Thursday, October 15, 2009

HRC/Obama Dinner...and Why We Shouldn't Get Our knickers In A Twist

Much conversation has been generated about the meanings and implications of President Obama's speech at the HRC and about its Leader Joe Solmonese. Among those questions raised is just who the Human Rights Campaign actually represents...

First was the controversy about a "secret pact" between Joe Solmonese and President Obama to postpone action on "don't ask, don't tell" and DOMA in order to pass, what they consider to be more achievable legislation, like ENDA and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill. This alone prompted Calls for Mr. Solmonese' resignation from the HRC by those who viewed this as a betrayal of of GLBTQ community.

Now add to this the recent comments made by Mr. Solmonese, in a CNN interview. In That interview he tap danced around a question about the diversity within the HRC. He also referred to the attendees of the big HRC fundraiser dinner in this manner:

"perhaps the crowd at the dinner last night was a little bit more politically aware and had a better sense of maybe, you know, what's at stake and what needs to be done."

Lovely....As long as you could afford to attend his little soiree you can have Mr. Solmonese's respect but, if you were one of the thousands of marchers present that day, but not invited to his event....too bad for you. Your not in the know. Full quote and article found here

As I understand it, The HRC is a lobbying organization. There primary job is to convince the power brokers of Washington to support our cause. So they hold expensive dinners to convince the well healed to donate...then take that money and use it to convince other well healed and powerful individuals that our constitutional rights should be honored.....Hmmmmm. Sounds like the wealthy elite romancing the wealthy elite?...perhaps. Welcome to national politics.

So is the HRC working for the good of the Common gay person? If so, How much have they contributed to the marriage equality campaigns in Maine and Washington State? I haven't heard of any significant contributions. But does all of this add up to removing our support from the HRC? I don't believe so, for one good reason...We all need each other.

Are the HRC classist?...yes. Are they completely out of touch with the majority of the GLBTQ community?...yes. Does Mr. Solmonese comment reflect an arrogance and disdain for grassroots campaigns...yes again. Is the HRC unable to keep abreast of the changing face of activism?....yes, a thousand times yes. thing that irks me about the gay movement right now is that we are tearing ourselves down at a time when we should be standing together. The fight is on people, and we need all hands on deck regardless of race, gender, sexual identity, or monetary status. Save the infighting for the after party. If not for the HRC, and groups like it, we would have NO voice in Washington. And if you want to say, "But what about Barney Frank?"...well here's what he thinks about the National Equality March. Personally I would rather have the HRC behind us then throwing stones from the outside. After all, aren't we all struggling for the same set of rights? The only ticket of admission to the movement should be the governments demotion of your sexual or gender identity as unworthy of the protections guarantied by the U.S. Constitution. That is all it should take for us to stand side by side together.

Moving on to the Presidents speech at the dinner...

I found this to be a very positive, very inspiring, and a definitive statement of support. It is impossible to misconstrue that the President claims to support our cause. He certainly must have ruffled alot of conservative religious feathers on that night. However, here is the problem... He made all the same speeches with the same promises to get elected, and look where that got us.

The most impressive element of his speech was his linking of the struggle for gay civil rights with that of the African-American struggle for civil rights. That by itself was a profound statement that says much about his thinking on the issue. I believe our President to be a smart man. He is clearly in the know enough to realize how that statement will be received by many African-Americans who can't/won't equate the two struggles. It was a statement of conscience and for that, I respect him for making it.

Both Jay and I have been Critical of the President in his deference to act and passing of the buck when it comes to gay rights. I firmly believe that if we don't see concrete advancement on GLBTQ issues, that the democratic party is going to be out in the cold when it comes to voting gays. Its one thing to have an openly hostile resident, but we are capable of divining lack of support from a president that talks the talk just as well. All in all however, we walked away from that speech feeling a little more confident about President Obama's support for gay causes, even if we took it with a grain of salt...and perhaps some lime and tequila.

By the way...if you haven't seen Wanda Sykes latest HBO special "Ima Be Me" should. Not only because its drop dead funny but because it tackles the question of The Gay struggle and the African-American struggle. She, being in the unique position to see all sides of that issue. In it she states that she thinks its "harder to be gay than black." Because,she claims...she never had to "come out black". So will this ignite controversy? bet your sweet tookus....but it will also make you laugh till it hurts...enjoy


  1. awesome... review? about the situation i looking for the wanda sykes special right now, I love her in Old Christine.
    In regards obama, he needs to get is ass over GLTB issues, I understand that he is more concern with the public option amd the economy.
    But I DO understand that DADT is pretty fast to destroy, DOMA is a little harder if i understand correctly.

  2. Enlightening! I am following a lot of blogs but it's only your blog that never fails to amaze me. Now I'm starting to have an idea how and what "it" is "we" are fighting for. As a Filipino citizen, I really never cared about the way our government is running our country. Maybe this time I should. I don't even bother to listen to our president's speech. This time I will. Thanks Bryan.

    p.s. i love love the way you write.

  3. Re. the problems with the HRC, I think that their disconnect from the reality of the LGBT community may be inevitable. Exactly the same thing has happened to Stonewall, their British equivalent, and Sir Ben Summerskill is getting a load of flak for many of the same reasons that Joe Solomonese is.

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  5. At least President Obama talks to us. When was the last time that that has happened from a president??

    I am definitely not a political strategist but it seems to me that in this country there are a lot more gay people, including their friends and family than there are evangelical Christians. You would think the Republican party would try to embrace us rather than take our rights away... I see many more votes to win elections.....;) (But then, who am I?)

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