Brooklyn Dems officially abolish party gender requirements

Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Rodneyse Bichotte.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

Brooklyn Democratic leaders passed a new law allowing transgender and gender nonbinary people to run for the borough party’s lowest rung of elected office.

The party’s 42-member Executive Committee unanimously passed a proposal at a Dec. 30 meeting to remove old gender requirements from county committee seats, which previously had to be evenly split among male and female members — effectively excluding politicos that don’t identify on the gender binary.

“This is an exciting time for Brooklyn Democrats, once again leading the nation in embracing inclusion and diversity,” party boss and Flatbush Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte told Brooklyn Paper. “The Executive Committee’s unanimous approval was not only the right decision, it is the only acceptable decision.”

The rule change eliminated the quota that evenly splits the two-to-four seats of the party’s rank-and-file membership in each so-called election district — which cover just a few city blocks — between men and women.

The same system exists for State Committee members — or District Leaders as they’re dubbed in Brooklyn where they make up most of the Executive Committee — and one pol who ran for that office on the female line this year but later came out as nonbinary said the move will open the doors for more people to join the party in the next election cycle in 2022.

“It feels very freeing. I think wanting to participate on these very local levels you want to try and remove as many roadblocks as possible,” said Boerum Hill District Leader Jesse Pierce. “Classifying males and females felt like a weird complication as part of county committee organizing.”

The former regulations were based off of a 1938 State Constitution amendment, which originally intended to encourage more women to participate in politics, but the statute forced Brooklynites who don’t identify along the gender binary to tick a box as either a “male” or “female” candidate to run for the hyper-local office.

Half a dozen prospective Dems sued the party in April to allow gender nonbinary people to run, but a Kings County Supreme Court judge tossed out that lawsuit on technicalities. Yet the move prompted Bichotte to convene the so-called Task Force on Gender Discrimination and Representation in August to address the outdated rules.

The task force met 10 times during the coming four months to discuss and hear from experts and academics on how best to address the gendered clause.

The Executive Committee created 84 temporary gender-neutral seats at a Nov. 29 meeting, but attached an illegal amendment empowering themselves to fill some 2,000 County Committee vacancies, which progressive politicos denounced as a “pink-washed” power-grab

A Kings County Supreme Court Judge voided those vacancy appointments on Dec. 10 because the move violated state Election Law which only permits the full body of the party to elect its fellow rank-and-file membership at its annual organizational meeting.

At a Dec. 20 meeting, the party’s task force eventually unanimously voted to recommend its proposal for the party to do away with gender designations entirely for the borough’s roughly 5,400 county committee seats.

The party boss said that the task force meetings were an “educational experience,” which she hoped it would be for the borough at large as well.

“It was a very educational experience for me, and I hope that it can be an educational experience for all of Brooklyn,” Bichotte said.

Additional reporting by Meaghan McGoldrick