LGBT_DemocratThe Democratic National Convention is a watershed event for America’s gay rights movement, which never before has been embraced so warmly by a major political party.

There’s a platform endorsing same-sex marriage, a roster of speakers that includes three gay members of Congress, and a record number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender delegates hailing from all 50 states — 486 in all, more than 8 percent of the total.

“We’ve been an underrepresented demographic in politics for a long time,” said Jerame Davis of National Stonewall Democrats, a gay-rights affiliate of the party. “Finally seeing us appropriately represented is just a thrill.”

The large role for gays and lesbians is a striking contrast with last week’s Republican convention, which ratified a platform opposing gay-rights priorities and was attended by perhaps a few dozen openly gay delegates. It also shows how far the Democrats have evolved since Bill Clinton, now a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage, signed a bipartisan bill in 1996 defining marriage as a one-man, one-woman union.

President Barack Obama took office in 2009 as a self-described “fierce advocate” for gay rights, yet for much of his first term he drew flak from impatient activists. They were frustrated that he wouldn’t endorse same-sex marriage and wanted him to move faster to enable gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed a year ago, and in May the president completed what he had called a personal “evolution” by endorsing gay marriage. Within days of that announcement, previously reticent gay donors pumped several million dollars into Obama’s campaign fund, and his backing from the gay-rights groups has been enthusiastic ever since.

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