Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stonewall Democrats Setting up Shop in Baltimore




By Steve Charing


A cold, rainy January 7 night didn’t deter nearly 30 people from attending the first organizational meeting of the Baltimore chapter of the Stonewall Democrats. Co-founders Luke Clippinger and Daniel Ewald are in the process of establishing the chapter to join the 90 that already exist throughout the country.

Those attending the meeting downtown were racially diverse with a wide variety of backgrounds and ages. There were folks from Baltimore City as well as from Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties.

"Given the bad weather, we were very pleasantly surprised to see that many people show up for this meeting," said Luke Clippinger one of the co-founders of the Baltimore group. Clippinger vowed to bring in people from Anne Arundel and Carroll counties by fostering a grassroots movement throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Stonewall Democrats is America's only grassroots Democratic LGBT organization. Its main objectives include educating the LGBT community about the differences between the political parties, mobilizing the lgbt community to get out to vote on Election Day for fair-minded Democrats, and standing up to Republicans when they attack lgbt rights and families. It had been founded by openly gay Rep. Barney Frank (MA) over 20 years ago.

The fledgling group in Baltimore, however, will concentrate their efforts on local issues and candidates. "There already is a Stonewall chapter in the D.C. suburbs that will eventually cover Southern Maryland," said Daniel Ewald, another co-founder. "Having a chapter in Baltimore will provide convenience to local residents and attract more members from this area."

One of the principal goals of the Baltimore chapter is to help elect lgbt and allied candidates to offices. Luke Clippinger, who was one of three Marylanders who helped draft the platform at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, explained, "We will provide actual training for people on what it takes to run for office, how to be good candidates, and how to raise money."

Moreover, the chapter plans to educate elected officials on LGBT issues, design a grassroots effort to attract the LGBT community, and persuade more people to become involved in politics. The grassroots strategy includes media outreach, web presence (already on Facebook) and developing events.

While the national Stonewall Democrats focuses on federal issues and working with members of Congress, the Baltimore chapter will direct its attention to state and local matters. "We will try to primarily affect the City Council and various county councils in the area regarding issues that are important to the LGBT community," said Daniel Ewald, who is also an officer in the Baltimore County Young Democrats.

The Baltimore chapter plans to work with the Maryland Democratic Central Committee on advancing lgbt causes and devising electoral strategies. Clippinger noted that Equality Maryland must be bipartisan in advocating LGBT initiatives because of the nature of the organization, but the chapter will work with the organization on policy and other matters.

The next meeting is scheduled for February 4 when the group will focus on a temporary board, review of the by-laws generated by the committee, and planning of an initial event. Once the by-laws and other administrative requirements are approved by the national organization, the Baltimore chapter will be officially a part of the Stonewall Democrats.

For more information about the Baltimore Stonewall Democrats, e-mail lukeclip@gmail.com.

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