Openly gay Pennsylvania native Sean Meloy was tapped to lead the Democratic Party’s LGBT engagement in 2015.
PGN: What have your priorities been as director of LGBT engagement for the Democratic National Committee?
SM: We make sure LGBT people are engaged in the party, that we come out to vote in the 2016 election, not just for president — obviously that’s important — but for Democrats up and down the ballot. Our rights are on the ballot every time, with every office.
PGN: What was the delegate-recruitment process like for the 2016 Democratic National Convention? How did you recruit and identify LGBT delegates?
SM: A lot of that is left up to the states. The states make plans, and we’ve been happy to see so many states crafting plans to increase overall goals for LGBT delegates.
PGN: Do you have the final number for LGBT delegates to the DNC?
SM: The states have a long process, so we don’t have final numbers yet. I’ve been getting good reports from some states. I know some states are ahead of the 2012 numbers, from their unofficial counts, but all that matters is what’s certified. We’re waiting on that, but we’re on a good track. The party is doing a lot for LGBT people, and LGBT people know that at home. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see that [2012 LGBT delegate] number increase.
PGN: What is the impact of having LGBT voices at the table, such as through delegates at the convention?
SM: Obviously, being in the room is important, and the way LGBT people can share their voices is important. One of the things we’re really happy about this year is that we opened up the [DNC platform-drafting] process. LGBT people have shared their stories, their voices, through written and video testimony for the first time ever. And also people like Jim Obergefell testified in person to the [DNC] drafting committee. So having those voices there is important. Having voices at the table in any discussion allows us to tell our stories. Certainly now following the events of Orlando and repeated attacks on LGBT people in North Carolina and Mississippi, people need to hear our stories to become better allies and advocates for us. The more LGBT folks who are at the convention, the more they’ll share their stories and help the Democratic Party be the best ally that it is.
PGN: When we spoke with you last year, you mentioned that you planned to work to strengthen connections among LGBT Democrats across the nation. What has that process been like?
SM: We have our LGBT caucuses in the state parties, and they’ve been very active making sure plans for delegate-recruitment happens. We’ve been working with Democrats in state legislatures to stop right-wing Republican attacks on LGBT people. We established an LGBT advisory board at the DNC. This body represents LGBT people across the entire country; all 50 states are represented, and the full diversity of the LGBT community is represented. I’m very excited about this. We’ve already started discussions about letting us know what’s happening in communities to head off Republican attacks on the community. LGBT candidates running for office or who won primaries are going to be working with members of the advisory board and with LGBT causes in their states and the Democratic Party at large to help them get elected.
PGN: Since you took on this position, marriage equality became legal nationwide. How, if at all, did that impact your work?
SM: Obviously, it was most welcomed. It was a huge step. A lot of Democrats put themselves out there to be allies and to make sure that happened. It was a great moment but, at the same time, it wasn’t the end all, be all. There are still a lot of issues facing the LGBT community. With or without marriage, I would’ve been working with stakeholders in local and state Democratic parties and with LGBT people to make sure that the Democratic Party continues to be the best ally, and to protect the legacy of President Obama and ensure another Democrat gets into the White House, as well as that Democrats take back the Senate and the House.
PGN: Most recently, the Orlando shooting seems to have energized LGBT people around the issue of gun control. What role do you see the Orlando attack having on the convention?
SM: This was so emotional for LGBT people because our community was literally attacked. I think a lot of conversations are going to be couched with, “Look at the worst that can happen.” The worst attack against LGBT people, and just Americans at large, with gun shooting is really hard to talk about. But I think the overall impact of the event has made sure that LGBT people know what is at stake. Not that we didn’t before because of what Republicans had been doing to us, but this brought it home, made it clear that we need to be out there, we need to be proud. I was just at New York City Pride and the DNC marched in the D.C. Pride celebration. Those crowds were huge. People are on our side, and Democrats are on our side. We have to make it known that we are not going to be afraid because who we are is under attack. That should embolden us to go out and fight against Republicans who are not willing to prevent gun violence, and who create an atmosphere of bullying against LGBT people. Young people dealing with their identity are not helped by the rhetoric from Republicans. Orlando helped us come together and we all grieved together. Now we’re ready to get out and fight together for ourselves.
PGN: As a Pennsylvania native, are you looking forward to being in Philly for the DNC?
SM: Yes; although I am a Pittsburgher, I do love Philadelphia. I’m a Pennsylvania boy through and through. I’m excited to be back in the Gayborhood and so happy that there’s going to be so many things happening for the LGBT community. Philadelphia is known as the most LGBT-protected city in the entire country, and I know that, when the DNC was looking at sites, that was definitely a consideration. I’m very happy we’ll be showcasing Philadelphia, which can show that, when Democrats work together, this is what we can do. Those [pro-LGBT] initiatives were pushed by Democrats. There’s obviously work to do at the state level in Pennsylvania, but I’m hopeful the DNC will embolden local folks to shine a light on what people can do in their home states and cities to protect LGBT people and continue to make progress.