Kirven said that after an HRC staffer told transgender activists to remove a transgender pride flag from behind the podium, she picked it up and tried to make sure it was in every camera shot.
On March 26, about 8,000 people rallied for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court while justices heard oral arguments in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. The rally was organized by United for Marriage, a coalition of 180 groups, but Kirven, who was a scheduled speaker, said HRC was in control of the stage and the event. Kirven is a national board member for GetEQUAL.
Kirven said she had to submit her speech and got it back about 15 minutes before she was about to speak with sentences blacked out and words changed. She said she stumbled through parts of it because it wasn’t her words.
“They said I was too aggressive and dark,” Kirven said.
Another speaker was also censored at the rally. He is undocumented but was only allowed to use the word “DREAMer” to describe himself, he was told, because the rally was supposed to be upbeat.
Bryan Ellicott was waving a trans pride flag for GetEQUAL. In a much-publicized incident, HRC’s Karen Quimby asked him what the flag was and then told him to put it down.
“Look, you need to remove the flag,” Kirven said Quimby told Ellicott. “She said, ‘This is about marriage equality, not transgender issues.’”
Ellicott responded that the trans community is about marriage equality, too, according to Kirven.
Another woman walked up and said she’d burn the flag if it weren’t removed. That’s when Kirven picked it up and began waving it.
She said Ellicott was in tears. She called it “plain old bullying” and said it was bad timing to air dirty laundry in front of TV cameras.
“Gay pride is trans pride and trans pride is gay pride,” she said.
“We failed to live up to the high standard to which we hold ourselves accountable and we will strive to do better in the future,” HRC Vice President Fred Sainz wrote. “Through both our legislative and programmatic work, HRC remains committed to making transgender equality a reality.”
Kirven said she was not included in the apology even though her words were also changed and was threatened as she defiantly flew the trans flag.
“[GetEQUAL co-director] Heather Cronk got an apology from HRC,” Kirven said. “I never got an apology.”
Quimby, an HRC field organizer, is working in San Antonio to help pass a human rights ordinance, according to Q San Antonio and issued an unequivocal apology when she spoke to San Antonio Gender Association, that city’s largest trans organization.
“It was wrong and I regret it. I hurt a lot of people, and I’m sorry,” she told SAGA.
Dallas trans activist Nell Gaither met Quimby at the Equality Summit in Austin last weekend. She said Quimby is involved in HRC’s Municipal Equality Index. While she doesn’t question the sincerity of Quimby’s apology, she wonders how she can represent trans issues when she didn’t understand that marriage equality affects the trans community. She pointed to the Nikki Araguz and Christie Littleton cases in Texas as examples.
“I have doubts she’s the best person to be working on any CEI or MEI ratings on trans issues,” Gaither said.
A photo of the edits to Kirven’s speech are below: