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Gay Dems to convene in Rhode Island

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Gay Dems to convene in Rhode Island

Conference will precede Boston DNC blowout

By Peter Cassels

Published: Thursday, February 5, 2004

The city of Providence will host hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Democrats from throughout the country this summer on the eve of the party's national convention in Boston.

The National Stonewall Democrats (NSD) chose Rhode Island's capital city as the site of its annual confab July 23 - 25 over several other New England communities that vied for the honor.

According to NSD Executive Director Dave Noble, the organization also entertained bids from Provincetown, Mass.; Cambridge and Danvers, Mass.; and Portland, Maine.

In an interview, Noble reported that the NSD had targeted New England for its conference so that members who also are delegates to the Democratic National Convention could easily attend both events. In 2000, the organization held its meeting in Palm Springs, Calif., because of its proximity to Los Angeles, the site of that year's national party convention.

Noble praised the energy and hard work of Providence Mayor David Cicilline and his staff in persuading the NSD to select the city for its conference. "Mayor Cicilline really came after us," he said. "He met with our board members, met with me, and had his tourism folks talk to us about why Providence made sense." Another factor in the decision is that Providence is the largest city in the United States, and the only state capital, led by an openly gay mayor. Rhode Island also is known for its progressive politics and GLBT-friendly environment. The fact that Providence is only a 50-minute drive from Boston also helped.

Noble said 400 to 500 people will attend the conference, to be held at the Westin hotel in downtown Providence. "I'm excited about putting a spotlight on the state," Noble, a native of North Kingstown, R.I., said. "There are so many things to see and places to go. Attendees will have a great time."

"I'm delighted," Cicilline told Bay Windows. The NSD convention "will give us the opportunity to showcase the wonderful capital city, the great restaurants, and the diversity of the neighborhoods. It's a wonderful opportunity that will contribute to the economy of our city. The delegates and their families, friends and partners will be spending money in our hotels, restaurants and cultural attractions."

The mayor also credited the Providence Tourism Council, a quasi-public agency; George Donnelly, its executive director, and Cliff Wood, director of the recently created city Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism, for helping sell the NSD on having its conference there. "We put together a very exciting package," he said.

While the NSD has more than 70 local chapters across the nation, there is none in Rhode Island. That irony is not lost on Cicilline: "The fact that we will be hosting the convention highlights the need to get a local chapter going." He is contacting local GLBT Democrats willing to serve on a steering committee to form a chapter and plans to host an inaugural event "to get people excited about it."

Cicilline said he expects Providence to benefit in other ways from its proximity to Boston during the Democratic National Convention, to be held July 26 - 29. While attending the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., in January he met with party chairman Terry McAuliffe. "One of the things we spoke about was how we can include Providence as a destination for convention delegates for day trips and create opportunities to extend their stay to take in Providence," he explained.

The NSD will use its Providence convention to train members and activists for the 2004 presidential and congressional campaigns. "There's so much enthusiasm in our community for this election," Noble noted. "In 2000, there were not people who had seen the harm that George Bush wanted to do to [us]. All he has done is find ways to use the LGBT community to divide America, and our community has woken up. They know exactly what's at stake."

Rick Trombley, a former New Hampshire state senator who now co-chairs the NSD board of directors, will chair the Providence convention. National GLBT and Democratic Party leaders are expected to attend.

From Bay Windows

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Im am a democrate but I pretty much don't support gay marraige. Im not dicriminate. Not at all because I am a minority, But I child just cannot be raised without a mother and a father. I have to stick with my Christian views.

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