New party rule aims to increase LGBT delegates
Chicago--The Democratic National Committee on August 21 approved a compromise agreement aimed at increasing LGBT representation in the process of picking the party�s next presidential candidate, but without creating specific quotas.
The decision followed closed-door negotiations between party leaders and LGBT Democrats, spurred by a series of incidents earlier this year.
On a May 10 broadcast of the evangelical Christian news show The 700 Club, party chair Howard Dean said that the 2004 Democratic platform said that marriage was �between a man and a woman.� The platform actually called for equal rights for gay and lesbian families and left the marriage issue up to the states.
Dean also fired his head of LGBT outreach, Donald Hitchcock, shortly after Hitchcock�s partner, Paul Yandura, criticized the party leader.
The new rules require �inclusion plans� to be adopted by state Democratic parties to increase the representation of LGBT and disabled people among the delegates they send to the Democratic National Convention.
The rule is designed to make up for an historic lack of representation of the two groups, along with others.
Some activists wanted LGBT people to be added to the party�s affirmative action program, which would have created specific goals that state parties would have to meet.
Rick Stafford, chair of the party�s LGBT caucus, approves of the new guidelines.
�This new rule is really, really good,� he said. �It gets us what we want, and it�s a great opportunity for the LGBT community to work with the state parties in the delegate selection process.�
Hitchcock was not as pleased. �This is not even separate but equal,� he told the Washington Blade. �It�s separate and unequal.�
The new rule, approved August 21, would also make it difficult to add LGBT people to affirmative action rules later, linking the quotas to groups who have been kept from voting, including women, African Americans and Native Americans.
The new rules are expected to help the most in the Midwest and the South, where some states have never sent an openly LGBT delegate to the national convention.
�Although these new rules will ultimately increase the number of LGBT delegates in 2008, the rule has broader significance,� said the National Stonewall Democrats� new president, Jo Wyrick. �These rules will move state parties into deeper partnerships with LGBT Democrats that will last well beyond the 2008 convention.�
�Although a majority of state parties are already partnering with our community,� she continued, �parties who have been reluctant to engage our community will now be required to do so. These partnerships will ultimately increase the voice of LGBT Democrats within important policy discussions and party affairs.�
Ohio�s gay and lesbian 2004 delegates included Glorianne Leck of Youngstown, Tristan Hand of Warren, Joe Lacey of Dayton, Mary Jo Hudson of Columbus and Louis Escobar of Toledo. Escobar was Toledo council president at the time; Lacey and Hudson are now on Dayton school board and Columbus city council, respectively.