The Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC says it envisions a world where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
Sounds great. But what is HRC really all about?
Where do we begin to answer that question?
How about we start right here at home, where HRC members are some of the most active people in the LGBT community. We are active politically, socially and philanthropically. You’ll see HRC members serving on boards and committees for just about every LGBT group in North Texas.
You’ll see HRC volunteers helping at Pride celebrations in Dallas and Fort Worth, as well as in places like Longview, Tyler and Texarkana. HRC members participate in events like the South Dallas AIDS Walk, LifeWalk, the Black Trans Advocacy Gala and Transgender Day of Remembrance.
As the national beneficiary for Black Tie Dinner, we also volunteer with the BTD to ensure we do our part in assisting with their extremely successful dinner.
We also bring in the folks from HRC National to help when needed. For example, when the city of Dallas was looking at ways to better serve its LGBT community, the city council turned to HRC National to find out how to proactively make improvements and increase the city’s score on the Municipal Equality Index (MEI).
HRC staff met with the council to help set tangible, meaningful goals for the city. Through the work of the city’s LGBT Task Force and the tremendous support of the city council, the result was the explicit inclusion of non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in city codes governing employment, housing and public accommodation.
And, in 2015, Dallas earned the highest possible score of 100 in the MEI.
Fort Worth has also worked closely with HRC and in 2015 earned an MEI score of 99!
Helping cities treat all of their citizens with dignity, respect and legal protection is what HRC is all about.
As you know, right now in states across the country, anti-LGBT legislation is epidemic. There were a whopping 197 anti-LGBT bills introduced in 34 states this year. And while 114 (so far) of them have failed to pass, we still have laws that got through in North Carolina and Mississippi, and possible bills being enacted in Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri and other places.
HRC has been fighting these bills across the country. The Texas Legislature doesn’t meet again until 2017. But the same Texas legislators who tried to pass anti-LGBT legislation in the 2015 session are watching what is going on around the country and planning how they are going to pass anti-LGBT laws here — laws that would allow anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “Religious Freedom;” laws that would criminalize and put transgender people at risk just because they need to pee; laws that would override local anti-discrimination ordinances like the ones we have in Dallas and Fort Worth; and laws that would try to place limits on the gains we have made with marriage equality.
These threats are real and we need to be ready.
In coalition with groups including Equality Texas, the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal, the Texas Freedom Network, the Transgender Education Network of
Texas and others, HRC is getting ready to combat any of these efforts that would legalize discrimination and put LGBT people in danger. Fighting bad legislation across the country and here in Texas is what HRC is all about.
In addition to all of this, HRC is a resource to help in many other areas, including programs to make schools more welcoming to LGBT kids and to end bullying; with ways to reach out to communities of faith to help them to become LGBT affirming; with adoption and parenting information for LGBT people; and with international outreach programs whose goals include ending the violence against LGBT people in many countries around the world.
Bringing equality and dignity to everyone is what HRC is all about.
So, what is the shocking truth about HRC? The shocking truth is that HRC and HRC’s members are fighting for LGBT equality in more ways than anybody would imagine. We are proud of the work that we do and firmly believe the mission of HRC. And we are committed to continuing the fight until full LGBT equality is a reality. Please join us!
Samuel Tornabene serves on the steering committee for DFW HRC. He is also a member of the board of the Coalition for Aging/LGBT and the city of Dallas LGBT Task Force, as well as a former chair of Equality Texas. Sam and his husband live in Dallas.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2016.