Back in February, former Erie County Legislator Chuck Swanick made headlines when he announced his endorsement from the Erie County Conservative Party, and that he was once again a member of the Democratic Party. Having abandoned county Democrats to become a Republican in years prior, the new candidate Swanick also made headlines with the radically conservative positions his coming campaign would hold. In a Buffalo News article regarding the early endorsement, Swanick stated his opposition to Marriage Equality. While SDWNY works hard to educate Democratic candidates and beyond on the need to support equal rights for all people, this took many by surprise that because WNY appeared, at least in part, ready to take a step back on civil rights issues. Although we have several members of our delegation-- on both sides of the aisle-- who oppose equality, WNY has made headlines (again, from sides of the aisle), most recently with pro-equality Sen. Tim Kennedy's primary victory against an entrenched anti-equality incumbent, and subsequent general election win.
Only days after Swanick announced his Conservative endorsement, the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced their endorsement of Chuck Swanick, and pledged to support his candidacy financially.
In no way, should this stand. The Democratic Party is the party of progress, and change. There is no room in our party for a candidate who actively promotes the segregation of civil rights and protections for American families. In the halls of Albany's legislature, in the days before the Marriage Equality Act was passed, I and other Stonewall Democrats were there, and endured the demonstrations and counter demonstrations put on by supporters and opponents. Members of NOM spat on us, tried to pray over us and told us we were not created equal. This is the true face of hate groups such as NOM, who exist to preach the word of hate-- the same word which so many LGBTQ youth hear, and are unable to overcome. By siding with NOM in such a direct way, the candidacy of Chuck Swanick is a threat to all families-- in WNY and beyond. Immediately, we took action, and I wrote to the NYS Senate Democratic Campaign Committee expressing the LGBTQ community's unconditional opposition to candidates such as Mr. Swanick.
When the Erie County Democratic Executive Committee, of which I am a non-voting member, met to interview candidates in this race, Mr. Swanick and I had a rather intense exchange. During this exchange, he would not commit to refusing the support-- financial or otherwise-- of NOM, and even at various points would not admit to positions he had taken in the earlier Buffalo News article. At one point during our exchange, when he would not answer my question of why, as a gay American, he believed I am not entitled to the same civil rights which he enjoys in his marriage with his wife, he pointed his finger at me, and said, "But you gave all that money to Mark Grisanti!" To which, I honestly replied, "I have not given any money to Mark Grisanti." Mr. Swanick then responded: "But YOU PEOPLE gave all that money to Mark Grisanti."
Needless to say, the way in which he referred to the LGBTQ community as "YOU PEOPLE" and the way in which Mr. Swanick treated myself and any mention of the LGBTQ community's equal rights, is troubling. What is also troubling is the prospect of any support Mr. Swanick might receive from any part of the Democratic Party. While the Erie County Democratic Committee has endorsed another candidate in the Democratic Party, local attorney Michael Amodeo, who is running on a pro-equality platform, a petition I started on Change.org, directed to the NYS Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, is still going strong. We recently reached 100 signatures, and I hope that you will take the time to sign, and ask your friends, family and community to, as well, to show the Senate Democrats that, under no circumstances, should the hate of candidates such as Mr. Swanick ever be supported by our party. The NYS SDCC has done such great work for progress and change on behalf of all our true progressive values here in NYS,
As a Stonewall Democrat, I am proud to stand against the brand of hate Mr. Swanick stands for, and I am proud of each fellow SDWNY member, ally and person who has stood up to be counted in solidarity with the equal rights of our community. As Stonewall Democrats, I invite everyone to be a part of this complicated election, and involved in the best ways we all can be for the betterment of our community's civil rights movement.