November 08, 2007
The debate before the debate
Posted by: Chris
(UPDATE: At the end of the post.)
Just one day before Barney Frank and our GLB allies in Congress debated opponents of ENDA in Congress, Human Rights Campaign prez Joe Solmonese had a debate of his own, with Mike Signorile on Sirius Out Q. You can listen to the exchange here on Pam's House Blend, but here are the highlights:
- HRC's strategy was actually to prevent the compromise ENDA from ever coming up for a vote on the House floor. Once it passed out of Rules Committee, HRC reversed itself. It's unclear why HRC would publicly commit itself to a strategy that depended on ENDA never making it to the House floor, something that was inevitable after Nancy Pelosi gave a green light.
- HRC will score the ENDA vote on its congressional report card, which is pretty remarkable considering the many public pronouncements by Solmonese that HRC opposed (and then was neutral) on the compromise bill. At the same time, HRC will indicate somehow those members (it turned out to be seven Dems) who voted against ENDA on trans-inclusion grounds.
- Amusingly, Signorile complains the internal ENDA debate "got really ugly," including "nasty comments about transgender people" online. No doubt that happened and shouldn't have, but thus far I've only seen nasty comments by transgender people (and their allies), not about them.
- Signorile took Solmonese to task for acting like a Beltway lobbyist and not a civil rights leader. All I can say is, "Welcome to the party, Mike." I've said many times that Joe is no doubt a talented tactician, although his ENDA flip-flops raise some doubts there as well. But he never should have been named to lead the nation's largest gay rights group. He would have been much better suited to be political director, working for a someone who gets "the vision thing" and can inspire unity and progress in the movement.
- Solmonese now claims he "misspoke" at a Sept. 14 meeting with transgender activists in Atlanta for the Southern Comfort conference. "We do not support and in fact absolutely oppose any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive," Solmonese said then. Believe it or not, Solmonese now claims HRC's position is still to oppose ENDA if it is not trans-inclusive, but only if it passes Congress in that form and is up for the president's signature.
- Solmonese's take-away from the whole ENDA debacle is that HRC should be entrusted with more, not less, leeway to decide what's best for us. "In retrospect," he said, "perhaps the policy of HRC should be that we're going to evaluate each circumstance as it presents itself and do what we think is in the best interest of the community." Yes, he really said that.
It will be very interesting indeed to see how HRC reacts to the chorus of criticism that seems to be coming from all directions. From the left, the Bay Area Reporter is asking for the background info on the HRC poll that purportedly shows 70% of LGBT Americans backing a gay-only ENDA.
Few seem to doubt that percentage is about right, and it squares what the online survey conducted on this blog and Gay News Watch, but it is more than passing curious that HRC is thus far refusing to say who conducted the poll or its methodology and margin of error.
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