Friday, April 30, 2010

Ann Rostow, Bay Times:

HRC = Complacency

The much-deserved criticism against America's largest professional gay advocacy org, HRC, isn't letting up. The latest issue of Bay Times contains lots of very right-on truths from longtime columnist Ann Rostow about the org and our community's growing impatience with the Obama White House and Congressional Democrats.

My one question after reading Rostow's column is this: What will it take for HRC executives to realize many gays are no longer tolerating Gay Inc business as usual? If they were ever to become the fierce advocates we need them to be, unafraid to publicly push our friends, HRC might find some netroots and grassroots activists ready to watch their back.

Excerpted from Rostow's current opinion piece:

But the main story of the week, and indeed of the past year, is the increasing tension between the gay grass roots and the established infrastructure that we all now like to call “Gay Inc.” The tension, erupting as it did after our Prop 8 defeat in 2008, has festered with the inaction of the Obama administration juxtaposed with apparent complacency from the Human Rights Campaign.

Recently, we have seen activists cuff themselves to the White House fence, interrupt a Senate House subcommittee meeting, heckle Obama and protest at the offices of Nancy Pelosi and John McCain. [...]

Look. We have just spent eight years under a right wing GOP administration, and six of those years featured a GOP congressional majority. Before that, we spent another six years with Republicans in charge of Congress under a Democratic president who saw fit to sign into law the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We now are “enjoying” two years of Democrats in charge of both the legislative and the executive branches of government yet one of those precious years has slipped by with no results save the relatively useless symbolic victory of the Hate Crimes bill.

Next year we will either have a smaller majority in Congress or, God forbid, we will have the GOP back in command. Obama’s reelection campaign will start up in 18 months, along with a centrist political caution that will make 2009 look good.

So this year is it. The Human Rights Campaign had a decent enough excuse for lack of results over the last two decades. And let’s call the first half of 2009 a kind of warm up period for the Obama administration and Congress. [...] But enough is enough. Where is ENDA? Why are we waiting until 2011 to repeal Don’t Ask?

And why isn’t the Human Rights Campaign pissed off?

Emphasis mine. Let's hope one of the hundreds of folks who work at HRC's headquarters in DC reads Rostow's column, and answers that question. I'd sure like to know what the heck it will take for HRC to get a spine transplant and incorporate even a small portion of the legitimate anger in the community into their work.

Why does Obama continue to support Don’t Ask and DOMA in federal court briefs? Why is he capable of condemning the new Arizona immigration law, and even pledging to look into whether or not he can sue to overturn it, while telling us, on the other hand, that he is obliged to defend anti-gay laws even though he disagrees with them in principle. Yes, I know Arizona’s law is not federal. But the point is, his administration could be doing a lot less to enforce Don’t Ask and DOMA. [...]

If HRC was livid about the wasted time, the lengthy commission on Don’t Ask, the briefs backing DOMA, the general apathy that characterizes this administration’s gay rights posture, then I’d be more sympathetic. But they are apologists, not activists.

Again, the emphasis is mine. It would not take all that much re-engineering for HRC to end their butt-kissing and engage in some butt-kicking.

Obama’s hospital visitation order was quite welcome. But it feels like a small scrap of presidential largesse that we are expected to snap up with subservient gratitude. Then we can sit on our haunches with big sad eyes and droopy tongues and whine quietly for the next tidbit while the sand in the short hourglass of political opportunity continues to shift.

Well, enough ranting. There are some barks and growls out there, however. Maybe if they get loud enough someone will throw us a tenderloin.

We should be so lucky.

1 comment:

AndrewW said...

I fully understand the frustration and even anger with HRC. My sense is that most of the community believes that HRC's lobbying is effective and that they have a bunch of "influence" with the President and Congress.

While both of those ideas are certainly debatable, all the criticism seems to be directed at the "organization" and not the tactics or strategies. I think we need to hold organizations AND their tactics accountable.

There is NO evidence that HRC's lobbying efforts have changed any minds or votes in Congress, despite spending hundreds of millions. The problem is anti-Gay politicians have based their objections to us on "moral grounds," which makes them immutable. It means they are NOT negotiable. For 58 years we've "lobbied" Senator Robert Byrd (WV) and he will go to his grave - in his mind - doing "God's will."

Out current obstacle is the US Senate. We have 45 anti-Gay US Senators. The President has no influence and lobbying is totally ineffective. The only way we passed the Hate Crimes Bill was to hold "defense spending" hostage. It wasn't really "passed." Since then we've replaced Senator Kennedy with an anti-Gay Senator. We can't beat a filibuster - even if we hold defense spending hostage again.

So, where does this leave us? If something can Pass the House - DADT Repeal and ENDA can - that doesn't change the unfortunate reality in the US Senate. It begs the question: What have we been doing to change the makeup of the US Senate? Very little.

Recently, we have witnessed the arrival of GetEqual, a self-described group of "activists" financed by Jonathan Lewis (Progressive Insurance heir). These publicity stunts have been called "childish and stupid" by Barney Frank and others. It is another "tactic" employed by a small fraction of the LGBT Community, but is it effective?

Just like lobbying, this so-called "direct action" tactic should also be held accountable. I see NO evidence that it is even helpful to piss on our friends or engage in public demonstrations of anger and frustration. This isn't civil disobedience it is uncivil drama.

I appreciate your efforts to shine a bright light on HRC (and GAY Inc.) but I respectfully suggest that light should be on ALL tactics, strategies, methods and plans. Sooner or later we must refocus our efforts on actually winning, not just fighting. To do that we MUST determine what works and what efforts deserve our financial contribution and participation.

Less than 10% of our community is contributing or participating in our dysfunctional movement. I think this is because we've never shown them HOW to Win. That's not the focus of Gay Inc. and it is not the focus of GetEqual.

We need people to join our fight and support our full equality. We don't achieve that by lobbying politicians or trying to make headlines with childish stunts.

We should be asking Gay Inc. and any other LGBT advocate or activist HOW and WHEN will we WIN our full equality. Until we figure that out we'll just keep repeating history. After the mid-terms it's going to look a lot like 1994 (Clinton) all over again.

Instead of repeating history, we need to figure out how to make history. We need to figure out how to win.