The History of Delaware’s Stonewall PAC
Having worked in the US Congress for 25 years, retiring when I was 50, I still had the stamina, skills, and contacts to work on projects I really wanted to pursue as a Democratic activist and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. The Log Cabin Republicans, the gay Republican organization, was getting lots of publicity even though in 1996 it was clear that Republicans did not embrace our community.
I thought we needed a comparable gay Democratic organization, so after making some personal contacts and finding people online, I helped organize the National Stonewall Democrats. Early in our development we met with Vice President Al Gore, and I served on the organization’s national board.
Shortly after moving to Delaware, I learned that despite having a Democratic-controlled Delaware State Senate, a broad nondiscrimination bill was not attainable. I began making inquiries about active local LGBT Democrats, and through National Stonewall Board member Mike Marsico I was introduced to Delaware-born Tim Spies. We put together a team of activists to begin building a local organization.
In February 2003, the first membership meeting of Delaware Stonewall Democrats was held to approve the bylaws and elect officers. The goals of the organization were also approved, including support for legislative initiatives protecting and enhancing the rights of LGBT individuals living in Delaware, and working within the Democratic Party to assure more support on LGBT issues.
State Democratic Party Chair Richard Bayard invited us to sit on the party’s executive committee. Future Delaware Governor Jack Markell helped us become a viable political organization and suggested we raise funds to give to supportive Democratic candidates.
That first year we were able to persuade Congressman Barney Frank to attend our summer fundraiser, which was attended by 300 people.
We raised enough money that first summer to give financial support to candidates who were LGBT supportive; we have since continued to provide financial support to our allies and individuals we believe will support our issues. About 90 percent of the money raised by Delaware Stonewall PAC by membership and fundraising goes to supporting candidates. Our summer activities have become must-attend events for many of the state’s political leadership.
As we continued to have electoral success, we are able to work with allies to move a legislative agenda. We wrote the hospital visitation law, secured passage of the non-discrimination bill, a civil union bill, and marriage equality legislation. We continue to work on passage of a constitutional amendment to protect gender equality, and legislation to establish Delaware as a state that protects access to transgender healthcare.
Learn more about the Delaware Stonewall PAC and its upcoming (September 9) 20th anniversary summer event at delawarestonewall.org. ▼
Peter Schott is secretary of the Delaware Stonewall PAC.