Sunday, August 01, 2010


I should make this clear right off the bat. I am not a fan of the HRC (Human Rights Campaign).

It isn't that I don't believe in their mission or what they claim they are here to do. Good God, I'm gay. Of course I believe in it. But, as I have said before, I don't believe the HRC knows how to get the job done. The HRC is all about writing letters and issuing press releases. And raising money. My God, do those people love to raise money. If there were a Nobel Prize for fund-raising, it would have to go to the HRC. (With GLAAD a close second, but they are for another time.).

Right now, American gays are uber-pissed at Target and Best Buy for their corporate political contributions to MN Forward, a Minnesota PAC established primarily to support Tom Emmer, a conservative candidate for governor who, among other things, doesn't support equal rights.

The HRC has decided to lead the charge of chagrin and has deployed as its primary weapon, an open letter to Target (the link is below) that has all the anger and disdain of a Fifth Avenue matron who has discovered a tea stain on her doily.

Among the more outraged passages:
  • "With these contributions, you have severely damaged those carefully cultivated reputations and violated the spirit of the gold standards bestowed on you."
  • "What may have sounded like a “good business decision” in the board room turns out to be a horribly short-sighted business decision when millions of consumers lose respect for your companies."
  • "Your foray into this uncharted water has proved choppy and should serve as a warning to other corporations mindful of the perceptions of LGBT and allied consumers."
I'm sure Target executives are quivering.

But the most telling line is the last one:
"We’re watching and we’re waiting."

Yes... that's what the HRC does best. They watch. They wait. They watch some more. They wait longer. They will watch any progress our community has made in the last 25 years slip away, waiting for somebody somewhere to do something. The HRC wants Target and best Buy and everyone else to do the right thing. I hope the HRC, and the rest of us, are prepared to wait a long time.

The HRC is content to play diplomats in an arena where human rights are a blood sport. Our opponents are not polite. They don't write neatly spaced letters posted on optimistic websites. Our opponents raise hell. They rally people into demonstrations, carrying signs, demanding press and swaying public opinion. Our opponents are loud and obnoxious and they are very good at getting their way. The fact that their campaigns are based on lies and hatred cannot hide the fact that they are effective.

Do I advocate lies and hate speech? No. Do I think it is time for the fight for equality to move into the streets? Hell yes! Equal rights in this country have never been won by the printed word alone. Whether it was civil rights in the 60's, women's rights in the 70's or ACT-UP in the 80's, the struggles that mattered were in the streets. Progress came through protests, demonstrations and, when necessary, non-violent civil disobedience.

The HRC has the strength and the reach to organize the community into meaningful public displays of anger. The HRC could find a way to take this beyond the equality question, and to show that Target & Best Buy are funding a candidate who doesn't just hate gays.
  • Tom Emmer believes federal laws don't apply to the individual states and supports a Minnesota constitutional amendment allowing the state to ignore federal laws;
  • Tom Emmer believes restaurant employees should be forced to take wage cuts because they receive tips;
  • Tom Emmer supports legislation that would allow pharmacists to deny contraception to anyone they believe is unfit. Just the insanity of this position alone is mind-boggling. A pharmacist could decide someone is unfit for contraception, therefore they should have children. Excuse me?
The HRC needs to understand that our cause alone is not necessarily enough to raise widespread public outrage over the Target and Best Buy contributions. But the HRC won't. It is a group where nearsightedness is epidemic. It is an organization mired in the same inside-the-beltway bureaucracy it once hoped to cut through. And even in the fight for equality, the HRC has no balls and no teeth. Local community groups such as Broadway Impact, Fight Back New York and Marriage Equality New York are fighting and winning battles that the HRC has either abandoned or ignored.

The clock is running out. If the HRC doesn't have the stomach for the fight, then it should fold up it's very pretty website, get the hell out of the way, and let people who really care about equality lead the fight.

(The HRC letter to Target & Best Buy)