Washington, DC - Today, the National Stonewall Democrats warned of the troubling record of Michael Steele on issues of equality. Steele, who was elected today as the new Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) is the former Lt. Governor of Maryland and former Chair of the Maryland Republican Party. In those two positions, Steele often rallied his party to pursue anti-equality positions in spite of overtures to moderate voters.
"Although there were candidates that were not selected for RNC Chair with stronger anti-equality credentials than Michael Steele, which shows some hope for the party, we should carefully consider his record as the Republican Party moves forward. The Republican Party has a troubling history of anti-equality activism," said Jon Hoadley, Executive Director. "Unfortunately, Michael Steele has been a part of that record. Each time that he has promised voters a new tone in politics he has also taken steps to solidify the anti-LGBT positions of his own party. Voters should be very wary of his new role as Republican National Committee Chair. While the priority of Stonewall Democrats is on improving the Democratic Party and electing more pro-equality Democrats, we will keep a watchful eye on the GOP during this time."
In the absence of a Republican president or congressional majority leaders, the Chair of the Republican National Committee maintains great leeway in shaping the policy of the Republican Party. Peter Hanby of CNN notes that "with Republicans out of the White House and in the minority in both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994, the new chairman will have an uncommonly powerful role (RNC Race Still Wide Open, 01/29/2009)." Steele's advocacy for anti-equality positions hints that the Republican Party will continue the same divisive path which led to dramatic electoral losses in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.
During his 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate, the pro-equality group Equality Maryland warned voters that Steele was waging "an anti-gay Senate campaign" (Steele Rallies Against Gay Marriage at Gathering, Washington Blade, 05/19/2006). As Lt. Governor of Maryland, Steele made himself a public advocate for the Alliance for Marriage, a radical anti-marriage group which initiated efforts to pass a federal constitutional amendment to bar same-sex couples the freedom to marry. In 2005, Steele also headlined a "Defend Marriage Rally" in an attempt to pressure the state legislature to pass a similar amendment, although it was ultimately defeated.
In contrast to the anti-equality record of Republicans, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) recently elevated three openly-gay officials to the highest ranks of the Democratic Party. At its meeting last week in Washington, Andy Tobias was elected Treasurer of the DNC while Rufus Gifford was appointed as national Finance Chair. New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley was elected Vice Chair of the DNC and President of the Association of State Democratic Chairs. The DNC Vice Chair ranks second only to the national party chair, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia. Stonewall Democrats actively campaigned for Buckley's election among party insiders and supported the election and appointment of both Tobias and Gifford.
National Stonewall Democrats is the national voice of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied Democrats, with more than 90 local chapters across the nation. Stonewall Democrats works to elect more pro-equality Democrats regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity - and to improve the Democratic Party on issues important to LGBT Democrats.