South Carolina Democrats will hold their annual convention in Columbia Saturday and offer up the usual small selection of lawmakers and groups as speakers. But one of those groups is relatively new to the scene. The South Carolina Stonewall Democrats consists of members of the gay and lesbian community and their advocates. Stonewall Democrats have 130 chapters across the country. The Democratic movement was named after the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. A series of sometimes violent demonstrations were held in the city’s Greenwich Village area in response to police raids in the gay community.South Carolina Stonewall President Keith Riddle will speak before the convention this year. “Stonewall Democrats encourages those who are gay and lesbian as well as those who are supportive of the community or allies to reach and vote and encourage others to vote, and not to sit back and complain later if they don’t vote. Stonewall Democrats is reaching out to a constituency who many times are not heard.”
Riddle says gays and lesbians have made a big difference in recent elections including the election of Barack Obama as President. He says the national party and state parties have recognized their active involvement as essential. “So when the Obama campaign reached out, and that of Senator Clinton, this time we were not ignored or seen as a group that was going to bring down a lot of criticism. Rather we were invited to really participate. That’s the change you’re seeing in the country now. More acceptance. And that’s a good thing.”
Congressman John Spratt will also speak at this year’s Democratic convention, along with state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex. State party Chairwoman Carol Fowler is running for re-election and currently has no opposition.