February 20, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
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.

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

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