REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — Delaware Stonewall PAC held its annual fundraiser on June 16 to raise money for pro-LGBT political candidates.
Many of the candidates Delaware Stonewall PAC endorsed for this election cycle were at the event. Speakers included Sen. Tom Carper, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and honorees Rep. Bryon Short of the Delaware House of Representatives and Murray Archibald of CAMP Rehoboth.
“My second term as governor I issued an executive order that said discrimination against people on the basis of sexual preference in state government is wrong, and we’re going to end it,” said Carper in his speech. “We’re not going to have it.”
During his speech, Carper discussed his commitment to the LGBT community, including his vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his vote in support of enacting the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in Delaware, and I think in our country,” said Carper. “That progress is threatened.”
Carper discussed how he believes the Trump administration is threatening LGBT rights, mentioning the names of anti-LGBT figures like Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Carper ended his speech by saying that in a couple of years, the country might have leaders similar to President Obama and Vice President Biden again.
“The country that got through the Civil War, the assassination of a president, the impeachment of a president, two world wars, a cold war, the Great Depression… got through all that, we can get through this as well and we will,” said Carper in his speech.
At the event, Delaware Stonewall PAC leaders discussed how the group chooses its candidates to endorse. The organization presents questionnaires to candidates running for office, with questions such as what they have done to advance LGBT issues. In addition, Delaware Stonewall PAC looks at an incumbent’s voting record over the six bills the organization has identified as LGBT issues over the years. The candidate is likely to be endorsed if they have a 100 percent voting record on all six.
“For me, the excitement as a Republican, they’ve decided to endorse regardless of party and instead based on the principles according to the organization,” said Rep. Michael Ramone, who is a state representative from Delaware’s 21st district. Ramone has attended the event in the past.
“I think about the reference to the questionnaire and how the space wasn’t long enough for me to accurately put my answers,” said Rep. Short during his speech. Short said that he expressed his strong support of people having the right to love who they want to love and mentioned how there was still work that needed to be done to advance LGBT rights.
Short, along with Archibald of CAMP Rehoboth, was one of the honorees at the event due to his dedication to the LGBT community.
In Archibald’s speech, he stated how he still hears his late husband Steve Elkins’s message everywhere, including in the press. Archibald talked about how Elkins would say that you must keep repeating your message over and over again. Elkins and Archibald founded and ran CAMP Rehoboth together. CAMP Rehoboth has been committed to fighting for LGBT rights and equality since 1991.
Rep. Rochester took a moment to honor Elkins during her speech and mentioned how everyone at the event probably has a “Steve story.” For Rochester, her “Steve story” came while she was campaigning for office. At the time, she had never run for office and memories of her late husband were flooding her. She described how she was trying to “talk her best talk” despite feeling down and then said that she and Elkins just started spending time with each other.
“I feel God put me here for a time such as this,” said Rep. Rochester in her speech. This is the time to be in Washington. I am so grateful, I’m so honored, I’m so humbled, I’m so happy, I’m dancing. And when we have to fight, we fight. And when we have to stand in our principles, we stand in our principles.”
Rochester emphasized being motivated instead of frustrated about Washington. She said that keeping your eyes on the prize is what motivates a person along with taking notice of the wins, such as combating “conversion therapy.”
“This event means we’re able to raise a lot of money for LGBT supporting candidates who are running in the state of Delaware, hopefully to increase LGBT support in the state Senate,” said Mitch Crane, Political Vice President of Delaware Stonewall PAC and the former chair of the Sussex Democratic Party.
For Gary Colangelo, who has been attending the annual fundraiser for the past 11 years, the event means continuity and inspiration. He described how it motivates those in attendance to keep fighting for equality.
Rochester closed out her speech by asking the crowd if they were frustrated, to which they enthusiastically replied “no.” She then asked them if they were motivated and in response, they shouted “yes.”