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DNC to form Lesbian Leadership Council

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC, Democratic National Committee, Lesbian Leadership Council, gay news, Washington Blade

‘We’re going to make sure we have a vehicle here at the DNC for lesbian leadership,’ said DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told members of the DNC’s LGBT Caucus at a March 1 meeting in Washington that the DNC is in the process of creating a Lesbian Leadership Council to boost the leadership role of lesbians in the party.

Wasserman Schultz was among a number of high-profile Democratic Party officials that addressed the LGBT Caucus meeting on the final day of the DNC’s annual winter meetings at the Capital Hilton Hotel.

“No offense to gay men in the room, but just like in the straight community, where women sometimes have been left behind and men have vaulted ahead on the leadership track, my message was it’s time for lesbians to step up,” she said in referring to a speech she gave to a lesbian gathering last month.

“And we’re going to make sure we have a vehicle here at the DNC for lesbian leadership…so we can have lesbians catch up and get them the tools they need and make sure they can be a strong part of our leadership team,” she said.

Wasserman Schultz said more details about the Lesbian Leadership Council would be announced later.

The DNC created an LGBT Leadership Council in 2000 as a party entity charged mostly with raising money for Democratic candidates.

She told LGBT Caucus members at the March 1 meeting that she is proud of the role the Democratic Party has played in pushing for advances in LGBT rights during the years of the Obama administration, including advances in marriage equality

“And we have a lot more to do,” she said. “We need to pass a transgender-inclusive ENDA. That’s absolutely critical. We need to make sure that marriage equality” continues to move forward.

Others speaking at the LGBT Caucus meeting were Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Speaker of the California Assembly John Perez, who’s gay; and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley, who’s also gay.

At the request of LGBT Caucus Chair Earl Fowlkes of D.C., the caucus voted unanimously to approve a resolution in support of D.C. statehood.

One issue that wasn’t discussed at the caucus meeting was the status of the position of director of the DNC’s LGBT Outreach Desk. The position became vacant when D.C. gay Democratic activist Jeff Marootian, who held the post since 2011, resigned recently to become White House liaison at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

DNC spokesperson Miryam Lipper said on Monday that she would inquire about the status of the vacant position with DNC officials this week and provide an update on the matter later in the week.

Fowlkes couldn’t immediately be reached to determine whether DNC officials have discussed the matter with him.

“We’re all kind of pushing that we want this now,” said LGBT Caucus member Barbra Casbar Siperstein of New Jersey. “But we want to make sure that we have truly qualified people because they will be filling big shoes. We were very happy with Jeff Marootian,” she said.

Siperstein said with the 2014 midterm congressional elections approaching, having an LGBT outreach desk at the DNC is important, especially following the shutdown just over a year ago of the National Stonewall Democrats, which closed due to financial difficulties.

Buckley told the Blade that he and other LGBT Caucus members were taking steps to re-launch National Stonewall Democrats but it was unclear when that might happen.

04
Mar
2014

National Stonewall Democrats curtails operations

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Democrats, Jerame Davis

National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis (Blade photo by Michael Key)

National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis confirmed to the Washington Blade on Tuesday his organization will cease operations through at least the end of this year after it failed to bridge a $30,000 budget gap.

“We obviously had the budget shortfall that we announced late last year and in that process we learned a few things,” he said shortly after the Dallas Voice broke the story earlier in the day. “When we were talking with various interested parties, whether they were from the DNC [the Democratic National Committee] or the labor movement or just LGBT Democrats in general, while finding the money that we needed in the short amount of time like that wasn’t possible, what we did find was there was an interest in keeping the org around. A lot of people really believe there’s a need and a place for Stonewall, it’s just that circumstances over the past several years have led to funding crisis that we found ourselves in.”

Davis told the Blade in an exclusive interview on Dec. 4 that his organization would likely close its doors if it didn’t raise $30,000 by the end of the year. He said the last-minute fundraising appeal netted less than $10,000 as of deadline.

“The decision was made that we would close down our office, cut our expenses down to next to nothing,” Davis, whose last day as a paid executive director was on Dec. 31, said. He remains with the organization in a volunteer capacity. “We tend to spend odd number years in a rebuilding mode anyway. This just kind of fit with what we normally do, the only difference being is we’re not going to have paid staff or an office for this year. Obviously that means our operations will be curtailed, but that also gives us the ability to focus our time and energy on figuring out what the systemic problems are for why we’ve had such funding problems and take the time to look at the org and figure out is there a future and what does that future look like.”

National Stonewall Democrats’ financial problems had previously threatened to shutter the organization.

The Blade reported in Feb. 2011 an anonymous donor gave $100,000 to the organization amid reports then-Executive Director Michael Mitchell did not effectively manage the group’s budget. Davis said there was “1,800 in the bank and a boat load of debt” when he took over in November 2011.

“Most people agree that a big part of our problem was that we had strayed from our original mission,” he said. “We had a muddy, undefined reason for existence and you combine that with the other missteps that we’ve made operationally, turnover in staff, especially at the top and so forth and it just kind of all compounded.”

Melissa Sklarz, who co-chaired National Stonewall Democrats Board of Directors from 2009 through early 2011, noted to the Blade last month then-President Bill Clinton had signed the ban on openly gay service members and the Defense of Marriage Act into law in the years before former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank founded the organization in 1998.

“The Democratic Party and the LGBT political landscape have changed dramatically in the past 15 years since National Stonewall was founded,” she added earlier on Tuesday. “The Democrats needed to understand the LGBT community and the community needed to understand that the Democrats were the true party of progress. NSD was the right idea at the right time.”

Sklarz further described Davis as “a great leader.”

“I look forward to helping with the new NSD next year,” she said.

“It is not unusual for organizations to take a time out every once in awhile,” gay New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley told the Blade. “There are many conversations going on right now, I am confident that NSD will emerge from this process stronger and more focused than ever before. I look forward to being part of that process.”

Gregory T. Angelo, interim executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, tweeted on his personal Twitter account that he is “not shedding any tears over” National Stonewall Democrats’ decision to curtail operations.

“It’s ironic that Republicans can throw big bucks around and use the partisan Log Cabin Republicans to try and destroy Democrats and their positive initiatives,” Barbra Casbar Siperstein, a former National Stonewall Democrats board member from New Jersey who is a member of the DNC Executive Committee, told the Blade. “Yet it appears that LGBT Democrats who talk about partisanship cannot support a partisan organization that exists to build for equality and expose the damage and destructiveness that the modern Republicans time and time again, almost single mindedly attempt to destroy the Great Society, the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, but also the work of the great Progressive, Republican Teddy Roosevelt.”

Derek Washington of Stonewall Democrats of Nevada agreed.

“Jerame Davis has done the best he probably could considering the hand he was dealt upon taking charge of national Stonewall,” he said. “Having said that I think it’s time for Stonewall to take this hiatus as a wake up call and rebrand itself as the premiere LGBT political organization regardless of party as we’ve done here in Nevada. Log Cabin and GOProud have no ground operation or presence here due to our aggressive branding and take no prisoners attitude in both our state and Southern Nevada chapters of Stonewall. And I’m not talking about sometime in the future. I’m talking about now.”

08
Jan
2013