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Alameda Dems adopt pro-LGBTQ endorsement policy

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Alameda Dems adopt pro-LGBTQ endorsement policy

The Democratic Party in Alameda County will no longer endorse candidates who do not support LGBTQ rights under a bylaws change its oversight body adopted Wednesday. It is believed to be the first local Democratic Party in the state to expressly restrict its support from candidates seeking elective office deemed to be anti- LGBTQIA+.

The proposal passed by a 30-0 vote at the September 1 meeting of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee. It will be put into effect when the central committee starts its endorsement process for the 2022 elections.

And other Democratic county parties are likely to follow suit, as members of local party committees from across California have already contacted their counterparts in Alameda County regarding their pro-LGBTQ endorsement policy.

"I don't think this should be at all controversial, it is already in our platform. If you check the California Democratic Party platform, we have some elaboration on standing up for queer equality in there," said Annie Koruga, a queer member of the Alameda central committee who took the lead role in drafting the bylaws proposal. "Really all this does, honestly, is it gives us some teeth to enforce our platform."

As the B.A.R. previously reported, the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee passed a resolution in June supportive of not backing candidates with a history of opposing LGBTQIA+ rights or who won't commit to support LGBTQIA+ rights if elected. Members of the committee then spent the summer working on the bylaws proposal to make the policy enforceable, postponing a vote on it at its August meeting in order to fine-tune the wording of it.

The endorsement ban also covers candidates who personally support an anti-LGBTQIA+ candidate or an elected official who adopted anti-LGBTQIA+ policies. Examples given in the proposal for actions that would be deemed in opposition to LGBTQIA+ issues include voting against or making disparaging remarks about the display of a Pride flag; voting against or making disparaging remarks about marriage equality; voting against or making disparaging remarks about trans-inclusive policies (including bathroom and athlete policies); or voting against or making disparaging remarks about a queer inclusive curriculum (including anti-bullying curriculums and sex-education).

According to the policy, at least five voting members of the central committee will need to sign a written charge against a candidate considered to have opposed LGBTQIA+ issues for it to be voted on by the full oversight body. At least 60% of the voting members will then need to uphold the charge against the candidate in order for the person to be deemed to have opposed LGBTQIA+ issues and thus ineligible to be endorsed by the local party.

The bylaws change also sets up a process for how the Alameda central committee can withdraw an endorsement of a candidate if the person subsequently acts in opposition to the LGBTQIA+ community. The party will temporarily rescind its endorsement should five or more members submit a written charge against the candidate, unless two-thirds or more of the executive board members vote to block the charge within five days of its submittal. A majority vote (50%+ 1) of the entire committee will be needed to officially rescind the endorsement.

"All that a candidate has to do is not be homophobic," noted Koruga in order to secure the local party's support of their candidacy. "It's not hard to vote for equality and not say homophobic things."

Also under the bylaws change, any member of the central committee who donates to, or endorses or votes to endorse, an anti-LGBTQIA+ candidate could face removal from the oversight body. Two other committee members would need to initiate the removal process, and the member in question would not be removed if they publicly rescind their endorsement.

Additional bylaws changes regarding banning endorsements for candidates who oppose other tenets of the Democratic Party platform could be adopted by the Alameda Democratic Party in the future.

"I support this and look forward to the day we have similar exclusions/restrictions for racists," noted Pamela Price, an elected member of the central committee who is running in 2022 to be Alameda County's district attorney.

Elected committee member Lance Kwan, a gay man who co-chairs the by-laws committee, said the LGBTQ endorsement policy "sets the standard" for enacting more in in the future. The committee is expected to take up proposals to formalize in its by-laws that it will not endorse candidates who accept donations or support from police unions and the fossil fuel industry.

Initially, the new pro-LGBTQ endorsement rules were to also apply to local Democratic clubs in Alameda County, which would lose their chartering by the local party if they violated it. But the central committee decided to take up that matter at a later time, as it is seeking legal counsel about it.

"We did not want to move that forward without getting some legal determination on what we can and can't dictate in terms of clubs' endorsements," said Andy Kelley, a gay man who is co-chair of the group's bylaws committee and corresponding secretary of the local party.

Adoption of the endorsement ban likely could present an issue for Fremont Mayor Lily Mei in securing the local party's support of her state Senate candidacy. She is running next year to succeed Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), as he will be termed out of his Senate District 10 seat.

When she ran for reelection as mayor last year, Mei switched her voter registration from "No Party Preference" to Democrat. Back in 2010, when she served on the Fremont School Board, Mei voted against a resolution to declare May 22 as Harvey Milk Day in honor of the slain gay San Francisco supervisor, who in 1977 became the first LGBTQ person elected to public office in California.

Mei was specifically mentioned during the central committee's June meeting as well as by several of the out members in interviews earlier this summer with the B.A.R. regarding the endorsement ban proposal. She did not respond to the B.A.R.'s requests for comment at the time but did state on her senate campaign website, "Safe, welcoming communities embrace our diversity. I'll stand up for immigrants and communities of color, support LGBTQ civil rights, and a woman's right to choose."

It remains to be seen if that is enough to put Mei in compliance with the local party's new endorsement policy.

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