Gay Utah Delegates Attend DNC

This election year the Democratic Party drew a record number of gay delegates to its national convention in Denver. Of the 4,400 delegates approximately 250 identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Three came from Utah, and Arlyn Bradshaw was one of their number. 

“Our community is very active in Utah and very involved, so it doesn’t surprise me that more openly gay people are taking part in this process – being elected as delegates,” said Bradshaw, one of Utah’s nine Hilary Clinton delegates. “Here we are in conservative Utah and we have openly gay legislators. It should be no surprise that some of the legislators were delegates and that I was able to go,” he added, referring to Salt Lake City politicians Sen. Scott McCoy and Rep. Christine Johnson who made up two of the state’s 14 pledged Barak Obama delegates. Utah also took six super delegates to Denver. When running at this year’s convention, delegates announced which candidate they supported and ran for one of that candidate’s delegate seats, the number of which was determined in the state’s primary. A delegate’s purpose for attending the convention is to elect the party’s national candidate.

For statistical purposes, Utah Democratic delegates are asked to identify their sexual orientation on a form they fill out after being elected to the position.

Bradshaw won the delegate seat at the state party convention in May. And while this was the first time to hold the position, 2008 was not his first convention. As the executive director of the state party he went to the 2004 national convention in Boston.

“But when you’re there as staff, it’s a lot of work,” Bradshaw said. “ This was a more relaxing experience in terms of I got to participate in convention proceedings instead of trying to take care of delegates, which is what you do when on staff.”

He described his time in Denver as “an incredible experience.” The highlights, he said, were listening to Obama’s wife Michelle speak on Aug. 25 and Hilary Clinton, Obama’s main challenger, speak the next day.

“Her speech was very inspiring and showed that the Clintons are united behind Obama,” he said.

Bradshaw was also impressed and inspired by former President Bill Clinton’s speech which he said reminded delegates of his presidency which was “actually fairly good times for the country.” A later speech by Clinton’s vice president and 2000 Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, Bradshaw added, reminded delegates of the importance of winning the presidential election in November.

“A part of his speech I thought was impressive and that stuck with me was [where he said] a lot of people say there’s no difference between the two party candidates, but you know in Al Gore’s experience in 2000 that isn’t true,” Bradshaw said. “We’d be in a very different place today if Al Gore had been the president.”

On Wednesday the delegates voted in what Bradshaw called their “only official role other than saying ‘aye’ every once in awhile.” Obama and Clinton were both placed up for nomination during role call, in which a representative from each state contingent got to publicly announce how many delegate votes each candidate had.

“It’s kind of fun, and people get to give a speech about how great their state is,” Bradshaw said.

However, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon wasn’t able to give his speech, because Clinton herself made a motion to suspend role call when the role reached New York. When her motion was seconded, Clinton asked all state delegations to nominate Obama by acclamation.

“He did give it to us the next morning during our breakfast meeting,” Bradshaw said, chuckling.

Although the Stonewall Democrats, the party’s gay caucus, had held its convention on the previous weekend, Bradshaw said that they met again during the convention (another caucus meeting, however, prevented him from attending). The Human Rights Campaign also held a fundraiser concert featuring gay and gay-friendly musicians like Rufus Wainwright, Cyndi Lauper and Melissa Etheridge.

Gay rights, Bradshaw said, were also a key point of every politician’s speech.

“The party has always been supportive of our cause, but I think it’s impressive that it’s getting to the point where we’re openly proud [gay rights] are part of our platform and we’re willing to say that in a prime time speech from our former president and our 2008 candidate,” he said.

Although Bradhsaw was a Clinton delegate, he said that he was “100 percent supportive” of Obama’s nomination and hopes that Clinton will run again some day.

 “I’m drawn to both her policies and her as an individual,” he said. “I think she would have been an absolutely amazing president and that having a woman president would be an amazing thing for our country.”

“But in her speech Hilary said very clearly, it was never about me and if you care about the issues you’ll support Obama.” He added that he thinks this remark was intended for the “hold outs” who still “hadn’t gotten over the primaries” earlier this year, where Obama won more delegates than Clinton.

“But,” he added. “I think ninety-nine percent of the Hilary supporters are [behind Obama].”

The Utah delegates cast 28 out of their 29 votes. State Rep. Jim Matheson was unable to attend and his vote could not be cast.

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