Out author and investment expert Andrew Tobias has served as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee since 1999.
PGN: You’ve been treasurer of the DNC since 1999. What was it like to be an openly gay leader of the Democratic Party at that time? Did you face any pushback from within the party?
AT: None. It was very cool to be the first openly gay officer of either party since the parties began — and I figured, hey, it’s just two years; Gore will obviously win (and did, by the way) and then we’ll hand it off to Tammy Baldwin or someone else who’d be amazing, so there will always be one visible LGBT officer. But one thing led to another, and 17 years later three of the nine DNC officers are openly gay.
PGN: The national Democratic Party has evolved on LGBT issues greatly in the past two decades. What factors do you credit with that shift?
AT: President Clinton’s first campaign in 1992, and then first six months fighting for gays in the military (badly though that turned out), let the whole world know that the president of the United States and the First Lady valued us. Which gave space to governors and mayors and CEOs and celebrities and university presidents and TV talking heads and Democrats in the House and Senate and state parties all to come out of the closet on this issue and join him in openly advocating equality. It was a huge deal. And my first DNC chair, Joe Andrew, and all I’ve worked with subsequently, were all terrific on this issue. The more the average decent American got to “know” gay people for the first time, like Tracy Thorne, a “fighting tiger” first in his flight training class, and Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer or people they thought they already knew, like Ellen DeGeneres or in millions of cases, their own kids or siblings or parents or classmates or coworkers … the more the tide turned and became all but inevitable. Love is love. Tracy Thorne today is married to a man, they have two kids, and serves as a judge — elected by the Virginia legislature! (All the votes against him were cast by Republicans — but still.) And guess what? The Secretary of the Army is an open gay man. How far we’ve come since the Clintons embraced our community — the first time this had ever been done in a presidential campaign, let alone the White House.
PGN: Marriage equality has been the dominant LGBT issue for years; with national marriage equality now behind us, what do you think the Democratic Party’s LGBT priorities should be moving forward? And what role do you think the DNC can play in advancing those priorities?
AT: Full equality. A strong platform plank. The DNC and the party are fully on board. The role we can play is turning red seats blue: in the Senate and House and in state legislatures throughout the country. The only thing that stands in the way of full equality is Republicans.
PGN: The upcoming Democratic National Convention may set a record for number of LGBT delegates, and for LGBT visibility overall. What do you think are some of the tangible impacts of having LGBT voices at the table?
AT: Look at what we’ve accomplished! It makes all the difference in the world to be at the table. It becomes personal.
PGN: In the coming months, what should LGBT Democrats be doing to support the Democratic nominee for president?
AT: Getting everyone they know, especially in swing states, to register and turn out to vote, and inspiring all their friends and classmates to do likewise. And give that $50 or $100 if you’re a normal person for whom $100 is a stretch — or $100,000 if you’re a tremendously fortunate person with a $3.2 million net worth (almost none of it liquid, I know, but still). No one’s asking you to fight in the jungles of Vietnam or in 120-degree heat in Iraq, or to spend the winter shoeless in a tent in Valley Forge never knowing when the British may attack. We’re asking you to decrement your net worth from $3.2 million to $3.1 million and help turn the Supreme Court progressive rather than regressive for the next 30 years. (And maybe avoid nuclear war and the worst of climate change and trade wars and depression, and stuff like that.)