Opinion: The Stonewall Democratic Club ‘Pinkwashes’ Status Quo Democrats

On Monday, the Stonewall Democratic Club voted to expel me. After months of challenging the club’s entirely political support of “pinkwashing” status quo, moderate Democrats. I leave knowing it was my sustained criticism of their betrayal of decades of tireless LGBTQ activism that inspired their ire and motivated them to concoct a way to force me out. Yet, my activism continues.

After an alley brawl on Cinco de Mayo in West Hollywood I posted a video of the drunken gay bashing on my personal Facebook page (a video that went viral) and I wrote: “Faghags need to be checked so often.” Stonewall Executive Board, save one, demanded that I resign from the club for encouraging violence against women– an accusation as preposterous as it was insulting. One officer claimed that my sharing a video should be handled like the rich donor asked to leave after “what happened to Gemmel Moore.” To liken the death of a young man to the sharing of a viral video is disrespectful of Moore’s memory and disgusting to anyone not on a rabid personal vendetta. For this they expelled me, claiming I advocated violence against women. Simply ludicrous! They twisted my words in order to silence dissent within the club.

stonewall democratic club
Craig Scott

I have spent my adult life advocating for equality and justice. I was a member of ACT-UP, Queer Nation and numerous LGBTQ Democratic clubs. I was a cofounder of the Bayard Rustin LGBTQ Club of Solano and Napa counties. I sat on two Democratic Central Committees while I lived in Northern California. While with Stonewall in Los Angeles I have focused on educating federal and state representatives in Los Angeles County and asked congressmembers to cosponsor more LGBTQ bills. I have worked with Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority drawing attention to the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth. The persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya has also been part of my activism for the last year. I have also worked with a local GSA. A rainbow flag flies over Culver City, in part, because I was involved. I work to improve the lives of people.

The club works to advance careers of establishment moderate Democrats by pinkwashing them with a Stonewall endorsement. The club’s endorsement process is designed to protect incumbents and well-financed, well-connected candidates, many of whom donate money to the club. Last November the club endorsed incumbent congressmembers across the board. Even though the club was provided with information on how few LGBTQ bills some Los Angeles Congress members had cosponsored, they were all endorsed by the club. Either with a stellar record or weak record, all received endorsements.

The endorsement process fails to advance progressive candidates. Endorsement interviews are held behind closed doors, and input from the members is thwarted. All questions posed to candidates are vetted in advance by the political director, Jane Wishon, a straight, white woman who claims to be an ally. If she doesn’t approve the question, it is not asked. The questions she approves are softball questions that can usually be answered by looking at the candidate’s website. Then a diversity of members are trotted in and allowed to only read the softball questions pre-approved by Jane. This process silences issues that people of color or transgender members may want to ask. Questions unique to LGBTQ people are few and far between. Questionnaires are never shared with membership. The club asks questions that are asked in other Democratic clubs and fail to address concerns of LGBTQ people. As a person who has been in many Democratic clubs and as a life-long activist, the endorsement questions and secretive nature of the process is an embarrassment. When I raised my concerns to the political director I was told, “I’ve made my decisions. If you don’t like it you can leave.” The LGBTQ community deserves a political organization focused on their needs.

A few months back I arranged a meeting with the Los Angeles Homelessness Authority’s Youth Manager along with the club’s president, Lester Aponte. We were going to discuss homeless LGBTQ youth. Lester failed to show up and offered no explanation. It was embarrassing and shameful on the part of the president.

Over the course of months as an elected steering committee member I paid close attention to Stonewall’s oft-proclaimed commitment to feminism and women’s well-being; it was the club’s pointed disinterest in women that became glaringly apparent. As the #MeToo movement grew it was proposed the club could become a resource for people seeking to file complaints against an employer because most people do not know how to go about filing a discrimination complaint. The club president works at Young & Zinn, a law firm that defends employers from such complaints. The president killed the proposal because he deemed it a conflict of interest with his job and therefore not good for the club. Stonewall has a president who defends employers against discrimination complaints, and he used his position to keep information away from women who might need it. Mull over that.

The last year at Stonewall in Los Angeles has been frustrating. The club has grown weary of my calls for activism and challenges to their relentless support of the status quo by “pinkwashing.” I have been expelled for the flimsiest of reasons. The club lacks interest in activism to improve the lives of LGBTQ people, people of color, women and others. Stonewall is not a LGBTQ club. It is not a feminist club. It is not progressive club. Stonewall in Los Angeles pinkwashes candidates unworthy of an endorsement with the word “Stonewall.” It’s been 49 years since the Stonewall riots, and the name has been co-opted and severed decoupled from its activists’ roots.

The Stonewall Democratic Club is ossified, obtuse and obsolete — and unworthy of the sacrifices in lives, sweat and tears of the marginalized LGBTQ folks on whose shoulders they have climbed solely to hobnob before the camera, any camera. It’s just a matter of time before this anachronistic cabal implodes from the weight of its own cronyism; may the good people there get out and go on to bigger and better work for our community. My activism, it goes without saying, will continue, proudly, fervently and without apology.


7 Comments
  1. Stonewall is not a gay political club. It is just an arm of the Democratic Party. In the past, it has used its members to phone bank, precinct walk and campaign against gay candidates for office and against outspoken supporters of gay rights when they were running against other candidates who were not that way but were more preferred by the mainstream Party leadership. They could have chosen to direct their finite resources elsewhere, but deliberately targeted “the wrong kind of gay people” or whatever because the Party demands homogeneity and obeisance to the Party power structure, which, in California, means public sector labor unions and a handful of big donors and major office holders. Many of the prominent members of the Stonewall Democrats might have been gay over the years, but that’s just a way for the leadership of the Democratic Party to assign hand selected gay people to some role within the greater Party rather than assigning them to some role is some other arm of the Party. It’s not because gay people rose up and elected people from among themselves to a leadership role to have a voice in the Party.

    One visit to the Stonewall Democratic booth at Pride can confirm all this. Their booth isn’t staffed with gay people most of the time. It’s staffed by paid labor union members who wanted extra income for a weekend and got assigned to work the job from the pool of other paid jobs parceled out for the weekend, and the booth and employees are paid for by the mandatory labor union dues taken from working people, who then have to seek weekend employment with the Democratic Party to get their money back. It’s not staffed with volunteers or people who care much about politics, or people who are members of the Club whose banner they hang up. The booth is no different from booths at any other event, except for the banner. It’s staffed with employees who pass out boilerplate Democratic Party electioneering materials that have nothing to do with gay people or gay interests. The employees don’t know much of anything and can’t engage anyone in discussions about the Club or even about politics or issues. They’re the same type of people who are paid by labor unions to circulate petitions against redeveloping The Factory but don’t know why when asked. They’re the kind of people who get mocked on late night tv shows by being asked simple questions on camera and being utterly unable to speak out a coherent answer. Stonewall is just one of many cogs in a political machine, not an independent entity of independent thinkers advocating for an interest group.

    You can contrast this with the Log Cabin Republicans and Libertarians who show up at Pride. Think what you want about them, but the people who staff their booths are actual gay people and not paid to be there. Many of them contribute their own money to pay for their booths, which they design and stock themselves. They seriously care about their beliefs and about changing their Parties from within, and can talk on those topics and others at great length. Many of their members are respected political operatives who have earned that respect through hard work, not by being relegated to some role by a higher Party operative to keep them out of the way. They are not just Party plants paid to pass out stickers and brochures at the event of the week. That’s what a true political club is.

    Stonewall exists purely to guilt gay people into supporting the political aims of the Democratic Party, or to lull them into thinking that the Democratic Party has their best interests in mind, and to keep gay people from getting too uppity and making independent decisions about their political behavior.

  2. Welcome to the age of Zero Tolerance and social media. Anything and everything can and will be used against you. It’s as if one now has to constantly live under the spectre of Miranda rights. The basic rule is if it isn’t something you’d want your grandmother to see, DO NOT put it online — there is always someone watching.

    Social commentary aside, I do wish our political organizations were more outgoing and welcoming. We live in a time when we must elect EVERY Democrat imaginable, yet our political organizations seem to have an “underground” existence…why aren’t meetings more publicized? Why aren’t there social events to bring in new members? Why don’t these organizations foster forums that allow for open discussion of key issues?

    I commend these organizations for the work they do, but for the most part they’re run by the same people over and over again. I went to a WH/BC Democratic Club meeting and the SAME people who were there 10-15 years ago are essentially the same people attending the meetings.

    In a democracy, politics is EVERYONE’s business. There’s no excuse for remaining on the sidelines, but we might do a better job fighting for our causes if our institutions did a better job trying to bring in new people.

  3. After years of relentless support of the status quo from the Democratic Party we see way out of this situation, 28-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat 10-term incumbent Representative Joe Crowley in New York in Tuesday’s Democratic primary!

    The issues she ran and WON on:
    Medicare For All
    Housing As a Human Right
    A Federal Jobs Guarantee
    Gun Control / Assault Weapons Ban
    Criminal Justice Reform, End Private Prisons
    Immigration Justice / Abolish ICE
    Solidarity with Puerto Rico
    Mobilizing Against Climate Change
    Clean Campaign Finance
    Higher Education for All
    Women’s Rights
    Support LGBTQIA+
    Support Seniors
    Curb Wall Street Gambling: Restore Glass Steagall

    You see you avoid the petty fights with sell outs that are going nowhere and, stay on course with the real issues!

    The Courage to Change, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez!

  4. After years of relentless support of the status quo from the Democratic Party we see way out of this situation, 28-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat 10-term incumbent Representative Joe Crowley in New York in Tuesday’s Democratic primary!

    The issues she ran and WON on:
    Medicare For All
    Housing As a Human Right
    A Federal Jobs Guarantee
    Gun Control / Assault Weapons Ban
    Criminal Justice Reform, End Private Prisons
    Immigration Justice / Abolish ICE
    Solidarity with Puerto Rico
    Mobilizing Against Climate Change
    Clean Campaign Finance
    Higher Education for All
    Women’s Rights
    Support LGBTQIA+
    Support Seniors
    Curb Wall Street Gambling: Restore Glass Steagall

    You see you avoid the petty fights with sell outs that are going nowhere and, stay on course with the real issues!

    The Courage to Change, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez!

  5. Important to note: Craig had nothing to do with the offending video. No connection to the event or people involved. He simply saw a catfight video posted online and clicked “share.”

    Yet, the position of Stonewall is “the person who shared the video is as guilty as the person who threw the punch.”
    This is absolutely insane.

  6. While the wording of Craig’s post was probably ill advised it is sad to hear that he was run out of Stonewall. I find that self styled “progressives” are all for diversity unless it happens to be diversity of opinion. When Ivy Bottini and I served as president of the Club back in the 1990s we were truly a grassroots, “hit the streets” organization. By the early 2000s the Club became increasingly corporate and was a magnet for wannabe Democratic Party insiders who had little to do with the legitimacy the Club had earned during the dark days of AIDS, Regan-Bush and confronting the casual homophobia within the Democratic Party. Unfortunately the community Stonewall claims to represent pays a price for that evolution. Not to make light of price Craig paid for being a gadfly but Stonewall still has a vital role to play and its’ members are truly committed to insuring the voice of our community is heard. In the era of Trump/Pence we need Stonewall’s leadership more than ever.

    Steve Martin

    1. Democrats need to win, purity tests are for Republicans. You might have noticed what’s been going on in our government. Unless we can win the next election, all of those prized progressive ideas are going to be gone with the wind. We’re in the fight for our literal lives and you guys a fighting a rear guard action to impose purity standards on what constitutes a “progressive” Democrat. Want to keep losing elections, keep up what you purists are doing and we will. We have to win over people who don’t yet believe in all of the progressive’s ideas in order to win back Congress. It’s that calculation that’s not being made. Purify at your own risk…

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