March 4, 2014 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
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 in September to become White House liaison at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

DNC Regional Press Secretary Ian Sams said the DNC is in the process of hiring more staff following a recent staff turnover and a replacement for Marootian is likely to come out of this hiring process. He said he has been doing LGBT outreach through the DNC’s communication’s division since he joined the DNC staff in September.

“So while we hope to have more outreach staff coming on board soon, we’re certainly not slowing down,” he said. “We’re not missing a beat on this front at all.”

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.

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

11 Comments
  • Peter Rosenstein

    Well the DNC has found another way to raise money. I think it s great the Lesbians are finally being recognized as an economic force. I think this is the result of people like Judy Dlugacz who owns Olivia cruises and her partner Claire Lucas who is at USAID – who ran a very successful cruise recently and raised lot of money for the DNC. My sister and her partner were on the cruise and told me how empowering it was. Congrats to Judy and Claire for this step forward by the DNC.

  • I hope the Lesbian Leadership Council will prioritize the interests of females over those of the trans community. They are often in conflict. Females deserve privacy, protection of Title IX, dedicated funding for female health, the right not to be housed with MTFs in places of public accommodation. “Identifying as a woman” isn’t good enough. Lesbians know this; let’s hope that the DNC women will represent our interests.

    • I’m a lesbian and you don’t speak for me.

    • I disagree with your statement. Trans women’s issues are considered women’s issues. They are, within their own right, to be considered as female as cisgendered women. They don’t face more commodities than cisgendered women (like myself) have but rather also deal with the transphobia. If they identify anything other than straight, then they are also faced with those problems. Lesbians SHOULD know this and should represent the interest for all instead of a selected group in the community of women.
      If someone is uncomfortable with being around a trans woman, then they should probably simply move out of the way. Risking someone else’s improvement in life with the help of the council isn’t fair or just.

      • Sure, women should just move out of the way for the male born, as always. There is no such thing as “cis” it was conscripted from a science term and is used to denote “not trans” as if trans is the default. Letting trans*women into female only spaces and groups only serves to turn those groups into all trans all the time. No thank you. Trans issues are not women’s issues. Let transpersons form their own groups etc. instead of taking over women’s groups and spaces. I refuse to be co-opted by men who think they are women. They aren’t.

        • But you see, they don’t get a group. They get pushed out of what in your view would be ‘female-from-birth group’ but won’t fit in the ‘male-from-birth group’. It’s not simple. It’s not just men in female clothing. Just like you know you are a woman, they know they they are truly women. They are often backed into a wall of no opportunities and support. Now they are pushed into an even smaller corner and to figure things out for themselves because you want to focus on what benefits you and not them.
          Susan, I surely hope that one day you won’t be blinded by your own transphobia to see how this is a necessary course for this council.

    • Paranoid much? Speak for yourself. My wife and I would have no problem sharing accommodations with a trans* woman. ALL women, cis or trans*, deserve to be treated fairly. Please stop telling others what lesbians “know” when it’s clear you have a narrow vision of what constitutes a woman.

  • The Democratic Party would be able to attract more lesbians if it remembered lesbians are women, and that we often disagree with the male-identified priorities of the GLBT Movement. This is particularly true with regard to gender identity legislation that overwrites protections for women and the GLBT's pro-porn stance as a "free speech" issue.

  • The Democratic Party would be able to attract more lesbians if it remembered lesbians are women, and that we often disagree with the male-identified priorities of the GLBT Movement. This is particularly true with regard to gender identity legislation that overwrites protections for women and the GLBT's pro-porn stance as a "free speech" issue.

  • Watch all the men in dresses rush to fill the vacuum on the Lesbian Leadership Council. We'll still not be represented unless this council is limited to Lesbians (female born attracted to the same sex). Geez, we have to continue to spell it out.

  • That's a good point.

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