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Former gay outreach director, DNC settle discrimination suit

by Nick Cargo

Donald Hitchcock and his former employer, the Democratic National Committee, have announced a settlement of Hitchock's discrimination lawsuit against the Party. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

"We appreciate Mr. Hitchcock's intense advocacy of LGBT equality and have never doubted his strong commitment to Democratic principles or the goals of the Democratic Party," DNC Chairman Howard Dean and Chief of Staff Leah Daughtry said in a statement Thursday evening. "Mr. Hitchcock is and has always been a valued member of the DNC community, including during his employment with the DNC."

Hitchcock, former director of the Committee's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council, filed suit on April 17, 2007 in Washington DC Superior Court after his termination, which he charged was in retaliation for criticism of the party by his partner, party activist Paul Yandura, in April 2006. Yandura's open letter criticized the matter in which donations from gay Democrats were being used, particularly how he felt that the party's interest in the LGBT community was limited to their financial contributions. The letter also suggested that gays should temporarily stop making donations.

Hitchcock was hired by the DNC in June 2005 and fired May 2, 2006, days after Yandura's open letter was made public.

"I appreciate all the things the DNC, Governor Dean, Rev. Daughtry, Andy Tobias, Julie Tagen--and the Democratic Party generally--have done to advance equality, I had hoped for even more," Hitchcock said, "but the dialogue is not over yet. I look forward to working with them all for continued progress."

In his suit Hitchcock said he was paid less than people doing comparable fundraising and outreach work, and was subject to threats, harassment and other retaliatory tactics by Dean, Daughtry, Deputy Finance Director Julie Tagen, and openly gay Treasurer Andy Tobias.

The Washington Blade, in addition, charged in March 2008 that two lawyers for Rev. Daughtry showed up at the Blade offices and attempted to intimidate editor Kevin Naff and publisher Lynne Brown over their reporting of the ongoing proceedings.

One of the attorneys, Charlie Kimmett, denied that the meeting was "contentious," and also Naff's charge of "red-faced cursing and threatening of lawsuits." Naff further said that while the attorneys were representing Daughtry and not the DNC, party officials nonetheless "gloated behind the scenes" that they had succeeded in stopping the Blade from further reporting.

"Of course, to suggest that the Blade would abandon a story because a couple of angry lawyers made a scene in the lobby constitutes wishful thinking," Naff wrote of the incident. "One thing every journalist learns early on is that when people start yelling and making threats, that means you're onto something."


Originally published on Friday January 16, 2009.

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