CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Applications to become a delegate for the 2008 National Democratic Convention are due Jan. 1. The Ohio Democratic Party forms require applicants to disclose personal information about sexual orientation, race, age, gender and national origin on the declaration of candidacy document. State party officials appear to be compiling the data for affirmative-action purposes. Is it possible they could run afoul of civil-rights laws? Hiring and employment decisions -- along with qualifications for office -- generally are supposed to be made without regard to a person's race, gender or sexual orientation.
It is possible that political parties are exempt from laws aimed at eliminating bias in employment decisions. And it is also possible that a convention delegate does not come close to meeting any legal definition of an employee or official position -- which eliminates any kind of civil rights issue. Still, The Daily Bellwether has heard that some Republicans are scrutinizing the Ohio Democratic delegation application process and may be considering some kind of legal move. If they do anything, it would probably be to challenge the Democrats for imposing quotas, or using quotas to screen potential convention delegates. There is a suggestion that a civil rights action of some kind may be filed. However, GOP sources said nothing is certain at this point.
Ohio has enacted laws and regulations aimed at ending bias in state hiring. Other laws cover the private sector. Several cities have adopted civil-rights measures that prohibit discrimination.
Cincinnati's Municipal Code specifically makes it illegal to discriminate or "segregate, separate, or treat individuals differently based on race, gender, age, color, religion, disability status, marital status, sexual orientation or transgendered status, or ethnic, national or Appalachian regional origin."
The likelihood is that the Dems are not discriminating -- the questions on the Ohio delegate declaration of candidacy form are intended to ensure a diverse crop of delegates at the presidential nominating convention.