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  • March 15, 2010

    Don't Ask, Don't Hold Your Breath

    Posted by: Chris

    Barney frank house chairman gay rights dont ask dont tell
    Stop me if you've heard this before. Once again, Democrats in Congress are blaming President Obama for putting the brakes on Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, as if the White House introduces legislation that the House and Senate can then vote on.

    This time around, the finger-pointer is none other than Barney Frank, he that refuses to co-sponsor repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, in an interview with The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld:

    But just as the White House has pushed other legislation into the forefront only to back away and watch the congressional fireworks from afar, so it seems to be with ending the military’s gay ban. As Rep. Barney Frank told me Friday, “I’m disappointed with the administration talking about delaying legislation for a year. But I’m working with Patrick Murphy [the lead sponsor of the House repeal bill] on it and I’m hoping we can push ahead.”

    Frank has pinpointed the National Defense Authorization Act as “the only vehicle” for overturning the ban legislatively. When I noted that the White House has failed to designate the defense authorization bill over a stand-alone bill as its preferred method for repealing the policy, Frank responded, “That’s because they don’t want it done this year, not because they want it done separately.”

    Yes, it's frustrating and disappointing that the president hasn't continued to push DADT repeal as companion legislation for the just-launched Pentagon review of the gays in the military issue. And yes, that Pentagon review could have been been launched a year ago.

    But why does Barney Frank, of all people, need leadership from the White House to get the ball rolling on including DADT repeal in the Defense Authorization bill. Is this the same openly congressman who controls the fate of financial reform legislation from his post as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee?

    Barney frank finger pointing Stop pointing the finger, Barney. Tell the president his Wall Street reform goes nowhere without a full-court press from the White House for including DADT repeal in Defense Department bill. 

    Barney and Andrew Tobias and the gay Democratic elite have been telling us for years that if they controlled Congress, gay rights bills would receive a big push. When they won control in 2006, they said the big push would have to wait until a Democrat won the White House.

    Enough with the waiting, and enough with the finger-pointing. Show some leadership, Barney. It's your civil rights at issue here, not Barack Obama's. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

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    January 20, 2010

    Democratic Super-Baloney

    Posted by: Kevin

    Pelosi_reid0110 The Democratic Party promise since the 1990s: Give us all your money, all your votes, and we'll "fight 'til hell freezes over, then we'll fight on the ice" to deliver for the gay and lesbian community at the national level.

    Well, that was a lie.  Pure and simple. They had the power, and they didn't use it.

    And as the much vaunted Democratic supermajority comes to a bitter and self-destructive end, it's become fairly obvious to everyone now what a lie it was.  (I won't say I told you so.)

    Tens of millions of dollars in wasted donations and almost two decades of furiously slavish political loyalty to the national Democratic establishment yielded passage of a mostly symbolic hate crimes law that had gone moldy on the dais for more than a decade, and nothing else.  Indeed, we got more admonitions than action on all fronts, being told to wait even longer and not 'endanger' the prospects for totally unrelated legislation that ended up bombing anyway.  I mean - what are they going to tell us next, that they need 75 seats and a 100-seat majority in the House to pass ENDA?  Don't even think about repealing the military ban or the Defense of Marriage Act.  (Oh, and send a check, please.  'Your life depends on it,' etc. and so forth....)

    Indeed, allowing the Democratic leadership to shove aside reforms that go to the heart of being gay in America today, in favor of their disastrous legislative fiascos of the past three years, didn't get us anywhere.  Their bumbling cost them the Senate supermajority that our community invested so much in building as part of this deal they offered us almost a generation ago.  And now we get nothing.  Again.

    And even the way they lost the supermajority is like an anvil to the head.  It was Ted Kennedy's seat.  It was in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage.  And it was at the hands of a Republican so conservative, so 'out-of-step' on paper with that state, that even I can't believe he won, or better, that the Dems lost.  Could this be any more violent a wake-up call for all for all of us, finally yielding to a shift in gay national strategy?  Will it be the moment we finally decide to end our toxic dependency on partisanship?  Or is this just going to be like Lindsay Lohan crashing her car and saying it was an innocent mistake and not the pound of cocaine up her nose?

    First, we need gay leaders with balls once and for all.  Or just gay leaders, period.  Joe Solomonese is chief among the fulsome, useless enablers of this failed bargain we've made, and frankly you should stop giving the Human Rights Campaign money until he resigns.  What in hell has he accomplished in Washington worthy of the salary he receives?  Getting Lady Gaga?  How can you even bear to look at his insipid email missives now after all this?  I certainly can't.

    And while I agree that activism and commitment at the local and state level is probably more important, we cannot completely ignore the national imperatives.  Don't just turn your head in disgust at what a joke HRC has become, or what a disaster the Democrats have been as a governing party.  Do something about it.  Register your opinion with them.  Stop giving money to gay groups that fail to lead, and to party organizations that fail to deliver.  Remove yourself from HRC's useless email lists (do you get anything other than requests for more money anymore?)  Demand new leadership.  Post comments on blogs, on Facebook, and in the few remaining gay newspapers around the country.    Talk to like-minded gay and lesbian friends (especially longtime donors).  Share ideas with each other and make a plan - any plan.  But for God's sake, don't just turn your heads.  Don't just sit there

    Wake up, people.  The period between now and the 2010 elections will be the greatest test of whether we get action, or we wait another decade or two for a bus that is not going to stop here again.  If we don't get anything back after all that we've invested, and all this community has done to deliver for them, explain to me why the Democratic Party should ever feel obliged to deliver for us in the future.  We'll have proven ourselves the cheapest date in the history of party politics.

    We are spinning our wheels until we push out the old and demand something new.  Something real.  Something courageous and honest at the front of this movement, who will live and die on results in the next 10 months.

    It's time for someone to start fighting on the quickly hardening ice, and it had better be you.

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    December 15, 2008

    Ridiculously lame excuse no. 5,234...

    Posted by: Chris

    Blagojevichmarriage... given by Democrats for why the gays must wait for basic legal equality:

    A proposal to allow civil unions in Illinois between same-sex couples has been stalled in the state legislature and seems likely to stay that way. First proposed in 2007 and running out of time before the current legislature expires, the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Unions Act would grant same-sex couples many of the rights given to opposite-sex married couples.

    There are two remaining legislative days on lawmakers' calendar, but … it seemed less likely to be called after FBI agents arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on federal corruption charges Tuesday, casting state leadership into disarray.

    "Everything has been trumped by what happened," said state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the measure's sponsor in the House.

    So a civil unions bill pending for almost two years gets tanked, and we're to believe it's not because the Democrats are shafting us by prioritizing pretty much everything over our civil rights. Oh no. It's because on the last week of the (year-round!) legislative session, the governor got arrested.

    Here are the Democrats in a nutshell: Blagojevich sells a Senate seat, and the gays pay the price.

    And the salt in the wound is that the stalled civil unions bill would only advance us from third to second-class citizenship, since full (marriage) equality isn't even on the table (and is opposed by the soon-to-be-felon and soon-to-be-ex-governor).

    And remember, my friends, this lame defense is from the bill's sponsor, presumably one of our closest allies. With "friends" like this, who needs the Mormons?

    (Photo from Chicago Gay Pride 2005 of Governor Blagojevich, who does not support gay marriage, via Gay Liberation Network)

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    November 12, 2008

    A gay man to run the Democratic Party?

    Posted by: Chris

    Hildebrandsteve One of the two leading contenders said to be under serious consideration by Barack Obama for the job of running the Democratic Party is openly gay political strategist Steve Hildebrand. The president-elect is reportedly considering Hildebrand, who was Obama's deputy national campaign manager, to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

    Paul Tewes, Hildebrand's partner in D.C.-based campaign consulting firm, has been mentioned as another leading candidate. Politico.com speculated that Obama might tap someone with a higher profile, like Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, to be the DNC general chairman and "the face" of the party, while leaving day-to-day operations to the likes of Tewes or Hildebrand.

    A native of South Dakota, Hildebrand cut his political teeth in party politics, not the gay rights movement. He the re-election campaign for Tom Daschle, then the Senate's leading Democrat, when he was surprisingly booted by South Dakotans back in 2004. Hildebrand's earlier work included Democrat Tim Johnson's winning run for the other U.S. Senate seat from South Dakota in 2002, and Al Gore's victory in the Iowa caucuses two years earlier.

    Hitchcockyandura If Obama does tap Hildebrand, it will be an interesting turn of events for the DNC. Despite the high-profile role of Andrew Tobias, the openly gay party treasurer, the DNC under current chairman Howard Dean has come under heavy fire from many gay Democrats for neglecting gay issues, especially state-level ballot measures to ban marriage.

    Dean and the DNC have vigorously defended themselves against the accusation, but their image has been sullied by a lawsuit filed by Donald HItchcock, alleging he was fired as the party's gay outreach liaison because his domestic partner, political consultant Paul Yandura, publicly called on gays to withhold donations over the ballot measure flap.

    As far as I know, Hitchcock's lawsuit remains pending. Obama's team would be well-served to clean up Howard's mess before installing their own people at the party's helm.

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    Filed in: DNC , Obama

    November 05, 2008

    We interrupt this fairy tale for a dose of reality

    Posted by: Kevin

    Alg_chicagocelebration I want to congratulate Barack Obama and add that he will indeed be my President, too.  It's not just a slogan, but it's real and from the heart.  I hope God will bless and protect him, and help guide him in facing the many challenges awaiting him in the coming years.  I share Chris' pride in the historic aspect of Obama's decisive election as the first African American U.S. President - something that I always wondered whether I'd see in my lifetime.  That it has happened, and that American women also advanced so decisively in this political season, are truly wonderful symbols of where America stands in the long march of political and cultural evolution.

    But why gay Americans should be shitting themselves with glee right now is, frankly, something I can't comprehend.  The 2008 election was, in fact, a disaster for gays.  And as the reality of our situation in America sets in over the coming days, as well as the next two years, it seems that nothing but a crashing disillusionment set against the backdrop of such wild celebrations last night is the only thing that could smack the gay community awake once and for all.

    Our defeat on Proposition 8 in California is the biggest, most glaring wound on the landscape, and will be infamous for decades to come.  This is the greatest loss of gay civil rights since the Bowers v. Hardwick decision of 1986.  Latino voters came out in huge numbers for Obama, and also voted for Proposition 8.  Worse yet, African Americans clogged California's polling places to vote for Obama with a fervent zeal, and with equal fervency voted overwhelmingly against us (currently as much as 70% voting yes on 8).  Obama won the state by about 2.5 million votes, and Yes appears to be winning by about a half-million votes.  A similarly glaring defeat came in Florida, another state that Obama carried, where a gay marriage ban passed by about 2 million votes.  Nationally, the anti-gay wave just about ran the table in all the states where gay issues were on the ballot.  Only in tiny Connecticut did voters reject the opening of a constitutional convention to throw out that state's court decision legalizing gay marriage earlier this year.

    I understand the emotion around Obama's message of "hope."  Who wouldn't want to be hopeful with all their heart and soul at these moments of great fear and uncertainty about the global economy, two wars overseas and the ever-present threats to us at home?  But exactly why should gays be so bathed in political hope at this moment?  I'd like to see a convincing case made by the Democratic leadership coming into nearly unchecked power in Washington in January.  But I'm afraid the reality will be something else entirely. 

    The experience we are very likely to share as a community over the next two years might be exactly what we need in order to shake this moribund, brain dead movement of ours back to life and make it relevant, saavy and effective once and for all.  That's about all I can be hopeful about now.

    I've said it endlessly before, and I'll say it again: the national Democratic Party doesn't care one bit about gay rights, beyond pleasant words and reaping big, pliant cash donations.  The cold reality of that is evident in their total lack of deeds on the national level.  That we hang breathlessly waiting to merely be mentioned in a presidential candidate's speech is a pathetic but true reflection of our situation, and sadly it has been all we've gotten in return for our slavish loyalty to one party.  Now that this party will have unprecedented power for the next two years, all we have is hope that they will live up to their flowery words.

    But here is the cold reality: despite the likelihood that the next two years will be a peak in Democratic political power in Washington, the Defense of Marriage Act will not be repealed (in full or in part) by 2010, or even during the Obama presidency, no matter how long it lasts.  It won't even come to a vote in the next Congress, and President Obama will not make any effort to promote such a vote in the next Congress.  The current ban on gays in the military will not be overturned by 2010, nor probably by 2012.  Federal recognition of gay marriages and civil unions by Congress, either for immigration purposes or tax benefits, will not happen in the next four years.  And while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act might -- might -- see the light of day before 2010 and will have the votes it needs to become law, it will undoubtedly draw an even more fervent, punishing, self-defeating challenge on the issue of transgender rights from the left.

    When I learned on Facebook this morning that dear gay friends of mine in New York were dancing in Times Square, and other friends in Washington were celebrating in front of the White House and actually comparing the experience to the fall of the Berlin Wall -- while gay marriage was going down the toilet in California -- it was astounding to me.  And deeply saddening and alienating.  The level of unreality that seems to be intensifying in the gay urban ghettos back home is just amazing to me; I probably was just as guilty of it before I was able to move away and get some more perspective.  Who knows.

    I will probably get nothing but angry comments for this post, but frankly, I don't care.  To be honest, I don't really know what good it is for anyone who dissents on the prevailing gay political dogma to blog much anymore.  Despite the fact that 27% of gay Americans dissented yesterday in the voting booth, they are demonized by their fellow gays with a vehemence that borders on fanaticism.  When you dissent on a gay blog and take a more conservative or opposing view, the folks who agree with you send private emails but don't participate, and there is an army of conformist, venomous partisans ready to use every kind of personal attack to try to silence you.  It becomes an exercise in punishment rather than participation.  Dale Carpenter said it best, and the kind of personal destruction practiced by gays on other gays in the political sphere today is only matched by the anti-gay movement itself in victory after victory at the polls against us.  I see no bright, shining lights of hope in any of this.  I am, in fact, ashamed.

    The last thing I ever wanted was to write something like this post - and as it comes true over the next two years, the idea of gloating over it is beyond unseemly.  I hate the way things are.  I don't want them to get worse.  I would much prefer to be happy about yesterday's results and the trajectory of gay rights in America.  But the reality that I see that is informed by history, by experience, and by the cold, hard numbers of this election, and it couldn't be shaken off no matter how much I might want to delude myself, and that's why I'm writing this.  And it's also why I am saying goodbye to Citizen Crain.

    Movement politics used to be about strategic thinking, and about making a clear, undaunted moral case for your cause.  It used to be about raising the level of intelligence, grace and tenacity of an aggrieved community and really struggling every day to unite them, body and soul, behind an effort whose might would be its righteousness.  The gay movement used to be about thinking outside the box, including the one we ourselves might be in, and taking nothing for granted.  But something happened over the last several years that changed all that.  Now it's just a huge pathetic joke, a gigantic string of twitters, "status" one-liners, bitchy snits, gossip, celebrity worship and empty groupthink.  A gigantic co-opting of our energies by a political party that does nothing in return.  Besides a whole lot of fundraising.  Where some of its veterans, like Kate Kendall in California, have managed to not just "know hope" but actually make real strides, the wide swath of gay leaders in power right now have done nothing but fail miserably time and time and time and time again in recent years despite having political winds at their backs, and if they don't make a gigantic strategic shift immediately, the next two years will be their Waterloo.

    I'm so dispirited and, frankly, fed up, that I doubt I'll be blogging on this site after today.  I know I won't be missed, and I certainly won't miss the drudgery of the personal attacks.  I've just grown tired of fighting, and I'm far too involved in my new life in Brazil to be of any use to this site anymore.  As much as I love and support my friend Chris in his endeavors, including this site, I find the idea of going my own way, and going back to just my own little blog and my own personal contributions to changing my little corner of the world, very liberating.  I'll be far more useful.

    But if this is where I part company with you, I'll do it with this last thought:  I beg all of you with any energy left in you to wake up.  I beg you to stop deluding yourselves about what it's going to take to really change our situation in the United States.  Stop believing promises and start demanding action.  Stop scapegoating, and blaming 'enemies' and shifting responsibility for all our failures onto others, and take responsibility for everything we face.  Stop living the reality show and start living in reality.  And if you were active in this election cycle, don't delude yourself into thinking that the fight is "won."  It is, in fact, almost completely lost as of this moment if you stand down now.  Do more than just "know hope" -- think different.  Wake the fuck up and see reality, and demand results -- from our gay leaders, from our Congress, and from our new President. 

    That's all I've ever tried to encourage here, and it's about all I have left to say here.

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    September 10, 2008

    Party on the verge of a nervous breakdown

    Posted by: Kevin

    Women_on_the_verge_of_a_nervous_breThere is no question that Barack Obama and his senior aides ran an astounding primary campaign, right through to the nomination acceptance speech at the end of their triumphant convention in Denver.  Obama broke out of the pack early on, raised a gigantic amount of money, and took on the Clinton machine head-to-head.  He fought off endless efforts to smear him, both on the internet and in the media, and didn't relent.  Even in his announcement speech, he upstaged the establishment and dominated the scene whether he'd won or lost that day.  Against the odds, he made history on several fronts, not the least of which being the first African American nominated for President of the United States.

    I celebrated his victory over Hillary Clinton, and all that her cynical, soulless borg came to represent.  To me, a Hillary victory would mean the Democratic Party would be "assimilated" into a cynical enterprise meant to serve the Clintons and their Ideology of Me, weakening the party at a time when gays are dangerously - perhaps fatally - dependent on its flagging interest in delivering on our issues.  I agreed fully with the heart and the spirit of the very first notable YouTube fan video for Obama, which portrayed his primary challenge as nothing less than a one-person revolution against a cowed and brainless mass, sitting agape upon having the thin TV screen of their droning and predictable psychodrama (starring Herself) shattered and destroyed.  Hope was alive.

    Obama's Denver acceptance speech was hands down the most electric and ballsy feat of political drama since the day in 1912 in Milwaukee when Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest in on the campaign stump and went on to give a thundering 90 minute speech anyway.  Obama will be remembered for the 80,000 cheering fans, the fireworks shooting into the sky, the stagecraft, the music and the iron confidence he showed in himself, despite being the insurgent.  And every African American alive today and for the next hundred years will be able to say that the glorious history of that moment was fully honored and fully inhaled by the nation for time and memorial.  It was, in all sincerity, spectacular.

    But I sat down and read Obama's speech without the fanfare, putting aside the history around his race and the stirring artistry of the scenery.  It was, as the Associated Press rightly pointed out, very light on specifics, despite promises that it would have many.  Most people I know who watched the speech can't remember a single line from it today.  Obama needed to unite his party, yes.  That was definitely achieved.  But he also had to make his case to the vast number of undecided or skeptical voters who, like me, would put aside the historic and visual implications and pay attention to what he actually said and stood for.  Was he really so different?  Was he really bringing "change" that was more than skin deep?

    He didn't break out for me in Denver.  On foreign policy, it was all meringue and no candor or recognizable philosophy.  On education, it was essentially no-child-left-behind-plus-Americorps.  On energy, it was embarrassingly light on comprehension and almost identical to the current policies of George W. Bush (who is pouring money into R&D on biofuels, campaigned on clean coal technology as early as 2000, and is protecting the corn ethanol industry like Obama wants to do).  On taxes, it was about raising them.  And on the issue of gay equality, there were a couple of placating words but, in terms of policy, only a vague reference to hospital visitation rights.  (Noted lesbian reporter Karen Ocamb noticed, and raised an alarm on this.)  Ironically, McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt said about as much to a placated room full of Log Cabin activists in Minneapolis as Obama said in that stadium to the nation.

    To me, this points to a larger weakness in the campaign's central strategy.  Obama is still campaigning as the insurgent despite being the nominee and the presumed President-to-be, given the horrendous approval ratings of the Republican lame-duck.  This is a mistake.  He hasn't yet made the vitally important leap to statesman and "presidential", not in my mind and not in the mind of many undecided Americans. 

    He seems to have thought he'd just shift his insurgent campaign against Hillary to an insurgent campaign against George W. Bush, and simply win the election.  It was exciting in the primaries, at least for us non-Democrats or for new voters, and not for any cynical reason.  I truly like Barack Obama.  I admire his communication skills and his flair for the emotional, the dramatic, the inspirational -- all of which is sorely lacking in honorable U.S. politicians.  I envy his charisma.  To be honest, there were moments a few months ago when I really wanted to be in his corner all the way.  But I was waiting for him to close the deal.  It didn't happen.  And with the ever growing scale of his production values, I grow more doubtful that a deal-closer is there behind the curtain.  (Still time to prove me wrong.)

    Then I looked at the Denver performance again on my DVR and realized I was seeing something interesting.  The agape faces of the Democrats.  The happy, satiated activists.  They had a new psychodrama to latch onto, a new giant jumboscreen to watch.  So what that it was now starring the man who demolished their last one?  They were in their seats again.  Mouths open.  That's what they always wanted.  They didn't need to hear specifics.  They just needed the right lyrics to go with the music.

    I need more than that if you're going to ask me to toss aside nearly everything I believe on every issue besides gay rights and vote the way you say I must.  In the words of Madonna, I've heard it all before.

    And then, the unexpected game-changer.  Sarah Palin happened to Barack Obama and the Democrats.  Aside from what it actually meant in reality, in terms of the Democratic psychodrama it was a sudden, horrifying, Hurricane Katrina of a different sort.  Something suddenly went awry inside their heads.  (Indeed, speaking of hurricanes and kookiness, several noted Democrats publicly likened the arrival of Hurricane Gustav to God's punishment of the GOP that weekend.  Jerry Falwell would be proud of them for that - and it was surreal to hear it coming from their lips.)  And rather than spend the next week sitting back, confident that their man was more than up to this pitiful challenge to him, it seems that much of the party's activist wing began to quickly descend towards a nervous breakdown as independents began to break hard for the McCain-Palin ticket in most polls.

    Obama's faulty strategy hasn't helped him.  He had to leave the stadium and lightshows behind and close the deal, but he's flailing now.  The ridiculous boomlet over his "lipstick" remark was notable not for whether he intended to liken Palin to a pig (I say he didn't), but for the speed in which so many fell for the agile McCain reaction and recoiled.  That was a red warning light that needs to be heeded.  It was one of those bizarre moments where Obama pulled a Bill Clinton -- he said something really stupid (perhaps too candid about his true feelings of contempt?  I hope not) and seemed to almost know it a moment later.  Then he added a metaphor about a stinking fish, and maybe compounded the error.  That this was the only line of his stump speech that got attention that day is a glaring reflection of his failure to move with the shifting direction of this campaign (and he blamed the media for it), and how there is much more going on in the body politic for which repetitive doses of "hope" and "change" rhetoric aren't enough.  If Obama doesn't change strategic direction soon, a whiff of Dukakis will be in the air.

    And the crack-ups going on among the activist base, on glaring display across the internet in the last two weeks, is a troubling sign of the Democratic Party's deeper institutional hollowness that Obama's victory has not addressed.  This party is not ready for prime time if this is all they've got coming out of Denver.  And intelligent people of high note on the blogosphere seemed to go loco and wallow in the lowest depths of conspiracy theories and smears.  The alarm among cooler heads was such that Andrew Sullivan, for instance, had to post a note to readers acknowledging their "concern" and to say that he is "absolutely fine".  It was only days after seeming to demand that Palin submit to a maternity test to prove that her youngest child was her own (he has since backed off such crazy talk).

    Camile Paglia, a partisan Democrat herself, said it best:

    The witch-trial hysteria of the past two incendiary weeks unfortunately reveals a disturbing trend in the Democratic Party, which has worsened over the past decade. Democrats are quick to attack the religiosity of Republicans, but Democratic ideology itself seems to have become a secular substitute religion. Since when did Democrats become so judgmental and intolerant? Conservatives are demonized, with the universe polarized into a Manichaean battle of us versus them, good versus evil. Democrats are clinging to pat group opinions as if they were inflexible moral absolutes. The party is in peril if it cannot observe and listen and adapt to changing social circumstances.

    Some of the charges, exaggerations and pure inventions about Sarah Palin were so loud, numerous and deafening that they seem to have backfired egregiously.  The waters are so muddy and polluted now that undecideds are refusing to believe almost anything being said about her, and any rightful critiques or discrepencies in her record or statements are being painted with the same broad brush of mistrust as the crazy talk.  For a party that has long -- and rightly -- denounced such campaigning to turn so ferociously, chaotically and ineptly to the same tactics was a jolt in the face of Obama's sunny and uplifting style.  And it leaves the undecided voter cold and cynical about whether there is anything about them that has "changed."

    And the fact that simply by writing all this, I will probably be subject to a volley of truly hateful comments says even more about what is going wrong with Obama's quest.  There is still far too much window-dressing and preaching to the choir, mixed with a really shocking level of sleaze from the activists that must be driving Obama crazy.  Perhaps it's because he knows that so long as it continues, voters like me (the ones who will decide this election) will see no difference between him and the Republicans, and when the artistry and emotion is wiped away, he is dead even with John McCain -- and maybe won't hold up.

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    Filed in: DNC , McCain , Obama , Palin

    August 20, 2008

    LGBT-onics and the Dem platform (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Baldwintodd_2 Two lesbian elected officials are defending the draft Democratic Party platform they helped write against complaints that it omits the G-word -- along with the L, B and T words. Lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who co-chaired the platform committee, whose 15 members also included Alabama state rep Patricia Todd, both both spoke to Ohio's Gay Peoples Chronicle:

    Baldwin explained that the committee made a conscious choice to use more descriptive language that models the wording used in legislation.

    “Most of the wordsmithing,” said Baldwin, “was done purposefully to make the clearest policy statements possible.”

    “There was never any discussion to keep the word ‘gay’ out of the platform or any reluctance to say the word,” Todd said.

    The 2004 platform does refer to “gay” and “lesbian.”

    “The platform is a statement of aspiration,” Baldwin said, “not an implementation plan. It reflects the values of the party.”

    Baldwin's explanation tracks my own reaction to the draft, since gay rights legislation bans discrimination based on "sexual orientation," which includes bias against heterosexuals as well.

    Also, it turns out the most glaring "LGBT" omission, in a reference to gay families that is repeated verbatim from the 2004 without "gay," is apparently be remedied:

    • 2004: We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits and protections for these families.
    • 2008 draft: We support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.
    • 2008 revision: We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.

    Considering the attention paid to the complaints and to precise wording, this supposed revision is a bit odd. For one thing, there's still no LGBT-ish there, though it's easy to understand why considering the political correctness that surrounds LGBT-onics. Changing "same-sex couples" to "gay couples" or "gay and lesbian couples" would still leave out "bisexual couples." That leaves only the clunky "gay, lesbian and bisexual couples," which of course would leave our trans sisters and brothers fuming.

    What's more, using "same-sex couples," implies adult relationships are the extent of our families, with no acknowledgment of those of us who are parents. The 2004 platform, on the other hand, used over-inclusive language, since "gay and lesbian families" implies the kids are gay, too.

    Why not this:

    We support the full inclusion of all families, including those led by same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.

    This more accurately describes gay couples as part of families, and recognizes at least impliedly that relationship recognition impacts not just them but their children as well.

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    Filed in: DNC

    August 13, 2008

    Convention Preview: The Democrats

    Posted by: Kevin

    Simpsonsdem_conventionThe Democratic National Convention will convene in Denver on August 25th to nominate Barack Obama as their presidential standard-bearer in the fall election.  However, the concept of standard-bearer has morphed, in reality, to be the opposite.  In truth, Obama will be speaking in Denver on August 28th in order to try to make the Democratic Party as much his own standard-bearer as he can for the fall race -- and whatever failing the party cannot overcome, he will simply fill in with his own campaign's enormous resources.

    Indeed, the party conventions have evolved on different paths toward a very proximate destination: utter irrelevance, if not a net negative on their respective nominees.  I'll deal with the GOP side in Friday's post, but for the Democrats it has been a sleek and steady evolution much like a snake changing its skin.  The colors are rearranged, and the camouflage is more up-to-date, but the animal hasn't changed a whit.  The national Democratic Party has been, and still is, an amalgam of disparate, self-obsessed interest groups who believe only in power and have no idea (nor care to learn) how to govern this country properly.

    Barack Obama steps onto the stage on the 28th, and quite tellingly he will do it far from the convention hall -- at Invesco Field before 60,000 cheering fans.  But until then, the show on stage will be classic Democratic Convention stuff.  It starts with the party's platform, which as usual is a document which puts lipstick, a skirt, manicured nails and a lovely hairdo on the party's inherent vacuum of core beliefs, and the deep contempt that its hackdom has for anyone outside their political ghetto.  True to form, this year the platform scrubbed any use of the words "gay" or "lesbian" (heaven forefend "trans-"anything), and the national voice of the gay Democratic hacks promptly pronounced it "the strongest platform on gay and transgender issues ever approved by a major U.S. political party."  This after years of burning into political gospel that use of the "g" and "l" (and sometimes "t") words are the lowest bar you can set for acceptability.  Not since Mitt Romney landed in Iowa has there been such a head-spinning political u-turn, but I digress.

    The point is that the Democratic Convention seems to always be a giant masquerade show to hide the contempt its core activists feels towards anyone outside their narrow cantons of special interests, and to somehow con independents and moderate Republicans into thinking they believe anything really.  It's always a myriad of acrobatics and frantic semaphore-waving from a party base that is hopelessly tone-deaf in connecting with the average American but still knows they have to try if they want to win (which is all they want).

    So, the platform will mean nothing.  The keynote speech will be great theater and maybe a hint at future leaders.  The quota of gay delegates - whether it met the 'targets' or not - will be irrelevant.  The only thing that will be telling is if someone goes off script and says what he/she really thinks in prime time and lets his/her contempt really rip.  Otherwise, frankly, we will glean nothing about what Barack Obama will do as President -- on gay rights or anything else.  (That is, unless he decides to give a speech that says something important rather than is delivered importantly.)

    Beyond the Denver masquerade party, it must be noted that it's been Democrats who've been most of the real champions on gay rights wherever we've made progress.  These individuals and local parties have been limited mostly to scattered municipalities and some states holding the largest cities-- mostly thanks to openly gay elected Democrats who truly understand and care about these issues, and represent concentrated gay constituencies.  Occasionally, we've seen Barney Frank or Ted Kennedy have their moment to shine (sadly not often enough, and rarely with success under Democratic rule).  Also, the state Democratic Party of California must get a major tip of the hat for its tremendous courage on gay issues.  They really have delivered in ways no other Democrats in the nation can claim to have.  One only wishes California's Democrats were so evolved on fiscal matters, but alas.

    But the truth is that the national Democratic Party never cared all that much about gay rights, nor does it today.  To them, it's a money-maker, a loyalty builder in urban areas, and useful so long as the Republicans are as hateful and loathsome on the issue as is humanly possible.  This attitude will not cut mustard in 2008, however.  The bar on gay issues has been raised so high in comparison to every preceding year, particularly with gay marriage breaking out in California, that both parties seem befuddled at how to keep pace.  The national Democrats know that if they back specifically-gay families, they are getting behind gay marriage, no two-ways about it.  That means real policy changes.  So they got out the eraser.

    And we need only to look at the fact that the Democratic Congress, led by a Speaker from San Francisco no less, has done jack-shit on gay rights since it came to power after a decade of exuberant promises of "fighting 'til hell freezes over, and then fighting on the ice" for gay Americans.  It was bullshit then, and it's bullshit now.  It's a party led by Chairman Howard Dean, who had no trouble apparently breaking the very employment protection laws which his party claims to be the champion of, in firing openly-gay Donald Hitchcock from his staff.  And the real contempt he and many of his senior staff hold for the gay community outside their little hack-ghetto has been uncovered by subpoena.  No surprise.

    The Republicans are a whole other animal, of course (and I'll get to them on Friday).  But this notion that the Democratic Party would care more for our issues if it had littered its platform with every rainbow letter in the alphabet is a joke.  They never cared, and they won't start caring now, and what the party hacks think about this issue is really not the point anymore.  The onus is on the gay Democratic leaders (self-appointed or otherwise) and Democratic-aligned organizations like the Human Rights Campaign to tell us exactly what they are going to push for in an Obama presidency (no cute versions of Nixon's secret plans and promises, to be revealed after the election), how they are going to hold Obama to their goals, and how they, Obama and a Democratic Congress will accomplish those goals together.  That will take humility at admitting the limits they face, and it will mean being held accountable should they fall short.

    I'm still waiting to hear, and I doubt such talk will surface meaningfully in Denver.  Let's hope sometime before Election Day.

    (NOTE: On Friday, The RepublicansPhoto from The Simpsons (Fox))

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    Filed in: DNC , Elections

    August 10, 2008

    Dem Platform weak on LGBT-onics

    Posted by: Chris

    Dncc_logo_dnc2008_1_500 The Democratic Party platform just approved yesterday and headed to the convention in Denver for final adoption represents some progress on nuts-and-bolts gay rights positions but is a rhetorical retreat of sorts -- at least that's been the initial reaction among some gay groups and the LGBT left blogosphere.

    Pam Spaulding, for instance, labels the 56-page document "lite on the LGBT, hold the mayo" because she did a word search for "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" and came up empty. You don't get any more entrenched in the identity politics ghetto than measuring the platform by those metrics. GLAAD's Director of National News Cindi Creager was similarly unimpressed, calling on the media to further investigate this disturbing trend of supporting full equality without paying tribute to our movement's established religion of "LGBT-ism."

    If anything, the platform is a good rhetorical fit with Barack Obama's support for traditional liberal support for minorities but with an approach that makes equality something that embraces everyone, not just those who belong to balkanized groups. So rather than fall into the trap of backing "workplace protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers," the draft platform attacks the issue from a more inclusive angle:

    Democrats will fight to end discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age and disability in every corner of our country, because that's the America we believe in.

    Note how that plank not only extends the fight for equality beyond the workplace, but also lists categories that ultimately include everyone -- since non-discrimination laws protect heterosexuals as well, after all.

    Other LGBT, er, sexual orientation/gender identity highlights:

    • expresses "opposition" to the Defense of Marriage Act, but doesn't expressly call for repeal, a rhetorical feint that ought to be fixed in Denver, lest the signal be that full DOMA repeal -- a central Obama-Hillary point of difference during the primaries -- is not a near-term priority;
    • expressly backs repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which represents progress over an '04 plank that only vaguely stated, "all patriotic Americans should be allowed to serve our country without discrimination, persecution and violence";
    • backs "a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act," which presumably means trans-inclusive while stopping short of the "United ENDA" suicide call against gay-only ENDA if that's all that can done;
    • backing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, but without using the more recent moniker, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which of course highlights the most famous anti-gay hate crime in U.S. history.

    The avoidance of LGBT-onics does not appear accidental, since language from the 2004 platform has pretty clearly been pink-washed. As ABC News' Jake Tapper notes, the platform four years ago proclaimed:

    • We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits and protections for these families.

    This time around:

    • We support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.

    The effect is the same as mentioned on ENDA and non-discrimination. The commitment is the same, but the language tries to make equality a principle that applies to all families, not just those of the LGBT variety.

    If this rhetoric were the product of a presidential campaign that had avoided using "the G word," it might give rise to concern. But in fact Barack Obama was far more likely to talk explicitly about gay Americans before a general audience than any other primary contender, including Hillary Clinton. In that context, the platform seems a bit of fresh air in the stale politics of LGBT-dom.

    All that said, the platform was something of a disappointment on the most gay rights issue of the day -- marriage, of course. Except for opposing DOMA, there's no commitment to oppose either federal or state-level constitutional amendments that would ban gays from marrying, and the '04 language about "full inclusion" for "all families" falls considerably short of Obama's promise to back federal recognition of same-sex couples that is equal to that afforded heterosexual married couples.

    Party platforms are rarely statements of political courage as much as laying out broad principles designed to satisfy core supporters while not alienating the political center. In that respect, the Obama platform is a success on our issues, even as it represents precious little concrete progress over four long years.

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    August 08, 2008

    The Blade and Howard Dean (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    For reasons not completely clear to me, Queerty yesterday posted a video montage -- a greatest hits, if you will -- of Howard Dean taking shots at the Washington Blade during his deposition back in March in the Donald Hitchcock discrimination suit.

    In the nine-minute clip, the Democratic National Committee chieftain jokes about "upgrading" the Blade from "the New York Post of the gay press" to "the Fox News of the gay press." His low opinion stems from "hysterical" articles he said began appearing in the Blade in late 2005 -- stories he said were full of inaccuracies and wild accusations.

    The only actual example cited by Dean was an opinion piece, not a news article, that was submitted to me when I was editor of the paper by Ramon Gardenhire, a former DNC staffer, who accused Dean of "lying" because he eliminated the gay political "desks" despite a promise not to do so made when he campaigned for the DNC leadership post.

    Dean doesn't deny making the campaign promise; he simply claims not to recall. And yet somehow he considers it hysterical for those who do recall -- and have the questionnaire he filled out on the subject for the gay Dem caucus -- to call him out for breaking his word.

    My favorite moment in the montage is the final segment, when Dean is asked to explain an accusation he made in a September 2006 interview with IN LA's Karen Ocamb that the Blade is run by "someone with an agenda" against the Democratic Party. Dean says he can't remember the person's name, but identifies the culprit as the paper's publisher, who he says is "a former Reagan person who hates Democrats."

    The publisher of the Blade during those days was William Waybourn, former director of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and GLAAD, who hates Ronald Reagan so much for his record on AIDS that he refuses to use the former president's name when referring to the D.C. airport that lies along the Potomac River.

    That would leave your's truly as the former Reaganite in question. I was only 15 when Reagan was first elected, so it's safe to say I held no position of influence within his administration. But years later, I did work as volunteer lawyer on the staff of the Bush-Quayle campaign in 1992. As a result, I got a box-seat view of the bigotry center stage at the Republican convention in Houston that year, and it was a major step toward my decision during the Clinton impeachment circus to quit the GOP entirely.

    Since then, I endorsed Al Gore for president in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, and anyone whose read this blog with any regularity knows I am greatly predisposed toward Barack Obama over John McCain this time around. Does that sound like someone who "hates Democrats"?

    Earlier this year when Howard Dean's Blade bigotry reared its ugly head, I took the time to review every single article published by the Blade during his tenure as DNC chairman, looking for inaccuracies and bias. What I found were articles that quoted sources within the party criticizing Dean for a range of decisions -- internal and political -- as well as the official response of the party when they deigned to offer one.

    The irony of Dean's smear of the Blade is that it is Dean himself, not the Blade or me or the gay press generally, that throws around hysterical charges while playing fast and loose with the facts. The Democratic Party is ill-served with that kind of thin-skinned and mean-spirited leadership.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 For related stories and breaking news, click or bookmark:

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    July 03, 2008

    Another blow to DNC in Hitchcock case

    Posted by: Kevin

    DeanwideeyedThe judicial hammer came down yet again on Howard Dean's Democratic National Committee in the lawsuit by former LGBT outreach director Donald Hitchcock last night.  And this latest finding by Judge Jeanette Clark is perhaps the most ominous yet for a growing list of high-level Democratic operatives -- including gay and lesbian Democrats at the highest levels of the party -- who have been implicated in an alleged effort to punish Hitchcock for his partner, Paul Yandura, having openly criticized the party for its lack of real commitment -as opposed to lip service- on gay rights.

    The Washington Blade reports that Judge Clark dismissed a motion by the DNC for summary judgment, turning down an effort by the party to avoid a trial.  As if this wasn't enough of a blow, Clark's ruling also revealed that indeed some of the statements already aired in the case, which had been made by Dean as well as openly gay Democratic Party Treasurer Andrew Tobias, may have been defamatory, and that they might have "aided and abetted the DNC by participating in a scheme to discriminate and retaliate that resulted in" Hitchcock's firing from the DNC.

    Clark asserted that the facts are indeed in dispute over Hitchcock's firing so soon after Yandura issued an open letter in April 2006 criticizing the Democratic Party's attitude towards the gay community -- particularly in the party's lack of support against state anti-marriage ballot measures.  It seems Yandura, an influential voice among gay Dems and a former Clinton White House staffer, broke the cardinal rule of the gay Democratic power structure: he called for gays to withhold donations until the party cleaned up its act.  That crossed the line, and it seems to have caused the party leadership to trample every one of its so-called principles around discrimination and fairness, and to retaliate by firing Hitchcock.  They then trotted out the whispers about Donald being incompetent, and the timing being a mere coincidence.  (Right.)

    Hitchcockyandura I've said it before - and I'll say it again.  I have never known more fervent, loyal Democrats in my years in Washington as those two.  The only reason I knew Donald or Paul was because I frequently clashed with them, sometimes quite heatedly, in my role as flack for Log Cabin Republicans in the 1990s and early 2000s. Donald in particular went for my throat in a post-election panel discussion at the 2000 Creating Change Conference - not exactly friendly territory for me - and I'll never forget it.  Believe me - I can attest to their blood loyalty to their party.  And no one of any political persuasion who knows Paul Yandura could ever say with a straight face that he issued his open letter in April 2006 as a means to undermine the Democratic Party against the GOP.  He was voicing dissent in a way that he felt was necessary to hold his party to the standard it said it was setting for itself on gay rights -- the whole "fight til hell freezes over and then fight on the ice" rhetoric trotted out year after year by DNC honchos at gay (fundraising) events.  Paul was trying to leverage power to get results.  Remember that?  Anyone?

    All that Dean and company had to do was admit they broke the law in firing Donald, and make restitution, and I'm willing to bet this whole thing would have gone away and Donald would have gone right back to the front lines.  Instead, they have gone to ground in all their petty arrogance at the DNC and tried every kind of underhanded means to make Donald crawl away in fear.  That has turned this case into a cause, and has allowed for the airing of a great deal of damaging correspondence and behind-the-scenes beliefs among DNC staff that show a sort of contempt for the gay community as little more than a cash machine for more important political fights, one that should best be docile and adoring and keep the checks coming.

    It's sad because, in reality, the DNC could really live up to the ideals that made Donald and Paul so fervently committed in the first place.  The Democratic Party could actually win over people like me.  They could get waves of support and dedication -- as could the Human Rights Campaign and other pseudo-party branch organizations in the gay community -- from a lot of now-very-disaffected gay people if they really did show the level of commitment and support and guts that they blather on about promising to have.   But time after time, like in this case, they show themselves to be narrow-minded, petty, arrogant jerks who will throw you under the bus at the first sign of problems (or dissent) and then expect you to stand up and support them still, or else.  (And no, guys, simply comparing them to the other party isn't an answer.)  The Democratic Party's passive-aggressive relationship with many constituencies isn't a new story, but it seems to be one which teaches its leaders no lessons at all episode after episode, chapter after chapter.

    The Republican Party under Karl Rove became just as poisoned a well, and has the chance to cast off its detritus from that stewardship in this election.  If it doesn't, it will be defeated.  But if any gay Democrat thinks that brushing Donald and Paul under the rug is somehow going to be good for gay rights has no right to call anyone else an Uncle Tom from inside their glass houses.  Gays who would abet the DNC in illegally firing a gay person and then call on all gays to support their party at any cost are, I would argue, far more self-loathing than any gay Republican.

    Here's hoping this suit is settled and Donald is given the respect he deserves.  That would be a victory for gay Democrats, and a step forward for their party.  But if it goes to trial simply out of blind arrogance, they will live to regret it for years to come.

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    May 08, 2008

    Don't cry for her, Democratic Party

    Posted by: Kevin

    Clintonx_2The festering Clinton boil is finally being lanced within the Democratic Party, at least for this election cycle.  It's a tremendous bit of luck not only for the party -- despite its idiotic blindness to this fact.  It's a relief for the country, given the brand of politics that this couple would practice if it regained control of both the party and Washington.

    I haven't written much since Hillary Clinton entered the fatal win-at-all-costs phase of her doomed presidential campaign a couple months ago, frankly because there wasn't much more to say.  The ship would inevitably sink, it was just a matter of whether enough of the remaining idiots in her camp would get into the lifeboats and save themselves in time from the wake of her titanic disaster.

    A lot of tripe is thrown around about gay Republicans in the gay media, and has been for over a decade.  But not enough has been written about the toxic impact that Clintonism has wrought on the gay community and its political leadership.  The cravenness of it, the poisonous combination of raising hopes with glistening promises, and dashing them at the first sign of political risk -- all the while shifting the blame to others -- has done more to destroy what was once a potentially powerful movement than anything a small band of hapless, closeted gay Republicans on Capitol Hill (now "cleansed" for the most part) could ever have done.

    And if the rich content of her presidential campaign was any indication, Hillary Clinton would have been even worse for us as president than her husband.  Unlike him, she didn't have the touch when it came to using the charming lie on gay rights.  She speaks in half-tones, half-measures and platitudes with little heart in it, and made it fairly clear by the way her campaign did gay outreach that it was all about hack-o-rama appointments and personal ambition within the gay political community.  Basically -- get on board, or be cut out.  Very Karl Rove, and very lethal for those who sign up for it.  I can attest to that personally, as can nearly every Republican of every stripe in politics right now.

    Indeed, her brand of politics seems to have divided the gay Democratic camp into two clear factions -- those who envy the Republicans so much that they want to emulate them (all the while bashing and personally destroying gay Republicans, interestingly enough, to cover their own shame), and those who are fed up with calculation and ruthlessness in politics that they are willing to try almost anything that is new and different.  (A third, unregistered group simply has walked away and taken up new interests in frustration.)

    From my vantage point here in South America, it is amazing how parallel the Clintons are to the political couple that is running Argentina at the moment -- Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.  He was president last, and now she's president, while he is about to take the chairmanship of the main Peronist party.  They, too, rail at big business, count on labor unions and blue-collar workers as their base, and spin all sorts of webs to scapegoat, capture and destroy all political opponents, from inside their movement or outside it.  They, too, deflect any and all blame for their policies that do harm, and refuse to even acknowledge reality at most junctures.  (Sound familiar?)  They came from a backwater province in the south of the country, which Néstor ran as governor, and Cristina launched her own presidential campaign last year from a Senate perch she'd recently captured outside Buenos Aires city.  But Argentina is sinking into, perhaps, its worst social, economic and political crisis since the nervous breakdown it suffered in 2001 -- completely at the hands of this self-obsessed, knuckle-breaking political machine government that the Kirchners are running.  And Cristina, pig-headed to the end (The Economist says she lives "in the land of make-believe") is mobilizing unions to beat down protesters in the name of fighting big business.  The galloping 25% inflation rate is something she blames on "greedy rich corporate owners" who won't voluntarily lower prices, raise wages, and pay for it all out of their profits.  (It has nothing to do with her, of course, nor market economics.)   She answers the new crisis with gimmicks (hello, gas tax holiday?) and populist rhetoric, not because she's incompetent.  It's because the entire raison d'etre of Peronism - like it's North American cousin in Clintonism - is to win at all costs.  To say anything, do anything, blame anyone, and never surrender to win out in the end, at the expense of anyone outside the walls of their marital union.  Over the last half-century, it has destroyed a once powerful country, probably for good.

    Ask any gay Hillary supporter to say, in plain words, exactly why Hillary would be best for the country.  You will never -- I repeat, never -- get anything in response but platitudes mixed with venomous stabs at either Obama or the GOP or both.  ¡Que peronista!  And all her most prominent gay defenders are lifetime gay Democratic hacks simply hoping for a job.  Period.  They defend the Clintons in the face of the Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and stand ready to defend them again to the teeth -- and the do-nothing Democratic Congress, and the "fight-on-the-ice" DNC -- should four or eight years pass without any movement on either under their watch.  ("It wasn't the {lying, hypocritical} president's fault! It was [insert blame here]!") They are the worst detritus of the Bill Clinton era of gay Washington, and would bring a sense of blind loyalty to power more dangerous and insidious than the paradoxical, circus-freak brand that has been trotted out in hit pieces on gay Republicans who still love George W. Bush.  Because it would have the air of respectability, and could not dare be questioned without reprisal.

    So breathe easy, gay Democrats.  Hillary is finally being shoved out the door by the length and breadth of the selfishness she represents.  Whether it's soon, or after the inevitable rejection of her 900th attempt at game-changing party rules on May 31st (nuevamente peronista), it's been in the cards since February. 

    Whether you realize it or not, it's good for you.  Embrace it.  And get back to work in making your party something other than a gigantic waste of money, hope and effort.

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    April 26, 2008

    DNC's 'talk to the hand' outreach

    Posted by: Chris

    20070419_leah1low Just when you think the staff of the Democratic National Committee can't bungle its gay community relationships any more royally, they manage to find a way.

    Take Leah Daughtry, chief of staff to party leader Howard Dean, who has garnered a reputation for inciting rivalry between African American and gay constituencies within the party. She tried to help unseat the first-ever duly elected lesbian to the Alabama state legislature, in favor of a black candidate. Later, she (and closet case Donna Brazile) pitched a fit when gay Democrats proposed that gays be included in the same quota system for selecting state convention delegates as other minority groups.

    Her conduct was so outrageous that the normally staid Stonewall Democrats reached boiling point:

    “Imagine what [DNC Chair Howard] Dean could do if people like Leah were confronted for their bigotry and fired,” wrote the Stonewall Democrats official [later revealed to be director John Marble]. Referring to Daughtry, the official says, “I think Samuel L. Jackson said it best when he said ‘I’m sick of these mother fuckin’ snakes on this mother fuckin’ plane.’ It may be time to drive the snakes from the DNC.”

    Daughtry has arrogantly refused all interview requests with the gay press and yet took the extreme step of sending lawyers to the Washington Blade offices in an outrageous attempt to intimidate the paper's coverage. Even the usually quiet organization the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association reacted to the incident by speaking out in favor of the watchdog role of the gay press.

    In an attempt at damage control, Daughtry agreed to speak at the Baltimore convention of the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT group. But rather than take advantage of the opportunity to respond to the many criticisms aimed at her and the DNC in recent months, she instead chose to pitch a shopworn general interest party speech virtually devoid of gay-specific content.

    That's right, with her reputation in tatters among many gay Democrats, Daughtry tried to convince a group of gay African Americans they should support the Democratic Party. You'd have to travel to Lynchburg, Va., and visit Jerry Falwell's church to find a better example of preaching to the choir. (Daughtry is, in fact, a Pentecostal minister, though hypersensitive to coverage of the fact that she and her flock sometimes "speak in tongues.")

    Whatever tongue she was using in Baltimore, it wasn't too convincing. Having helped sandbag the proposal to add gays to the quota system used to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention, Daughtry spoke of the need "to make sure … that people from various communities, and particularly the GLBT community, would have a seat at the table." Particularly? They why exclude gays in particular from the quotas used for other minorities?

    (I'm no fan of the entire idea of delegate quotas based on gender or other minority status; it reeks of special interest balkanization. But to hear Daughtry talk from both sides of her mouth on the issue is another matter.)

    To make matters worse, the good Reverend Daughtry used a forked tongue with a Blade reporter at the Baltimore event, promising before her speech to answer questions afterward but then subsequently using her gay muscle -- DNC gay liaison Brian Bond -- to refuse an interview later:

    Bond told the reporter that Daughtry would not answer questions because the DNC’s communications department had not received a formal interview request.

    This is the arrogance toward gays that infects the core of the Democratic National Committee. In my decade in the gay press, I'm aware of no other organization -- political, business or social -- whose leaders would refuse to answer a few questions because no formal request had been made in advance. Daughtry is also classic passive-aggressive: refusing for months to talk and yet moaning about unfair coverage -- even to the point of abusing reporters and editors with her hired hench-lawyers.

    Brian Bond comes from a gay rights background, having headed up the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, and knows better than the games the DNC plays. The real problem is higher up, with Daughtry and Dean himself, who treat gays as if we are a captive special interest with nowhere else to go -- or even complain.

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    April 02, 2008

    Deeply disappointing Donna

    Posted by: Chris

    Brazile The deposition given last month by Democratic Party chair Howard Dean shed some ugly light on longtime operative Donna Brazile, who headed up Al Gore's 2000 election and is a regular political analyst on CNN.

    Dean admitted it was Brazile who objected most strenuously to a proposal put forward by gay Democrats to add GLBT delegates to affirmative action guidelines states follow when selecting those who attend the party's national convention:

    Dean said some “influential individuals” within the DNC Black Caucus, such as Donna Brazile, opposed the plan because it was seen as “an affront to the civil rights movement.”

    Brazile, who chairs the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, declined to comment for this article.

    Dean said the dispute grew to the point where “we had two very important groups of people in the DNC disagreeing with each other” and several DNC and caucus officials were asked to broker a deal that would make peace on the issue.

    “I wanted equal representation for gay and lesbian Americans,” he said, “and I wanted to achieve it in a way that wasn’t offensive to the history of the civil rights movement.”

    On the one hand, the DNC's infatuation with quotas -- even the committee itself adheres to rigid gender parity -- hardly needs encouraging with the addition of another category, whether or not GLBT folks are deserving. On the other hand, the dismissive slap-down from Brazile reeks of competing to see who's been more seriously oppressed, a pointless contest that only serves to divide groups that ought to be combining their efforts.

    We've seen this before, of course. One particularly galling example was when the National Association of Black Journalists vetoed the inclusion of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association in an umbrella group of minority journalists called -- ironically enough -- UNITY. Groups representing Hispanic, Native American and Asian American journalists OK'd NLGJA's participation but NABJ balked, and even pressed UNITY to change its name to UNITY: Journalists of Color.

    It's bad enough that Brazile would stoop to something similarly petty, especially claiming "offense" to the idea of greater gay inclusion. But perhaps it's more understandable when we remember that Brazile herself is a closet case.* That's right.

    After she was named Gore's campaign manager in October 1999, I assigned a reporter at Southern Voice to look into why the press releases omitted all mention of her role on the steering committee of the Millennium March on Washington, the massive GLBT rights event that listed "coming out" as the No. 1 item on its agenda.

    When Brazile and the campaign ignored repeated inquiries, our intrepid reporter showed up at an Atlanta fund-raiser, where she was again rebuffed. Undaunted, she walked up to the microphone and asked Brazile why she had so studiously avoided acknowledging her own sexual orientation when the MMOW platform celebrated the importance of being open about such things. Brazile said she was, you got it, "offended" by the question.

    A week or so later, when the Washington Post asked her the same question, Brazile was ready with a much better quip in response: "If I had a personal life, I'd have time for a sexual orientation." Clever, but still closeted.

    It's not much of a stretch to see why a closet case like Brazile would find little sympathy in the importance of sending as many openly gay delegates as possible to the Democratic National Convention. But shame on Howard Dean (again!) for allowing her messed up personal situation to create a black-gay wedge within the party.

    * = In anticipation of the inevitably comments I'll get, calling Brazile a "closet case" doesn't mean she's a lesbian, anymore than calling Ken Mehlman the same thing is saying he's gay.  A closet case is someone who is hiding their true sexual orientation, whether or not they put on a public front of being straight or gay. So a closet case could be a gay person pretending to be straight, or a person of unknown sexual orientation who refuses to answer the question. Brazile and Melhman are the latter.

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    Filed in: DNC , Race

    March 28, 2008

    What's it all about, Howie?

    Posted by: Chris

    Howard_dean_2 This was my weekly column, written on Tuesday, before his quote about the insanity of gay Republicans and before another bit of breaking news I note in a postscript at the end.

    The column was a bit of a love letter to Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean:

    Dear Howard,

    It’s us, the gay community. We need to talk. You know what about -- our relationship.

    It’s no secret we’ve been drifting apart, all that romance and excitement from the halcyon days of 2004 seems like a lifetime ago now. These days, all we do is argue, and our dirty laundry is daily fodder for the gossiphounds on the blogosphere.

    The name-calling. The nastiness. The pettiness. This isn’t us.

    We should be thick as thieves. Eight years of George W. Bush is enough to make all but the button-down Log Cabin boys swoon at the prospect of one of yours in the White House. I mean just look at our choices.

    The GOP is nominating a septuagenarian whose idea of a May-December romance is a gay rights record even worse than George Bush in 2000: no workplace protections, no hate crime law, no gays serving openly in the military -- even the most limited domestic partnerships are a non-starter with John McCain.

    Your side, on the other hand, is down to two courtesans who know exactly what to say. Hillary had us practically at hello –at least since she said she wasn’t staying home serving milk and cookies. She’s already won over most of our prominent politicos, including 13 of the 21 out LGBT superdelegates. (We won’t count Donna Brazile, nudge nudge wink wink.) Despite Barack Obama’s own charm offensive, he has only 2.

    But the handsome senator from Illinois knows how to push our buttons, too. He woos us with promises to repeal all of the Defense of Marriage Act, which reminds us of the presidential playa who signed it into law in the first place. Hillary feels our pain on that, no doubt.

    When you see Clinton and Obama courting us, do you remember the 2004 party primaries? It was all about you, Howard -- a little-known governor from Vermont who courageously supported the nation’s first civil unions law. No matter the audience, you talked about gay rights before gay rights were cool. We swooned in response, and our dollars played a major role in putting you on the map. Later, we cheered when you parlayed your primary success into a bid to chair the Democratic National Committee.

    So where did it all go wrong, Howard? It was that meddling “M word,” wasn’t it? Our expectations for this relationship went sky high after we could get married in Massachusetts. We thought you’d be happy for us but instead, like most pols, you just weren’t ready to go there. We were moving too fast for you, and it put you on the defensive. Sorry about that.

    Then you went on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” and said your party platform backed “one man-one woman marriage.” Ouch! We felt doubly betrayed; you were philandering with our sworn enemies and acting like you weren’t already spoken for. Looking back, we were too sensitive. It was smart politics for you to reach out to the religious right. So many of them these days are not their grandfather’s evangelicals.

    But the Democratic Party platform is actually neutral on gay marriage, and it wasn’t the only time you got that wrong in public. Our suspicions grew. Where was the Howard we fell for? Maybe you were just like Bill Clinton and the rest – wham bam, thanks for the cash, man.

    Then came the squabbling. Some of your most loyal party gays swore you’d lost that lovin’ feeling. You nixed the “gay outreach desk,” left us out of the party’s annual grassroots report, and you wouldn’t go along with treating us like other minority groups in delegate selection. You said you had your reasons, you said you did it for us, to make our bond stronger. We said, “Talk to the hand.”

    What did you expect? You sacked Donald Hitchcock, your top gay liaison, and said it was strictly based on performance. But now he’s sued you alleging anti-gay bias. We don’t know who to believe, considering he got the axe just a week after his partner, longtime Dem Paul Yandura, publicly blasted you for not doing more to fight state marriage amendments. There’s that “M-word” again.

    You know what happened next. Everything got personal. You called the Washington Blade “the Fox News of the gay media.” The Stonewall Dems got so riled at your chief of staff they said it was high time to “get these mother fuckin’ snakes off this mother fuckin’ plane.” A senior DNC staffer said she used gay newspapers to line her birdcage.

    It’s crazy, isn’t it, how nasty it’s gotten, when we were so important to each other early on. Is it too late for us? Have we gone from Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” to “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”? Actually no – that’s the “M word” again, sneaking up from behind. Still, civil union “D-I-S-S-O-L-U-T-I-O-N” just doesn’t have the same ring.

    So what do you say, Howard? Can we give us one more try? Meet us halfway? You don’t have to bring us flowers – just get a gay rights bill or two through the Democratic-controlled Congress.


    As a postscript, it's interesting to see this from today's Washington Blade report on Dean's deposition in the Donald Hitchcock suit:

    Dean noted that he personally supports same-sex marriage, a position brought about by “getting to know gay people” during and after his 2004 presidential campaign.

    “I learned more,” he said. “I learned a lot about the gay community. And I became much more comfortable with the gay community as I got to know more about them.”

    That's a big change from his previous position, which was to derisively dismiss the notion that civil unions and marriage weren't equal. It also confirms what I wrote earlier today -- this is a man who believes in our equality, and that's an important first step toward making it a reality.

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    To the right lies insanity?

    Posted by: Chris

    Howard_dean Ever wondered why gay rights legislation is typically an agenda afterthought for congressional Democrats, why we seem to be the first minority group to be "thrown under the bus," as Melissa Etheridge put it? Ever suspected the Democratic National Committee and other fund-raising arms of the party love us more for our wallets and purses than they do for our civil rights struggle?

    My suspicion has always been that Democratic Party leadership genuinely believes in our equality -- probably even including gay marriage -- but in the end will spend minimal political capital on us because they know the GOP is so much worse on our issues. That's no slam on Democrats per se; the GOP has been treating conservative Christians like that since the Reagan years, even with their much bigger numbers.

    Every once in a while a leading Dem will say something that confirms my suspicion that we are taken for granted. Consider what DNC chair Howard Dean said yesterday at a speech in Madison, Wis.:

    Dean said that the Republican Party has scapegoated every ethnic group and therefore can’t create a multicultural identity and reach younger voters.

    “They can’t become more diverse,” Dean said. “Who in their right mind, if they were African American or Hispanic or Asian American, if they were gay or lesbian, would join the Republican Party?”

    That's a common belief among not just party leaders like Dean, but many gay Democrats as well. Unfortunately, that assumption has real political consequences, primarily undermining whatever influence GLBT issues might be given within the party. Why take political risks on hot-button issues for a group that has nowhere to go?

    Therein lies the primary criticism I've made against the Human Rights Campaign over the years because the gay Dems who run it work to reinforce the assumption that our movement is destined to be just another special interest captive within the Democratic Party. HRC's Joe Solmonese has actually said that's his goal.

    Part of fixing that means pushing the Democratic Party to do better. The other part is improving the Republicans on gay issues, so Dean's arrogant assumption is challenged. Enter the Log Cabin Republicans, who issued a statement understandably taking umbrage at having their sanity questioned, especially in such drive-by fashion -- as if the question wasn't one for serious debate.

    Nonetheless, it was faschinating to read the reaction from LCR director Patrick Sammon, who sounds like he's spent a lot of time this election year listening to Barack Obama:

    “It’s unfortunate that the chairman of the Democratic Party would rather divide people than engage in a thoughtful debate about policy ideas or a vision for our country’s future.  Americans deserve to know whether the two Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, agree with these remarks,” said Sammon. “The chairman of the DNC should focus on what unites Americans instead of dividing us by race or sexual orientation.”

    Si se puede, Patrick! If only Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, the closeted previous chair of the  Republican National Committee, thought more like you.

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    March 23, 2008

    Maybe this explains…

    Posted by: Chris

    …why the DNC hasn't settled the gay bias lawsuit filed by Donald Hitchock, fired from his job as gay outreach staffer:

    Democrats have a dramatic financial advantage in nearly every part of the political spectrum except at the national parties, where the Republican National Committee has cash to crow about.

    Forms filed with the Federal Election Commission overnight show the Democratic National Committee started March with just under $5 million in cash on hand, while the RNC had just over $25 million to spend. …

    Karen Finney, the DNC’s communications director, said the accounting entry tells only part of the story.

    “Given that many are saying the DNC is broke, I'm wondering what the standard is,” she said in an e-mail to reporters. “We raised $6M, have no debt and have $4.7M cash on hand. McCain has $3.7M cash on hand when you take his debt into account. ... Is McCain broke, too? Happy Friday.”

    Or maybe the unmerited cockiness of Karen Finney is symptomatic of the arrogance and score-settling that takes top priority at Howard Dean's Democratic National Committee.

    (Via Poltico.com)

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    Filed in: DNC

    March 21, 2008

    NLGJA stands by Blade against DNC

    Posted by: Chris

    Nlgja_logo It's very gratifying to see today that the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association is speaking out publicly in defense of the watchdog role of the LGBT press, even when covering political "friends" of the gay rights movemement like Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee.

    I concluded my post last week about the DNC's contempt for the gay press with this:

    The Democratic Party has enjoyed a major resurgence the last several years, attributable almost entirely to the utter disaster of the Bush presidency and the inspirational (until recently) presidential primary. Dean will no doubt ride that wave as long as he can, but it is long past time for gays and gay groups to speak out against the contempt and disrespect with which Democratic Party officials treat the gay press.

    Where is the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association when the gay press needs it?

    Afterward, I contacted Eric Hegedus, the group's president, to see where NLGJA stood, and to my very pleasant surprise he told me last weekend that the group would come forward with a strong statement in support of the LGBT media and press freedom. That statement is published in today's Washington Blade, in the form of an op-ed that encourages the gay press to "keep up the good fight" in watchdogging the DNC, party chair Howard Dean and his controversial staff chief Rev. Leah Daughtry:

    In the end, the LGBT media deserve as much respect and attention as mainstream media, and I have just one message to [editor Kevin] Naff and the Blade, as well as other journalists working in LGBT press: Keep up the good fight. Continue to do your job, follow your ethics, question political motives and open the public's eyes and ears regarding how governmental process works.

    There’s a reason journalists subscribe to the tenet of a “free press,” whether in mainstream or niche media. It's our job to cover politics, bureaucracy and governmental leaders, not to mention our communities, and we have no room for apprehension and scare tactics in our pursuit of the truth.

    This isn't a matter of journalists working in the gay press simply circling the wagons. NLGJA consists almost entirely of gay journalists working in the mainstream media -- including all of the top newspapers, TV networks and new media -- and the org traditionally shies away from anything that resembles "activism." In fact, this is the first time in my decade of affiliation that I remember NLGJA ever speaking out for the LGBT press; it's important and very welcome.

    Hegedus is careful not to take sides on the particular factual dispute here -- whether Daughtry sent lawyers to the Blade offices in an attempt to intimidate the paper from covering her and the DNC -- but NLGJA is offering a crucial defense of the independence of the LGBT media against attempts to disrespect and intimidate. He acknowledges that LGBT press is criticial because it can cover gay issues in a way that the mainstream press effectively cannot. (Although it was nice to see that the Washington Post awoke yesterday from its gay slumber long enough to cover Dean and the bias lawsuit brought by Donald Hitchcock.)

    If only the gay men and lesbians with influence within the DNC apparatus could see beyond their partisanship long enough to join the NLJGA and stand up against the contempt shown by the party for the LGBT press -- and the movement and LGBT constituency itself.

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    Filed in: D.C. , DNC , Media

    March 16, 2008

    The Blade and Howard Dean

    Posted by: Chris

    Howarddeandnc With all the sniping and strong-arm tactics being employed against the Washington Blade and the gay press generally by Howard Dean, his chief of staff Leah Doughtry and the Democratic National Committee, it's worth taking a look at the coverage that was allegedly so one-sided that it reduced these political professionals into crude intimidation and immature name-calling like this:

    "I use the Blade and the other gay papers in the bottom of the birdcage." (Julie Tagen, DNC Deputy Fianance Director, March 2007)

    "The Blade is the New York Post of the gay and lesbian press corps." (Dean, Sept. 2006)

    "The Blade is the Fox News of gay journalism." (Dean, March 2008)

    The Blade coverage at issue includes about 20 articles over three years -- that's less than 1 out of 8 newspapers over the time period. There's a lot there, but this summary offers a good sense of the underlying controversies, as well as whether the Blade's coverage was inaccurate, unfair or one-sided, as alleged:

    • Dean woos gay Democrats (Feb. 18, 2005): Howard Dean is quoted the day before he was elected DNC chair promising gay Democrats to expand the party's gay outreach efforts and slamming Republicans for pushing state ballot measures banning gay marriage. Both issues will emerge later in controversies surrounding Dean's DNC leadership. The article quotes Jeff Soref, chair of the DNC’s Gay & Lesbian Americans Caucus, defending a separate interview Dean gave the same day to the Associated Press, in which he identifies the party as opposed to gay marriage, although the 2004 platform is neutral on the issue, supporting "full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits and protections for these families."

    • Dems abolish gay outreach post (Feb. 3, 2006): One year later, the Blade reports that Soref has publicly quit his post in protest over Dean's September 2005 decision to abolish the party's constituent outreach desks, including the post of director of lesbian and gay outreach. The story notes that Dean had pledged in his campaign to become party chair to retain the gay outreach post in a questionnaire from Soref's DNC gay caucus. The DNC defends the decision by pointing to the hiring of Donald Hitchcock as director of the DNC’s Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council, which Soref complains is essentially a fund-raising position.

      Note: DNC staffers later complain the headline doesn't explain Dean abolished all DNC outreach posts, including the one for gays, though that is made clear in the lead paragraph of the article. No allegations of factual error are made subsequent to publication.

      • Democrats still committed to equality for gays by Howard Dean (Feb. 10, 2006): In a letter to the editor, Dean responds to the Feb. 3 article by denying he abolished the LGBT outreach post, arguing that the DNC's new structure -- which replaced all the outreach posts with "American Majority Partnership" under the supervision of his office, includes gay issues in its scope.

        Note: The Blade stood by the Feb. 3 article as reported. Dean did in fact abolish all the "political desks" as part of his restructuring, which the story reported in full context and with the DNC's explanation of it, as well as criticism from Soref.

    • Dean seek to reassure gay Democrats (Feb. 24, 2006): The focus was on a Feb. 15 statement by Dean defending his decision to replace the outreach desks with a new structure, along with a Feb. 13 appearance by Dean at a meeting of gay Democrats in New York City. Critics are also quoted on the outreach desk decision, as well as on the release of the DNC's annual grassroots report, the first under Dean, which makes no mention of gay issues unlike in the past.

      Note: The article includes balanced quotes from Dean's statement, DNC staffers, Stonewall Democrats and gay DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias. No allegations of factual error are made subsequent to publication.

    • Activists confront Dem senators (March 17, 2006): Gay activists meet with eight Democratic senators, including Hillary Clinton and Majority Leader Harry Reid, to complain that Democrats haven't tried to defend gays on marriage and other issues, as well as Dean's decision to eliminate the outreach posts.

      Note: The article quotes activists who attended the meeting recalling the statements they made in the meeting, along with Reid's spokesperson.

    • Prominent Dem slams party on gay rights (April 27, 2006): Paul Yandura, a prominent gay former staffer in Clinton White House who also worked on the Clinton and Gore presidential campaigns, releases a public letter slamming Dean's strategic decisions on gay issues, including what Yandura claims was a failure to counter anti-gay marriage ballot measures in the 2004 and 2005 elections. Yandura, who is Hitchcock's domestic partner, urges gay donors to stop giving to the DNC.

      Note: The article was precipitated by Yandura's letter, not a Blade "attack," and quotes liberally from the DNC in response to Yandura's criticism. Blade publishes correction on one minor point: The DCCC, not the DSCC, omitted sexual orientation from its non-bias statement.

    • Dean fires Dems' gay outreach chief (May 3, 2006): Dean fires Hitchcock one week after the Blade's article on Yandura's open letter to donors. The article quotes Yandura claiming the firing was in direct retaliation for his public criticism of Dean, along with DNC staffers denying a connection. The story also reports Hitchcock's replacement will be longtime gay Dem Brian Bond.

      Note: The article also quotes Tobias, the gay DNC Treasurer, defending the decision. No allegations of factual error are made subsequent to publication.

    • Dean slams gay marriage on '700 Club' (May 10, 2006): Dean reaches out to evangelical voters by appearing on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" and misstates the party's 2004 platform as affirming marriage is between a man and a woman. In fact, the platform was neutral, supporting "full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families." The story includes Dean's subsequent clarification.

      Note: Dean's decision to go on the "700 Club" was itself newsworthy, along with how he misstated the platform on gay marriage. The DNC responded internally by telling leading gay donors that Dean's interview was with the ABC Family Network and was broadcast by Robertson. In fact, it was an "exclusive" with Robertson's CBN News for "The 700 Club," as video of the interview makes plain.

    • Party seeks to reassure angry gay Democrats (May 19, 2006): Story extensively quotes Tobias and DNC spokespersons defending Dean's decision to be interviewed for "The 700 Club," as well as several gay critics, including National Gay & Lesbian Task Force director Matt Foreman.

    • DNC rejects affirmative action status for gays (Aug. 18, 2006): Reports on decision by top DNC officials to reject a proposal by the party's Gay & Lesbian Americans Caucus to add gays to the affirmative action "goals" used to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Instead, Dean was cited endorsing the addition of gays and persons with disabilities to "inclusion programs"  that acknowledge both groups have been underrepresented on delegate slates. The article quotes a number of leading gay Dems praising the result, as well as Hitchcock criticizing it.

      • Dean dismisses Blade as 'New York Post of gay press' - IN LA magazine (September 2006): In a wide-ranging interview with Karen Ocamb of IN LA about the DNC's delegate selection controversy and the Hitchcock lawsuit, Dean says, "First of all, we consider the Washington Blade to be the New York Post of the gay and lesbian press corps. They’re not credible and they have somebody who has an agenda which is certainly not favorable to the Democratic Party so we simply don’t give them any credence."

    It was at this point (coincidentally!) that I left as editor of the Blade, succeeded by Kevin Naff, who had worked with me as the paper's managing editor for several years.

    • DNC gay caucus to push for more delegates in '08 (Feb. 2, 2007):  Previews Dean's speech to the DNC's Gay & Lesbian Americans Caucus, noting in the second paragraph that exit polls showed 80 percent of gay voters backed Democrats in the 2006 congressional races. The article also reports that the Caucus will press state Dem parties to set voluntary "goals" for openly LGBT delegates to the party's national convention.

      Note: Almost all sources in the article are in support of Dean and the DNC.

    • Democrats pledge to push gay bills (Feb. 9, 2007): Reporting on the DNC's annual winter meeting Feb. 2, and the party's pledge to introduce a gay and trans-inclusive ENDA and hate crime bills in 2007. The article quotes Dean's speech before the party's Gay & Lesbian Americans Caucus thanking gay supporters for their help in the 2006 elections. The second half of the story quotes Hitchcock criticizing Dean for saying there is no exit polling on gay voters, as well as Log Cabin responding to a swipe from Dean in his remarks. Gay Dems are then quoted defending Dean from those criticisms.

      Note: The full text of Dean's speech on LGBT issues was included as a sidebar to the article.

    • Former gay outreach adviser sues DNC (June 8, 2007): Reporting Hitchcock's suit against Dean, the DNC and Tagen, alleging he was fired because of statements made by Yandura, his domestic partner, which represented a form of anti-gay discrimination since public criticism by heterosexual partners and spouses are tolerated by the party. The article quotes the DNC's counsel and the answer filed by the DNC and Dean to respond to the allegations in the lawsuit, as well as Tobias, who defends Dean and the DNC.

    • Dean asks gays to 'vote Democrat' (Aug. 31, 2007): In an interview with the Blade, Dean cites '07 state legislative gay rights victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and Oregon to make the case for gays to support Democratic candidates in the 2008 elections. He also pushes the DNC's compromise position on gay delegate selection to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

      Note: The story quotes Dean at length, along with Log Cabin's director in response, as well as gay Dem activists largely backing Dean on the delegate selection compromise.

    • Mediation ordered in gay man's lawsuit against DNC (Oct. 12, 2007):  A brief article notes the court ordered the parties in the Hitchock litigation into mediation and reprises allegations and denials to date.

    • DNC disparages gay press (Jan 10, 2008): Recounting internal DNC email exchanges that complain about coverage in the gay press and suggest "punishing" the Blade by giving exclusives to the Advocate. Julie Tagen, DNC Deputy Finance Director, says in one email, "I tend to use the [B]lade and the other gay papers in the bottom of the birdcage."

    • DNC lawsuit ensares lesbian activist (Jan. 17, 2008): Quoting legal documents, reports accusation by Hitchcock's legal team that lesbian DNC volunteer Claire Lucas was evading testifying in the lawsuit by claiming she isn't a D.C. resident -- even though she claims a homestead tax deduction for a residence she owns in the District. Lucas' lawyer is quoted defending her, and the article quotes from internal DNC documents from the litigation that show Lucas coordinating criticism of Hitchcock for a letter he wrote published in the Blade in February 2007.

    • DNC lawsuit reveals black vs. gay rivalry (Jan. 25, 2008): Internal DNC emails leaked from the Hitchcock litigation reveal criticism by Stonewall Dems alleging that Leah Daughtry, Dean's chief of staff, incited a wedge between gays and blacks within the party over adding gays to the party's delegate selection affirmative action guidelines, as well as a Alabama state House election disputed between a lesbian candidate and an African American.

      Note: The story quotes at length DNC sources defending Dean and Daughry, alongside the criticisms in the emails.

      • Painting an unfair picture of the DNC by Rick Stafford (Feb. 1, 2008): A very strongly worded opinion column by the chair of the DNC's LGBT caucus says that the Jan. 25 Blade article was "unfair" and "shameful." Stafford doesn't allege any factual accuracies, but instead argues that additional background would have put the delegate selection Alabama election disputes in a different context -- he also lays out those additional facts in detail.

    • DNC seeks to halt leaks stemming from lawsuit (Feb. 8, 2008): DNC legal filings seek a court order blocking Hitchcock's team from leaking internal DNC documents that are "embarrassing, oppressing and damaging" to the DNC and Daughtry. The article reprises the allegations in the Hitchcock lawsuit and the DNC's response. A sidebar to the story reports that other internal DNC docs obtained from the Hitchcock litigation showed party staffers concerned in March 2007 that Dean should not personally issue a statement criticizing Peter Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, for saying the ban on military service by out gays was justified because homosexual acts are "immoral."

      • Dems' love for us is on the down low by Kevin Naff (Feb. 8, 2008): An editorial that criticizes hand-wringing within the DNC back in March 2007 about whether to have Dean personally criticize Pace.  Naff slams Daughtry, an ordained minister, for worrying about fallout if Dean did so, imagining she was worried her "fellow Pentecostal worshippers who also speak in tongues might be offended that the Democratic Party stood up for those sinful gays who are going to hell." Tough stuff but hardly libelous. He also called her to the carpet for trying to undermine gay influence within the party on the delegate selection controversy.

      • Do the wrong thing by Kevin Naff (March 15, 2008): An editorial relates how two lawyers representing Daughtry called for a meeting with Naff and Blade Publisher Lynne Brown to complain about the Feb. 8 editorial. Naff claims the lawyers screamed and cursed and later DNC staffers bragged they had succeeded in intimidate the paper from coveraging the Hitchcock suit.

      • In an interview with Page One Q, one of the Daughtry lawyers denied screaming, cursing or intimidating Naff and the Blade.
    • Gay official seeks end to DNC lawsuit (Feb. 15, 2008): Report focuses on an open letter by Tobias asking Hitchcock to agree to settle his lawsuit against the DNC in exchange for a mutual public agreement of "misunderstandings." The article quotes Hitchcock's attorney declining the offer because it does not include a financial settlement; otherwise the article focuses entirely on Tobias' claims in his letter.

    Evaluating this coverage, there are some important points to keep in mind:

    1. Not one of these articles is "enterprise reporting"; meaning that in each and every case, the story was the result of prominent gay Democrats -- not the Blade -- raising issues about the decisions that Dean and the DNC had made or planned to make. Those public complaints are newsworthy, and it's not the job of the Blade or any newspaper editor to decide whether the Dean's explanations satisfy the criticism. That's up to the reader.
    2. In each and every story, the DNC and its supporters were offered and took full advantage of equal space within the story to make their case to readers. And although this review is largely limited to news articles, Kevin and I both always made sure to publish letters, columns, Sound Offs etc from the DNC and its supporters.
    3. Coverage of ongoing disputes like these walks a fine line between doing enough stories to cover the issues in detail and doing too many so that it appears the paper has some sort of "crusade." Week to week, editorial decisions were based on newsworthy developments that week. Over the last three years, the DNC has alternatively complained that the whole story wasn't being told and that too much attention was being paid to the story.
    4. Readers and story subjects are obviously entitled to their views about the quality of the journalism in the Blade's coverage. But the immature name-calling and strong-arm tacitics of the DNC, Dean, Daughtry et al go beyond the pale and would be inconceivable if directed toward other niche journalists, in the Latino, African American, feminist, labor press etc.

    It's important that gays generally, but especially gay Democrats and those influential within the party's appartus -- Andy Tobias, are you listening? -- speak out for respectful treatment of the independent gay press. They do themselves, their party and the gay rights movement no favors by standing by while Dean and top DNC officials treat our community press with such contempt.

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    Filed in: DNC , Media

    March 15, 2008

    Giving up on Howard Dean?

    Posted by: Chris

    In this videotaped deposition posted today on Queerty from the Donald Hitchcock lawsuit against the DNC, Howard Dean doesn't remember much about the promises he made to LGBT Democrats in his campaign to become chair of the Democratic National Committee -- including whether he promised to preserve the "outreach desk" for LGBT issues:

    As you can see in the video, Dean also can't remember whether he read a Feb. 3, 2006, article in the Washington Blade about criticism from some gay Democrats about his decision to abolish the outreach desk on LGBT issues -- along with the party's other constituency desks -- as part of a restructuring effort.

    "I don't think I'd given up on the Blade at this point," Dean chuckles when asked if he read the article when it was published. "I just don't recall reading this at all," he said later. Pressed on a portion of the article that references a questionnaire candidate Dean submitted to the DNC's LGBT Caucus promising to keep the outreach desk, Dean said, "Much of what's been in the Blade is incorrect."

    Well, not this time, Chairman Dean, considering you wrote a letter to the Blade in direct response to the Feb. 3 article that I published in the Feb. 10 issue of the newspaper. In the letter, you defended your decision to abolish the DNC's "political desks," including the LGBT outreach, but made no mention that the article was inaccurate in reporting that you promised in writing when running for DNC chair to preserve the position.

    So should we "give up" on Howard Dean, now that he's been proven doubly inaccurate?

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    Filed in: DNC

    March 14, 2008

    The DNC's gay press contempt

    Posted by: Chris

    Howarddean Just when you think the Democratic National Committee couldn't possibly mishandle gay relations any worse, they somehow manage. The latest attempt to intimidate gay critics into silence would be shocking if it were not so depressingly true to form.

    Kevin Naff, my former colleague and successor at the Washington Blade, writes in an editorial today:

    What happens when a gay person dares to criticize a Democrat for failing to keep promises and honor commitments? I got a taste of the Democratic wrath last month, after criticizing DNC Chair Howard Dean and his chief of staff, Leah Daughtry in an editorial. … 

    In response, Daughtry sent two lawyers to the Blade’s offices to berate me and our publisher, Lynne Brown. The meeting was beyond contentious and featured lots of red-faced cursing and threatening of lawsuits.

    They claimed to represent Daughtry and not the DNC. But DNC officials have gloated behind the scenes that since the confrontation in the Blade’s offices, the paper has stopped writing about a gay man’s lawsuit against the party, his former employer. Donald Hitchcock accuses the DNC of firing him after his partner, Paul Yandura, publicly urged gay donors to think twice before giving money to the Democratic Party.

    Of course, to suggest that the Blade would abandon a story because a couple of angry lawyers made a scene in the lobby constitutes wishful thinking. One thing every journalist learns early on is that when people start yelling and making threats, that means you’re onto something.

    The real outrage here isn't the attempt to influence press coverage; that happens every hour of every day in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. It's the sneering contempt that Dem officials show for "uppity" gays who dare to criticize the party that sees itself as beyond reproach on any and all gay-related issues, simply because the Republicans are so much worse.

    20070419_leah1low Daughtry, an ordained Pentecostal pastor, should have been dismissed months ago for pitting blacks and gays against each other within the party, but this latest stunt is beyond the pale. And yet she remains Howard Dean's chief of staff and will run the Democratic National Convention.

    Can you imagine the DNC treating the niche press of any other interest group -- labor, African Americans, Latinos, women and so on -- in such a manner? Of course not. But this is par for the DNC course under Dean, enabled by influential gays inside the party apparatus whose partisanship causes them to turn a blind eye to the legitimate watchdog role of the gay press and gay activists.

    Kevin notes in the editorial that in depositions in the Hitchcock suit -- which the DNC stubbornly refuses to settle for unfathomable reasons -- Dean has apparently referred to the Blade "the Fox News of gay journalism." Another top DNC official, Julie Tagen, was recently revealed to have said in an internal email, "the Blade and the other gay papers for the bottom of the bird cage."

    If that sounds familiar, it's probably because during my tenure as editor, Dean called the Blade "the New York Post of the gay and lesbian press corps."

    Howarddean700 "They’re not credible and they have somebody there who has an agenda which is clearly not favorable to the Democratic Party," Dean said in the fall of 2006, "so we simply don’t give them any credence." This from the same man who was happy to give an interview to Pat Robertson's "700 Club" -- since they're so "credible" and there's no one there "with an agenda" against the Democrats.

    The Democratic Party has enjoyed a major resurgence the last several years, attributable almost entirely to the utter disaster of the Bush presidency and the inspirational (until recently) presidential primary. Dean will no doubt ride that wave as long as he can, but it is long past time for gays and gay groups to speak out against the contempt and disrespect with which Democratic Party officials treat the gay press.

    Where is the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association when the gay press needs it?

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    Filed in: DNC , Media

    January 24, 2008

    Race gets thrown into messy DNC mix

    Posted by: Chris

    20070419_leah1low More and more dirt is emerging from the suit by Donald Hitchcock challenging his ouster doing LGBT outreach for the Democratic National Committee, and with it more light is being shed on the way Howard Dean's unlikely obsession with evangelical voters has come at the expense of gay interests within the party.

    The particulars of the latest revelation are in a report posted today by the Washington Blade and involve more nasty skirmishes among party insiders over how issues of race vs. sexual orientation were handled, both in the selection of party convention delegates and in a controversial Alabama state legislative race.

    In the thick of things in both battles was Dean's chief of staff, Leah Daughtry (pictured), a Pentecostal pastor who grew up speaking in tongues -- and now employs her own forked tongues while wedging black Democrats against gay Democrats at every available opportunity. Daughtry's machinations apparently reached such a point that an unnamed Stonewall Democrat said angrily in an email to Hitchcock's successor, Brian Bond:

    Imagine what Dean could do if people like Leah were confronted for their bigotry and fired. … I think Samuel L. Jackson said it best when he said "I'm sick of these mother fuckin' snakes on this mother fuckin' plane." It may be time to drive the snakes from the DNC.

    It's no wonder, then, that Howard Dean went on "The 700 Club" and erroneously asserted that the Democratic Party platform opposes gay marriage. Daughtry no doubt planted the pipe dream in Dean's head that he could be the evangelical pied piper for the party and pretending official opposition to gay marriage was just a convenient, if inaccurate, way of finding common ground.

    More DNC revelations are sure to follow…

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    Filed in: DNC , Race

    January 21, 2008

    We invested $100 million, and all we got was this lousy T-shirt

    Posted by: Kevin

    Tshirt_2_3 The Democratic presidential race has come perilously close to devolving into a fight over identity-loyalties and fear-mongering rather than a debate over the issues and the future of our nation.  Supporters from both campaigns have been appealing to "loyalty" to one's race (Obama) or one's gender (Clinton) rather than debating the issues in depth, fearlessly.   While Obama has taken clear steps to stop such efforts on his behalf, the Clinton machine has been going into frantic overdrive since their defeat in the Iowa caucuses to fan its flames to their advantage.

    Appeals to the lowest common denominator are usually a sign that you really don't want to compete on vision or policy, nor that you really want to be held accountable for your record or your ability to deliver on your promises.  This is no purely Democratic tendency.  The Republican far right has used fear-mongering to hide its shortcomings and mendacity since the Nixon Administration, and the GOP deserves to pay a price every time it cleaves to such tactics instead of telling the truth.

    It's becoming a tendency of the gay movement as well.  This is sad, because on the core ideals of what we say we stand for, we are right.  We deserve to prevail.  But the most powerful among us, as they compete for our attention, our votes and our money, too often fall into the same trap of demanding loyalty in the face of being held accountable.  And in turn, the soul of the gay movement is ripped out.

    Much like their eponymous and clearly-favored candidate in the Democratic primaries, the unquestioned behemoth among gay political organizations -- the Human Rights Campaign -- has spent the past several months boasting of the resources and staff it is devoting to primary states and campaigns, without even explaining what they're doing there or what their measurable goals are.  This is troubling, given the enormous policy challenges we face as a community.  There is no question that HRC and its allies delivered votes in 2006 that helped install the Democratic leadership in Congress, raising expectations that have been dashed as of now, since the same Congress has delivered on none of its promises to gay voters after a year in office.

    It's common knowledge that HRC is a major player in the Democratic Party among outside organizations.  Its then-executive director, Elizabeth Birch, was given a prime time speaking slot at the 2000 Democratic Convention, and the group has given the overwhelming share of its money to Democratic candidates, the national Democratic Party, national Democratic PACs and organizations, and to state Democratic parties for nearly two decades.  A back-of-the-envelope calculation from searching out public statements on their various annual budgets, plus their PAC and foundation spending, puts the total amount of money they've spent at about $100 million since their founding.

    HRC has earned the right to make demands on the Democratic Party, and to hold it accountable for its failures.  But has it done so?

    Let's do some comparative analysis among what some HRC partisans have inferred are "lesser" organizations:

    • The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, with an annual budget ranging somewhere around 10% of HRC's, gives no money to candidates or political parties.  Its then-executive director Torie Osbourne participated in a White House meeting with Bill Clinton, but did not flinch from condemning the "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it was adopted: "It says something about his character that he sparked the debate and then ran," she said publicly of the sitting president.  That has come to typify their leftish-independent streak.  Merciless with Republicans not only for anti-gay positions, but on things like economic policy, foreign affairs and affirmative action, NGLTF also stood for years in favor of a trans-inclusive ENDA.  Say what you want about their beliefs, they stood by them on every occasion and doled out criticism to those they felt deserved it.  Did NGLTF flinch ever from holding the powerful to account for failure to keep promises?  In my 20 years of activism, I don't remember an occasion.
    • The Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that opened a national office in 1993 (full disclosure, one I worked at for 10 years), has less than 1/30th of the budget of HRC.  Its mission has always been a narrow one, and its role within the bigger picture very distinct.  It is a partisan organization seeking to impact the GOP from the inside on gay issues, by both accountability for bad things and praise for good things.  Log Cabin has gotten worldwide media attention, and since its founding has been the one gay organization to have any real impact on the GOP at any level.  When it came to taking on their own political party,  Log Cabin wasn't shy in praising local, state and national Republican officials when they did the right thing - from backing marriage rights, to signing pro-gay executive orders or legislation, joining as co-sponsors on pro-gay bills, making pro-gay public comments or gestures like marching in pride parades.  They were often alone in that praise among gay groups.  But when it came to holding Republicans accountable, Log Cabin also did so.  Some examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  To name a few.
    • Then there are gay Democrats themselves.  No one ever expected the Stonewall Democrats to hold the Democratic Party accountable for anything it did.  Nor did anyone ever expect gay staffers at the DNC to consider putting anything but their party first.  But when Paul Yandura, one-time leader of Stonewall, publicly criticized the DNC for its failure to take any action against the wave of anti-gay referendums appearing all over the country in the 2006 election cycle, the DNC retaliated by firing his partner, Donald Hitchcock (a former HRC staffer), as its gay outreach director.  As reported by the Washington Blade and this blog, Hitchcock's lawsuit against the DNC for their retaliatory action has revealed internal communications among gay staffers at the DNC which speak to a contempt for the independent gay press, for lesbian columnist Deb Price of the Detroit News, and an overriding need to do whatever was possible to keep DNC Chairman Howard Dean from ever having to face the gay marriage referendum issue in public.

    So amidst this background sampling, and considering its gigantic size, budget, staff and public profile, what has HRC comparably done to ensure the accountability of the party it has invested so much in for so, so many years?

    I'd like to know.  Cuz I couldn't find anything.

    I did stumble across an open letter that Log Cabin wrote to Birch in 2000 as she prepared to give her history-making address at the Democratic Convention, asking her to hold that party accountable and listing its many shortcomings.  Then I re-read the speech she later gave.  Then re-read her recent comments about whether anything had been accomplished in the decade leading up to her historic moment on prime time television.

    To paraphrase Torie Osbourne, the juxtaposition of it all says something about character.  Perhaps it's off-base to question Elizabeth's character; I know her to be a nice person, and a caring person.  But this one juxtaposition is part of a broader question about whether the biggest, the richest, the most powerful among the gay movement's organizations, after all that money invested, is even interested in -- or at this point, genetically capable of -- holding the Democrats accountable.

    One or two readers call this "beating a horse" or "HRC bashing".  But others calls it accountability. They call it democracy.  And I call it incredibly important stuff for gay Americans to be doing in every election year.

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    Filed in: DNC , HRC

    AIDS and Elizabeth Birch?

    Posted by: Chris

    In response to my post about a leading lesbian volunteer for the Democratic National Committee joining in the trashing of the gay press and Dem gay activists who question the party, a reader writes:

    The two worst things to happen to the gay equality movement were AIDS and Elizabeth Birch. AIDS killed most of those who might have stopped, or at least diminished, her takeover of national LGBT politics, or so emotionally debilitated those who did survive, that combined with a series of disastrous leadership choices by the older and once dominant NGLTF, a vacuum was created that she and her huge intellect and even greater ambition filled. She was the original Borg queen. And, trans rebellion notwithstanding, resistance is still futile.

    While she did bring some much-needed organizational structure and marketing skills to the movement, making it like a corporation became the end and not the means to an end. Two, she enshrined the philosophy that one-time “Advocate” owner David Goodstein had started—exclude by structure and “door charge” the average gay person who think that putting all of our proverbial eggs into the basket of politicians that MIGHT fight for us was a gamble at best. A wiser, more diverse policy somewhere between the understandable barring of well-intentioned but totally unstable personalities like Sylvia Rivera who once was arrested trying to climb over walls into a New York City Council meeting and the activities that have resulted in references to the “Human Rights Champagne fund” is still sorely needed. …

    With very rare exception, the “educational” efforts of HRC, NGLTF, GLAAD, et al., amounts so often to preaching to the choir that their “leaders” should qualify as ordained ministers by now. This would be bad enough alone but it is criminal given that the Antigay Industry spends millions demonizing us in dozens of languages around the world through their own print organs, radio, and television.

    Yet our “leaders” brag about opinion polls that show growing “support” for gay equality even as most antigay ballot initiatives pass again and again at the polls that really count. The strategy of hoping politicians you support to deliver only makes sense if you empower them in other ways to do it with impunity.

    AIDS certainly did rob the movement of a generation of would-be leaders and followers and has a singular place in our history, but it was also the slap in the face that woke gay people up to the reality that our government treats us as second-class citizens and only we will ever change that.

    I spent the better part of a decade criticizing Elizabeth Birch for the monumental misjudgment of linking the Human Rights Campaign and the gay movement generally too closely with the Democratic Party -- not because the Republicans were any better, but because she robbed HRC and the movement of the independence needed to aggressively lobby our "friends" when they failed to defend us or follow through on their promises.

    I do not share in criticism of her "corporatizing" of the movement, however. Yes, it went too far and HRC is horribly bloated, its building a huge waste of resources and its salaries ridiculously padded. But the movement was badly in need of professionalizing and Birch deserves credit -- along with others like William Waybourn at GLAAD and Rich Tafel and Kevin Ivers at Log Cabin -- for making that happen.

    If Birch's overextended tenure at HRC had been followed up by a new leader with more vision, greater political independence and less inside-the-beltway thinking, the house-that-Birch-built could have been leveraged to produce real change. Instead we got Cheryl Jacques, who was more partisan than Birch, followed by Joe Solmonese, who is a classic D.C. lobbyist with no business running a civil rights organization.

    The reader is absolutely right, on the other hand, that "education" efforts by HRC and the other leading gay rights groups have been so stripped of substance by marketing experts and focus groups that they fail to inspire, lead, cajole or even guilt the public into adjusting its views on gay equality.

    The debate in 2006 over the federal marriage amendment is a classic example of how these two misjudgments crippled the movement's effectiveness. Facing a vote that everyone involved knew we would win, HRC's Hillary Rosen (Elizabeth's then-partner) bought into the Democrats' partisan strategy of avoiding the gay marriage "hot button" in favor of attacking President Bush and the Republicans for pressing a "non-issue," which was only a distraction from "real issues" like Iraq and rising gas prices.

    It was colossal missed opportunity for a gay rights group to agree to the Democratic Party's self-serving strategy of avoiding gay marriage linkage and instead calling the movement's signature issue a distraction -- thereby punting on the free-media opportunity to educate the public about why we want to marry in the first place.

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    Filed in: DNC , HRC

    January 18, 2008

    Gay Hillary backer caught in DNC mess

    Posted by: Chris

    The ongoing legal battle between the Democratic National Committee and ousted gay outreach liaison Donald Hitchcock just got a whole lot messier. Claire Lucas, a longtime DNC volunteer and a member of Hillary Clinton's national LGBT steering committee, stands accused of perjury in her attempt to avoid testifying in Hitchcock's DNC suit, which accuses the party of defamation as well as bias based on sexual orientation and gender.

    When Hitchcock subpoenaed Lucas, she responded that she lived in California, not D.C., and appearing for a deposition would be a hardship for her.  Now the Blade's Lou Chibbaro reports that legal filings by Hitchcock show Lucas is a registered D.C. voter, receives a "homestead" tax exemption from the District, and is listed by the Clinton campaign on its local Washington steering committee. Ironically, a Clinton campaign email sent by Lucas talked up her trip to New Hampshire for Hillary and how "lots of fun will be had."  Apparently a side-trip to D.C. would be more hardship than "fun" for Lucas…

    Internal email exchanges disgorged by the DNC as part of the lawsuit identify Lucas as among the small coterie of DNC staff and leading gay volunteers who trashed Hitchcock, first internally and then publicly, after his domestic partner, Democratic political consultant Paul Yandura, publicly criticized Howard Dean and the Democratic Party for standing by doing nothing while dozens of states enacted constitutional amendments banning gay marriage during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles. Eventually Hitchcock was ousted after he failed to fix the problem, i.e., shut Yandura up.

    I bring up the Hillary connection not simply to "slime" her campaign with the Hitchcock accusations against Lucas and the DNC but because there is a very natural connection between the "establishment gays" central to Hillary's LGBT effort and those gay folk at the heart of the Hitchcock litigation who are Democrats first, and gay second

    Either their own political and career future trump even the civil rights of their own people, or they long ago drank the party Kool-Aid and buy into the simplistic notion that because Democrats are better on gay issues than Republicans, what is good/bad for Dems is good/bad for gays. Of course they are correct that Democrats are better on gay issues and anyone who suggests otherwise ought to have their head examined.  But it does not follow that the gay rights movement should do the DNC's bidding, even at the expense of its own.

    Real change comes from unrelenting pressure, even more on friends than on foes. For far too long now, the gay movement and its leading organizations have been co-opted by Dem-first gays who are unwilling or unable to apply that pressure and therefore progress proceeds achingly slow -- and only when it is in the political interest of Democrats to achieve it. That's why even the most basic civil rights legislation -- employment non-discrimination and hate crimes -- have not passed the Democratic-controlled Congress.

    Imagine what would happen if they did pass -- and President Bush actually signed them! Then where would the DNC and Hillary be?  If elected, she would face more difficult gay rights issues -- mainly undoing the damage from her husband's administration in the form of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act.

    The Dem-first and Hillary-first crowd actively dreads that outcome because they know she will not expend anymore political capital than her husband did on gay issues, especially on the same gay issues he ran so scared from in the '90s. So instead they lollygag on ENDA and hate crimes, to the silence of the Human Rights Campaign and the trans-marginalized Task Force.

    And anyone who dares to criticize or ask tough questions, be it the gay press or even longtime Democratic party activists, gets the Tagen treatment -- dismissed as having some sort of evil anti-Dem agenda.

    Expect more revelations to come on these matters, including on this blog.

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    Filed in: D.C. , DNC , Hillary

    January 13, 2008

    Time for Tagen to go?

    Posted by: Chris

    Julietagen Pressure is growing on Julie Tagen, the Democratic National Committee official who said in an internal email that she uses "the Blade and the other gay papers for the bottom of the bird cage." Now Lee Bolin, a former member of the National Stonewall Democrats executive committee, is calling for Tagen, the deputy finance director, to be canned:

    If a DNC staffer disparaged black, Latino, or Jewish media the way Deputy Finance Director Julie Tagen did LGBT media, that person would already be out of a job."

    The DNC continues to decline comment, citing the lawsuit filed by Donald Hitchcock, who alleges gay and gender bias in his dismissal as the DNC's gay outreach director. Hitchcock was let go after his domestic partner, political consultant Paul Yandura, penned an open letter blasting DNC Chair Howard Dean for abandoning the fight against statewide constitutional amendments banning gays from marrying.

    The Tagen email exchange was released in the Hitchcock lawsuit, but the DNC should stop hiding behind that as an excuse to avoid the subject. Donald is tangential to the subject of the emails, which do not touch on the issues at stake in the suit. But once public, the DNC's contemptuous attitude toward gay activists and the gay press must be addressed.

    Perhaps most depressingly, Tagen (pictured) is openly gay herself -- but like too many in politics (and even the gay rights movement) she appears to be a partisan first and a lesbian second. As a lesbian, Tagen is certainly entitled to her views about the Blade and the gay press generally. As the editor of the Washington Blade during the time period leading up to the email exchange, I would like to know exactly what factual errors were made by the Blade and "the other gay papers" that would justify such a broadside.

    More likely, Tagen is merely complaining that the Blade and the gay press generally had "an agenda" -- an accusation familiar to gay activists, but not usually from our own. In fact, every story the Blade did about the DNC was the result of a gay Democrat coming to us with the information. Do Tagen and Dean believe we should have ignored these prominent gay Dems because their party is so better than the Republicans on gay issues?

    Every story published confirmed facts, aired the DNC's critics and gave the DNC every opportunity to respond. I would hope that Tagen and other gays with influence at the DNC would defend the role of our media, not join in shooting the messenger.

    It may not be time (yet) for Tagen to go, but she's got some 'splaining to do.

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    Filed in: DNC , Media

    January 10, 2008

    DNC says gay press is for birds (cage)

    Posted by: Chris

    I tend to use the blade and the other gay papers in the bottom of the birdcage.

    -- Julie Tagen, Democratic National Committee Deputy Finance Director

    If there were ever any doubts about what Democratic Party chieftains think of the gay press, they should be settled now. An internal email exchange was released by the Democratic National Committee as part of a lawsuit filed against Howard Dean and the DNC by Donald Hitchcock, who was fired by Dean as the party's gay outreach coordinator.

    In the exchange, the DNC's communication staff is venting about a decision by my successor at the Washington Blade, editor Kevin Naff, not to do a story about efforts by the DNC to do some sort of training work with Stonewall Democrats, the gay partisan group. Upset by the decision, the staffers weigh whether to pitch it to the Blade's D.C. competitors, the Advocate, or some other publication. All fair enough, so far.

    Then Julie Tagen, the DNC's deputy finance director, figuratively throws up her hands and at the same time throws open the curtain -- so we can see the contempt for the gay media that surely lies within, including Dean himself.

    Tagen, it should be noted, is singled out by Hitchcock as particularly upset that he did not somehow silence his (domestic) partner, Democratic consulatant Paul Yandura, after the latter publicly criticized Dean and the DNC for not doing more to stop states from adopting constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.

    Of course, such an attitude would be unthinkable toward a straight couple -- James Carville and Mary Matalin, anyone? But the DNC has always had a different set of rules for its gays, who are only to be seen at fundraisers, not heard from in criticism.

    (The complete exchange is here.)

    Howarddean700_2 This sort of arrogant contempt of uppity gays is typical of DNC powerbrokers, easily irritated by criticism from the party's  "kept" minorities even as they genuflect whenever possible toward evangelical "people of faith." That's why Howard Dean was eager to appear on Pat Robertson's "700 Club," where by the way he misrepresented the Democratic Party as having adopted a platform plank opposing gay marriage.

    And yet the Washington Blade? Dean said in an interview just months after the "700 Club" appearance, "[The Blade is] not credible and they have somebody there who has an agenda which is clearly not favorable to the Democratic Party so we simply don’t give them any credence." That's your's truly he's referring to, by the way, the one who has written favorably about Democratic candidates for local, state and national office for more than a decade. And yet unlike Pat Robertson and the "700 Club," the Blade has an anti-Democrat agenda?

    Another email exchange released by the DNC to Hitchcock is also illustrative, as party staffers decide not to agree to an interview request with Dean by Deb Price, the well respected lesbian syndicated columnist from the Detroit News. They decline the request because it would be "opening us up for hits." Unlike that teddy bear, Pat Robertson, of course.

    (The complete exchange is here.)

    The sad thing is that many of these party hacks are actually out and proud gays, and ought to be ashamed of themselves -- if not voted off the island entirely. Of course they should act in the best interest of their employer, but this is not a corporation manufacturing widgets. This is a political party upon which the movement for gay civil rights depends.

    It is in the nature of politics for interest groups to scrutinize, lobby and cajole, and for the press to do the same. That isn't an agenda; it's the process.

    These DNC staffers know that, of course. And yet they are so contemptuous of Hithcock, Yandura and the gay press because the gay movement, and especially its largest national organization, have for too long completely sublimated their own interest for the interests of the party. When Howard Dean says, "jump!" the movement asks only, "how far?!" -- or, more accurately, "how much?"

    This is the establishment wing of the party, populated with Ellen Malcolm-esque establishment gays, who form a central core of Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy. At least until the movement can remake its national groups into something other than Democratic Party lapdogs, perhaps charting a new course for the DNC itself is the best available course of action.

    Hat tip: Queerty

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    Filed in: DNC
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