Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: LGBT Democrats Earn a Seat at the Party

At a recent meeting of the Virginia State Democratic Party (DPVA), official party recognition and a seat on its Party Steering Committee was granted to the LGBT Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Virginia. This move finally elevates LGBT Democratic activists to a front row seat at the table of the State party leadership and ensures an unfiltered platform for the promotion of LGBT related issues and concerns.

The Stonewall Caucus actually represents the latest step in the evolution of the Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Club, a long time group of LGBT Democratic activists with a statewide membership and recognized Federal and State PAC committees.

For nearly 20 years the Virginia Partisans has worked to garner grass roots support for Democratic candidates through fundraising, recruiting volunteers and awareness education about issues affecting the LGBT community in Virginia. That effort has been a huge success as the organization grew from a handful of activists in 1992 led by Don Pretzer and Adam Ebbin to a statewide political force whose endorsements and contributions are sought out by candidates from all levels of government. We are proud to call many of Virginia’s Democratic leaders our friends and have provided pivotal support to elect several of our own “family” to office, like VA Delegate Adam Ebbin, Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, School Board Member Sally Baird and Falls Church City Councilman Lawrence Webb.

As the Virginia Partisans became well known in state Democratic political circles, we earned the designation of Constituent Interest Group and over the last ten years have worked hard within the party to develop an official LGBT Caucus. That goal, led by former VA Partisans President and current Stonewall Caucus Chair Charley Conrad, was finally achieved in late 2009. With the establishment of the Stonewall Caucus within the DPVA complete, the two groups recently began the process of merging under a single umbrella with a common purpose yet distinct roles to play in the future.

Our hope is to build an even bigger and stronger voice for LGBT equality in this state and make a difference in the local races next year.

Plans are underway to rewrite the bylaws of the two organizations and to realign the existing members for each into a working alliance under the banner of the LGBT Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Virginia. The name reflects a renewed affiliation with the National Stonewall Democrats, a national LGBT political group with links to the National Democratic Party and political partners in most every state. Pending approval of the changes, the existing paid membership of the VA Partisans will be merged with the members of the Stonewall Caucus. Membership in the Stonewall Caucus is open to any Democrat in Virginia who supports advancement of LGBT issues and the State Democratic Party Platform. The Caucus will be led by a Board of elected officers and At-Large members chosen every two years and will work to build membership, represent LGBT issues within the Democratic Party and develop a grassroots program to pursue our goal of full equality in Virginia.

The Virginia Partisans meanwhile will remain a separate legal entity and maintain a small membership of elected officers and Board members to manage the existing Federal and State PACs. The Virginia Partisans’ purpose will be to partner with the Stonewall Caucus to raise money, make endorsements and elect LGBT supportive Democratic candidates to office in Virginia. As such, The Virginia Partisans will remain a vital tool in support of the Stonewall Caucus but independent of direct state party controls.

As part of the merger, several leadership changes have already been made. Tiffany Joslyn has been selected to serve as the new President of The Virginia Partisans: The Voice of LGBT Democrats in Virginia and is leading the effort to redefine the organization to fit the new model. Stonewall Caucus Chair Charley Conrad has appointed me to serve as the Stonewall Caucus Representative on the State Democratic Party Steering Committee. The new Boards are taking shape and include exceptional talent from across the state including Falls Church icon Nick Benton as a member of the Stonewall Caucus Board.
A January joint working session is planned in Richmond and the transition will be completed by early 2011, just in time for the next round of statewide elections. Our hope is to build an even bigger and stronger voice for LGBT equality in this state and make a difference in the local races next year. Another key goal is to lead the effort to defend basic civil rights in Virginia against a hostile Republican Administration. Everyone involved in LGBT issues understands that the current Governor and his allies Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Del. Bob Marshall are waging a war on equality in Virginia. We owe it to all Virginians to stand up to those forces and fight back. With the changes outlined above, the LGBT Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Virginia intends to lead the way. Join us! http://lgbtvadem.org/