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DNC responds to gay critics

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Last week, I published a letter to the editor of the Washington Blade written by Donald Hitchcock, the former Director of the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council of the Democratic National Committee. Donald expressed a number of concerns about the DNC vis-a-vis the gay community. The DNC's treasurer, Andy Tobias, asked me if he could publish a response, in his personal capacity. Here it is:

Like John, I know Paul and Donald personally -- have even done their laundry when they stayed with me -- and wish them well.

But there's a lot in Donald's letter that's off the mark and, unintentionally, counterproductive.
Donald says "Gov. Dean barely addressed the LGBT caucus with only 5 minutes worth of comments, and no questions from the floor."
The Governor's comments to the DNC LGBT caucus were well received by a packed room. And when questions were invited from the caucus, none of the caucus members chose to ask one. (One audience member did raise his hand but, as it turned out, only wanted to offer thanks rather than ask a question.) If Donald or Paul have questions not answered below, I'd be glad to try to answer them.
Donald says, ". . . my reasons for standing up to Gov. Dean's reluctance to treating our community with dignity and respect, an action for which I was fired. I claim that firing as a badge of honor."
Donald is of course entitled to his view, but having spent a lot of time observing the Governor ever since he signed -- and then spent months stumping his state in a bulletproof vest promoting -- the nation's first civil unions bill, I have seen him consistently demonstrate nothing but a respect for and commitment to our community.

As for his "badge of honor," Donald frequently attacks the DNC, assuming it will not attack him back -- and he's right. But as someone who likes Donald and who shares his commitment to our community, I can nonetheless say that I do not share his sense of outrage over the way he was treated.

Am I sorry it didn't work out? Very.

Do I agree with his view of why it didn't work out? No.
"After Gov. Dean became Chair of the DNC, two LGBT political positions were abolished, and two finance positions were added, for a total now of four positions in Finance and zero in Political."
After Governor Dean became chair, ALL the constituency desks were "abolished" in favor of a different organization the Governor and his staff thought would be more effective. You can argue that the old system was better -- or not -- but you can't argue that our community was singled out. The African-American desk was "abolished," the "Hispanic desk" was abolished -- ALL the desks were "abolished."

Instead, you have now at the DNC the head of the Northeast political desk who happens to be gay, and the head of the DNC training program -- who, pivotally, interacts with hundreds of our field organizers every year -- who happens to be gay (and lets them know it!). And, yes, you have several finance staffers who happen to be gay (raising money IS a big part of what the DNC does), including Brian Bond, who has a sterling resume within our community, and who spends a lot of his time interacting with other LGBT leaders who I think would vouch for his good efforts.

Indeed, from a practical point of view, Brian brings our community clout that Donald -- through no fault of his own -- could not. That's because, as it happens, Brian gave the DNC's chief operating officer his very first job in politics. That is the kind of relationship and level of trust within the DNC that Donald can't be faulted for not having had -- but that is good news for our community.
Donald and Paul have both criticized the level of financial support the DNC put into fighting the anti-marriage amendments.
After eight years as DNC treasurer, I have pretty much given up on getting Paul's or Donald's support, much as I admire their passion and good intentions.

Indeed, Paul has called upon major LGBT donors to *withhold* financial support from the national Democratic Party committees.

He and I obviously disagree that this is the best way to advance the goal of LGBT equality, which we both share.

The DNC has worked hard ever since I've been soliciting funds to elect candidates who in almost every instance were FAR better on LGBT issues than their opponents.

(Of the 107 Senators and Congressfolk with perfect 100% ratings from HRC in this past Congress, 103 were Democrats and only four Republicans. Of the 156 who rated ZERO, 152 were Republicans. The difference could hardly be more stark.)

In 2006, our principal focus was on the effort to win back the House and Senate. That's where the bulk of the LGBT money went. I, for one, am pleased with the results. Not only are our newly-empowered leaders like Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Barney Frank far more fair-minded than their predecessors; our victory in the Senate may also have an impact on judicial appointments that last for decades.

The Senate victory was so close that I think it can be fairly said it might not have happened without support from the DNC that was made possible by LGBT dollars.

Of course, that is true of other communities' money and effort as well. But I think those of us in the LGBT community should feel very proud that we pitched in. And even leaving pride aside, it was simply in our selfish best interest to do so.

Donald is quite right that only a little DNC money was diverted in 2006 specifically to fight the anti-marriage amendments. But one reason for that is simply that the precious "federal" dollars the DNC raises (precious because contributions are limited by law) are not *required* to fund statewide efforts . . . whereas *only* federal dollars can be used to fund federal elections.

So it makes sense for someone like me to give his federal dollars to the DNC, expecting them to be used mainly for federal purposes, while giving non-federal dollars to non-federal groups to fight the anti-marriage initiatives.

On the non-monetary side of fighting the anti-marriage initiatives, we were able to do more in some states than others. But there's no question that GLLC director Brian Bond worked hard to be helpful. I don't think the same can be said of efforts over at the RNC.

As unfortunate as it is that things did not work out with Donald, there are important, historic battles to be joined and won for our equal rights. Widening our margin in Congress and winning the White House in 2008 will only help. That's what the DNC is working hard to do. Onward and upwards, guys.

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