speech by former President Bill Clinton and then the roll call.

The last night of the convention, Sept. 6, will take place at the Times Warner Cable Arena instead of the Bank of America Stadium because of forecasts for severe weather. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will accept the party’s nominations.

Michelle Obama speaks about love, trust

First Lady Michelle Obama closed the first night of the Democratic National Convention with a personal but powerful speech at the president and country she loves.

The first lady spoke to a packed house and a Prime Time audience about her husband, their children and their passion for serving the American people.

In one passage, she said, “If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire…if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores…if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote…if a generation could defeat a depression, and define greatness for all time…if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream…and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love…then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.

Because in the end, more than anything else, that is the story of this country – the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle.”

The following is a transcript of the first lady’s speech, as prepared for delivery, on Sept. 4 in the Times Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.:

Thank you so much, Elaine…we are so grateful for your family’s service and sacrifice…and we will always have your back.

Over the past few years as First Lady, I have had the extraordinary privilege of traveling all across this country.

And everywhere I’ve gone, in the people I’ve met, and the stories I’ve heard, I have seen the very best of the American spirit.

I have seen it in the incredible kindness and warmth that people have shown me and my family, especially our girls.

I’ve seen it in teachers in a near-bankrupt school district who vowed to keep teaching without pay.

I’ve seen it in people who become heroes at a moment’s notice, diving into harm’s way to save others…flying across the country to put out a fire…driving for hours to bail out a flooded town.  

And I’ve seen it in our men and women in uniform and our proud military families…in wounded warriors who tell me they’re not just going to walk again, they’re going to run, and they’re going to run marathons…in the young man blinded by a bomb in Afghanistan who said, simply, “…I’d give my eyes 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done and what I can still do.”

Every day, the people I meet inspire me…every day, they make me proud…every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth. 

Serving as your First Lady is an honor and a privilege…but back when we first came together four years ago, I still had some concerns about this journey we’d begun. 

While I believed deeply in my husband’s vision for this country…and I was certain he would make an extraordinary President…like any mother, I was worried about what it would mean for our girls if he got that chance.

How would we keep them grounded under the glare of the national spotlight?

How would they feel being uprooted from their school, their friends, and the only home they’d ever known?

Our life before moving to Washington was filled with simple joys…Saturdays at soccer games, Sundays at grandma’s house…and a date night for Barack and me was either dinner or a movie, because as an exhausted mom, I couldn’t stay awake for both.

And the truth is, I loved the life we had built for our girls…I deeply loved the man I had built that life with…and I didn’t want that to change if he became President. 

I loved Barack just the way he was.

You see, even though back then Barack was a Senator and a presidential candidate…to me, he was still the guy who’d picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door…he was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster, and whose only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small.

But when Barack started telling me about his family – that’s when I knew I had found a kindred spirit, someone whose values and upbringing were so much like mine.

You see, Barack and I were both raised by families who didn’t have much in the way of money or material possessions but who had given us something far more valuable – their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves.

My father was a pump operator at the city water plant, and he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when my brother and I were young. 

And even as a kid, I knew there were plenty of days when he was in pain…I knew there were plenty of mornings when it was a struggle for him to simply get out of bed. 

But every morning, I watched my father wake up with a smile, grab his walker, prop himself up against the bathroom sink, and slowly shave and button his uniform.

And when he returned home after a long day’s work, my brother and I would stand at the top of the stairs to our little apartment, patiently waiting to greet him…watching as he reached down to lift one leg, and then the other, to slowly climb his way into our arms.

But despite these challenges, my dad hardly ever missed a day of work…he and my mom were determined to give me and my brother the kind of education they could only dream of. 

And when my brother and I finally made it to college, nearly all of our tuition came from student loans and grants.

But my dad still had to pay a tiny portion of that tuition himself.

And every semester, he was determined to pay that bill right on time, even taking out loans when he fell short.

He was so proud to be sending his kids to college…and he made sure we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late.

You see, for my dad, that’s what it meant to be a man.

Like so many of us, that was the measure of his success in life – being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to support his family.

And as I got to know Barack, I realized that even though he’d grown up all the way across the country, he’d been brought up just like me.

Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help.

Barack’s grandmother started out as a secretary at a community bank…and she moved quickly up the ranks…but like so many women, she hit a glass ceiling. 

And for years, men no more qualified than she was – men she had actually trained – were promoted up the ladder ahead of her, earning more and more money while Barack’s family continued to scrape by. 

But day after day, she kept on waking up at dawn to catch the bus…arriving at work before anyone else…giving her best without complaint or regret. 

And she would often tell Barack, “So long as you kids do well, Bar, that’s all that really matters.”

Like so many American families, our families weren’t asking for much.

They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success or care that others had much more than they did…in fact, they admired it.

They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that, even if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard and do what you’re supposed to do, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids.

That’s how they raised us…that’s what we learned from their example.

We learned about dignity and decency – that how hard you work matters more than how much you make…that helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself. 

We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters…that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules…and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square. 

We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean…and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.

Those are the values Barack and I – and so many of you – are trying to pass on to our own children.

That’s who we are.

And standing before you four years ago, I knew that I didn’t want any of that to change if Barack became President.

Well, today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are.

You see, I’ve gotten to see up close and personal what being president really looks like.

And I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones – the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer…the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error.

And as President, you can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people.

But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.

So when it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother.

He’s thinking about the pride that comes from a hard day’s work.

That’s why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work.

That’s why he cut taxes for working families and small businesses and fought to get the auto industry back on its feet.

That’s how he brought our economy from the brink of collapse to creating jobs again – jobs you can raise a family on, good jobs right here in the United States of America.

When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president. 

He didn’t care whether it was the easy thing to do politically – that’s not how he was raised – he cared that it was the right thing to do. 

He did it because he believes that here in America, our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine…our kids should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick…and no one in this country should ever go broke because of an accident or illness.

And he believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care…that’s what my husband stands for. 

When it comes to giving our kids the education they deserve, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never could’ve attended college without financial aid. 

And believe it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. 

We were so young, so in love, and so in debt.

That’s why Barack has fought so hard to increase student aid and keep interest rates down, because he wants every young person to fulfill their promise and be able to attend college without a mountain of debt.

So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political – they’re personal.

Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles.

He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids.

Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it…and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.

And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.

So when people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago.

He’s the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work…because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.

He’s the same man who, when our girls were first born, would anxiously check their cribs every few minutes to ensure they were still breathing, proudly showing them off to everyone we knew. 

That’s the man who sits down with me and our girls for dinner nearly every night, patiently answering their questions about issues in the news, and strategizing about middle school friendships. 

That’s the man I see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him. 

The letter from the father struggling to pay his bills…from the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won’t cover her care…from the young person with so much promise but so few opportunities. 

I see the concern in his eyes…and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, “You won’t believe what these folks are going through, Michelle…it’s not right.  We’ve got to keep working to fix this.  We’ve got so much more to do.”

I see how those stories – our collection of struggles and hopes and dreams – I see how that’s what drives Barack Obama every single day. 

And I didn’t think it was possible, but today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago…even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met. 

I love that he’s never forgotten how he started.

I love that we can trust Barack to do what he says he’s going to do, even when it’s hard – especially when it’s hard.

I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as “us” and “them” – he doesn’t care whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or none of the above…he knows that we all love our country…and he’s always ready to listen to good ideas…he’s always looking for the very best in everyone he meets.

And I love that even in the toughest moments, when we’re all sweating it – when we’re worried that the bill won’t pass, and it seems like all is lost – Barack never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise.

Just like his grandmother, he just keeps getting up and moving forward…with patience and wisdom, and courage and grace. 

And he reminds me that we are playing a long game here…and that change is hard, and change is slow, and it never happens all at once. 

But eventually we get there, we always do.

We get there because of folks like my Dad…folks like Barack’s grandmother…men and women who said to themselves, “I may not have a chance to fulfill my dreams, but maybe my children will…maybe my grandchildren will.”

So many of us stand here tonight because of their sacrifice, and longing, and steadfast love…because time and again, they swallowed their fears and doubts and did what was hard.

So today, when the challenges we face start to seem overwhelming – or even impossible – let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation…it’s who we are as Americans…it’s how this country was built.

And if our parents and grandparents could toil and struggle for us…if they could raise beams of steel to the sky, send a man to the moon, and connect the world with the touch of a button…then surely we can keep on sacrificing and building for our own kids and grandkids.

And if so many brave men and women could wear our country’s uniform and sacrifice their lives for our most fundamental rights…then surely we can do our part as citizens of this great democracy to exercise those rights…surely, we can get to the polls and make our voices heard on Election Day.

If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire…if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores…if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote…if a generation could defeat a depression, and define greatness for all time…if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream…and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love…then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.

Because in the end, more than anything else, that is the story of this country – the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle. 

That is what has made my story, and Barack’s story, and so many other American stories possible.

And I say all of this tonight not just as First Lady…and not just as a wife.

You see, at the end of the day, my most important title is still “mom-in-chief.”

My daughters are still the heart of my heart and the center of my world.

But today, I have none of those worries from four years ago about whether Barack and I were doing what’s best for our girls.

Because today, I know from experience that if I truly want to leave a better world for my daughters, and all our sons and daughters…if we want to give all our children a foundation for their dreams and opportunities worthy of their promise…if we want to give them that sense of limitless possibility – that belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it…then we must work like never before…and we must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward…my husband, our President, President Barack Obama.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

On the Web:  The first lady’s speech at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTPdKUA9Ipg&feature=player_embedded