Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

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

Taking sides in ‘painful’ mayoral race

Hillary Rosen, mayoral race, gay news, Washington Blade

Hilary Rosen, a longtime LGBT advocate and CNN commentator, endorsed David Catania for mayor. A Blade survey of prominent D.C. activists reveals a split in support for Catania and rival Muriel Bowser. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

An informal survey of 37 prominent LGBT advocates in D.C. found that 13 of them would vote for Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor if the election were held this week, 12 would vote for Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and 12 were undecided.

All but five of the activists identified themselves in the survey conducted by the Washington Blade as registered Democrats This development suggests a significant number of LGBT Democrats who are normally loyal to their party in D.C. elections are considering voting for Catania, the openly gay independent and former Republican.

Veteran transgender activist Jeri Hughes, who was among those saying she’s undecided in the mayoral race, appeared to reflect the views of many in the LGBT community in weighing their choice between Catania and Bowser.

“Party lines become blurred when the independent candidate represents the Democratic Party line supporting the needy and social welfare to a greater extent and better than most Democrats,” said Hughes.

“I am inclined to vote along my party line, Democrat, but I need to know more about Council member Bowser’s vision for the District,” she said.

Hughes was also among about 30 mostly Democratic LGBT activists that met privately with Catania on Monday at Catania’s campaign headquarters on Connecticut Avenue, N.W., to engage in a “frank” discussion on a wide range of issues, including non-LGBT issues, according to those familiar with the meeting.

Others attending the meeting were transgender activists Earline Budd, Ruby Corado, and Alexandra Beninda and gay Latino activist Jose Gutierrez.

Gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who organized the meeting, said most of the attendees, including him, supported Mayor Vincent Gray in the April 1 Democratic primary and are now either undecided or are leaning toward Catania in the November general election.

Bowser beat Gray in the primary by a margin of 43 percent to 33 percent according to final returns released by the Board of Elections. Six other candidates, including another three members of the City Council, finished far behind Bowser and Gray.

Hudson said he now supports Catania. Although he said Catania’s record on LGBT rights is far more extensive than Bowser’s, his decision to back Catania is based on his belief that Catania is better qualified to lead the city.

David Catania, Muriel Bowser, mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT advocates in D.C. are divided between David Catania and Muriel Bowser in the race for mayor. (Washington Blade photo of Catania by Michael Key; Blade photo of Bowser by Damien Salas)

Among the LGBT advocates supporting Bowser are Bil Browning, founder of the LGBT news blog Bilerico Project, and his partner, Jerame Davis, former executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats.

Other Bowser supporters, as identified in the Blade survey, include Kurt Vorndran and Lateefah Williams, both former presidents of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club; Courtney Snowden, public relations executive and former Human Rights Campaign official; A. Billy S. Jones, veteran gay rights activist; and Riley Temple, an attorney and gay rights advocate.

Gay Democratic activist and businessman Everett Hamilton, who serves as a communications consultant to Bowser’s campaign, said other Bowser supporters include Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign; Jeff Marootian, former LGBT outreach director for the Democratic National Committee; and veteran lesbian activist Sheila Alexander-Reid, a radio talk show producer and founder of the lesbians of color advocacy organization Women In the Life Association.

Also among Bowser’s LGBT supporters is Christopher Dyer, the gay activist who served as director of the City’s Office of GLBT Affairs under former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Hamilton pointed to a statement released by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz congratulating Bowser on the day following her primary victory. He said Wasserman Schultz’s strong backing of Bowser would prompt D.C. Democrats, including LGBT Democrats, to remain loyal to their party’s nominee.

“Muriel’s vision to move D.C. in a positive direction resonates with the District’s working and middle class families,” Wasserman Schultz said in her statement. “Her plans to invest in the city’s schools, infrastructure, and economic development embody the Democratic Party’s priorities to increase opportunity for all.”

Although Wasserman Schultz said she believes D.C. Democrats are committed to uniting behind Bowser following the April 1 primary, at least two nationally recognized lesbian and gay Democrats have come out in support of Catania.

Hilary Rosen, a communications firm executive, Democratic Party advocate and commentator on CNN, announced on her Facebook page last month that she’s backing Catania because, among other things, he’s a “candidate who can bring people together.”

Steve Elmendorf, chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and current principal in the Democratic leaning lobbying and public affairs firm Elmendorf-Ryan Communications, raised eyebrows in Democratic Party circles when he, too, announced his endorsement of Catania.

Among other things, Elmendorf serves as chairman of the board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which also has endorsed Catania. The group raises money for openly LGBT candidates for public office across the country.

“I think David is a candidate who can bring people together and most importantly has shown himself to be willing to do the work,” Rosen said in her Facebook statement. “For example, when he chaired the [D.C. Council] Health Committee he created accessible health clinics for residents all over D.C. but most importantly east of the River.”

Others who identified themselves as Catania supporters in the Blade survey include Deacon Maccubbin, former Lambda Rising bookstore owner; Joel Lawson, Dupont Circle civic activist; Roger Moffatt, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the Southwest Waterfront area; Alexandra Beninda, transgender activist and member of the D.C. Human Rights Commission; and William Waybourn, former publisher of the Washington Blade. Each of them said they are Democrats.

Also identifying themselves as Catania supporters in the survey are Marvin Carter, CEO of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters; Charles Francis, public relations executive and founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for the preservation of the papers of the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny; and Berin Szoka, a Libertarian Party activist and 2012 supporter of presidential candidate Ron Paul. Carter and Francis said they are registered as independent voters. Szoka said he’s a registered Republican.

Among the 12 Blade survey participants who identified themselves as being undecided in the mayoral race, gay activist Bob Dardano, transgender activist Toni Collins, and gay ANC commissioner and Georgetown University student Craig Cassey said they are “leaning” toward backing Catania. Each said they are registered Democrats.

Gay rights advocate and journalist Isaiah Poole and gay Asian and Pacific Islander association director Gregory Cendana said they are undecided but are leaning toward Bowser. The two said they are also registered Democrats.

Others identifying themselves as undecided are A. Cornelius Baker, former executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic; Bob Summersgill, a Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; lesbian activist Barbara Helmick, a Ward 1 civic activist; attorney, tax preparer and Ward 1 civic activist Wallace Dickson; and attorney and Dupont Circle civic activist Edward Grandis. All five said they’re Democrats.

Another survey participant saying he was undecided was Robert Turner, the gay executive director of the D.C. Republican Party. Turner, a registered Republican, said the local GOP has the legal authority to nominate its own mayoral candidate and may do so in time for the June filing deadline for the November general election.

In addition to Bowser and Catania, gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors and Statehood-Green Party candidate Faith, a former Broadway musician and perennial D.C. mayoral candidate, will also appear on the November ballot for mayor.

Majors and Faith ran unopposed in their respective party primaries on April 1. However, Board of Elections returns show that Faith received 191 votes, 19 fewer than the 210 write-in votes cast for several people not yet identified by the Board.

A Board of Elections spokesperson said Faith was expected to be certified as the winner because she received more votes than any of the individual write-in candidates.

The returns showed that Majors received a total of 30 votes in the primary by Libertarian Party members. Three write-in votes were cast by members of his party.

The Blade’s survey included Majors’ and Faith’s names as mayoral candidates in the November election, but none of the LGBT advocates participating in the survey expressed support for them.

Majors, a D.C. real estate agent and longtime supporter of LGBT rights, has said he plans to wage an aggressive campaign espousing Libertarian Party principles and how they would benefit the city.

The Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, did not endorse a candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote of the club’s membership. Gray received the most votes but fell just short of the 60 percent threshold.

In a development that surprised some longtime Stein Club members, the club didn’t take immediate steps to endorse Bowser as the Democratic nominee at its regularly scheduled meeting on April 14.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club’s officers would soon discuss plans for when to hold an endorsement meeting. She noted that the club’s bylaws prevent the club from endorsing a non-Democrat in races where a Democratic candidate is running.

Former Stein President Vorndran, who didn’t attend Monday’s meeting, said the club’s longstanding tradition since its founding in the 1970s has been to endorse Democratic primary winners at the club’s first meeting following the primary if the club had not already endorsed those candidates.

As a Democratic Party organization, endorsing primary winners almost never involved controversy assuming they were supportive on LGBT issues, Vorndran said.

“It was as routine as approving the minutes,” he said.

But he said the club’s apparent hesitation to endorse Bowser at its meeting this week suggests the club’s officers are uncertain that Bowser would garner the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement at this time.

With a number of club members supporting Catania, a sizable number of members would be expected to vote for the option of “no endorsement,” at least two club members told the Blade.

Peoples said the club and its officers are following an endorsement process adopted last year in which a club endorsement-political committee was formed to determine procedures for making endorsements.

“Our goal is to involve members in the process as much as possible,” she told the Blade. “At Monday’s meeting I said that we would take the feedback to the political committee and give them a chance to determine what the best next step is for the process,” she said.

“The only thing that can be inferred from that is that the Stein Executive Committee remains committed to an open and transparent endorsement process,” she said.

The possible complication in the Stein Club’s endorsement process is yet another example of how divisions within the LGBT community over the Bowser-Catania race may create tension between fellow Democratic activists.

“This race has been painful because I have been forced to make choices which adversely affect individuals whom I respect and admire,” said transgender activist Hughes.

“David Catania has been an LGBT champion, an exemplary and effective Councilman, and personally I love him,” Hughes said. “Muriel Bowser has supported LGBT rights and many in our community love her.”

Added Hughes, “It would be a relief to abdicate choice and rely solely on party line, but this choice will have a real impact on how the District will fare and prosper in the next four years.”

16
Apr
2014

DNC official says Stonewall Dems to return

Democratic National Committee, Raymond Buckley, National Stonewall Democrats, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay DNC official Raymond Buckley said the National Stonewall Democrats group would return. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gay Democratic National Committee official Raymond Buckley said about two dozen mostly LGBT Democratic Party leaders and activists decided in an informal meeting in January and a subsequent conference call to resurrect the National Stonewall Democrats.

The LGBT Democratic organization ceased operating in December after it was unable to close a $30,000 budget shortfall. The shutdown came as some LGBT Democrats questioned whether the group was still needed at a time when the Democratic Party has shown unprecedented support for LGBT equality.

“We have informally met and we have decided that we are going to continue the Stonewall organization,” Buckley told the Blade.

“We’re not ready to make any announcements yet on exactly how it’s going to come about and who is going to be the leadership,” he said. “But there will be a National Stonewall Democrats organization in the near future.”

Buckley, a DNC vice chair, serves as one of the DNC’s nine officers in his role as chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and head of the DNC’s State Chairs Association.

Gay corporate CEO and philanthropist Henry Munoz of San Antonio, Texas, last month joined Buckley and gay DNC treasurer Andrew Tobias as the third out gay member to serve as a DNC officer.

At its winter meeting in Washington last month during the week of President Obama’s inauguration, the DNC elected Munoz by unanimous vote as the Democratic Party’s national finance chair, making him the party’s chief fundraiser. He was said to have been favored for the post by President Obama.

Munoz, who is CEO of the San Antonio firm Kell Munoz Architects, Inc., becomes the first Latino as well as the first out gay to hold the post of finance chair. According to the San Antonio Express-News, he helped raise a reported $30 million for Obama’s re-election campaign as part of a group of Latino leaders backing the president.

Although his role as the first Latino to hold the position was widely reported in the media, most news stories reporting his election did not mention that he’s gay.

With the National Stonewall Democrats expected to be sidelined for at least part of this year, some LGBT Democratic activists were hoping that the DNC’s outreach director, Jeff Marootian, and the party’s LGBT Caucus would take on some of the functions performed by National Stonewall Democrats, such as coordinating efforts of local LGBT Democratic clubs throughout the country.

Gay Democratic activist Kurt Vorndran, former president of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, has called on the DNC to refrain from downsizing its LGBT outreach operation this year. The DNC traditionally has reduced its staff and curtailed some of its field operations in the year following a presidential election, when electoral politics slows down.

“My personal opinion is we need an LGBT desk at the DNC, even in non-election years,” Vorndran said. “I don’t think they should shut down the LGBT operation in non-election years as they have in the past.”

Rebecca Chalif, the DNC’s deputy press secretary, released a statement to the Blade on Wednesday saying Marootian would continue in his role as the DNC’s LGBT outreach person but didn’t say whether he would carry out that function full-time.

“The president has demonstrated repeatedly his commitment to the LGBT community, and as the DNC reorganizes post-election the LGBT community will continue to be a high priority for the DNC as it has been,” she said in the statement.

“In the meantime, Jeff Marootian will continue serving as the LGBT point of contact, and we will continue to organize and work with grassroots LGBT organizations nationwide,” Chalif said.

“Jeff is still working at the DNC,” Buckley told the Blade. “But everyone at this point is playing two or three roles as it all works out on who’s going to have what position going into the next several years,” he said.

Asked if he knew whether Marootian would remain at the LGBT outreach post, Buckley said he wasn’t sure.

“Everyone at the DNC right now is having multiple functions because there is a significant cutback in staff. And while decisions are being made on who’s going to play what role, everyone is pitching in and doing their very best.”

Neither Rick Stafford, the Minnesota gay Democratic activist who chairs the DNC’s LGBT Caucus, nor Jerame Davis, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats until the time it closed shop in December, could immediately be reached for comment.

Buckley said Stafford didn’t attend the DNC meeting in January and didn’t participate in the conference call Buckley organized to discuss plans for bringing back National Stonewall Democrats.

20
Feb
2013

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