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The DNC's new gay

The DNC's new gay


Longtime Democratic activist Brian Bond is the party's new gay outreach adviser. And he's not worried by that fact that his predecessor was fired shortly after that man's boyfriend criticized the DNC.

Brian Bond, former executive director for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and Democratic Party liaison, was expecting to take a job leading the gay political group National Stonewall Democrats. That was until Donald Hitchcock was fired from his post as executive director of the Democratic National Committee's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council in April, and Bond stepped in.

Hitchcock was fired by DNC chair Howard Dean one week after Hitchcock's partner, Democratic Party operative Paul Yandura, wrote an open letter criticizing Dean and the Democrats for not doing enough to defend the rights of gay and lesbian couples. The DNC has stated repeatedly that Hitchcock was not let go in retaliation for the letter.

Bond sat down with The Advocate during his first full day at work on May 9 to talk about the party's prospects in 2006, how gays and lesbians fit in, and whether he thinks he could get fired for something his partner says.

Does the DNC have a strategy to combat what promises to be another big round of constitutional marriage bans on state ballots this year? I would say yes, but I think you have to look at this in both a short-term and long-term context. In the short term, clearly strategy is being put in place. Obviously I'm new here, so I have some ideas myself. But at the same time there is a long-term piece to this too. One of the things Governor Dean has done very well with the staff here is to start and put an infrastructure in place that starts bringing people up through the process. They are doing an incredible amount of training that I don't think they are getting credit for, quite frankly. Having been the former gay desk person [before Dean eliminated it in favor of a more integrated approach to outreach], I can tell you I actually think the new approach, the way the governor has integrated things--where everybody has to talk and work together here and everybody knows what's going on--is going to be more beneficial in the long run. That is part of the reason I wanted to take this job.

Some people were very critical of the DNC getting rid of its desk system. How did you feel about it, having been someone on that desk? This integrated approach will work better. It doesn't minimize the impact of the community. I mean, my work is going to be [with] GLBT [people], but I think it allows you to bring more people in. I mean, I had to fight for pencils. Having to call a major donor to get pencils for your desk was a little tough when you should be focusing on the issues. They changed the paradigm here, and I think in the end it will pay off.

Are you afraid that if your partner or boyfriend says something critical [of the DNC], you're going to get fired? No. First of all, I trust my partner beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Some people are saying the reason your predecessor is gone is because of what his partner was saying publicly. Do you agree? I think timing in this whole situation is what it was. It's apples and oranges. I don't think they had anything to do with each other. It was a timing issue.

What position were you up for at the National Stonewall Democrats when you decided to take this job instead?I was in the final round for the National Stonewall Democrats [executive director position]. In the end, I love that organization. And I know they will be an integral part of whatever is happening here in the DNC. They have to be. If I can be their advocate and bring them more into the process--it's a great organization, and it is grassroots. It is what we should be doing.

How would you respond to gay people who say, "I'm not going to write a check to the DNC because they have not been as supportive of gay couples as they could be"? One of the wonderful things about the Democratic Party is open discussion, open dialogue, and hopefully, constructive criticism. In the end, part of my job will be to use this as an opportunity to digest suggestions people have, with a respect of knowing we both want the same thing in the end. [We need to] identify the coalition partners, obviously the [National Gay and Lesbian] Task Force, Victory Fund, Stonewall, and see what roles people need to play, and then just get to work. Because we're losing what we need to be doing right now, and that's focusing on winning elections. Honestly, I respect everyone who has criticisms right now. I hope people know me as somebody who will listen, and bring it back to the table, and try to come up with plans that work.

Do you think the Democratic Party should have an official position on marriage equality, or is it better to let that be an issue each candidate has to deal with? Even in the infamous Yandura letter, Paul says he doesn't expect [the DNC] to be right there on marriage right now but to be focusing on winning elections, which is what I think we should be doing. And listening to not just donors but the grassroots activists for what works in their area and moving forward with that. We've got to get someone like a [minority leader] Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House versus what we've got now, or this is all for naught.

What do you think will happen in the Senate with the Federal Marriage Amendment, which is now scheduled for a vote on June 6?All I can tell you is at this point it's about the incredible work [Human Rights Campaign president] Joe Solmonese and HRC have been doing right now. It is about scapegoating. Having just started, I'm still getting my feet wet, but I do know the HRC is putting together a strategy that will involve a lot of our coalition partners.

Do you think in the 2004 elections the state marriage amendments drove turnout and influenced votes? I need to focus on the future instead of second-guessing some of this. I do believe one of things I can be helpful with is helping with message. Getting some of our gay elected officials out there, they are definitely part of our process for moving things forward. I know Stonewall for a fact did an excellent job in the 2004 elections. [But] the scapegoating, the wedge issues, it's going to work where it's going to work. Some of it was dictated by the presidential campaign too, not by just specific issues.

Do you see the recent wave of proposed bans on adoption by gays as similar to the political wedge issue marriage has been?That's a good question. I have to take that from a personal note too. My partner has a 12-year-old daughter. When you talk to anybody about how they raise their children, it's a passionate issue. I think it is dealt with differently. People feel more deeply about the adoption battle and fighting it, while some of the community is still split on where the we should be on civil unions versus marriage versus domestic partnership.

Are you optimistic about political change in 2006? I can only say I'm very excited to be working here right now, or I should say, again. The governor has a great vision for what we need to be doing, and it is focused on the states and the grassroots level. It is going to be exciting to be a part of that. [Because] of the people that I have met in my one hour here, it's going to be an incredible election cycle. But we've got to get focused back on the elections.

Are there any other issues you hope to focus on in your new position?The DNC has been spending a lot of time training volunteers. Part of their training process is to learn how to do outreach to the GLBT community. I think that is a significant shift. It's helping basically to build the party from the ground up, but also with the inclusion of the GLBT piece. It also ties in as well to the whole delegation selection process of making us part of that process. One of the things I know they have done, and I have a definite interest in, is electing more GLBT candidates and having them be part of the process.

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