The Democratic National Convention is highlighting diversity this week, with a roster of speakers that includes Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, as well as members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. But even offstage, in the audience, there will be plenty of diversity, with a slate of multiethnic and multicultural delegates. Among them, Maryland delegate Anthony Woods.
The California native fell upon the task of being a delegate almost accidentally. A friend tapped him to apply ahead of Maryland’s April primary, as the state sought to pull together a varied delegation. Woods checked off a lot of boxes: He’s young. He’s gay. He’s African American. And he’s a veteran. But though this is his first time as a delegate, it’s not Woods’s first encounter with politics—that dates back to 2008. In fact, 2008 was a big year for Woods.
Woods, now 35 and a former U.S. Army captain, has been deployed to Iraq twice, first in 2004 and then again in 2005. He came from a military family, so service “was always an idea or an option,” he told me. But his career in the military was interrupted in 2008, as a result of the “Don’t Ask, don’t tell” policy, implemented in 1993. It all started when Woods began to feel a pull to come out to his commanding officer. “The idea of lying to maintain the secret identity was more detrimental to being a good officer than just being honest,” he said. So he told the truth—in violation of the policy. In 2008, he was honorably discharged.