By Bob Roehr
Efforts to hold the Democratic Party accountable on LGBT issues have brought retaliation from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Chairman Howard Dean fired LGBT outreach worker Donald Hitchcock on May 2 and announced that Brian Bond would become executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council.
The cycle began in late April when Paul Yandura sent a widely distributed open letter critical of Democratic Party leadership in responding to LGBT issues. Yandura once coordinated LGBT outreach at the DNC and now works as a political consultant.
“For many months a number of us have made appeals to Howard Dean and party officials to care about and defend the dignity of gay and lesbian families and friends, in the same way they defend the dignity of other key constituencies,” he wrote.
Yandura applauded a major media effort that the DNC has launched that defends immigrants. He asked, “Why then is it so difficult for them to do the same for us? Why are gays and lesbians continually left to fight battles alone? Where are our allies?”
“All progressives need to be asking how much has the DNC budgeted to counter the antigay ballot initiatives in states. We also need to know why the DNC and our Democratic leaders continue to allow the Republicans to use our families and friends as pawns to win elections.”
He concluded, “We need answers to these questions. Until we get them, my advice is don’t give any more money to the Dems.”
Yandura’s position reflects a growing effort nationally to hold the Democratic Party accountable and demand real action, not just lip service on LGBT issues.
On May 2, Donald Hitchcock was fired from his position as LGBT fundraising coordinator at the DNC, after he was asked to and refused to resign. He and Yandura have been domestic partners for eight years. Yandura charged that the dismissal was “in retaliation for my criticism.”
DNC spokesman Damien LaVera denies that was the case. “It wasn’t retaliation. The Chairman decided it was time for a change in direction and went out and found a proven leader” to take over LGBT issues at the DNC.
That person is Brian Bond. A May 3 press release announced his appointment as executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council at the DNC, a fundraising position. Bond did LGBT outreach work at the DNC prior to heading up the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund from 1997 to 2003. He has been a political consultant since then.
LaVera also denied Yandura’s broader charges of inaction on LGBT issues. He said Chairman Dean has met with more than 500 LGBT leaders across the country and “is working to develop a strategy” on those issues. “We are going to fight on the scapegoating of LGBT families. We are going to stand up against that, as we have all along.”
He said the Party would take on the vote on the federal marriage amendment scheduled for early June, “We will take that on directly, that’s for sure.” But he declined “to get into strategy.”
LaVera pointed out that the DNC is working to build a field organization in all the states. “We are training them in how to reach out to the LGBT community … This is part of the strategy that Paul [Yandura] says we don’t have.”
And that is part of the criticism being leveled against the effort by gay Democrats; it’s reaching out for gay votes with no effort to champion gay issues by helping to educate the non-gay voter on those issues.
“This presents the DNC with a really good opportunity to present their plan on how they are going to motivate LGBT voters this election cycle, and what kind of resources they are going to put behind fighting antigay ballot initiatives this November,” said John Marble, spokesman for the National Stonewall Democrats.
With regard to the up coming Senate vote on the marriage amendment, Yandura said, “It’s not just about messaging, we need a strategy in place … There are a lot of Democrats who want to win elections by standing up for what we believe in and standing up for our rights. I believe that we can do that and win.”