Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for October, 2010

Belated good news from Hawaii

Timothy Kincaid

October 12th, 2010

This is a few weeks old, but it’s important. (AP)

Hawaii Democrats have chosen former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie in their bid to take back the governor’s office after eight years of Republican control.

Abercrombie defeated longtime political rival ex-Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in a bitterly contested campaign that focused on character and leadership experience.

Abercrombie will face Republican nominee Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona in the November campaign to succeed GOP Gov. Linda Lingle in President Barack Obama’s birth state.

Polls have shown Abercrombie as a likely winner in the very Democratic state. His biggest threat was Hannemann, a Mormon, who campaigned on an anti-gay platform.

Hannemann’s supporters released an ad during the primary which criticized Abercrombie for supporting the civil unions bill which was vetoed by Republican Governor Linda Lingle, “In the battle of HB444, we learned the importance of electing people with our traditional Christian values.”

I think that it is likely that should Abercrombie be elected in November will open the way for the Hawaii state legislature to revisit their support of gay couples. And I think that this time they may opt for full marriage equality.

GayTM On the Fritz: Gay Political Donations Down

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2010

The "GayTM" is out of orderPerhaps one measure of the gay community’s scorn for the Democratic Party’s failure to deliver on its promises — as evidenced by this week’s cynical tossing of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” football coupled with the administration’s ridiculous filing in the Log Cabin Republican lawsuit against DADT — the OpenSecretsBlog reports that LGBT groups’ contributions to political campaigns are drastically down when compared the the last mid-term elections in 2006:

[I]n an election cycle full of controversy over hot button issues such as adoption, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, donations to federal candidates from gay and lesbian interest groups are lagging. So far during the 2010 election cycle, people and political action committees associated with this special interest area have donated $744,040 to federal candidates, with 96 percent of funds going to Democrats. That’s compared to more than $2 million contributed to federal candidates during the 2006 congressional elections and $1.8 million contributed during the 2008 presidential election cycle.

The Human Rights Campaign has donated a huge majority of the industry’s funds going to federal candidates this cycle, contributing $625,272 to primarily Democratic candidates.

"If you want my gay dollar, I want my gay rightThat means that the HRC has contributed almost 85% of all the LGBT dollars to federal campaigns. I don’t know what percentage of the total contribution the HRC contributed in 2006, but I doubt that it amounted to $1.6 million. There has long been a perception that the Democratic party has been eager to take the gay dollar but unwilling to seriously address the gay community’s concerns, whether they be the ongoing firing of qualified personnel from the U.S. military, discrimination against gay and (especially) transgender people in the workplace, or the unwillingness to take a coherent stand on marriage. LGBT people and organizations are, as a result, naturally and justifiably outraged this year, with many demanding that the “GayTM” be shut down.

While undoubtedly the economy has contributed to this falloff in donations, but that’s not the entire story. LGBT donations are down by about half; other sources for donations are off, they haven’t fallen as drastically as this. I’m glad that most of the major LGBT organizations have decided to close the GayTM. Their money wasn’t being well spent, given the pathetic and cynical behavior of the political establishment that so many of us have worked so long and hard to support. For any organization that as to evaluate how effective every dollar they spend is toward accomplishing their goals, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that their dollars can be better spent elsewhere.

I fully support the call to sit on your dollars during this election cycle. If you have money to donate, there are many more worthy causes in your own local community that could use your help in this down economy. At least there, your hard-earned dollars have a better chance of actually doing some good. And if you are interested in contributing to political candidates, there is still the option of donating directly to specific candidates that you know have stood by the LGBT community. (For me locally, for example, I would single out my Congressman, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). He was among the extremely few Arizona officeholders who actively and publicly campaigned against Prop 102, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which passed in 2008.)

I also think this report documents how unbelievably out of touch the HRC is with the community it claims to represent. It looks like we don’t just need an overhaul of the political establishment that takes our money without delivering results, but also the advocacy group that takes our dollars and doesn’t hold anyone accountable. To those of us who have donated to the HRC in the past, it’s a good time to ask: have you gotten your money’s worth?

The difference in social policy between a Democrat and a moderate Republican

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2010

In reading about the candidates vying for Mark Kirk’s old district, I ran across as clear a description between the social positions of a “Democrat” and a “moderate Republican” as I think I’ve seen:

The two candidates are facing off in the 10th Congressional District, portraying themselves as deficit and tax hawks who are more moderate on social issues.

Yet Dold and Seals noted their differences on abortion and gay rights.

Dold said he supports abortion rights, with restrictions. Dold backs parental notification for minors and opposes late-term abortions and tax money being spent on the procedure.

“Let me be clear, I’m pro-choice, while I may be more moderate than (Seals) is on this issue,” Dold said.

Seals said he supports abortion rights without Dold’s caveats and cited his endorsements from organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Seals argued that limits on taxpayer-funded abortion and parental notification laws would force some women “to go to a back alley to care of this.”

On gay marriage, Seals supports it, calling it a “civil rights issue.” He also backs repealing military restrictions on openly gay soldiers.

Dold doesn’t support gay marriage, but said same-sex couples should have similar legal protections. Dold said he will support repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy if military generals agree it won’t impact combat operations.

Yes, there are many Democrats that do not support marriage equality and some Republicans that do. But I think that these two positions probably reflect what the voter who self-categorizes as “Democrat” or “moderate Republican” finds most comfortable.

Voters are really really (not) concerned about “protecting marriage”

Timothy Kincaid

August 12th, 2010

The latest Pew Research Center survey is in and they’ve found that when it comes to same-sex marriage, voters could not care less. Literally. Of the thirteen categories of concern, same-sex marriage was at the very bottom, in both parties.

The reason we haven’t heard the politicians screaming about Judge Walker’s ruling is because they have figured out that their constituents aren’t interested, don’t want to talk about it, and are probably suspicious about anyone who wants to rant about gays instead of the economy.

Hawaii Senate to vote Friday on civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

January 20th, 2010

Prop 8 protest in November 2008

Prop 8 protest in November 2008

The Hawaiian Senate has set a date to vote on the civil unions bill postponed from 2009. (Honolulu Star Bulletin)

“It is my understanding that it will be put on the Order of the Day (agenda) Thursday and put it up for a vote on Friday,” said Sen. Brian Taniguchi, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

This bill was essentially killed in the last days of the last session by amending it to include the unnecessary wording, “It is not the Legislature’s intent to revise the definition or eligibility requirements of marriage.” That strategic effort bought the legislature nearly another year to do nothing.

Because the bill had a start date as of the first of the year, there is some question as to whether it would be valid or would require another amendment. Some senators appear to be pretending that such a technical amendment would be reason to vote against the bill.

However, the award for bald disingenuousness, for unbridled cynicism, for smarmy condescension goes to former Senate President Robert Bunda:

“It is totally about solemnizing civil unions, and I think what gay people are really seeking is same-sex marriage,” Bunda said.

“I hope we just defer the whole thing. We have more important issues, like the budget.”

Yes, Mr. Bunda, we want equality. But that hasn’t been presented as an option, has it? And you would oppose such a bill were it to come up, wouldn’t you, cuz treating all citizens equally just isn’t important enough.

And, in the meantime, I still have not heard back from the DNC as to why they have said absolutely nothing to encourage the virtually entirely Democratic legislature to pass the civil unions bill. Good thing I wasn’t holding my breath.

My email to the DNC re: civil unions in Hawaii

Timothy Kincaid

January 18th, 2010

Today I emailed the DNC:

This week the legislature in Hawaii will be considering Civil Unions legislation. As the HI legislature is virtually all Democratic, can you please direct me to the statements in which the DNC has encouraged the Hawaiian legislature to uphold the standard of the Party and vote for equality? I don’t seem to be able to find them online.

I wonder if I’ll get a response. They may be too busy honoring Dr. King’s dream for equality and civil rights.

Hawaii Civil Unions bill starts up again

Timothy Kincaid

January 16th, 2010

Hawaii’s recognition of gay couples has led a wild and erratic path. If the state’s relationship with it’s gay citizens were a romantic affair, it could be summed up in one word: drama!

When Hawaii’s Supreme Court determined in 1993 that denying marriage to same-sex couples was discriminatory, it shocked America. Although some gay folks had been fighting for decades for the ability to protect their families and honor their commitments, to most people – gay or straight – this was unexpected and foreign.

However, the court did not demand immediate implementation. It granted a period in which the state could build a case justifying the discrimination and showing that it was not unconstitutional. But in 1996 the court rejected the state’s justification and declared that denying marriage to same-sex couples was unconstitutional in the state. But they held off requiring implementation until appeal was heard.

And during the five year delay the anti-gay marriage industry was started. In 1996, the federal government passed the Defense of Marriage Act which, for the first time, asserted that the federal government would not recognize the rights of states to control marriage and family law (many “state’s rights advocates” found that their anti-gay biases were far stronger than their professed principles).

And in 1998 in Hawaii, the first “protect marriage” constitutional amendment was passed. But, unlike those which would follow, this amendment does not define marriage; rather, it defines who is entitled to define marriage:

The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.

And the legislature had already done so.

However, in an effort to offer some pretense of equality in hope of avoiding being required to honor same-sex marriages, in 1997 the legislature had created a reciprocal beneficiary scheme. It wasn’t much consolation.

A reciprocal beneficiary can be comprised of any two people unable to marry (brother/sister for example) who fill out a form. The regulations that this registration impacts are minimal and the attorney general declared that the most significant benefit, workplace medical insurance, was not required to be recognized by private business.

Thus, while Hawaii has had “recognition” since 1997, it is not of much use and not often elected.

Due to the unique nature of the Hawaii amendment, there is no bar on the legislature passing marriage equality or civil unions legislation. And civil unions bills have been introduced with little reception for years.

But in 2009 a bill was introduced which received support. House Bill 444 would provide all of the rights, benefits, and privileges of marriage but under a civil union structure. The union would be conducted (rather than simply filing a clerical form) by clergy or a judge, similar to marriage. Civil unions would be limited to same-sex couples and exclude family members.

The hopes for the bill were high. It passed the House Judiciary Committee on February 5, 2009 by a vote of 12-0. It passed the full House on February 12, 2009 by a vote of 33-17. Then it went to the Senate.

Where it sat in a divided Senate Judiciary Committee.

Finally on May 7, 2009, one day before the end of the legislative session, the full Senate voted to pull the bill from the committee. But this was not to vote on HB 444; rather, it was to amend HB 444 to clarify that Hawaii was most definitely not granting marriage to same-sex couples and that this was a second-class status and to also amend the bill to allow opposite-sex couples to enter civil unions.

By amending the bill so close to the end of the session, there was no chance that the House could respond to the revised version and therefore the bill was killed for a year. Senators afraid of voting were granted a reprieve until the following year’s session.

Now that reprieve is over. (Washington Post)

When Hawaii legislators reconvene on Wednesday, all eyes will be focused not on teacher furloughs that has resulted in the nation’s shortest school year or the state’s $1 billion budget deficit, but legislation that would allow same-sex couples to form civil unions.

Supporters are cautiously optimistic of the bill’s passage. But anti-gay activists are planning a big rally for Sunday in hopes that their display of animus towards their gay neighbors and support for institutionalized discrimination will intimidate potential supports into betraying their ideals during an election year.

The Hawaii legislature is comprised almost exclusively of Democrats. The Senate has 23 Democrats and 2 Republicans, and the House split is 45-6. This is an internal Party decision.

And if the bill is passed, it will then go the Republican Governor Linda Lingle who, while encouraging the legislature to delay the bill until some other time, has refused to say whether she will sign or veto the legislation.

The DNC Boycott: Count Me In

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the opinions of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

November 10th, 2009

Frustration is boiling over concerning the Democratic Party’s ongoing neglect of LGBT issues. The latest insult to injury? The Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America set emails to Mainers urging them to vote, but didn’t ask them to vote against Question 1. In fact, the email didn’t mention Question 1 at all. The DNC then sent another email urgently asking Mainers to get involved right away in … wait for it … New Jersey! 

When John Averosis at AmericaBlog contacted the DNC about the emails, he got the classic run-around. They first denied targeting Mainers to help with the New Jersey gubernatorial election, and then admitted that they lied about it.

This is just the latest in a long list of grievances and slights that have been building up since last November. That’s why several bloggers led by Avarosis and Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog are banding together for a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Give” campaign to urge doners to stop donating to the DNC:

It’s really more of a “pause,” than a boycott. Boycotts sounds so final, and angry. Whereas this campaign is temporary, and is only meant to help some friends – President Obama and the Democratic party – who have lost their way. We are hopeful that via this campaign, our friends will keep their promises.

So please sign the Petition and take a Pledge to no longer donate to the DNC, Organizing for America, or the Obama campaign until the President and the Democratic party keep their promises to the gay community, our families, and our friends.

This was launched yesterday. I haven’t taken the pulse of the other contributors at BTB, so I can’t speak for them. But I support this wholeheartedly. One of the DNC’s most loyal constituencies — and among the most reliable sources for cash and sweat equity — has been taken for granted for far too long. The goals of the “pause” are pretty simple:

We are asking voters to pledge to withhold contributions to the Democratic National Committee, Organizing for America, and the Obama campaign until the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is passed, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) is repealed, and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed -– all of which President Obama repeatedly promised to do if elected.

…Candidate Obama promised during the campaign to be the gay community’s “fierce advocate.” He and the Democratic party have not kept their promise.

Longtime LGBT activist David Mixner is on board with the boycott, along with Andy Towle, Michael Goff, Dan Savage, Pam Spaulding, Robin Tyler, Paul Sousa, Bil Browning, Jane Hamsher and Michaelangelo Signorile. Interestingly, even the Human Rights Campaign appears to have tacitly endorsed the boycott, in an email response to David Dayen at Firedog Lake:

“Individual donors should always make their own careful assessments of how to spend limited political contributions. We all need to focus on the legislative priorities identified by AmericaBlog and with whatever tactic individuals decide to employ, the ultimate objective needs to be securing the votes we need to move our legislative agenda forward.”

You can sign the petition and take the pledge here, and you can spread the word to your friends and family here.

DNC Fundraiser Raises $1 Million Despite Protests

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2009

According to The Advocate, about 25 protesters met DNC invitees as they gathered for the LGBT Leadership Caucus’s DNC Fundraiser Thursday night:

Despite the controversy, about 180 people showed up to hear Vice President Joe Biden speak for a price tag of $1,000 to $30,400 per plate. The event brought in nearly $1 million, up from about $750,000 last year, according to a Democratic Party source.

But the scene was not one of total discord between inside and outside. Some DNC staffers working the event were also wearing red, white, and blue “265” buttons as a reminder of the number of gay and lesbian service members who have been discharged from the military since President Barack Obama took office.

When Vice President Joe Biden took the stage, he told the crowd that he had specifically asked to speak at the event and that his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, had also requested to address a Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network event earlier this month.

“I am not unaware of the controversies swirling around this dinner,” Biden said, “swirling around the speed — or lack thereof — that we’re moving on issues that are of great importance to you and, quite frankly, to me and to the President and to millions of Americans.”

Update: The Washington Blade has video coverage:

YouTube Preview Image

Howard Dean Will Miss DNC Fundraiser

Jim Burroway

June 24th, 2009

Because he remembered a “family commitment.” This is huge. He was supposed to be one of the four hosts.

Wolfe and Rosen Decline DNC Fundraiser

Jim Burroway

June 23rd, 2009

Two more very prominent LGBT Democrats have announced that they will not attend Thursday’s Democratic Fundraiser as a way of voicing their frustrations with the Democratic party. The first one is Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. The Washington Blade reports that “an informed source” confirmed that Wolfe will not attend. The biggest surprise, to me at least, was the announcement that Hilary Rosen also has decided not to attend.

Wolfe and Rosen join at least eleven others who have announced they won’t attend the fundraiser. Those declining to attend include Civil Rights Project Director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) Mary Bonauto, San Diego City Commissioner and former co-chair of the Obama LGBT Leadership Council Stampp Corbin, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Rea Carey, Utah businessman Bruce Bastion, Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, political strategist David Mixer, blogger Andy Towle, Executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda Alan Van Capelle, former Clinton administration aide Richard Socarides, HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse, and Wall Street realtor Corey Johnson. says that:

Many of those who will attend say that they respect and support the intentions of the boycott, and they are going to “carry a message dierctly to the senior DNC leadership.” One is Joan Garry, the former Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) who says:

“…the controversy is about more than a group of people withdrawing from a fundraiser and it’s about more than impatience. I fear that the language of the DOJ brief is causing a crisis of confidence, and I believe the administration needs to address those words head on because words really do matter,” she said.

…When asked to comment on the decisions of others not to attend the event, Garry replied, “the important piece of the puzzle is to be engaged in whatever way makes the most sense for you.”

At least two organizations have announced that they won’t support the fundraiser, although some of those organizations’ board members and other officials will be there representing themselves. The organizations that have announced they won’t be part of the fundraiser include the Stonewall Democrats and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Two SDLN board members however will attend. None of the board members for the National Black Justice Coalition will attend, although that doesn’t appear to be the result of an official NBJC decision.

More Groups Send Their Regrets To DNC Fundraiser

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2009

There haven’t been any more individuals announce their refusal to attend this week’s DNC fundraiser since Mary Bonauto made her announcement last week. But two more groups have said that they will not participate. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis issued this statement on the SLDN web site:

SLDN will be outside boycotting the Democratic National Committee (DNC) LGBT event in Washington this Thursday. SLDN will be calling upon the President to end his silence on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We will be wearing and handing out buttons with the number 265, representing the number of service members who will have been discharged this week since President Obama was sworn in. We do not, nor would we want to, dictate how members of our board or our Military Advisory Council make their political views known. However, I understand that two board members are attending the DNC event. I also understand they will be making their own spirited and creative statements once inside the room.

And On Top magazine has learned that none of the board members of the National Black Justice Coalition will attend, although that doesn’t appear to be the result of an official NBJC decision:

A leaked email of GLBT dignitaries confirmed for the DNC event includes the name of Alexander Robinson, the NBJC’s former executive director who stepped down on June 1. Barlett, who is also a Connecticut state representative, confirmed no NBJC board member would attend the controversial event, but added that was not a formal endorsement of a DNC boycott.

“I don’t know of any board members that are intending on going,” Barlett said.

Stonewall Democrats announced last week that they would drop their support for the DNC fundraiser. That’s in addition to eleven prominent LGBT activists who have also said they won’t attend. Those activists are Civil Rights Project Director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) Mary Bonauto, San Diego City Commissioner and former co-chair of the Obama LGBT Leadership Council Stampp Corbin, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Rea Carey, Utah businessman Bruce Bastion, Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, political strategist David Mixer, blogger Andy Towle, Executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda Alan Van Capelle, former Clinton administration aide Richard Socarides, HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse, and Wall Street realtor Corey Johnson.

The LGBT Community Finds Its Voice. It Turns Out It’s In Its Wallet.

Jim Burroway

June 19th, 2009

LGBT advocates have continued to express their outrage over the Justice Department’s DOMA brief. That brief has sparked a rebellion among LGBT Democrats who have continued to pull out of next week’s DNC fundraiser organized by the LGBT Leadership Conference and featuring Vice-president Joe Biden. Eleven LGBT leaders have announced that they will not attend the fundraising event. Even the Stonewall Democrats have withdrawn their support.

That has set the White House on a mad rush to try to quell the rebellion. Two top Obama aides, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and Political Director Patrick Gaspard, will hold an emergency conference call on Monday afternoon with the LGBT caucus of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The reported purpose of the call is to provide “important updates on the Administration’s LGBT agenda and how we move forward.” That move is in addition to news from earlier today that the Justice Department will meet with LGBT groups to discuss how it deals with DOMA cases going forward.

This follows President Barack Obama’s hastily called Oval Office photo-op on Wednesday to sign a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to adopt policies to treat their LGBT employees on equal footing with their other employees — although health and retirement benefits aren’t included because they are barred by federal law. The White House has also directed the Census Bureau to determine changes in its procedures to allow same-sex unions to be counted.

The White House has finally gotten the message that they have stumbled badly. After months of silence and footdragging on LGBT issues, they have now come to understand that they are on the verge of losing one of their most reliable constituencies. And so over the past three days, we’ve seen an unprecedented string of minor initiatives. None of these small steps are earth-shattering; all of them could have been thrown together at any time in the administration’s first 100 days. But the fact that they are coming out now tells us that the pressure exerted by the LGBT community this week has had an effect. It also tells us that only through continued unrelenting pressure will the White House and Congress to take our concerns seriously.

I’m glad the pressure is working and we appear to have the White House’s attention. We now need to grab Congress’s attention as well. We need to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to feel the same heat as we’ve applied to President Obama.

And we also need to put our money where it will really make a difference. Right now the best place is firmly in our own bank accounts and not in the DNC’s. They say money talks, but people really notice the silence when it’s gone missing.

GLAD’s Mary Bonauto Pulls Out Of Fundraiser

Jim Burroway

June 19th, 2009

Now we’re up to eleven. Mary Bonauto, the Civil Rights Project Director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD),  has announced that she will not be attending the Democratic fundraiser next week:

It would be counterproductive at this point for me to attend the dinner.  I see and understand the anger of many in the community.  At GLAD, we’re angry, too.  We’re angry because we see and live and feel the discrimination every day.  Many states and our national government enforce existing anti-gay laws or simply fail to see discrimination against lgbt people as both personally devastating and a stain on our nation’s commitment to equal justice under law

Bonauto was lead counsel in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, which resulted in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declaring that prohibiting civil marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Bonauto joins ten others who have publicly announced that they will not attend the event.

And Then There Were Ten

Jim Burroway

June 18th, 2009

We now have ten people who have cancelled their appearance at next week’s Democratic fundraiser over the Obama administration’s brief defending DOMA. The latest ones are:

Stampp Corbin, San Diego City Commissioner and former co-chair of the Obama LGBT Leadership Council during the presidential campaign:

Mr. President, your DOMA mistake awakened a sleeping giant. He is mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore. You better get LGBT affirming legislation moving quickly or the coffers of the LGBT community will be slammed shut on the fingers of your administration and the DNC. You and the DNC may find themselves asking about our donations “if not now, when” as we have been asking about our rights for the last few months.

That’s simply the way I see it.

Also National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Rea Carey and Corey Johnson (I missed that one earlier).

They join Utah businessman Bruce Bastion, Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, political strategist David Mixer, blogger Andy Towle, Executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda Alan Van Capelle, former Clinton administration aide Richard Socarides, and HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse in boycotting the fundraiser.

Andrew Sullivan is cheering them on. But, he says, our anger should not stop with Obama:

We need to swamp Pelosi with phone-calls.

We need to target Reid for his inaction. We have to pressure Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin not to excuse the disdain that the Obama administration is showing toward gay equality, and their cynical use of our votes, money and passion to enforce real and potent discrimination against us and our families. And we have to refuse to attend White House signing ceremonies like yesterday’s farce. Really: until they are serious, we should not be coopted and placated with pathetic sops. I am not a Clintonite. I worked my ass off to get this man to power. On many issues, I support him and will continue to do so.

But I am a proud, self-respecting gay man with HIV. And I am not going to take this crap for much longer on civil rights. Fight back. Act Up.

Stonewall Democrats Drop Support For DNC Fundraiser

Jim Burroway

June 18th, 2009

The National Stonewall Democrats are pulling their support for next week’s DNC fundraiser. In an email obtained by Politico.com, the board of Stonewall Democrats cite the recent dust-up over the DOMA brief, as well as being cut off from a key customary party sponsorship:

[W]e are incredibly disappointed that the DNC has made a decision to withhold any financial support to National Stonewall Democrats this year but is in turn asking us to help raise money for the DNC in a difficult financial environment. The DNC has historically supported National Stonewall through sponsorship of the annual Capitol Champions event. This year, we did not receive any support. …

We’d be remiss to also not mention that the recent legal brief of the Obama Administration defending DOMA is incredibly hurtful. The members of the Board and our membership put our hopes, our dollars and our time into ensuring the election of Barack Obama because we believed that he supported us. To now have his Administration refer to our relationships in the same terms used by our long time enemies such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson hurts on so many levels.

Stonewall Democrats says it’s not “boycotting” the fundraiser, but they won’t encourage members to attend. Politico.com has the full email, along with a rather contrite response from the DNC.

Two More Boycotting DNC Fundraiser

Jim Burroway

June 18th, 2009

Two more LGBT advocates have announced that they will be skipping the Democratic Party fundraiser in protest of the Justice Department’s brief defending the “Defense of Marriage Act.” The first yesterday to pull out was Bruce Bastion, a Utah businessman and a major DNC donor. He announced that not only would he not attend next week’s fundraiser, but he won’t be donating anymore to the DNC as a whole:

“I will continue to support certain congressmen, congresswomen and senators whom I believe will continue to fight for our rights, but I don’t think blanket donations to the Democratic Party right now are justified, at least not in my book,” he said. Bastian, a major donor to many LGBT groups, said he sent an e-mail to the DNC on Wednesday saying he wouldn’t attend the event “because of the remarks on DOMA.” He found the filing “very offensive.”

That was followed by another announcement earlier this morning that Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin has also decided to forgo the fundraiser:

“One thing I have learned dealing with marriage equality in Vermont is that we all have a responsibility to stand up for the civil rights of all Americans,” Shumlin said Wednesday.

“This memo from the Justice Department is more Bush than Bush,” he added. “It takes the only minority group left in America that national politicians can publicly discriminate against and still see their numbers go up in the polls and it reinforces the horrible stereotypes about our friends and neighbors.”

…As an early and strong supporter of Barack Obama I am shocked and disappointed at the level of insensitivity that the Department of Justice has shown towards gay and lesbian couples and their families,” Shumlin wrote to [DNC Treasurer Andrew] Tobias.

This brings to seven the number of advocates who have announced they are pulling out of the fundraiser. The others are political strategist David Mixer, blogger Andy Towle, Executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda Alan Van Capelle, former Clinton administration aide Richard Socarides, and HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse.

NY Times: Obama’s Non-Health “Benefits” Timed To Stave Off Fundraising Disaster

Jim Burroway

June 17th, 2009

Late yesterday, we learned that President Barack Obama was going to sign a presidential memorandum (rather than a more permanent presidential order) granting partner benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees. Then we learned that because of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” — which the Obama administration chose to defend in court with an insulting DOJ brief — bars the extension of health and retirement benefits to same-sex partners. Which means that the presidential memorandum will only address things like relocation expenses.

New York Times is reporting that the only reason the Obama administration is doing this is to help salvage next week’s fundraiser:

But administration officials said the timing of the announcement was intended to help contain the growing furor among gay rights groups. Several gay donors withdrew their sponsorship of a Democratic National Committee fund-raising event next week, where Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled to speak.

This does not appear to be mollifying anyone as far as I have been able to learn. The rebellion continues, with at least five prominent LGBT advocates saying that they are pulling out of the fundraiser.

LGBT Insurrection Against The Democratic Party

Jim Burroway

June 15th, 2009

[Update: Three more LGBT advocates have declined to attend the DNC fundraiser in Washington next week. See below.]

President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that he won’t make a move to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban on LGBT people serving openly in the military, because ultimately it is up to Congress to change the law. His spokespeople have repeated this in answer to questions about why he hasn’t issued a stop loss order in order to halt the ongoing discharges of qualified gays and lesbians from the armed forces. They have, in effect, thrown the ball completely into the Congress’ court.

Now we have word from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the reason the repeal of DADT has gone no where in the Senate is because no one has sponsored the legislation in the Senate. What’s more, he threw the hot potato right back into the President’s hands:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaking at a press conference Monday said he has no plans to introduce a bill to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the Senate.

“I haven’t identified any sponsors,” he said. “My hope is that it can be done administratively.”

A Democratic aide later clarified that Reid was speaking about the possibility of using an executive order to suspend discharges or perhaps halting enforcement of the policy by changing departmental regulations within the Department of Defense.

Which, of course, won’t happen because the President is waiting on Congress, which in turn is waiting on the President.

This shouldn’t be that hard. This isn’t 1993, when DADT was signed into law by a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President. It is now 2009, when 69% of the American public believes that DADT should be repealed. When’s the last time two-thirds of Americans were united on anything else? What’s more, even 58% of Republicans and 60% of weekly churchgoers thing it’s time for DADT to go.

With public support like this, the age old question — If now now, when? — becomes less of a rallying cry and more of a taunt. Seriously, if not now, when?  We don’t need a “fierce advocate” for this one. All we need is for someone to grow a pair — and they don’t have to be very big ones.

But that’s not likely to happen. John Berry, the White House director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking gay official in the Obama administration, spoke with the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld about progress on LGBT rights. He predicted that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill would pass the Senate sometime this week. But what about repealing DADT and DOMA, or enacting a fully inclusive Employment Non-Description Act? Well, he says, they want to do it sometime “before the sun sets on this administration.”

This nebulous timetable is meaningless. If it doesn’t happen well before the 2010 mid-term elections, then we will be dependent on Obama winning a second term. After all, the next Presidential campaign will effectively begin in 2011. And there’s no guarantee that Obama will win that second term.

Which means either it happens now, or the Democratic party will essentially hold LGBT rights hostage for 2012.

DNC Fundraiser announcement. Click to enlarge

DNC Fundraiser announcement. Click to enlarge

With that news, coupled with the recent Department of Justice brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act which insults the integrity and intelligence of LGBT people everywhere, leading LGBT Democratic political veterans are beginning to register their disgust with the Democratic Party. Heck, even the Human Rights Campaign, often derided for its soft touch with political leaders, sent a sternly worded letter to Obama concerning the DOMA brief.

Meanwile, the DNC will hold a fundraiser next week in Washington, dubbed the LGBT Leadership Council Dinner. The featured speaker at the fundraiser will be Vice President Joe Biden. Openly gay Congressional representatives Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, and Jared Polis will be in attendance.

But some key gay activists are beginning to turn down their invitations to this event. Confirmed now-shows so far include political strategist David Mixner and blogger Andy Towle. [Update: Additional withdrawals include Alan Van Capelle, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda and Foundation, former top Clinton administration aide Richard Socarides, and HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse] Michelangelo Signorile has suggested that we “cut off the money flow.” Sean Bugg agrees, while Mike Rogers (a.k.a. “the most feared man in Washington”) puts an even finer point on it:

As long as tens of millions are being spent by the Pentagon to enforce Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gays should say to politicians “you have our money, go get it back from Secretary Gates.”

New DNC Chair No Friend of LGBT Rights

Jim Burroway

January 5th, 2009

Now that the Rick Warren furor is subsiding, new concerns are raised over the prospects that Virginia governor Timothy Kaine will become the new chair of the Democratic National Committee. Kaine has been described as “mixed” on gay issues — and this description is relative to the already low expectations of Virginia politics. Kaine offered nothing but the most timid token opposition Virginia’s draconian marriage amendment.

Michael in Norfolk, a lawyer, has some additional gripes against Kaine, regarding a state employee who was fired for being gay just one week after the anti-marriage amendment passed:

Kaine did sign Executive Order 1 (2006) purporting to protect gay state employees upon taking office, thereby extending the policy of incoming U.S. Senator Mark Warner who Kaine succeeded as governor. But in terms of making sure that the Executive Order is enforced in a competent and timely manner, Kaine has been 100% missing in action. Moreover, the alleged investigation by the governmental department supposedly charged with enforcing the Executive Order of a complaint filed by a client against the Virginia Museum of Natural History has by the agency’s own prior statements already taken 440+ days longer than it should have. And still no determination is in sight.

That beeping noise you hear? It may well be a bus backing up to run over us again.

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