Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dallas Leader: Solmonese Effective,

I recently said it was difficult to find many folks on the web praising the leadership of Joe Solmonese and HRC, but today it was easy to find one person endorsing him and the org. Before I say who that person is, let's start at the beginning of exchanges in the gay weekly Dallas Voice.

Former editor and occasional columnist David Webb wrote a critical piece on April 1, that got the conversation going:

Just when it looked like we might be starting to gain a little headway in our fight for equality, here comes Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese showing off his fancy new clothes in a magazine spread.

Washington Life recently included Solmonese in its 2010 Fashion Awards tribute to “35 men and women who bring that je ne sais quoi to the ballrooms and boardrooms of Washington.”

In the piece Solmonese confided that he favors designers Ann Demeulemeester, Billy Reid and Dolce and Gabbana. [...]

Many already argue that the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and other groups are spending entirely too much time partying with celebrities and enjoying the highlife. The groups’ leaders are accused of being out of touch with the interests of the average LGBT person [...]

That Webb column got the attention of Dallas gay leader Steve Atkinson, who had lots of nice things to say about Solmonese and HRC, which is to be expected since he once served as co-chair of the org's board of governors, a fact he disclosed at the end of his letter:

As one who has been intimately involved with HRC for many years, I am fully aware of Joe Solmonese’s salary and of the fact that he is most effective in his role as president of the largest LGBT advocacy organization in the world.

Is anyone surprised that the head of one of the country’s most recognized, successful and effective nonprofit organizations is well compensated? Does it matter that Joe happens to enjoy fashion and likes to dress well? The answer to both of those questions is certainly no. [...]

When the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is finally ended, HRC will be largely responsible. No organization except HRC will be able to rightfully claim that it played a significant role in the enactment of ENDA, which will wind up becoming law and protecting LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace. [...]

It's to be expected someone who once was quite high on the HRC totem pole is boasting of the org and its leader, but it's simply not enough to change my mind about the org simply because a former board member throws the word effective around in a Dallas Voice letter.

Is this really the best HRC can muster in terms of showing some, never mind widespread, community support? Where are the voices of ordinary gays singing the praises of HRC?

In response to the column and letter, Rob Schlein, the president of the Dallas chapter fo the Log Cabin Republicans, sent his thoughts to the paper, which were published this week:

On April 5, Log Cabin Republicans filed further action in the United States Central District Court of California against the United States of America and Robert Gates, secretary of defense ( The case is the best hope for judicial action against the legal standing of DADT. The Obama administration is expending substantial resources to defeat our efforts to overturn DADT in this case.

I bring this up in order to contrast Log Cabin Republicans to HRC. With minimal funding and even less staff support than HRC, we are having an impact in real world terms while exposing the hypocrisy of the Obama administration regarding this issue.

We support many of the goals of HRC in achieving equality. That said, a $22 million office building (purchased in 2001 for under $10 million with improvements since at an estimated $12 million), bloated salaries and extravagant budgets are obviously weighing down an organization that could be more effective. [...]

Okay, Schlein is as full of cheering for his org as is Atkinson for HRC, but there is one key difference in the orgs' approaches to ending DADT, and that is LCR leaders are suing the Obama administration over the policy. If HRC has directly challenged its friends in the White House on all this, I missed their press release about it.

The exchange of ideas in the Dallas Voice about the HRC, ending the ban on gays in the military, and the work of LCR should go beyond the newspaper. We really need face-to-face debates, streamed on the web, with HRC and LCR about their agendas and delivering effective change at the federal level for gay Americans.

And if HRC's leader would finally agree to engage in the community with more interactions than gala dinners, and commit to regular and regional debates, I want to nominate David Webb as the moderator of such a forum in Dallas. I believe he is a good journalist, interested in all sides of a story, and not strident in his beliefs.

If only HRC could expand its functions to include better community engagement through debates and forums, we might see some of the tremendous anger and criticism directed their way diminish in significant ways.

1 comment:

AndrewW said...

Atkinson may suggest that HRC is effective, but he provides NO evidence. And so it goes with HRC and their remaining supporters.

If HRC can substantiate spending +$550 million in 30 years why haven't we seen it? What has HRC accomplished?

If insiders want to speak up in support of HRC that's fine - but, provide some evidence of "effectiveness."

HRC is going out of business. People are finally understanding the are about fundraising, not results.