Friday, February 22, 2008

New York Activists Plan Protest Outside HRC Dinner

New York activists are among those across the country who have either picketed the Human Rights Campaign or plan to protest the lobbying organization at dinners across the country. As I reported in EDGE New York yesterday, a coalition of organizations plan to gather outside HRC's annual New York gala tomorrow night in Midtown to express their displeasure over the group's decision to back a transgender-exclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act last fall. Stay tuned!

As the fallout over the Human Rights Campaign’s decision to back a transgender-exclusive federal non-discrimination bill before Congress last fall continues to unfold, a number of activists plan to picket the lobbying organization’s annual New York gala in Midtown on Feb. 23.

Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, told EDGE New York he expects hundreds of people to take part. He blasted U.S. Rep. Barney Frank [D-Mass.] for introducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act without gender identity and expression and HRC President Joe Solmonese for supporting it despite repeated assurances to the contrary. Roskoff added he and others plan to ask members of New York’s Congressional delegation to withdraw their support of the current version of the bill.

"HRC has taken away the fight and drive for equality by compromising our goals and selling the community short," he said.

Melissa Sklarz, director of the New York Trans Rights Organization, is among those supporting the protest. She said she hopes donors and others who attend the dinner will better understand the damage she feels the HRC’s decision to back a trans-exclusive ENDA has done to its reputation and standing.

"I know they raise lots and lots of money and I know they have a huge, huge staff," Sklarz said. "2007 was a terrible, terrible year for transgender trust in HRC."

Stonewall Democratic Club of New York President Matthew Carlin said he made a personal decision not to attend. He added he has urged his members to do the same.

"HRC was really on the wrong side of the ENDA decision," Carlin said.

Activists have protested HRC dinners in Philadelphia and Charlotte, North Carolina, in recent weeks. And the New York Post reported earlier this week honorees Idina Menzel and Vanessa Williams have been urged to cancel their appearances at the gala, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg, openly lesbian City Council Speaker and probable 2009 mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, openly gay state Sen. Tom Duane, Carson Kressley and other local politicos and celebrities have previously attended.

Quinn did not return a request for comment, but has expressed support for a trans-inclusive bill. Duane, who has echoed these sentiments, will not attend the dinner because he will be in Albany.

HRC spokesperson Trevor Thomas downplayed any impact the protest may have.

"While a small number of critics continue to hold protests surrounding ENDA, the Human Rights Campaign is working with allies in Congress to educate members and pave the way for a fully inclusive bill that protects the entire GLBT community," he said.

Thomas further pointed out the HRC sends regular action alerts to its members that urge them to lobby their members of Congress to support a trans-inclusive bill. He also said HRC has recruited more than 50 major businesses to sign a letter in support of ENDA with gender identity and expression, and Thomas further added the organization has secured a commitment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] to bring a trans-inclusive bill up for a vote as soon as it has enough support to pass.

"There are a lot of things that the general GLBT community... are not aware of that we’re doing everyday to make this happen," he said.

Roskoff remains unconvinced.

"It is time for our community to stop throwing money down the drain," Roskoff said. "HRC is nothing more than a cash cow that must no longer be fed."


Anonymous said...

I still think HRC will turn this whole issue of supporting ENDA into a fundraising bonanza. And they'll be one of the few (the only?) gay rights organizations to be able to because they supported it. My guess is that their fundraising ability will increase in 2008. Why? Gay people like organizations who will stick up for them and advance their causes. --=-om=- Nick

Anonymous said...

Huh? You said "gay people like organizations who will stick up for them and advance their causes" so people will give HRC more money? Dude, you don't make any sense. Gay people are SO PISSED OFF right now. Gay people hate discrimination A LOT and HRC is right up their with... oh, the Log Cabin Republicans... Barney Frank... George Wallace...

cybergrace said...

Darn, sorry I missed it. Please post more demos against HRC!