Mecklenburg Democratic Party needs more LGBT inclusion

Guest Commentary

by Don Rosenthal

I have been involved in the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party (MCDP) for the last 10 years, but not in a particularly active role, although I am vice-chair of my precinct caucus. I have been struck repeatedly by how weak a force for advancing LGBT rights the MCDP has been. No group, including the “gay” group that exists on paper within the party, has been active in pressing LGBT concerns. During those years, few party leaders have made a serious effort to reach out to the LGBT community. (Several have been indifferent if not openly hostile.)

As a result, no one in the party leadership raised any questions about the poor performance of Mayor Foxx and members of the City Council in last year’s efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the employment policies of the city. (As readers of qnotes may recall, the city manager supposedly acted on his own authority to add sexual orientation, but not gender identity, to those policies.) This allowed Charlotte politicians to get off the hook for lack of visibility on the issue (except before LGBT constituents), but it also created a situation where a new city manager or city council might easily remove even the limited protections added in 2010.

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With the Democratic National Convention, with its significant inclusion of LGBT officials coming to Charlotte in 2012, it is time for the Charlotte LGBT community to be more visible in putting forward demands for LGBT inclusion and better treatment by both the party organization and the city government.

As it happens, the MCDP is in the process of selecting a new county party chair to replace its current chair who is not running for re-election. The election for chair is scheduled for April 9. (Later in the year, there will also be another election for mayor and city council.)

Because there has been no real effort by the party to reach out to the LGBT community, I thought I would take it on myself to ask the three candidates who have indicated their interest in becoming chair (Frank Deaton, Aisha Dew and Darrin Rankin) about their support for greater inclusion of the LGBT community. All three have been quite positive in their initial responses, though I have learned to be cautious about politicians’ promises in Charlotte.

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With this as background, I would like to hear both from people who may already be involved in Democratic Party work, as well as others who might be interested in getting involved. If you are interested in being active, precinct meetings for selecting party officials have been scheduled between Feb. 28 and March 11. Unfortunately, there may not be time for you to plan to attend the precinct meeting in your neighborhood, but there is still time to find out whether that is the case. If you do not know your precinct, it appears on your voter card or you can contact the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections at 704-336-2133 for that information. (If you have not voted before in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, you should contact the board of elections about registering to vote or updating your former registration if you have moved.)

Once you have found out what precinct you are in, either call the party organization at 704-525-5843 or go to their website at mecklenburgdemocrat.org. If you access the website, you need to check the “Calendar” of meetings in the upper right corner of the homepage and then review the list of meetings and their locations. (The way the website is set up, it may be easier to call the party office.) The party organization is scheduled to have office hours from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and is planning to add office hours one evening a week, probably on Wednesdays.

I would welcome your expressions of interest and your suggestions for possible steps to be taken to expand an LGBT influence within the MCDP. Please email me at dbrosenthal@bellsouth.net. : :

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