It’s Time to Stop Attacking HRC
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
July 26th, 2008
I am not an unequivocal supporter of the Human Rights Campaign. I believe that they have on many occasions confused partisan positioning with what’s best for gay people and have made judgment errors and poor priority choices.
But they are also the largest and most important lobbyist for the rights, freedoms, and interests of the gay community. Without the work that HRC does on a regular basis, we would be in far greater danger of losing the measure of equality that we have fought so long and so hard to win.
HRC is under attack by some who claim membership in our community.
Last year, HRC decided that they would pursue the tactic of seeking a Federal employment non-discrimination law that included gay and lesbian persons, but which did not provide gender identity protections. Their analysis showed that a bill including protections for transgendered persons would not have adequate support so they supported a version of ENDA in which that provision had been eliminated.
This angered many transgendered persons as well as some others in the gay community who felt that a portion of the community had been abandoned and betrayed. HRC tried to explain that this was not an indication that they would not continue to fight for transgender inclusive legislation, but that an incremental approach was likelier to succeed.
While this did not appease those who were angry with HRC, a great many gay people could not understand the rationale of allowing gay men and lesbians to continue to live under the threat of being fired or evicted until such point in the future when a more inclusive bill might have adequate political support. But the pro-T allies put pressure on those members of Congress who are generally gay supporters and the efforts to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination failed.
I don’t fault those who disagreed with HRC’s decision. And if individuals feel that their contributions are best utilized elsewhere, I can hardly complain.
But I cannot support the extent to which this has gone.
Though they succeeded in derailing ENDA, those angry at HRC were not content. They are now seeking to hurt HRC’s fundraising abilities. They have begun protesting at fundraisers and today they are holding a “counterparty” to draw attendance away from an event that HRC is hosting in San Francisco. And they have announced that they have sabotaged HRC’s event.
several San Francisco local elected officials announced their decision to boycott the HRC fundraising dinner. Most notably, slated dinner keynote Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has decided to cancel his speech after pressure from local labor and LGBT leaders.
Frankly, I’m not sure I believe them. But if it’s true that Villaraigosa has pulled out, I don’t see what that has accomplished.
And their activism has hurt not only HRC, but also the efforts to keep marriage legal in California.
When ordering tickets, all dinner guests will be given the option to designate up to 100 percent of the fee to the HRC California Marriage PAC. The PAC was established to fight against the anti-marriage ballot initiative. Proceeds from the dinner are part of the recent $500,000 pledge by HRC.
The “queer progressive organizations” that are hosting the counterparty have not explained how harming HRC will benefit the community. They have no plan in place to make up for HRC’s efforts to fight for marriage. These “economic leftists” are only dancing in glee that they may have hurt someone that they think slighted them.
And their timing could not be worse.
The battle over marriage, particularly in California, may be the most important battle that our community will fight in decades. Donald Wildmon, head of the viciously homophobic American Family Association, has admitted that our community’s efforts to hold on to our right to marry may be a turning point in our community’s quest for equality.
“If we lose California, if they defeat the marriage amendment, I’m afraid that the culture war is over and Christians have lost,” says Wildmon, a 30-year veteran of the culture war. “I’ve never said that publicly until now — but that’s just the reality of the fact.”
And efforts to cripple our largest gay organization at this time are the last thing we need. Whether you supported an incremental ENDA plan or you thought HRC’s approach was a betrayal, we must step beyond that decision and create a united and powerful voice for our cause.
We need to be strong in fighting against homophobia in California, Arizona and Florida. And following the presidential election we will need to have a powerful lobby to approach the next administration, one that is not crippled by the petty bitterness of those who selfishly think that if they don’t get to pick the strategy then all gay people should be forced to pay.
UPDATE: The Associated Press is now reporting that Mayor Villaraigosa has pulled out of the fundraiser to oppose the anti-gay marriage amendment.