Sunday, April 30, 2006

National Democrats Under Fire For Lack Of Support On GLBT Issues

Some Democrats are now beginning to question their own party's commitment to the GLBT community, and they are taking aim in particular at the leadership of national chairman Howard Dean. In particular, there is concern that the national Democratic Party is simply rolling over as conservative Republicans in state after state use the gay marriage issue as a wedge issue. In an open letter, a former Clinton official, Paul Yandura, writes:

For many months, a number of us have made appeals to Howard Dean and party officials to care about and defend the dignity of gay and lesbian families and friends, in the same way they defend the dignity of other key constituencies," Yandura said in his letter.

"All progressives need to be asking how much has the DNC budgeted to counter the anti-gay ballot initiatives in the states," he said. "We also need to know why the DNC and our Democratic leaders continue to allow the Republicans to use our families and friends as pawns to win elections.

The Washington Blade reports on an eyebrow raising comment in Yandura's open letter. "Yandura added that until the party provides answers to these questions, 'my advice is don’t give any more money to the Dems.'" Apparently concerned about the criticism, Dean met this past week with GLBT leaders from organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Stonewall Democrats, to discuss strategies for countering the anti-gay marriage efforts.

Another issue that is causing dissension within the party is a proposed rules change to extend the affirmative action policy of selecting national convention delegates to gays. The rule currently allocates certain numbers of delegate slots for African Americans, Latinos, Asian-Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and women. The DNC's Black Caucus has already raised some objection to the proposed change, including DNC member Donna Brazile. The Blade also said Brazile refused to answer the rumored claims that she is a lesbian. The Blade writes:

Brazile has refused to answer questions about her own sexual orientation, even though she has a history of gay rights activism, including a seat on the board of the gay Millennium March on Washington for LGBT Rights in 2000. She again declined to discuss the matter in a telephone interview this week, though she cited her past gay rights advocacy over many years within the DNC and within the DNC’s Black Caucus.

I personally oppose the affirmative action policy the Democrats have for the selection of their delegates. As a person who once was elected as a delegate to the national GOP convention, I think a person should earn their right to attend a convention, not simply have it handed to them as a means of fulfilling a quota for a particular group. If the DNC is going to have the rule though, then there is no reason it shouldn't be extended to gays as well simply as a matter of principle. Sixteen state parties already impose the rule to include gays according to the Blade report.

As an aside, the opposition to the rules change by the Black Caucus reminds me of a recent episode of my favorite TV show, "The Office" dealing with diversity issues. During a training session, Dwight asks a diversity training presenter if he could avoid discussing gays because black people don't like gays and think it's okay to discriminate against gays and since they are also a minority group, it must be okay, which struck Dwight as being somewhat of a paradox. The presenter, who was African-American, said he wouldn't have a problem accommodating Dwight's request since there was only so much he could cover in the presentation, and he had a lot of other issues to discuss. Of course, the reason they were having the diversity training was because of complaints about racially insensitive jokes made by their boss, Michael, who just couldn't get why he couldn't repeat the same jokes Chris Rock tells.

Recent reports that at least one national Democratic group did not have an employment policy of non-discrimination towards gays and lesbians also raised the ire of the Democratic GLBT community. The Blade writes:

In yet another gay-related development, news surfaced last week that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, an arm of the DNC, removed from its website a personnel-related statement saying the committee doesn’t discriminate in hiring based on sexual orientation. DSCC officials said the removal was a mistake associated with a change in the website and the committee’s non-discrimination policy had not changed.

In support of Yandura's contention that the national Democrats are abandoning the GLBT community, he notes that the party has been very outspoken in articulating the party's opposition to Republican-led attempts in Congress to go after illegal immigrants with mean-spirited legislation. "It’s the right thing to do, and I applaud their action," he said. "Why then is it so difficult for them to do the same for us? "Why are gays and lesbians continually left to fight these battles alone?" he asked. "Where are our allies?"


Anonymous said... contrasted to the Republican National Committee with its openly gay Chairman, Ken Mehlman. He is out, isn't he? Isn't he?

Gary R. Welsh said...

I believe Ken is still in denial.

Anonymous said...

Gary Welch must be spending too much time breathing the smoke and drinking at the gay bars to keep a level head about Democratic politics. He doesn't know these people, their motivations, their profund success, or their motivations. He needs to concentrate on what he knows best: evil and cowardly gay Republicans who'd rather complain and whine than stick up to their own party members. Murray Clark, Jim Kittle, Mike Murphy, Ken Mehlman ... these are the folks Gary really needs to take aim instead of shooting arrows and trying to maim the people who are really trying to make a difference.

Gary R. Welsh said...

You obviously haven't been reading this blog if you don't think those very people you name haven't been criticized in the past.

Anonymous said...

Ideally I would want the support of the party I most closely align with. Failing that, I'd take the one that ignores me over the one that uses me as an effective wedge any day.

Marla R. Stevens said...

Foes of including gays in the rolls of those who have guaranteed representation and foes of guaranteed representation itself ignore the benefits to the organization of having those voices heard from the inside (or maybe, in the case of Republicans trying to tell Democrats how to be Democrats, maybe they don't!) Our enforced diversity makes us stronger and makes it possible that the day that enforcement will not be needed will come sooner.

Such diversity is messier than the Republican way but at least it doesn't leave convention television audiences tiring of the same few minority faces placed uncomfortably prominently, cheering on their oppressors in Kafka-esque surreality.

But maybe not seeing the superior value in the Dem's way is why you're a Republican in the first place.