Texas falls shorts of its gay delegate quota by 1, but National Stonewall expects record number of LGBT participants at 2012 convention

Rudy Oeftering in Tampa

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Former state Rep. Glen Maxey is driving to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in a van dubbed “Priscilla, Queen of the Convention.”

Eight people will travel in the van, decked out in rainbow colors and an 8-foot banner that reads “Gays for Obama,” through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina before reaching their destination.

Maxey, who will officially be elected to the Democratic National Committee at the convention, is not a delegate, so he is attending as a page.

“Two old gay geezers are taking six young college kids,” Maxey said.

He said he raised the money for hotel rooms for the students, and everyone was going to fly until he found out that one of the people who wanted to attend was undocumented. Since that student has no identification, he cannot board an airplane.

“Well, Uncle Glen is going to make this a trip,” he said he told them.

When the others worried that Maxey was going to get them killed traveling through Alabama and Mississippi in the conspicuous van, he told them they had no sense of adventure.

“What could go wrong on this trip?” Maxey said.

Other Texas participants planned to travel to the Democratic and Republican conventions in more traditional fashion.

“I’m flying,” said Jeff Strater, a Democratic national delegate who is also a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

A total of 534 LGBT people were scheduled to participate in the Democratic convention, according to National Stonewall Democrats. That eclipses the record of just over 350 delegates set four years ago in Denver. Of the 534 LGBT participants, 486 are delegates, 23 are alternates, 20 were committee members and five are pages, National Stonewall said.

Carol Cappa, vice president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, is a member of the standing Rules Committee. She was leaving for Charlotte early because the committee meets on Saturday, Sept. 1.

Cappa called this year’s Democratic platform “a great step forward.”

She was looking forward to seeing how the Democratic Party operates at the national level and hoped the platform would “rev up the base to get out to the polls.”

Metroplex Republicans Vice President Rudy Oeftering attended local Republican platform committee meetings earlier this summer and traveled to the Republican Convention in Tampa. He arrived on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

He said attending the local committee meetings was important for interacting with some whose concept of gay people is only what they hear in church.

“We go to get anti-gay language removed,” he said, “and come into contact with people who don’t support us. You realize you are the first openly gay person they’ve ever spoken to.”

But he said the majority of people he has encountered in the Republican Party welcome his participation and he said that’s what he expected to find in Tampa.

While Democrats include LGBT participation in their delegate diversity quotas, Republicans don’t keep count of the number of LGBT delegates and alternates.

The national Democratic Party set quotas for each state to fill with LGBT delegates. Texas missed its quota by one.

“You have to have people willing to run,” Strater said.

He said he was the only gay male that ran for one of nine delegate seats in Senatorial District 23.

He said while it was disappointing that Texas didn’t exceed its quota, the delegation would actually include a larger number of gays and lesbians, including people like Maxey and committee members like Cappa and Erin Moore.

Log Cabin Republicans reported about two dozen gays and lesbians participated as delegates or alternates. However, the national gay Republican  group had a larger presence in Tampa.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican who is a chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, recorded an ad that was broadcast on local Tampa TV stations throughout the week.

“Marriage strengthens families and we need more of that in this country, not less,” he says in the 30-second spot, framing marriage equality as a conservative issue.

On Wednesday, Log Cabin and Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry ran a full-page ad in the Tampa Tribune supporting marriage equality.

“We believe that the freedom to marry is directly in line with the core ideals and principles of the Republican Party — less government, more individual freedom, personal responsibility and the importance of family,” said Log Cabin Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper.

Cooper criticized the marriage plank in the Republican platform, which Family Research Council President Tony Perkins took credit for writing.

“The obsessive exclusion of gay couples, including military families, from the rights and responsibilities of marriage, combined with bizarre rhetoric about ‘hate campaigns’ and ‘the homosexual rights agenda’ are clear signs of desperation among social conservatives who know that public opinion is rapidly turning in favor of equality,” Cooper said.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez is a delegate to the Charlotte convention. The Democratic Party platform that will be finalized at the convention calls for marriage equality. Narvaez said he takes pride in the platform, which Moore played a role in shaping as a member of the state and national platform committees.

“I’m looking forward to saying, ‘I am in favor of this platform,’” Narvaez said.While a number of LGBT events will take place throughout the week including Stonewall receptions and the LGBT caucus, Narvaez and Strater both questioned the timing of HRC’s reception, which will take place during the vote on the platform.

“I was elected to be in the hall during the vote,” Strater said.

Narvaez thought the timing was poor considering the number of pro-gay planks in a document he called “historic.”

Other highlights of the convention, Narvaez said, would include the keynote speech by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

Castro will be the third Texan to deliver the Democratic keynote, after Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards, and the first Latino. Narvaez described Castro as very popular within the party in Texas.

“It’s nice to see some folks on the bench,” he said, referring to the usual lack of any Democrats elected to statewide office since the Richards administration.

Oeftering said a number of events took place during the Republican convention as well.

On Tuesday, 800 guests attended Homocon, sponsored by GOProud at The Honey Pot, a gay club in Ybor City, Tampa’s gay neighborhood.

Among the better know guests that attended were Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and former Rep. Mark Foley from Florida.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2012.