February 10, 2010 at 10:47 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
LGBT Democrats defend Obama at DNC winter meeting

The Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Americans Caucus is giving high marks to President Obama and the Democratic Party’s efforts to advance LGBT rights over the past year, caucus members said this week.

Veteran Democratic activist Rick Stafford of Minnesota, who chairs the LGBT Caucus, said members at the Feb. 5 meeting were impressed with DNC Chair Timothy Kaine, a former Virginia governor, and gay White House official Brian Bond. Both addressed the LGBT Caucus during the DNC’s annual winter meeting.

Stafford told DC Agenda that Kaine “talked about the achievements, but he also talked about the frustration he knows our community has on some issues, with the lack of forward progress.”

“He hears that and he wants the community to know he hears that,” Stafford said. “But he also talked about the accomplishments the administration has made on our issues, and many of us believe they are very important.”

Stafford said Bond, who serves as deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, outlined “a litany of impressive achievements” by the Obama administration on gay-related issues. He noted that Bond also acknowledged concern among many LGBT supporters that Congress has been slow to pass several gay-related bills.

Kaine also talked about “the importance of the 2010 elections so that we don’t slide back,” Stafford said. He noted that Kaine told the caucus “the national party is committed in terms of the outreach to our community and to highlight the issues and the achievements that we have made in this administration for our community and where we need to go forward.”

Meetings of the 25-member LGBT Americans Caucus come at a time when some LGBT activists have called for a boycott of DNC fundraisers. The activists, led by longtime gay Democratic activist and fundraiser David Mixner and gay blogger John Aravosis, have said the boycott is aimed at pressuring the DNC and the administration to more aggressively push the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass several LGBT-related bills.

Mixner and Aravosis have said the boycott should be limited to the DNC and that people should continue to contribute money to individual Democratic candidates who are supportive on LGBT issues.

Among the bills that Mixner and Aravosis want Congress to pass is the long stalled Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA, which would bar job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Other congressional action sought by activists is repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law preventing gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving openly in the military, and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars legally married same-sex couples from receiving nearly 1,200 federal rights and benefits associated with marriage.

“What we are saying is people should absolutely hold off on their donations until the party comes through on their promises, and then continue supporting them,” Aravosis said. “But currently they’re not coming through.”

LGBT Caucus members Earl Fowlkes of Washington, D.C., who supported Obama’s presidential campaign, and Heather Mizeur, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, joined Stafford in strongly opposing the boycott. The three said withholding contributions to the DNC would hurt efforts to elect LGBT-supportive Democratic candidates to Congress and state legislatures.

Also expressing opposition to the boycott was Barbara Siperstein, president of Stonewall Democrats of New Jersey and the first openly transgender person to be named to the DNC.

“I share, from my own experience, the frustration they’re talking about,” Siperstein told DC Agenda. “But very honestly, I disagree with a strategy of boycotting the DNC. I can only see it as unsuccessful for our community. It can only help the Republicans.”

Siperstein, Fowlkes and Mizeur each said the Democratic leaders in Congress and most congressional Democrats strongly support the LGBT-related bills in question. They note that a small group of moderate and conservative Democrats have so far withheld support for some or all of these bills. And with nearly all congressional Republicans opposed to the bills, supporters have been unable to line up the votes needed to pass the LGBT bills, the three said.

“You can’t blame the party or the president for that,” said Siperstein.

Mizeur, whose Maryland district includes the largely Democratic and suburban Montgomery County, said she’s “never been for a boycott.”

“But I think that our contributions should come with some strings attached, if you will,” she said. “They need to come along with conversations about how ‘I am an LGBT American who is investing in this party and this money I want to see goes toward an agenda that includes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” [repeal] and marriage equality,’ and you go down the list.”

Aravosis, however, said the approach suggested by Mizeur and other DNC supporters doesn’t appear to have worked.

He said the national party angered many LGBT Democrats in November when it remained silent during a heated campaign in Maine over a ballot measure that struck down same-sex marriage in the state.

DNC-sponsored phone canvassers reminded Maine residents to vote, but made no mention of the anti-gay ballot measure. And the canvassers urged Maine political activists to participate in an operation urging New Jersey voters to support the failed re-election bid of Democratic Gov. John Corzine.

Aravosis called the development “outrageous,” noting that the DNC effectively ignored an anti-gay campaign in Maine while asking Democrats in Maine to get involved in a New Jersey race.

“The point isn’t to stop helping New Jersey,” said Aravosis. “The point is we don’t want them to keep avoiding gay issues. And that’s what they did.”

Stafford said DNC officials have acknowledged that “miscommunication” between the DNC and the Maine Democratic Party resulted in the national party apparatus not providing resources to help defeat the ballot measure. The state party in Maine strongly opposed the ballot measure.

The Maine flap prompted several members of the LGBT Americans Caucus and non-gay supporters to introduce a resolution at the DNC meeting last week to address this problem, Stafford and other caucus members said. The resolution, which the full DNC approved, requires the DNC and its grassroots arm, Organizing for America, to follow the lead of state parties on a wide range of issues, including state ballot measures.

Fowlkes, who has been active in organizing black LGBT Pride events in D.C. and other cities, said the Obama administration has come up short only in failing to communicate as well as it could its “extensive” record of support for LGBT issues during its first year in office.

“A lot of the focus of the LGBT community has been misplaced in blaming Obama and putting pressure only on Obama,” Fowlkes said. “But what we also have to understand is that there are moderate Democrats, conservative Democrats [in Congress]. Some of those people have to be brought along, and that’s where the LGBT community can be putting pressure on those people to make them come along with the administration and vote the correct way.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • If YOU can do it, I can do it. If you can SAY it, I can say it. If you can BE it, I can be it. That = Equal.

    Asking for 100% Equality in all matters legal and civil – NOW – is not asking too much. It is not over-reaching. It is simply fixing a few of the little details missed in the last 200+ years. Why should we give any party ANYTHING when the playing field remains uneven, unstable and unfair to LGBT Americans.

    And now the State of Virginia declares it will specifically harass Gay Americans by kicking them out of the symbolic anti-discrimination executive order… and yet we continue to clear the snow from their roads? To rescue their burning buildings? Patrol their mountains? Protect their streets? What is wrong with us?

  • Our Democratic Party representatives in Washington are no longer bothering with letting sound arguments and good reasoning rule the day when they can steal from others to finance their own success, and never mind the truth when our political elite can gain power by lying and manipulation. Pushing and pulling data just like the Republicans; these Democratic Party hucksters press their agenda of fear all the same to their own desired outcomes as well.

    Many of us are now ashamed to be Democrats. More than that, we have come to fear our own Democratic Party. Hatred and corruption – the roots of socialism – are on the march as they have never been before, and leading this march is our Democratic Party. Increasingly, mainstream Democrats are uncomfortable with what they are seeing in our party. All the more, we know it is dangerous.

    We as Democrats are marching in a parade with people Harry Truman or even Jack Kennedy would not recognize – socialist (also know as progressives) who think that Western civilization began in 1969. Strangely, without meaning to, we the mainstream Democrats find ourselves representing this “socialist movement.” However, for the “socialist” within our Democratic Party, there is nothing so strange about it. Socialist have always sought to leverage corruption for the sake of power.

    As a result, our Democratic Party has already lost the equivalent of every member we have acquired over the past seven years or more, and many of them are now supporting the tea party. More importantly, a recent Newsweek cover declared, “We are all socialists now.”

    Meanwhile our middle-class families are looking for more than empty promises. They want to go back to work. And they want our Democratic Party representatives who run Washington to stop pursuing a big government, big spending agenda that includes a government takeover of health care, stimulus bills, a new national energy tax and taxpayer-funded bailouts.

    In spite of everything our Democratic Party representatives in Washington will borrow $1.6 trillion this year, or about $15,000 for every household in the country. Over the next 10 years our federal government is expected to borrow an additional $8.5 trillion, and this is on top of the 12 trillion we currently owe. These figures are beyond being enormous, especially since we already pay one in seven dollars in interest.

    Thank you, and God bless America

    Eric Pearson, Democratic Party candidate for US Congress in the 5th district, Tennessee.

    Site: http://www.democraticreformparty.com

  • LGBT Democrats have sold their souls to the highest bidder. They are not leaders. They are like the French Vichy regime: selling out their own people to get a seat at the table with the Nazis.

  • Eric,

    Perhaps you should consider running in the Tea Party — you talk just like them.

  • These DNC members don’t get it. When we give money to the DNC in many cases it goes to the moderate Democrats that are acting against our interests. Why should we as gay people give to the DNC if they are going to give money to candidates who oppose us? It’s stupid. What the Don’t Ask Don’t Give campaign does is encourages us to give our money directly to candidates who have shown not by words but by action they support GLBT issues. Our money will not go to Blue Dog Democrats like Ben Nelson.

  • These apologists need to wake up and smell the coffee. The Democratic Party doesn’t give a rip what GLBT Americans want or need… they just want our money.

    I’ve reached the point where I’d rather have a Republican who says, up front, that he’s working against me than a weak-kneed Dem who talks a good game but lacks the balls to ever do anthing about it.

  • What do you expect them to say?

    I was a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention – Carol King appeared at our caucus; said something in favor of gay marriage, and the wimps in attendance were afraid to applaud, because they didn’t want to appear to criticize Kerry.

    What whimps!!!

  • What else were people in the DNC going to say? All this proves is that the Democratic Party has its own version of the Log Cabin Republicans.

  • I absolutely agree with those who say we should boycott the Democratic National Committee, which frequently gives the money that Gay & Lesbian supporters provide to the Democratic Party to Conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats who frequently oppose the Pro-LGBT bills we want Cngress to pass. Frankly speaking, the only thing that will get Obama and the Dems in Congress moving on Pro-LGBT Legislation is a financial and volunteer boycott of the DNC. We should continue to support the Democrats who are out there working to pass our agenda, but cut off those Dems who refuse to stand up for equality. We don’t need Democrats who vote against the LGBT Community, we have that already, their called Republicans. At this point, we must demand that the Dems pass the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act, ENDA, and a Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell! I don’t expect them to pass everything we are working for in two years, but I do expect them to deliver on the basics of their promises to our community, and that means passing DPBO, ENDA and Repealing DADT. If they won’t do this, then we need to save our money and time and cut them off.

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