Key New York Democratic Party subcommittee opposed resolution on LGBTQ+ education

The state Democratic Committee adopted the resolution, but not before a party leader rehashed GOP talking points to argue against it.

Vice Chair Jason Clark, fourth from right at the table, worried aloud how adopting the resolution would play for Republicans.

Vice Chair Jason Clark, fourth from right at the table, worried aloud how adopting the resolution would play for Republicans. Screengrab of state Committee meeting from Benjamin Yee/Facebook

Democrats celebrated the adoption of a resolution by the state Democratic Committee on Thursday urging lawmakers and the governor to approve a statewide LGBTQ+ curriculum for public schools. But before the full committee voted on it, a key subcommittee voted to table the resolution, with its chair rehashing GOP talking points against bail reform and gun control as a reason to table it.

During the executive committee meeting of the state Democrats, which met before the full meeting to set the agenda, state committee Vice Chair Jason Clark of St. Lawrence County argued that the state party should be focused on taking back the House. He said that adopting the LGBTQ+ resolution would provide Republicans a line of attack against Democratic candidates in moderate and swing districts, potentially costing them the seats. Clark chairs the resolutions subcommittee, which offers recommendations on how to proceed on proposed resolutions, and said its members voted 6-1 to recommend tabling it despite agreeing with the spirit of the resolution. 

“What we’re concerned about is that the Republicans and the think tank leaders of the extreme right can weaponize a resolution like this to work against us,” Clark said. “Whereas we’re all very well-intended and we’ve got a great spirit behind the message of this resolution, we also know that hillbilly America does not. And that’s what we need to overcome over the course of the next several months moving into the next election cycle.” 

Clark compared adopting the resolution on LGBTQ+ education to the state’s approval of the SAFE Act restricting guns in 2013 and elimination of most cash bail in 2019, which Republicans heavily attacked and contributed to electoral losses for Democrats in ensuing years. “The hate-mongering and fear-mongering, particularly in rural New York and the suburbs, is very real,” Clark said. He referenced GOP talking points about a link between crime and bail reform that Democrats would allow “these rapists and murderers and thieves and everybody… to get let out on bail” who would then be “breaking into homes.” Clark was clear he disagreed with the messaging, but asserted that it has helped Republicans.

The rationale met fierce condemnation, with state Committee Member Émilia Decaudin, the first openly trans member of the state committee, calling Clark a “coward” during the course of his explanation. State Committee Member John Scott, who introduced the resolution, offered a strong rebuke of Clark’s comments. “I take umbrage with the fact that in the same argument, you equated rapists, criminals, to the queer community,” Scott said. “And in that, in that speech you just gave Jason, you didn’t mention the spirit, the breadth, any little bit of it – you talked about critical race theory, you talked about Republicans.” He said that his resolution was about “the safety of our children.” And Scott rejected the argument Clark made about the underlying politics. “We are letting the Republicans dictate the conversation yet again, just like they did with bail reform,” he said to applause. “We can either as New York Democrats be leaders on this issue, or can here vote and say that we are the same as Ron DeSantis and Florida Republicans.”

Florida infamously approved what has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law that curtailed any discussion of gender identity and sexuality up to grade 12 in schools.

In Republican-controlled states like Florida, Texas and Tennessee, trans rights have also come under attack by local lawmakers who have been passing laws limiting access to gender affirming care for children and labeling such care as abuse that would allow the state to take kids away from their parents. Before the executive committee voted to advance the resolution, which the full committee would adopt soon after, Vice Chair Emily Giske offered some final thoughts. A prominent lobbyist with the firm Bolton St. Johns, she was the first LGBTQ+ person to become a vice chair of the state party. “The LGBTQ community is the Democratic Party,” Giske said. “We live everywhere, in all 62 counties, and we always stand up for what’s right. And this is right.”