Friday, June 27, 2008

HRC Protest

From the SF Chronicle:

As gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people prepare to celebrate gay pride in San Francisco this weekend, many of them also are organizing a boycott and protest of the country's largest gay rights organization.

Activists plan to be on the streets during the festivities to inform people of the boycott and protest of the Human Rights Campaign's annual fundraising dinner in San Francisco next month, a major event that raises tens of thousands of dollars for the organization.

Similar actions took place at fundraising dinners in Philadelphia and New York City earlier this year.

The controversy stems from the Human Rights Campaign's decision last fall to support a bill in Congress that would bar employers from firing a person because of his or her sexual orientation. The bill, which passed the House but has stalled in the Senate, did not include the same protections for transgender people. More than 370 gay rights organizations opposed the bill for that reason.

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement from its leaders defending the organization's actions and saying they want to "put to rest any remaining misconceptions about HRC's commitment to an all-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act."

The letter says the organization "exhausted every resource" in supporting a bill that included protections for transgender people.

"HRC's position is that we could not oppose - and, in fact, should support - legislation to provide crucial civil rights protections that would be brought to the House floor for a vote, even though we did not and, certainly, would not have chosen that course," according to the statement signed by Joe Solmonese, the organization's president, and the co-chairs of the group's board of directors.

The statement also makes reference to the November election, when California voters will decide whether to ban same-sex marriage in the state's constitution.

"At a time when our community is threatened, once again, with a cynical election-year ploy that could hurt our families, we believe that it's time to set aside our differences and fight for what we all want," it reads.

I have to admit that I am not completely sure where I stand on this. I tend to think of myself as a "radical" pragmatist which, as you can imagine, results in alot of lost sleep sometimes. I can see both sides of this, and the need for both sides. Every major human rights movement in United States history has had the passionate agitators as well as the incrementalists. And every time they needed each other. Without Alice Paul, Carrie Chapman Catt would not have been moved to act. Without Catt's connections and ear of President Wilson, Paul and the others would not have been released from prison, or hailed as heroes. Without the SNCC's sense of urgency and push for more (not to mention their numbers and time in the civil rights effort), Dr. King would have likely failed more often than he did. Without Dr. King's measured approach and connections to the power players, SNCC and others (Malcolm X, for example) would have been marginalized into ineffectiveness. And on and on.

I've been a partner member of the HRC for eight years (Pride weekend was my eight-year anniversary) and I know the great work they do. I also know that they were unprepared for this fight. In talking to their DC office, when I was considering withdrawing my membership, that was clear. The organizer I spoke with was blunt in acknowledging that they were caught off-guard by the strength of the opposition to the inclusion of transgendered citizens in the ENDA bill. And when Solomese made the declaration that they would not accept anything that wasn't all-inclusive, I don't think they were expecting to be eating that foot in their mouth months later. However, he did say it, and now they have a really big legitimacy problem on their hands. Do they really represent everyone, or is it lip service to increase donations? How can we really know? I sure don't. Any ideas? How do ya'll feel about all of this?

And here is the rest of it.


Phil said...

That there's a need for organizations such as the HRC, and a need for legislation such as the ENDA, and a need to have the same conversation over and over again speaks volumes about the sorry state of American society. It paints a disturbing picture of how little distance we've come and how far we have yet to go.

Sadly, until people get over themselves and their hypocrisy and their religious intolerance, not much is going to change.

Chuck Butcher said...

I'm surprised they were surprised, the immediate reaction should have told them to get ready and to have rationales available.

I'm sorry there is even a need for such an organization, but there is. Pragmatism and politics generally have an ugly appearance...

Oregonian37 said...

I wish there weren't a need either but it unfortunately goes without saying that there is most definitely a need. Here in Oregon Im sure Jeanie and the other folks at BRO would love to kick back and not have a need for their services but even in our victories it is only ever a reprieve. That's what makes it so exhausting. I don't plan to give up on the HRC. We need that seat at the table. They will, however, get alot more outside-the-beltway input from this ticked off pea picker.

Chuck Butcher said...

I've shown pretty public support for BRO, unfortunately all the worthy causes don't get much in the line of $s from me - my wife insists on a roof and eating.

As a life long lefty I understand disappointment with the political process, but I also understand hitting political walls. There is such a difference between what you want and what you can actually get that I'm surprised that folks hold their friends accountable for that difference.

It was flatly impossible for me to campaign in OR 2CD on gay marriage, my answer was that all law-abiding Oregonians deserve the same rights and responsibilities. You can't get from there to not supporting gay marriage, but the 'framing' is different. That's not the same thing as not including somebody, but some were disappointed by me.

Many problems politicians have involve not knowing when to shut up, Obama stated early in the Primary season that the 2nd A must be read as an individual right; but then he continued to talk when he should have shut up. Now he gets junk trying to square the "shoulda shut up" with now.

Damn, trying to hurt our friends is stupid. I'll say what is my political mantra, stroke your friends, be nice to you opponents, and explode your enemies - but don't create them.