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.