What will be said about the state of the community at this year’s HRC National Dinner?

Posted on 19 Aug 2010 at 12:44pm

Anyone going to attend to hear about the state of major LGBT accomplishments promised in 2010? After all, the HRC National Dinner is being billed as “No excuses” this year.

I think we can expect to hear about these positive — though in most cases not permanent — policy changes:

  • The Office of Personnel Management, under openly gay John Berry, has made extended certain benefits to the same sex partners of federal employees that aren’t affected by DOMA, of course;
  • Health and Human Services has directed those institutions receiving fed funds to allow hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples;
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act has been re-interpreted by the Labor Department of this administration to allow a caregiver irrespective of their biological or legal relationship to care for a child without losing their job.
  • The HIV travel ban has been lifted;
  • And for the transgender community there has significant change – appointment of open transgender staff to this administration, as well as implement  the issuance of gender-appropriate passports that is essential when one is unable, because of state law, to present a gender-appropriate driver’s license or birth certificate;
  • No doubt they’ll try to coast on Hate Crimes yet again.

So yes, there will be something for Joe Solmonese to say up at the podium. And those changes do affect LGBTs around the country. The barebones truth though, is Joe will not be able to tick off a list that includes the major policy items that were promised to the community and donors as “done deals” all year long.

2/27/2010: HRCs’ President Joe Solmonese at the HRC Carolinas Gala on Saturday night. I was there reporting for the Blend as he made these emphatic statements to the members of the LGBT community and allies from North and South Carolina in attendance at the Raleigh Convention Center about what was going to be accomplished this year.

1. “We are going to eliminate the tax that you pay on domestic partner benefits. We’re going to get rid of that this year at long last.”

2. “We are going to extend domestic partnerships to federal employees.”

3. “We are going to get people living with HIV/AIDS treatment much earlier if they are on public assistance.”

4. “And finally, finally this year we are going to bring down the discriminatory policy known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’…once and for all.

He can’t tick DADT off because all of the subsequent signals from this administration indicated there was no intention of working for full repeal this year. Every public action and statement was either obstructionist (Gibbs) or just plain slow-go, foot-dragging.” Either Joe was caught up in the moment and freelanced those NC remarks without HRC vetting or he was completely duped by the White House/Hill on messaging and goals regarding repeal. I don’t know which it is, but since it’s occurred before (see Southern Comfort and ENDA), that’s not very savvy for an organization with the level of access, power and reputation that is, by default, “representing the LGBT community.” If my video and the other from Southern Comfort had not been widely circulated, you folks out there wouldn’t have a clue about the “missteps” (to be charitable)  that go on to this day…on your behalf. We can’t tick off ENDA or domestic partners either. It’s sobering. But I’m sure Pink and the cast of Modern Family will gloss over these matters for the guests with checkbooks attending.

I do hope that this dinner’s state of the LGBT community speech is crafted with a sense that there are meaningful things to celebrate, but to have credibility there needs to be a public recognition that this year also represents a more difficult uphill battle with this administration and Congress than anticipated. There were promises this President made in good faith to the community that he failed to follow through on. After 8+ years in the legislative wilderness, an organization charged with lobbying for equality on the Hill will need to convey a real commitment — not just branding — to “no excuses” when it comes to dealing with those in power.

NOTE: I personally found the Carolinas Dinner fascinating to cover (former HRC Comm staffer Trevor Thomas was instrumental in getting me in at the last minute to set up to report) since you see, as you can imagine, a different $lice of the LGBT community, than you normally see out and about. I do know that many of the attendees at the Carolinas Dinner were not particularly well-informed about policy or progress (or not) of any legislation, but many I spoke with were there for an evening out with the communityt and to support HRC as the organization that will do the political heavy lifting for them.  I have not attended the National Dinner before, as a guest or media, so I don’t have a feel for the scope or sense of the depth of political engagement of the attendees.  
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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