CHARLOTTE, N.C. When North Carolina voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages in May, some worried whether gays and lesbians would feel welcome here during the Democratic National Convention.
Now, advocates say the Charlotte convention will make history on issues of equality.
Theres a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) delegates participating. And theres the expectation that Democrats will approve marriage equality in its official party platform.
Locally, supporters are scheduling social events and roundtable talks in between official convention business.
We are moving forward, said ONeale Atkinson, operations manager of the LGBT Community Center, which is hosting open house events related to the DNC.
Right now is not the time to look at the past but take this opportunity to put ourselves out there on this extremely large scale.
Unofficial happenings begin Saturday night, when the center hosts an open house for attendees of the DNC media party, happening on its shared campus at the N.C. Music Factory.
Sunday night brings Unity Charlotte 2012 at the N.C. Dance Theatre in uptown Charlotte billed by organizers as the defining LGBT event of the Democratic National Convention.
Think cocktail party with entertainment, including singers, comedians, DJs and an aerialist performer, said Rachel Sutherland, the events communications chair. Theres an expo, too, with local advocacy groups. Sutherland said politicians are expected to attend, including Mayor Anthony Foxx.
The PPL, a grassroots organization providing workspace to new media members at Packard Place in uptown, is hosting a discussion Thursday on equality issues that will be streamed on the Internet, according to co-founder Desiree Kane.
Official DNC events include LGBT Caucus meetings on Tuesday and Thursday, which are open to members of the public that register in advance at http://my.democrats.org/page/s/caucus-council.
Jerame Davis, executive director of the D.C.-based National Stonewall Democrats, a grassroots Democratic gay-rights organization, said LGBT convention participants will break records in Charlotte. A total of 534 will participate, including 486 delegates, 23 alternates, 20 committee members and five pages. Denver had about 350 participants, Davis said.
At least two receptions will be held during the week for these delegates.
What an amazing and inspiring convention this will be, Davis said in a statement.