January 11, 2008
Joe Solmonese's pain in the neck
Posted by: Chris
A couple of weeks after my partner and I arrived in Buenos Aires, I woke up in our temporary flat with a stiff crick in the neck. For days and even weeks after, I could move my head to the left, but to the right past 2 on the clock dial it was no-go.
I've come to believe that Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese suffers from the same malady, albeit figuratively and politically. He's easily swept up "feeling the pain" of anyone in the sliver that exists to his political left, all while ignoring the legitimate beef of the greater numbers wallowing in the vast terrain of territory to his right.
The latest evidence of Joe's pain in the neck problem is a story in the Bay Area Reporter about a meeting Solmonese had last week with a number of San Francisco transgender activists. The headline from the encounter was the decision by local activist Theresa Sparks to return the HRC Equality Award she received three years earlier because she says she can no longer stand to look at it due to the recent hostilities over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. (Sparks is the male-to-female transsexual owner of a sex shop called Good Vibrations and heads up the city's Police Commission. Yes… only in San Francisco…)
Besides Ms. Sparks' flare for drama, the meeting was notable for the extreme lengths Solmonese went to hearing out the concerns of these angry transgender activists -- who have said more personal and vicious things about him and HRC in a short three-month span than Michael Petrelis, Andrew Sullivan and I together have churned out in the last five years. Yet over all those months of criticism about HRC's lack of transparency and overt partisanship, not just from us but throughout the blogosphere and the gay press, Solmonese never once picked up the phone; never suggested a meeting.
Still, there he was in San Francisco, liberal-guilt-ridden for the apparent crime of supporting the
country's most well-known gay politician and the movement's most basic
gay rights legislation -- defending himself to transgender activists
angry that he hadn't held ENDA hostage indefinitely over a gender identity provision that was nowhere close to passage.
Trying to reassure them, Solmonese insisted, "We are very much at the beginning of the ENDA process."
At the beginning? This may be your first time at the rodeo, Joe,
but this legislation was first introduced three decades ago and came
one vote short of passing the Senate (in much the same form it is
today) waaay back in 1996! The Democrats took control of both houses of
Congress (exactly) one year ago now, and have yet to pass a single piece of
gay rights legislation to even test the president's veto threat.
Solmonese knows this, of course, but his role as the Democratic Party's de facto gay outreach chair is to deflect heat from this Congress -- call it the hard partisanship of reduced expectations -- and get out the vote for Democrats this November. Whether he has actually been bought off or simply drank the Kool Aid and really believes the interests of movement and party are lock-step intertwined is beside the point.
It's clearly time for a change and not just in the White House. It's time for the nation's largest gay rights group to be led by someone who puts the movement first and party affiliation second and who will not abandon 99 percent of his constituents in favor of a very loud 1 percent. And it's long past time for the D.C.-Massachusetts mafia that has long pulled the strings at HRC to relinquish control and let someone else have a try. They've had decades now and have absolutely positively nothing to show for it.
(Photo via Bay Area Reporter/Rick Gerharter, and kudos to him for telling a story of more than 1,000 words with one well-constructed photograph.)
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