Party favors

Party favors

Last week the
Democratic National Committee took an important step toward
ensuring full participation for LGBT Americans in our
democratic process and demonstrated once again its
commitment to promoting equality for the LGBT
community. At its summer meeting in Chicago the DNC adopted
new delegate selection rules—which guide how
the party will select its presidential nominee in
2008—and changed its calendar of presidential
primaries and caucuses to add early presidential nominating
contests in two states. As a result of these new
rules, LGBT Americans will have a greater voice in
choosing that candidate.

For the first
time in history, the DNC’s delegate selection rules
require that state parties adopt and implement
inclusion plans designed to achieve full
participation by LGBT Americans—along with Americans
with disabilities and other traditionally underrepresented
groups—in the political process. They require
the presidential candidates themselves to use their
best efforts to meet that goal, and require state parties to
certify to the DNC that the presidential candidates have
met their obligation. Gone are the days of empty,
merely aspirational rules that require state parties
to strive for equality but fail to hold them

The DNC also
added Nevada and South Carolina, two states with large
politically active LGBT communities, to the early
presidential nominating process. This will encourage
presidential campaigns to more fully engage the LGBT
community in their agendas and will likely mean that their
campaigns will hire more LGBT staffers at all levels.

The leaders of
the national Democratic Party should be applauded for
making sure that as Democrats choose our presidential
nominee in 2008, LGBT Americans from Arkansas to
Wyoming will have a voice in that process.

While these rules
might seem like “inside baseball” for many
LGBT Americans, they will have long-term positive
consequences. The new rules seek to correct our
community’s historic underrepresentation in the
political process. In particular, the newly required
inclusion plans, aimed at achieving LGBT Americans'
full political participation though their presence in
the Democratic electorate, add critical elements of
accountability to previous rules.

In the past, the
national party merely encouraged state parties to do
outreach to LGBT Americans. In practical terms, this
typically meant sending out a press release containing
information on how delegates are elected. The new
rules require real actions, and real results—not just
from the state party but from the presidential campaigns as

Although some
state parties have formed partnerships with the LGBT
community at the local level, too many have been reluctant
to engage our community. These rules will open new
doors in reluctant states to developing partnerships
that will increase the voices of LGBT Americans in
local, state, and national party affairs and in
public-policy discussions. It will help to increase
people’s comfort levels with LGBT Americans and
LGBT issues in those states, empowering more and more LGBT
Americans to seek public office.

Even before these
rules were adopted, the DNC’s LGBT caucus had been
working with National Stonewall Democrats on a plan that
would provide much of the groundwork necessary to make
these rules a success. Stonewall has committed to
assisting and training state parties in drafting and
achieving delegate selection goals that accurately reflect
their LGBT communities. Stonewall plans to conduct
training programs in 2007 that will equip LGBT
Democrats with the resources needed to participate in the
delegate selection process and in presidential campaigns.
Stonewall and several other national LGBT
organizations—including Human Rights Campaign
and Victory Fund, who were involved in the discussions that
led to these new rules—will be partners in the
work ahead to ensure full LGBT community

Like all
accomplishments in our nation’s ongoing struggle to
promote equality for all, the progress the LGBT
community has made in our struggle for equality has
come through incremental steps forward. I share the
frustration that many in our community feel about the slow
pace of those advances. But the fact is, the
DNC’s new delegate selection rules are an
important step forward—one that shows once again that
the LGBT community has a reliable partner in the
Democratic Party.

LGBT Americans
should applaud these new rules, which remove barriers in
many states that blocked fair representation in selecting
our next president and will make it easier to provide
us a place at the table.

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