November 22, 2015 at 1:16 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Victory Fund won’t dump gay lawmakers over refugee vote
Victory Fund, gay news, Washington Blade

Victory Fund President and CEO Aisha Moodie-Mills spoke at the National Champagne Brunch on April 19, 2015. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LAS VEGAS – Despite anger with three gay and bisexual U.S. House members for voting with Republicans to block Syrian refugees from entering the United States, the head of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund says the organization won’t drop support for the lawmakers in the upcoming election.

Aisha Moodie-Mills, CEO of the Victory Fund, made the remarks in a brief interview with the Washington Blade after her speech Friday during the 2015 International LGBT Leadership Conference.

Moodie-Mills said she was made aware of the disappointment in the lawmakers’ votes via Twitter, but on the issue of endorsements said the Victory Fund and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute are “not policy advocacy organizations.”

“I don’t have an opinion about…who’s doing what, where about Syria,” Moodie-Mills said. “Because Syria, I tell you, is certainly not my policy expertise, and it is the furthest thing from Victory Institute’s expertise.”

Moodie-Mills said the Victory Fund continues to have three criteria for endorsing candidates: They must be viable, pro-choice and in favor of LGBT rights.

“That’s about as deep in the weeds on any policy ideas or legislative maneuvers that we get,” she added. “Other organizations are dealing with issues and issue advocacy, but that’s not the role that we play. And for our candidates and for our elected officials, we surely don’t get involved in the devil of the details of how they legislate and what they vote for and what they support.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who’s gay, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who’s bisexual, were among the 47 House Democrats who voted for the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, or H.R. 4038, which passed the Republican-controlled U.S. House last week. The bill would expand background checks on Iraqi and Syrian refugees hoping to enter the United States, but critics say the legislation would have the effect of barring them entirely.

Some LGBT advocates rebuked Polis, Maloney and Sinema for their “yes” votes, arguing members of the LGBT community should support another community facing persecution.

Among those critics is Michelangelo Signorile, a New York-based LGBT advocate who said on his Facebook page the votes are “totally shameful” and the Victory Fund “should dump” the three lawmakers.

“Equality should be litmus test of anyone in ‘LGBT Equality Caucus’ in Congress,” Signorile said. “And realize that these individuals voted against desperate LGBT Syrian refugees — there was hope 500 of the refugee spaces would be set aside for them.”

Moodie-Mills, who assumed her role as head of the Victory Fund seven months ago, said despite the change in leadership at the organization she sees “no changes right now” to the group’s endorsement process.

“In the past, Victory’s win rate has hovered somewhere around 70 percent, which is higher than both political parties, or the Tea Party for sure,” Moodie-Mills said. “At any given time, the really competitive races for both political parties aren’t that high. And it has been because our current endorsement process is pretty rigorous, so we make sure we’re getting people who can actually win. And that’s a big deal for us.”

Moodie-Mills addressed the issue of endorsements just weeks after Election Day, when some Victory Fund-endorsed candidates won, like lesbian candidate Jackie Biskupski in her bid to become Salt Lake City’s mayor, while others lost, like lesbian candidate Ginny Deerin in Charleston, S.C.

According to the Victory Fund, the win rate for endorsed candidates in the 2015 election cycle was 65 percent.

Moodie-Mills said 2015 ended up being a “hard” year, but she drew attention to the Deerin campaign, saying it was a success at some level despite the loss at the polls.

“Her being there shifted the narrative and the conversation around ideas,” Moodie-Mills said. “Her being a queer woman ended up being a non-factor [amid] all the different things that she did to transform that landscape. So, it’s sad that she didn’t win, it’s disappointing she didn’t win, but the investment that was made there has absolutely created some infrastructure and growth for us that we can go back and be able to win the next time.”

For the upcoming election in 2016, Moodie-Mills said she couldn’t project the number of candidates Victory Fund would support, but endorsements would come soon.

Among the openly gay candidates pursuing a bid for Congress is Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims, a Democrat who declared in October his candidacy to run for the state’s 2nd congressional district. In that race, Moodie-Mills said she’s “pretty sure we’re going to endorse relatively soon.”

About 18 openly LGBT candidates are either exploring or pursuing a bid for Congress, Moodie-Mills said, calling that number “unprecedented.”

“That’s a lot of people,” Moodie-Mills said. “Victory’s not endorsing all of them. We haven’t endorsed many of them at this point, but it’ll be interesting to see those applications come through. It’s pretty exciting to be in such a sea change with so many running for Congress.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • It’s sad that an LGBT organization would support candidates who discriminate against others. Have we not learned a thing from our struggles?

    • Democracy and maintaining voter approval is a messy business sometimes.

      What is much, much sadder are the two great European capital cities living tonight with a degree of fear of terrorism that could have easily been avoided by smarter foreign policy from DC.

      American progressives in congress ought not go down in flames next year supporting an issue that the Obama Administration could have easily avoided with smarter, proven military actions and strategies.

      While there is some Islamaphobia at work among too many on this issue, I think the nation’s strong reaction against suddenly welcoming Syrian war refugees is more about reactive disgust with Obama’s/ Kerry’s mishandling of Syria and Dash terrorism.

      People are rightfully sending a message to Obama… don’t massively screwup your response to Daesh (aka, ISIS, ISIL) terrorism and its terrorist training bases in Syria– and then expect American taxpayers to pay for your screwups.

      It can be argued Obama’s and Kerry’s confusing, feckless responses– for a whole damn year– have encouraged more Daesh terrorism all over the world.

  • So the fate of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, some of them LGBT, leads us into the “devil in the details”? That’s pretty willfully ignorant on the part of the Victory Fund. Why not make international human rights as a measure of LGBT value, along with being pro-choice?

    • Sounds to me like simple, reasonable and good focus for the Victory Fund.

      Besides, most progressive politicians are rightly more focused on the real terrorist security threat Daesh/ISIS poses to Americans and their allies.

      Where is your outrage for the LGBTs that were slaughtered or injured in Paris? Or the LGBTs — and their straight friends and neighbors living under threat in Belgium? How about the LGBT Muslims that are tortured and/or summarily “executed” by Daesh?

      Brutal killing by terrorists is the ultimate human rights violation. The Victory Fund is supporting candidates who understand that… as do most Americans…


      **Moodie-Mills said the Victory Fund continues to have three criteria for endorsing candidates: They must be viable, pro-choice and in favor of LGBT rights.**

      • It is indeed an outrage that ISIS is violating the human rights not just of its terrorist targets in Paris and other places but in the parts of Syria it controls. So you’re right–it’s a matter of human rights for countries in Europe and North America to fight ISIS and thus accept refugees from Syria–some of them LGBT people that ISIS would murder.

        • I don’t disagree. I just don’t think it should be part of the VF’s mission to lobby candidates for that– nor for any other issues outside of VF’s focused, stated mission.

          To your underlying point, as I’ve noted, since Obama massively screwed-up the bombing campaign (way too little, and way too late)– and especially since Obama didn’t establish safe/ no-fly zones in Syria for its own refugees– one can argue the USA has a special obligation to take in the resulting refugees.

          Total destruction of enemy-occupied civilian infrastructure is an essential element of waging this kind of warfare. Accordingly combatant nations have a special obligation to provide emergency nearby shelter, if logistically and militarily possible. Despite Obama’s lies to the contrary, that was– and still is– certainly possible.

          Obama’s role as commander-in-chief has always been his most-inexperienced and the weakest link in his presidency. But Kerry has no excuse– beyond his incredibly bad judgment and pretentiously big mouth.

          Daesh/ ISIS is arguably stronger today than it was a year ago– in part, due to Obama’s and Kerry’s amateurish screw-ups.

          We can’t make Hillary president fast enough.

  • This policy issue is outside the scope of the Victory Fund’s work, and it’s really that simple. Michelangelo Signorile apparently thinks the Victory Fund should incorporate his political views in everything they do, and change a 25 year-old mission because he says so. That’s silly.

  • What are the people the Victory Fund thinking?

    What about Syrian refugees who happen to be gay and are desperate to escape from anti-gay terrorists in Syria?

    This makes no sense.

  • Given the Victory Fund’s extraordinary lapse in judgement, I’ll be contributing directly only to those gay candidates who support human rights insteads of contributing to them and others through the Victory Fund.

    Maloney’s, Sinema’s, and Polis’ hateful votes mean they are off my list.

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