September 2, 2015 at 7:24 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
DNC partners with Gay & Lesbian Chamber
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic National Committee, Democratic Party, Florida, United States House of Representatives, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz told the LGBT Caucus that although the Supreme Court ruling on marriage was important, the fight for LGBT equality isn’t over. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Democratic National Committee announced at its annual summer meeting in Minneapolis last week that it has named the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce as a partner in helping to select LGBT-owned businesses to perform work at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz discussed plans for having the NGLCC certify LGBT-owned businesses so they would become eligible to bid on contracts for providing a wide range of services to the 2016 convention during her appearance at the Aug. 29 meeting of the DNC’s LGBT Caucus.

D.C. gay rights advocate Earl Fowlkes, who serves as chair of the 35-member LGBT Caucus, said Wasserman Shultz and Leah Daughtry, the Democratic National Convention’s CEO, expressed a strong commitment to a greater role at the convention for LGBT businesses and LGBT delegates.

“We really want to make certain that if LGBT businesses are qualified and are legitimate LGBT businesses that they have an opportunity to go after these contracts,” Fowlkes told the Blade on Tuesday. “There are millions of dollars in these contracts and we want to make sure that we get our fair share,” he said.

In February, the DNC announced that it has retained gay hospitality industry executive Todd Lambert to help coordinate the bookings of hotel rooms and special event meeting space for the convention, which is set to take place the week of July 25.

Lambert, president and CEO of EventSphere, a hotel booking and meeting fulfillment company, will partner with another event planning firm, Akintayo Management Group, in a joint effort to secure convention-related housing and meeting space, according to the DNC.

“As the business voice of the LGBT community, the NGLCC applauds the Democratic National Convention for its intentional inclusion of certified LGBT business enterprises at the 2016 convention,” said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson in a statement.

“Nothing is more essential to the American Dream than an equal seat at the table, and we’re so pleased that the 1.4 million LGBT business owners in America will have an opportunity to contract with the DNC during this momentous election season,” he said.

Sean Meloy, the DNC’s Director of LGBT Engagement, said Wasserman Shultz told the LGBT Caucus meeting on Aug. 29 that although the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage was an important victory, the fight for LGBT equality isn’t over.

“She mentioned discrimination and so many other things that the community will be working on with the party to fight for,” Meloy said.

TJ Helmstetter, a DNC LGBT media outreach official who also attended the LGBT Caucus meeting in Minneapolis, said Wasserman Shultz urged LGBT Caucus members to help make sure that LGBT voters know the difference between the positions on LGBT equality between the Democratic and Republican parties.

“I think it’s fair to say she’s concerned that we still have much to do and we have a responsibility to continue to engage LGBT voters so that they understand the fight’s not over,” Helmstetter said.

Meloy said the LGBT Caucus approved a resolution introduced by caucus member Ray Buckley, who serves as chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, to create an LGBT Caucus award to recognize outstanding work of an LGBT Democrat. The resolution calls for naming the award after the late lesbian Democratic Party activist Jean O’Leary of New York and longtime gay Democratic activist and DNC member Rick Stafford of Minnesota, who attended last week’s LGBT Caucus meeting.

“The first one will be given out in Philadelphia next year at the convention,” Meloy said.

Fowlkes said caucus members also approved the creation of a caucus LGBT Advisory Council, which is to consist of LGBT Democrats from across the country to advise the caucus and the DNC as a whole on LGBT-related issues.

Fowlkes noted that although the overall number of delegates attending the 2016 Democratic National Convention has been reduced from the number that attended the 2012 convention in Charlotte, N.C., the LGBT Caucus is aiming at helping to elect the same amount if not a slightly higher number of LGBT delegates in 2016.

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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