It takes a lot of courage to set up an event when you know that the people whooppose it are not shy about giving feedback. Especially if they could beat youup."Recognizing Our Own," a benefit hosted by the Gay andLesbian Victory Fund last week during the Democratic NationalConvention, celebrated the fact that there were twice as many gay and lesbian delegates as there were in 1996. The "single most important thing that we can have in our entire country istolerance and acceptance of people who have different views, differentperspectives and different types of lives," said Mary Weisman, Dayton, OhioCity Council. She came to the event to get gay and lesbians to vote and to get morerepresentation in their communities. She is doing a lot of work in herdistrict to get people to go to the polls "in strong, strong numbers so thattheir voice is heard and that good candidates for public office get elected."Rep. Richard Gephart (D-MO), House Minority Speaker, was also at the event. Hewas there to get more Americans-regardless of sexual orientation-involved inthe political process. "The Democratic party has always been the party ofcivil rights, equal rights and a party of inclusion," he said.This seems like a good week to have an event like this because the issue canget a lot of attention and support."There has been great progress," Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson said.
"And that's important."Weisman agreed, "I want to make sure that the gay, lesbian, bisexual andtrans-gendered community gets included in American politics."Some organizations are giving money to the Democratic Party for this specificpurpose. Bruce Villanch, a famous gay comedian, is involved in one such group.Villanch came to convention in support of a "more tolerant left-leaningcourt.""Under the Republicans we would get a lot of right-wing justices who willconsistently vote against gay and lesbian people and all minorities," hesaid.Bill Richardson also addressed youth issues. Richardson said that all young people should work together to help gay andlesbian youth and to empower themselves. "You've got to register people. Youhave to work the Internet. You've got to network with others in thecommunity," he said. Villanch is more concerned with social support than political power. "Thereshould be more money allocated towards educating gay and lesbian youth so thatthey know that what they are is not evil and bad and scary and worth killingthemselves over," he said. Some people feel that there should be more sensitivity toward sexualminorities, that it's not wrong to be homosexual. People may not agree butthey should be respectful of them. Some people are surprised by how many gayand lesbian elected officials there are. "We are like everybody else in the world except of course that we have aheightened fashion sense," Villanch joked.