by Bob Roehr
WASHINGTON, D.C. –
A nasty discrimination dispute between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and former employee Donald Hitchcock has been settled. It had played out over several years on a series of legal and media fronts. The two parties are not going beyond the vague joint statement they issued on the settlement.
Hitchcock was hired in June 2005 as the DNC’s liaison to the GLBT community with responsibilities for outreach and fund raising.
In May 2006, his life partner Paul Yandura, a Democratic activist and political consultant, published an open letter criticizing party chairman Howard Dean for failing to defend the political rights of gays. He said the party was not adequately supporting efforts to counter antigay marriage initiatives on several state ballots.
Hitchcock was fired just days later. Yandura called it “retaliation, plain and simple.”
When mediation efforts failed, Hitchcock filed a lawsuit against the DNC in April 2007 claiming that he was discriminated against because he is gay. It said the organization “threatened, interfered with, and retaliated” against him for advocating for gay issues within the DNC.
He claimed the DNC paid him less and provided less staff support than similar positions within the organization. The lawsuit sought to clear Hitchcock’s reputation and asked for unspecified monetary compensation.
The DNC denied the charges.
The legal path was long, convoluted and tarnished several reputations. Among them was Claire Lucas, who then chaired the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council at the DNC. Documents showed inconsistencies in reporting her residency for that position and in making political contributions.
Outgoing DNC chairman Howard Dean had been closely involved with the dispute and some believed that the lawsuit had dragged on because of Dean’s personal involvement. It is likely that the Obama transition team leaned on Dean to resolve the matter before he departed.
The joint statement read, “We appreciate Mr. Hitchcock’s intense advocacy of LGBT equality and have never doubted his strong commitment to Democratic principles or the goals of the Democratic Party,” said Dean and DNC chief of staff Rev. Leah Daughtry.
Hitchcock expressed appreciation for all that Dean and others had done, but also lamented, “I had hoped for even more, but the dialog is not over yet. I look forward to working with them all for continued progress.”
Terms of a financial settlement, if any, were not released and both parties are bound by the agreement not to go beyond the joint statement.