Former head of NGLTF, Matt Foreman, writes at Bilerico about how to make HRC a better partner in the larger LGBT movement.
I think Matt has a point. But. First the point. Matt summarizes at the end, and I think its a good summary:
The impact of the movement divide between HRC and others goes far beyond time wasted on organizational piques. Resources are squandered in overlapping and sometimes conflicting lobbying and educational campaigns. Over the years, this has contributed to an array of missed opportunities – including early passage of hate crimes legislation, ENDA falling off the table (again), and the lack of LGBT people appointed to cabinet-level posts. No matter whose version of the facts you believe, it’s clear that the lack of an agreed-to strategy nearly killed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” multiple times. The fact that HRC and the rest of the movement put forward two separate agendas for federal agency policy reform to the Obama administration in early 2008 is one of the reasons why this work got off to such a painfully slow start.
As the members of the HRC board weighs the next steps for the organization they lead, let’s imagine an alternative to the recent state of affairs…
Imagine if HRC’s political donations were actually in sync with those of Gill Action’s Political OutGiving program and the Victory Fund’s work to elect LGBT people to office.
* Imagine if organizations with deep understanding of specific issues – the needs of gay families, bullying or anti-LGBT violence, work in communities of color or faith, marriage equality, etc. – could partner with, rather than compete with or work around HRC on their specific priorities.
* Imagine if the grassroots, grasstops and financial clout of the LGBT community was brought to bear in a focused way on our top priorities.
* Imagine if HRC partnered with Equality Federation organizations and local groups to build their collective power, lists, fundraising bases and expertise.
* Imagine if information and leverage points were shared honestly so that our community could start playing legislators and policymakers the way they play us now.
All of that is good. Now the “but.” It’s not like NGLTF, what once was considered our second largest group, has been a paragon of virtue these past few years. First off, are they even around any more? No one I know has a clue what NGLTF does other than throw an annual conference. So while I agree that HRC has some serious issues to face, I’m not entirely sure the answer comes from working more closely with, for example, NGLTF.
And don’t forget that NGLTF, and all the other groups that don’t like HRC, share the blame for ENDA not going anywhere under Obama. NGLTF and a coalition of “300 organizations” chose to take the lead on ENDA back in 2007. They said they’d do the lobbying, they said we had the votes. It’s been four years. We still don’t have the votes, and NGLTF and its “300 organization” coalition is nowhere to be found. So while I agree, heartily, that HRC is a problem in need of a solution, they are not the only organizational problem we face as a community.
I don’t want this to detract from Matt’s message about where HRC goes from here, when current president Joe Solmonese leaves. But one thing I don’t want to see is HRC go from bad to irrelevant. While “bad” has been a serious thorn in our side, “irrelevant” hasn’t gotten us very far either.