Help two Georgia gays get to Democratic Mecca

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Gay bloggers and political power couple in the making Dustin Baker and Brett Johns are heading to Mecca for Democrats next month and need your help for their trek from Athens to the Queen City.

Yes ma’am, the Queen City. That’s Charlotte, which is home to the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 3-6 and these North Georgia queens are heading there as State Delegates. They are among a handful of gays in the state’s delegation – including politico Ken Britt and Reese McCrainie, a spokesperson for Mayor Kasim Reed – and are asking for a little LGBT love and some cash donations to get them there.

It’s an expensive trip, after all. And it’s not all cocktails, networking and clogging up Grindr. Democrats are poised to endorse same-sex marriage in the party platform and the couple wants to be there to support the effort.

“Since President Obama came out in support of gay marriage, I am hoping that we can get it in the platform this year. There are other issues that are important to me as well, but that is my main goal while up there,” Baker says in an email interview.

But the couple behind the Georgia Progress blog says that the trip to the convention is a pricey proposition. Official estimates put the price tag at $4,000, though Baker and Johns say they can trim those cuts by sharing a room – let’s hope so! – carpooling and otherwise pinching their pennies. But they still expect the hotel stay alone to reach $1,000, so they launched an online fundraising effort, DNC Marriage Equality Fund, to help. So far, donations have funded $610 of their $1,000 goal.

We talked with Baker and Johns about their trip, politics and the upcoming convention.

So you’re a couple and both political? How does that work? Does it drive your apolitical gay friends crazy?

DB: Well, a lot of our friends are political, maybe not as much as us. I think gay people in our generation stay more informed because of the fight for rights and marriage equality. Everyone seems to have at least a passing knowledge of the issues. However, we do have a few gay friends who aren’t political. If Brett and I start talking about anything political, they usually flip over to “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” They just know every two years or so I’m going to pop up and nag them until they go vote.

You’re heading to the Queen City for the DNC next month. There’s got to be some irony in that, right? Do you think the convention will crash Grindr like it did when the Olympians arrived in London?

DB: I’m sure there is a running joke there that we will hear the whole week. I’m not sure the DNC is going to be quite as big as the Olympics, but it’s possible. Lord knows it will be fun to see who will be trying find a guy while the President is on stage… of course I will be paying attention to the speech.

BJ: This is actually the first we’ve heard that their nickname is the Queen City, in which case it’s completely fitting that it’s where we both will be attending our first convention!

How did you get selected for the convention?

DB: There are a few ways to get selected, and for each you have to run for a spot. I ran as a 10th Congressional District Delegate. Basically, all the Democrats from the 10th District met in Monroe and held a caucus. Everyone who was running gave a speech, and then afterwards everyone voted. I was elected as one of three males for my district. Brett was elected as a statewide delegate, which is where the Democratic State Committee elects delegates. I would argue that it was harder for him than it was for me.

What will you be doing while there? In other words, is there serious business taking place or are you there for the great parties?

BJ: The convention is actually where the national Democratic platform is drafted, so we will be trying to influence that process as much as possible. Our main focus will be getting support for same-sex marriage and protections for gender identity added to the national platform, because although President Obama has come out in support, the national party still has no official stance. There are also a lot of informational workshops and seminars we will be attending, and we hope to bring home a lot of useful information we can use towards getting work done in our state.

DB: Well, it will be a good mix of work and fun. At the convention, we will be attending events and meeting people, but we will also be helping set the platform for the Democratic Party. Many do not know that marriage equality is not currently a part of the platform and we all thought it might be 2016 before it gets put into the platform. However, since President Obama came out in support of gay marriage, I am hoping that we can get it in the platform this year. There are other issues that are important to me as well, but that is my main goal while up there.

Since Obama is all about the gay marriage now, you going to ask him to gay marry you two while in Charlotte?

DB: Brett and I have been dating for almost five years, but we aren’t quite ready to settle down yet. We haven’t even adopted a cat. I’m pretty sure that is a required step between dating and marriage.

BJ: I’m not sure about the President, but our delegation will actually be headed by civil rights icon Rev. Joseph Lowery, who himself recently announced his support of same-sex marriage after President Obama’s announcement. Maybe one day Rev. Lowry can gay marry us!

Photo courtesy Brett Johns (left) and Dustin Baker (right)

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