It takes a lot of courage to set up an event when you know that the people who oppose it are not shy about giving feedback. Especially if they could beat you up. "Recognizing Our Own," a benefit hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund last week during the Democratic National Convention, 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 is tolerance and acceptance of people who have different views, different perspectives and different types of lives," said Mary Weisman, Dayton, Ohio City Council. She came to the event to get gay and lesbians to vote and to get more representation in their communities. She is doing a lot of work in her district to get people to go to the polls "in strong, strong numbers so that their 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. He was there to get more Americans-regardless of sexual orientation-involved in the political process. "The Democratic party has always been the party of civil 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 can get 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 and trans-gendered community gets included in American politics." Some organizations are giving money to the Democratic Party for this specific purpose. Bruce Villanch, a famous gay comedian, is involved in one such group. Villanch came to convention in support of a "more tolerant left-leaning court." "Under the Republicans we would get a lot of right-wing justices who will consistently vote against gay and lesbian people and all minorities," he said. Bill Richardson also addressed youth issues. Richardson said that all young people should work together to help gay and lesbian youth and to empower themselves. "You've got to register people. You have to work the Internet. You've got to network with others in the community," he said. Villanch is more concerned with social support than political power. "There should be more money allocated towards educating gay and lesbian youth so that they know that what they are is not evil and bad and scary and worth killing themselves over," he said. Some people feel that there should be more sensitivity toward sexual minorities, that it's not wrong to be homosexual. People may not agree but they should be respectful of them. Some people are surprised by how many gay and lesbian elected officials there are. "We are like everybody else in the world except of course that we have a heightened fashion sense," Villanch joked.
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