|by Hastings Wyman|
Stonewall Flexes Its Muscles
The National Stonewall Democratic Federation is the new kid on the blockonly about two years old and not nearly the household word that "Log Cabin Republican" has become. But Stonewall's growing influence in not just gay politics, but the nation's politics, was in ample evidence at the group's recent reception to honor its new executive director, Mike Colby, who is fresh from working at New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primaries.
The power was palpable in the tony Washington Clubon gay-friendly Dupont Circlewhere gay Democrats schmoozed with Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben, Democratic National Committee treasurer Andrew Tobias, DNC gay liaison Mark Spengler, "You-Go-Gore" impresario Paul Yandura, and Stonewall co-chairs Michael Perez and Denise Kulp.
Al Gore's chief gay operative, Washington public relations executive Jeff Trammell, told the crowd that the vice president says gays and lesbians are "his most bedrock supporters, along with African Americans." Trammell noted also that the Stonewall clubs "will be the base" of the Gore campaign for gay votes. Gay voters and organizations have never played such a major role in a presidential campaign.
Virginia's U.S. Sen. Chuck Robb gave a strong, pro-gay speech. Robb is facing a tough challenge from conservative former governor George Allen, son of the ex-Redskins coach. Robb told the crowd, "I'm proud to stand with you"which he does: His Human Rights Campaign rating on gay issues is 100. That Robb believes gay support is worth the risk of backlash from his historically conservative constituents speaks volumes.
The personable Baldwin, who is rapidly becoming a star on the lavender political circuit, got thunderous applause from the mostly male crowd.
The club presented an award to Daniel McGlinchey, Stonewall's political director and a savvy staffer for Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, for his key role in starting the Stonewall Federation.
Expenses for the event didn't include a dime for ink, paper or stamps. Stonewall neither printed nor mailed invitations to the $50-bucks-a-throw event it was all done by e-mail.
Dickman for Congress
There's another openly gay candidate running for Congress this year. In Ohio's 4th District, former Roman Catholic priest Dan Dickman is the Democratic nominee, challenging Republican Representative Michael Oxley. Dickman is a social worker who has been working with a non-profit group helping those with HIV and AIDS in central Ohio. Though he's new to elective politics, Dickmanwhat a name!gets high marks for his record of principled activism and his unassuming manner. "What you see is what you get," says a longtime friend.
Dickman is a long shot against Oxley, who was re-elected with 64 percent of the vote in 1998 in this heavily Republican central Ohio area and has some $362,000 in his war chestto Dickman's $10,000. But Oxley rates a piddling 13 percent on the HRC scorecard and a visible gay opponent willat the leastserve to educate the public.
Dickman's candidacy brings this year's number of openly gay people running for federal office to ninea new record. U.S. Representatives Baldwin, Frank, and Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) are seeking reelection. The challengers include Dickman, Joel Farley in New Jersey, Ron Odin and Gerrie Schipske in California, and Ron Strouse in Pennsylvaniaall Democrats. In Vermont, home of same-sex civil unions, State Auditor Ed Flanagan (D) is running for the U.S. Senate.
Queer and There
A recent nationwide online survey conducted by the Harris Poll and Witeck-Combs Communications found that 75 percent of gay adults favor Al Gore for president to 24 percent for George W. Bush. Politically, 38 percent of gay respondents identify as Democrats, 18 percent as Republicans and 41 percent as independentsthat compares to 34 percent Democratic, 30 percent Republican and 34 percent independent for all adults, regardless of sexual orientation. Four percent of the 7,558 adults surveyed301 peopleself-identified as gay or lesbian.
In Vermont, opponents of civil unions are vowing to defeat legislators who supported equal benefits for same-sex couples. After the legislature's historic vote, Research 2000 of Rockville, Md., surveyed a sample of the Green Mountain State's registered voters. The poll found that 43 percent approve the legislature's action, 52 percent disapprove, and 5 percent aren't sure. There's still some educating to do, folks. Incidentally, the Harris, Witeck-Combs survey found that gays and lesbians approve of Vermont's new civil union law by a whopping 91 percent to 4 percent.
At the Gay and Lesbian Press Summit in Washington, D.C., during the Millennium March weekend, Log Cabin Republican chieftain Rich Tafel acknowledged his group is taking a more sympathetic look at George W. Bush. Although Tafel is not counting on a meeting with Dubya, he says the Bush camp has indicated some favorable movement on gay policy concerns may be forthcoming.
At the same event, Congresswoman Baldwin was asked if she might run for a higher, statewide office in her future. Baldwin said she is very happy where she is, but added: "I've learned never to say never."
Missing Money Mars Millennium March Success
The missing $750,000 to $1 million in cash receipts from the street festival at the recent Millennium March on Washington is a blight on an otherwise successful event. Unless the money is recovered and the culprits caught, the apparent theft of such a large sum is a setback for the community and its political movement.
The missing money is deflating the euphoria produced by the otherwise successfulin many ways, the most successfulmarch, which energized a new generation of gay people. It has to be a major letdown, not only to the hundreds of thousands of marchers from across the country, but to those who worked long hours to produce the event. When I spoke with march Executive Director Dianne Hardy-Garcia about the money loss, she sounded heartsick.
In particular, the missing receipts are a blow to the recently enhanced reputation of the gay establishment that backed the Millennium March. Hardy-Garcia and the march's executive committee called in the authorities as soon as they had suspicions of foul play. "We're going to do everything we can to cooperate with the authorities and get this resolved," said Hardy-Garcia. The Millennium Festival was produced by a sub-contractor, Millennium Productions, headed by ex-march board member Jose Ucles. But the Human Rights Campaign and its big-ticket allies on the march board have come to represent stability, responsibility and financial know-how. Presiding over an event in which up to a million bucks ends up in the wrong hands is a quick way to lose that reputation.
The apparent theft also gives a new lease on life to the otherwise discredited Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process, the group of activists who opposed the march. Before the MMOW, the Ad Hoc-ersin one press release after another - urged the march organizers to open their books to public inspection and questioned the practice of board members stepping down to take paid positions related to the events surrounding the march. Unknown thieves making off with large sums of cash may not have been what the Open Process people had in mind, but it's close enough for at least a couple of I-told-you- so's.
Moreover, if the vendors don't get paid because of the loss, they may not work next time unless they're paid in advance. It's a lousyand expensiveway to do business. And it will be even harder to persuade several hundred thousand people that they should part with their money to come to a gay gathering in Washington.
Let's hope for a happier ending.
States Continue to Advance Gay Causes
Many important steps in the march toward gay equality are being taken in the states. Our side doesn't win all the battles; "There is a checkerboard quality to the legal and cultural victories," says the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's new Executive Director, Elizabeth Toledo. Nevertheless, it looks like two steps forward for every one step backward.
Some recent examples:
Vermont, of course, has been the big story, creating "civil unions" for same-sex couples that include an array of rights and responsibilities similar to marriage. The victory isn't final yetcivil union foes are vowing to defeat legislators who supported it in this fall's elections.
In New Hampshire, Vermont's conservative neighbor, the House of Representatives defeated a bill to deny state recognition to same-sex marriages from other states. Usually, if such bills reach the floor, they pass because of lawmakers' fears of an anti-gay backlash. But, in "one of those rare moments," says NGLTF Field Organizer Dan Hawes, the unexpected happened. Nebraska, New Mexico, Vermont, and Wisconsin also killed anti-gay marriage bills this year. And the Mississippi legislature killed a proposal to strengthen its anti-same-sex matrimony law with an amendment to its state constitution.
In California, five domestic partnership billscovering medical, funeral and organ-transplant decisions, inheritance rights, and family leave policiesare making their way through the State Assembly. The outlook is bright for passage. Democratic Gov. Gray Davis has yet to consider the bills, and whether he will sign all of them remains to be seen.
In New York, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimi-nation Act (SONDA)which has often passed the House but routinely gets bottled up the Senatehas been reported out of the key Senate Investigations, Taxation and Government Operations Committee. This means that prospects for the bill's passage are better than ever. If the bill passes, Republican Gov. George Pataki has promised to sign it.
In Washington state, Democratic Gov. Gary Locke reversed himself and endorsed passage of domestic partnership benefits for state employees by the state's Public Employees Benefits Board. Locke had expressed concern about the costs of the proposal, but after a very strong reaction from the gay communitya "firestorm," says one observerthe governor sent a letter to the Seattle Gay News endorsing the proposal. GOP efforts to bar funding for such benefits failed in the legislature.
And in Alabamayes, Alabamathe House of Representatives passed a bill adding sexual orientation to its hate crimes statute. The measure is now in the senate.
On the down side, Utah and Mississippi barred adoptions by same-sex couples. And in Kentucky a bill failed that would have added sexual orientation to civil rights laws.
Hastings Wyman publishes Southern Political Report, a nonpartisan biweekly political newsletter. He can be reached care of this publication or at HWymanSPR@aol.com. For more Capital Letters, visit www.planetout.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 19, 2000.