Opinion » Guest Commentary
As the election season approaches, some things are familiar — the excitement of the conventions, powerful speeches and debates, and the seemingly endless commercials for candidates and causes. This season there are other things that are new — new candidates, fresh ideas and innovative perspectives. One strong trend that bridges both the old and the new is of particular interest to me and to many involved at all levels of government and the election process. And what is that trend? That lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people vote. We register and vote in historically significant numbers. We follow our favorite candidates and track their positions on issues that affect our lives. And, increasingly, we participate directly in the process not only by voting but also by taking part in other substantial ways.
Historically, LGBT voters account for 4 percent to 5 percent of voters in national exit polls — that’s more than 4 million votes! A 2007 national survey found gay and lesbian people were much more likely to vote than the U.S. average. More than 90 percent of gay and lesbian people surveyed voted in the 2004 presidential election, and nearly 81 percent voted in the 2006 midterm election. By comparison, about 64 percent of the general population voted in 2004, and only 40 percent voted in 2006. LGBT interest in the election process also sets records. The August 2007 forum of presidential candidates broadcast by LOGO Television attracted the largest LGBT online video audience in history, as well as one of the largest LGBT television audiences ever.
Our participation in the election process and in government has increased as well. At the Democratic National Convention, 8 percent of delegates self-identified as LGBT, according to the Stonewall Democrats (the nation’s Democratic LGBT organization). Of the 4,400-plus delegates that attended, more than 370 are out LGBT people. These delegates represented 48 states, including Hawaii, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota and Tennessee, states that sent out LGBT delegates for the first time. Out gay Wisconsinite Jason Rae, at age 21, also made history as the youngest superdelegate in the nation. At the Republican National Convention, about 100 members of the Log Cabin Republicans (the national GOP group that works to advocate for fairness, freedom and equality for gay and lesbian Americans) and other delegates were in attendance to represent the interests of LGBT people and families. They were busy on the convention floor, as well as providing interviews for media outlets that included radio stations in Bloomington, Chicago, Minneapolis and Southern California Public Radio, as well as CNN on television and online.
Currently, more than 415 out LGBT elected officials serve at every level of government throughout the nation, including five Congresspeople.
Our LGBT community is made of a striking and vast sea of differences. We may share a common identity — and an uncommon interest in exercising our right to vote — but our differences define and strengthen us just as much as our commonalities. This election year, I encourage everyone, of all orientations and identities, to participate. Find out about the candidates’ positions on the issues you care about. Register to vote. And then join with Americans from all walks of life to make your voices heard on Election Day.
Lis Maurer is the coordinator of LGBT Education Outreach Services. E-mail her at email@example.com.
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