I can just hear the groans inside the large Human Rights Campaign headquarters on Rhode Island Ave in Washington over more justified criticism being heaped on the organization, this time from the Bay Area Reporter.
When editorials such as this appear, I imagine HRC executives, staffers and members of the board of directors, not to mention HRC's Democratic Party machine bosses, ask themselves: "Why aren't we loved and valued without questions raised about our motives and tactics? After all, we're the largest gay civil rights organization in America and we put on fabulous dinners. Isn't that enough?"
Frankly, my dears, it isn't and the picture the BAR paints of HRC as an irritated gorilla is most apt. And as word spreads about this editorial, you can be sure HRC leaders will inundate the BAR with emails and phone calls, saying the criticism in unwarranted, or, people outside HRC just don't understand how the political process in Washington works.
On a minor point, I'm pleased the BAR cites WY GOP state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, whose pro-gay speech and action last week was discovered and promoted by bloggers, leaving HRC silently in the dust. Yes, HRC lifted a small finger to acknowledge Zwonitzer's brave act and he was interviewed on the group's radio show, but that's not enough. Where is the press release from HRC heralding Zwonitzer, or a transcript of his radio interview, and why can't HRC post his amazing speech on their web site?
But the much larger point I don't ever lose sight of is this: "Apparently the nation's largest LGBT organization, with more than 650,000 members and a $30 million budget, the 25-year-old group doesn't have many gains in the way of federal rights."
Ouch, that stings! Well, too bad, HRC. It's time for not just tough love, but brutal love, to get the organization to deliver on promises of enacting federal protections and advances for gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender people. Not only that, but I believe HRC has a duty to follow the lead of bloggers who every day articulate reasons America owes gays, and the country, full equality and fair treatment over marriage, the military, health care, in our schools and in the workplace.
Dan Zwonitzer is not the only fine American, who happens to be straight and GOP, who stood up for us recently, and did a better job than HRC of explaining why treating gay people is the right thing. There are many others like him and it behooves HRC to find, praise and thank them.
If HRC did that, and made better use of the great new inventions called the web and blogs, instead of the executive director writing letters reminding us of his thin skin, the movement would be better off.
Excerpts from the BAR:
Among national gay rights organizations, the Human Rights Campaign is the 800-pound gorilla in the room; and lately, it has been acting like one, flailing its arms at critics and derogatory candy ads.
Yet HRC was noticeably quiet last month when straight Wyoming Republican state Senator Dan Zwonitzer voiced support for gay marriage and killed legislation that would have prevented the state from recognizing gay marriages performed in other states.
HRC's actions have led to mounting questions in recent weeks about its purpose and ability to work in a bipartisan fashion. Its executive director, Joe Solmonese, hasn't done much to douse the firestorm of criticism.
He sent gay bloggers into a lather by saying corporate America – not government - is leading the way on gay rights and that blogs are a distraction at a Washington D.C. forum on the state of the LGBT movement.
The Scientist's View blog responded, "What Joe likes about the corporations is that they come to Joe to ask what they should do to enhance their gay benefits. And then Joe can get a contribution from the corporation to the HRC for his 'expertise' � it is just a shakedown."
Former Washington Blade editor Chris Crain, on his Citizen Crain blog, chastised HRC after it condemned the Mars Snickers ad aired during the Super Bowl. In the ad, after the two men inadvertently kiss, they pull some chest hair out to prove their manliness. [...]
Solmonese, in turn, personally attacked Crain in a letter sent to gay publications that run his column. [...]
Instead of zeroing in on his agency's critics and attacking the media, Solmonese should leverage HRC's muscle power be working the halls of Congress to build support for pro-gay legislation.
Apparently the nation's largest LGBT organization, with more than 650,000 members and a $30 million budget, the 25-year-old group doesn't have many gains in the way of federal rights.
Congress has yet to pass any pro-gay legislation. Instead, the LGBT community has been saddled with the antigay Defense of Marriage Act and the 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military. Roughly 11,000 male and female service members have been dismissed under the ban.
For the first time since 1992, the Democrats, whom HRC kowtows to, now control Congress. Political pundits on both sides of the aisle say the stars have aligned for the passage of pro-gay legislation.
Both a hate crimes bill and a transgender-inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act could move through Congress. Repeal of DADT is also possible. [...]
Yet one player seems to be missing: HRC. So far the organization has signaled it will focus on hate crimes legislation and ENDA, not the repeal of DADT.
Rather than attack gay media outlets and LGBT pundits, Solmonese would better serve the cause by focusing on Congress and proving for once that HRC merits its gorilla reputation.
Click here and read the full BAR editorial.