CommunityPam's House Blend

Press release from DNC on LGBT outreach

[Note: I’m moving this post up this AM because PageOneQ also covers the dust-up started by our posts as well as this DNC press release. I’ve also added more commentary after the release.]

While the Blend won’t take credit for this release getting out there so quickly by the DNC after the post Dems to homos: re-closet yourself in 2006, it certainly is timely, in its attempt to explain the reorganization and the current positions, for what it’s worth…so, in the interest of fairness:

A Year of Progress for DNC LGBT Outreach
To: National Desk, Political Reporter
Contact: Damien LaVera of the Democratic National Committee
Communications Staff, 202-863-8148

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 /U.S. Newswire/ — This week marks the one year anniversary of Howard Dean taking the helm of the Democratic National Committee. Under Dean’s leadership, the DNC has dramatically expanded and improved its outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities across America. Today, Dean issued the following statement on the progress of those efforts:

“In the past year, the DNC has made tremendous progress in expanding and improving outreach to our friends and family in the LGBT community. I am proud to say that, because of the organizational reforms implemented when I became Chairman, we have dramatically increased the resources brought to bear in our LGBT messaging, organizing, and outreach efforts. Under the leadership of the American Majority Partnership, our Party is moving into a new era in reaching out to our closest allies.

“The Democratic Party has never been more committed to protecting equal rights for the LGBT community. We are standing strong with the community, fighting the Republican Party’s repugnant efforts to exploit the politics of fear and division and scapegoat LGBT families for electoral gain. I am proud to lead a Party that will never resort to such shameful tactics. As long as I am chairman, this Party will always help provide the LGBT community every opportunity to live the American Dream.”

The following is a fact sheet on the DNC’s accomplishments in enhancing DNC outreach to LGBT communities and empowering those communities in Dean’s first year as Chairman:

Establishing the American Majority Partnership.

The DNC has replaced the old “political desk” system with the American Majority Partnership, an integrated approach to constituent outreach that incorporates LGBT outreach throughout the work of the DNC and seeks to identify common issues of concern to all the Democratic Party’s core communities.

— AMP is located directly in the Chairman’s Office, giving outreach to constituent groups the visibility and importance it deserves and helping ensure that LGBT outreach is never subordinate to other work within the DNC.

— AMP is implementing an expanded, institutionalized and permanent LGBT outreach program, replacing the traditional system of establishing isolated “political desks” and simply parachuting LGBT organizers into targeted states weeks before an election.

— AMP has specific goals to address the LGBT community, including working with LGBT elected officials to develop state-specific strategies for LGBT outreach and messaging, participating in Pride and other community events, and sponsoring national LGBT political conferences and meetings.

— By instituting a DNC-wide working group on LGBT outreach and messaging, AMP has dramatically increased the resources brought to bear addressing LGBT issues.

Investing in the LGBT Community.

In order to help empower the LGBT community, the DNC has made a significant, permanent investment in building a nationwide capacity to organize the LGBT community. This investment is being made earlier than ever before, and is for the first time intended to build a permanent capacity in the LGBT community. Highlights of the effort include:

— The DNC is providing organizers to all 50 states and equipping them with state-specific information about the LGBT community and training in how to communicate with the LGBT community. This unprecedented nationwide commitment institutionalizes LGBT outreach throughout state parties.

— The DNC is assisting state parties in developing state-specific messaging and outreach on LGBT issues.

Extensive Consultation with LGBT Community Leaders

Under Dean’s leadership, the DNC has maintained the Democratic Party’s open door policy with our allies in the LGBT community, and expanded its efforts to build collaborative relationships with LGBT organizations, elected officials and community leaders.

— In his first three months as party chair, Dean met with over 30 LGBT leaders from 20 diverse LGBT organizations to discuss strategy and reassure the community about his commitment to LGBT issues.

— Dean and senior DNC staff continue to meet with LGBT organizers and community leaders across America. To date, Dean has met with more than 500 state and local LGBT leaders in communities across the country.

Speaking out on Issues that Matter to the LGBT Community.

Throughout the past year, the DNC and Dean have aggressively sought to stand up with our friends in the LGBT community and fight Republican efforts to scapegoat LGBT families by:

— Assisting the successful challenge of anti-LGBT ballot initiatives and legislation in places like Maine and Oregon, and fighting Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto of California marriage equality bill.

— Issuing official statements from Dean and the DNC on matters of concern to the LGBT community, including recognition of Pride in 2005, National Coming Out Day, World AIDS Day, victories by openly LGBT candidates, and the recent hate crimes in Massachusetts.

— Establishing a new “blog” section on the DNC website dedicated solely to LGBT outreach and current issues, highlighting the work of LGBT activists and organizations.

Comments, questions for the DNC?

If you want a read about a get-together Dean had with gay leaders on this in NY, check out the article, Dean’s Kiss and Make-Up, at Gay City News. It doesn’t sound like everyone left the meeting satisfied.

***

My comment on the release: This clarifies what the DNC intends to implement as an outreach plan. But, you will notice that there isn’t a proactive plan to actually counter the deluge of BS about to come down the pike from the right-wing (again).

What, pray tell, is the DNC going to do about the Mississippi Democratic Party Platform, for instance, which includes this: “We believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.” Is the DNC on board with that “state-specific” plank?

After all, Dean says: “We are standing strong with the community, fighting the Republican Party’s repugnant efforts to exploit the politics of fear and division and scapegoat LGBT families for electoral gain.” How about Dems who are doing the same thing? If we’ve got so-called Dems-in-good-standing and Republicans on the ballot both saying they are for the sanctity of marriage, that doesn’t sound like we need a few more folks at Pride events.

My take is that the party is going to make a few stands in the states where they have chances to pull off small victories, such as the ones mentioned in Maine and Oregon. Otherwise, I see the party leaving progressive Dems/LGBT in the Red states high and dry.

***

The Republicans will continue to drive this train because they’ve determined the frame.

The Dems will oppose a federal marriage amendment because the votes at the present time are not there to pass it, so they believe that they can punt for now. They have not articulated with one voice what definition of civil equality for gays and lesbians the party supports. The party opposed Schwarzenegger’s veto in California, but is marriage equality the goal? No. In 2004 it was “leave it to the states” — that has not changed.

The Dems have held up as 2006 models of the party, people who supported marriage amendments, or hold the position that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” or that separate-but-unequal civil unions are the acceptable alternative. That’s not coherence — it’s a conscious decision to support “leave it to the states” — the party’s position by default is that civil rights for a subgroup of citizens should be determined by popular vote. That sounds like a shift in core values to me.

If you’re gay and living in a Red state and you are outnumbered by those who oppose civil equality, you’re SOL. Those amendments are permanent, and given this Supreme Court, we’re not likely to see a ruling that would overturn them either. And we’re only talking about marriage; the Right has had such a long opportunity to work on gay demonization that all sorts of horrors are being put to a vote in legislatures – adoption/fostering bans, anti-discrimination legislation being killed, etc. And we’re going to lose those battles in some Red states.

The state of things in relation to LGBT issues (and just about every other issue that folks here care about) reflect the overall weakness of the party, which should have handily defeated the current clown in office (Diebold or no Diebold, 2000 or 2004).

***

An interesting observation is made by Tom Moran in the New Jersey Star-Ledger column, Gay marriage still gives lawmakers cold feet. That state is currently watching a case on same-sex marriage that’s up before its high court. Moran hits the nail on the head regarding Democrats and their reluctance to be specific and consistent in their support (or lack thereof).

Say the words “gay marriage” and watch the lefty politicians scramble for a place to hide.

Many of them secretly support the idea. But they won’t risk saying that in public.

So instead of vindicating the rights of a group they supposedly support, they are burrowing into their little holes, hoping this will all blow over.

Maybe, they hope, the state Supreme Court will save them and establish the right to gay marriage by judicial fiat.

“Most legislators are rooting for that, even if they wouldn’t vote for it,” says Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). “If the court says it’s legal, we don’t have to do anything. There are a lot of people in the Legislature hoping that’s the way it turns out.”

That’s precisely what all the punting has been about at the national level. The Dems want SCOTUS to make the call and take the heat off of elected officials (and prospects). Of course, as I said above, with this Supreme Court, it’s a gamble we could easily lose.

Related:
* Russ: Why this married straight white guy fights so hard for LGBT equality

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding