The efforts of gay bloggers and
activists to derail a gay DNC fundraiser in protest of Obama's
hesitation to take on gay rights has racked up impressive defections
but the event's gay co-chairs say they'll still attend.
Tonight's LGBT Leadership Council
Dinner is a $1,000-a-plate minimum fundraiser featuring Vice
President Joseph R. Biden. The fundraiser has become the target of
gay activists who are pressuring gay donors to stop giving to the
The gay activists argue that so long as
the “gay ATM” is filling Democratic Party coffers, the party is
likely to continue offering lip service over action on gay rights.
“The Democrats don't seem to care
much about our civil rights, but when the gay ATM goes bust, suddenly
we get our calls returned,” wrote Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog,
one of the blogs supporting the boycott.
Donors began to flee after boycott
organizers announced they would picket outside the Mandarin Oriental
Hotel tonight, and gay weekly the Washington Blade said it
will video tape anyone who crosses their picket line.
By Wednesday the body count was adding
up. Eleven donors had signaled they were not attending, including
Vermont Senate Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin, who shepherded the first
gay marriage bill through the Vermont Legislature, openly gay
philanthropist Bruce Bastian, and gay activist David Mixner.
But the biggest win so far is former
DNC Chairman Howard Dean, an event co-chair. Dean released a
statement Wednesday that he would not attend due to a “family
commitment.” The former presidential candidate said he was
committed to the event and would send a video message to attendees.
Gay activists already dissatisfied with
President Obama on gay rights hit their breaking point two weeks ago
with the news that the Department of Justice filed a brief in support
of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, the 1996 law that defines
marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies and allows
states to ignore legal gay marriages performed elsewhere.
The brief drew fire from activists who
say it draws parallels between gay marriage and incestuous and
polygamous relationships, and it relied heavily on outdated and
inaccurate gay stereotypes.
“The brief was very troubling to a
lot of people and rightfully so,” Richard Socarides, a former
special assistant to President Clinton who is also boycotting the
fundraiser, told ABC News. “Supporters of the Democratic Party and
others who feel that gay and lesbian equality is an important issue
to address are rightly concerned about this brief. Serious issues
still need to be clarified.”
So far, however, the administration has
remained mum on the brief, saying only that the president has a duty
to defend the law.
“[T]he Justice Department is charged
with upholding the law of the land, even though the president
believes the law should be repealed,” White House Spokesman Robert
But while activists have managed to
shake some fruit off the vine, event co-chairs Representatives Barney
Frank of Massachusetts, Jared Polis of Colorado, and Tammy Baldwin of
Wisconsin – the gay community's de facto representation in Congress
– say they remain committed to the event.
“There are a lot of people who aren't
boycotting [the DNC fundraiser],” Frank said. “I think it's a
mistake to deny money to the DNC.”
Polis also defended his decision,
telling gay weekly Bay
“I am a Democrat and a proud Democrat. Our party is not perfect
but we need to make it better. There is an enormous difference
between the Republican and Democratic Party on equality issues.”