Change is Afoot

changes ahead

Democrats for Equality,

I am going to be frank with you.

When it looked like I was going to be given the honor of serving as your president I dreaded the challenge. It is truly a daunting task to take the helm of a club with such history, with such amazing and accomplished members, and people who I have come to view as an extended family. Well, we’re here now and I am excited to announce some changes we are making and some changes I would like you, the membership, to consider.

First, your Executive Board met this weekend and we rebranded the membership levels. This is just a cosmetic change of the membership levels and no level has been increased nor has any level lost any of their benefits. With a nod towards history, these are the new levels:

  1. General members will now be known as “Stonewallers”
  2. Limited Income members will be known as “Activists”
  3. Sustaining Members will be known as “Silver Stonewallers”
  4. Sponsoring Members will be known as “Golden Stonewallers”
  5. Patron Members will be known as “President’s Circle Members”

There will be more changes to the benefits associated with these memberships but, I assure you there will only be additions. No membership level will lose benefits.

Secondly, for your consideration, the board will be presenting a bylaw amendment in regards to annual membership. To help keep track of expiration dates the board would like the general membership to consider moving to annual memberships which start in July and end in June of the following year. The bylaw language can be viewed HERE.

Additionally, we are changing our membership qualifications to allow 14-year-olds to become members which is done for a very specific reason that I will elaborate on now: We have chartered an affiliated Young Democrats chapter called the San Diego Young Democrats for Equality. For those of you who have attended our last few meetings you will notice there are many new, younger members. In order to help strengthen the San Diego delegation to the California Young Democrats (CYD) and promote LGBT and allied youth voices at state conventions, Young Democrat members of the Democrats for Equality will also be enrolled in our Young Democrat companion club. Since the current CYD bylaws allow for members 14 and up, this is why we will be changing our membership age qualification.

Finally, for this month only, the San Diego Democrats for Equality will be meeting on Thursday, April 21st, 2016 at 6:30pm at the Joyce Beers Community Center. We are meeting one week early so that we can finish our endorsement process and allow us to send out our voter guide and begin our mail and field program to elect our candidates. We look forward to seeing you there!

Very Respectfully,

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy
San Diego Democrats for Equality


  1. Marilyn Riley

    Good morning, Will. Although for the most part Bob and I like these changes, I am a bit concerned that some limited income members would have to pay dues twice during the first year of the new schedule in order to keep their memberships up-to-date. For example, what would happen if a person joined in January 2016? Perhaps I am missing something.

    Unfortunately, we are unable to attend the April 21 meeting. That is the night of the regularly scheduled East County Democratic Club meeting, and we must be there to lobby for votes for our Central Committee candidacies.

    I am relieved that I have gotten no news about our dear friend. Last night Bob told me that his father was able to recover from this kind of stroke, and of course medicine has made strides in the past 20 years since Henry’s illness.

  2. John Lockhart

    Bring on the changes!

    Love June-is-renewal-month.

    be sure the “for equality” language is throughout the By-Laws

    The “Stonewaller” handle harkens to history, super!

  3. Gail Mackler

    Thanks for all your hard work and thoughtful ideas, but I wish you would not change the date for the meetings without a longer time period notification. 8 or 9 days is not enough time for a date change. Thanks.

  4. Will Rodriguez-Kennedy

    Hey Marilyn, we don’t intend to charge people twice. We haven’t figured out what we are going to do in regards to recent renewals but I assure you we will not be charging anyone twice.

    I’m still weighing options on how to deal with that and will announce it when we come to a decision. This is definitely on my mind.


    Will RK

  5. Will Rodriguez-Kennedy

    You’re right Gail.

    We just want to make sure that we meet the mail deadline for our voter guide. In order to do that we have to finish up our endorsement process. In the future this will not be a problem.


    Will RK

  6. TO: San Diego Democrats for Equality Members

    FROM: Mark Gabrish Conlan

    DATE: April 19, 2016

    RE: Proposed San Diego Democrats for Equality bylaws changes

    I am VERY strongly opposed to two of the changes in the San Diego Democrats for Equality’s rules referenced in the April 11, 2016 e-news posting by new club president Will Rodriguez-Kennedy.

    I have never approved of ANY organization that forced all its members to begin and end their membership on the same date. Demanding that new members pay a full year’s dues for less than a full year of member services is fundamentally a rip-off. Whenever I’ve been in a club that has considered that policy, I’ve opposed it; and when I’ve been in clubs or other organizations that already had that policy, I’ve worked to change it. I think it’s wrong, verging on evil, to shortchange new members, and it’s especially bizarre that a club whose officials say they’re worried about new-member growth to adopt a policy that will discourage, not encourage, new people to join. It is particularly wrong, deceitful and objectionable to consider this change when the only stated reason for it is “to help keep track of expiration dates” — i.e., to make the club’s administration easier. It is the job of the club to serve its members, not of the members to serve the club.

    I also very strongly oppose the rebranding of the membership levels. I remember when the club was considering its current name, one of the alternatives brought forward was “San Diego Stonewall Democrats.” I opposed that name then and I equally strongly oppose the use of the term “stonewallers” to describe three out of the five proposed new membership brands, for the same reason: I don’t want us to do anything to perpetuate the offensive and absurd myth that there wasn’t a Queer (the inclusive, if edgy, term I prefer to that rancid set of initials “LGBT” as a description of our entire community) rights movement in the United States before the riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in June 1969.

    In fact, Queer activism in the U.S. has been traced as far back as 1926, when the first U.S. Queer-rights organization and publication were created in Chicago. Continuous Queer activism has taken place in the U.S. since 1950, when the Mattachine Society was organized in Los Angeles. Indeed, when I launched Zenger’s Newsmagazine in 1994, I put Harry Hay, the principal founder of the Mattachine Society, on my first cover and devoted my first feature to an interview with him in order to let the community know that there was a long and honorable history of militant Queer activism in the U.S. before it all supposedly started at “Stonewall.” In fact, I timed the launch of my magazine when I did because I had an opportunity to interview Harry Hay and thought he would be an appropriate feature subject for my first issue.

    Indeed, so many of the landmarks in the history of American Queer activism took place in the state of California that it could be argued that the movement for Queer equality REALLY is a California product. Among them are:

    • Start of continuous Queer-rights activism: Mattachine Society, Los Angeles, 1950.
    • First Queer-rights organization of, by and for Lesbians: Daughters of Bilitis, San Francisco, 1955.
    • First successful legal challenge to police entrapment of a Gay man for public cruising: Los Angeles, 1950.
    • First ongoing Queer publication aimed at Gay men: One, Los Angeles, 1955.
    • First ongoing Queer publication aimed at Lesbians: The Ladder, San Francisco, 1956. (Even earlier Lesbian newsletters were being privately typed and printed in Los Angeles in the 1940’s.)
    • First openly Queer candidate for elective office in the U.S.: José Sarria, San Francisco, 1961.
    • First occasion on which Gay-bar patrons fought back against a police raid: the Black Cat Tavern, Los Angeles, 1967.
    • First pickets against a private employer for employment discrimination against Queer people: States Steamship Lines, San Francisco, March-April 1969.

    This issue is personal for me not only because, as a lifelong Californian, I am (I think) justifiably proud of the pioneering role my state has played in the history of American Queer activism, but also because two of my closest friends, Leo Laurence and Pat Brown, were organizers of the demonstrations against States Steamship Lines three months before the Stonewall riots. The ritual invocation of “Stonewall” as the place where it all began dishonors the contributions of my friends and the others who stood up for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people long before it was politically easy or fashionable; indeed, while just being sexually active with members of your own sex was illegal in every U.S. state.

    “Stonewall” as a term has other meanings which people of our political orientation should find objectionable. The name originated as a nickname for a general in the U.S. Civil War who fought on the side of the Confederacy — i.e., for the slaveowners — and in the early 1970’s the term “stonewall” in U.S. politics primarily referred to the Watergate cover-up and the illegal attempt of President Nixon and his campaign staff to corrupt the 1972 election and ensure Nixon a landslide victory. But my main objection to the use of the term “Stonewall” as shorthand for the Queer movement’s beginnings is it ignores and trashes the contributions of activists in the 1950’s and 1960’s who stood up for our rights at a potential risk and cost most of us can’t even imagine today.

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