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HRC’s Joe Solmonese responds to critics Rights Campaign head Joe Solmonese has been the focus of a wave of criticism from some prominent members of the LGBT community for seeming to be too patient with President Barack Obama’s lack of action in such major equal rights issues as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The criticism reached fever pitch this weekend when Solmonese sent an e-mail blast prior to Saturday’s HRC dinner where Obama spoke. Here is the part that got people really ticked off because it seems to be giving the Obama administration a pass to drag their feet:

It shouldn’t be difficult to see why the president of the United States speaking to the nation’s largest LGBT rights group is a good development for LGBT people. But at this point in time, it is hard for many among us to see. The substance of the feeling is this: he promised us the world, and we gave everything we had to elect him. But what has he done?
I’ve written that we have actually covered a good deal of ground so far. But I’m not going to trot out those advances right now because I have something more relevant to say: It’s not January 19, 2017.
That matters for two reasons: first, the accomplishments that we’ve seen thus far are not the Obama Administration’s record. They are the Administration’s record so far. If you ask “is that all” my question to you is “is that all you think we’re going to push for?” It isn’t.
More importantly: today, and for the next seven years and three months, Barack Obama is the most powerful person in the world, with the largest bully pulpit, and the most power to effect change. To do the work, we have to work with our supporters in Congress and with the Administration. Whatever you think of the Administration’s first nine months, you don’t pass laws by sitting out. You pass laws by sitting at the table.

Here is video of Andrew Sullivan expressing his grievances with HRC and calling on Solmonese to resign:

Towleroad has a good post from some other prominent voices critical of Solmonese and an interview he gave to CNN on Sunday. Here is a LINK.

Today, the beleaguered HRC head responded to critics with a lengthy message on the HRC site. Here are some excerpts:

Between President Obama’s speech at the HRC National Dinner on Saturday night and the inspiring crowd of pro-equality marchers who gathered at the Capitol on Sunday, it was quite a weekend. In my mind, it all reflected the undeniable fact that we in the LGBT community and our allies have a new-found energy and focus on what needs to be done to achieve the equality we’ve been promised and that we deserve.  Of course, we are not a community that sees everything through the same lens (and thank goodness for that!), so there have been nearly as many different views of what really went down this weekend as there were people marching past the White House. With this in mind, I want to address some of the issues people have been discussing and talk about how I see us all moving forward.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the reaction some people had to my comment that on the last day of President Obama’s term, we will be able to look back on many accomplishments in LGBT rights. I still find it hard to believe that anyone thought I was saying that we should be content to wait patiently for our equality. What I said—and what I believe in my heart—is just the opposite.

We all worked hard to elect a President who supports our rights and now that we’re in a position to make change happen, the last thing we should do is wait.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA are still on the books and an inclusive ENDA has yet to become law.  Real families are left without protections and people living with HIV and AIDS aren’t getting the care they need.  Students are being bullied in school because they’re different and bi-national couples are treated like they’ve never met.  While we’ve started to turn the tide, it’s clear that our community has a lot of reasons to be angry and impatient, and I’m thankful to the tens of thousands who joined us in Washington this weekend to demand a change.

So while I steadfastly believe that we will have accomplished an awful lot by the time President Obama leaves office, I know that wishing won’t make it so.

The fact is, we’ve got an agenda.  It includes repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, passing an inclusive ENDA, repealing DOMA, and getting real protections for families and people with HIV/AIDS. How do we make all this happen? We have to pass laws. When it comes to changing the lives of LGBT Americans, that’s the name of the game.  Whatever the president does or doesn’t say, whatever I say and however anyone decides to read it, there is only one way to pass a law:  secure a majority of votes in the House and a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate.  This is a lot easier said than done, but one thing is certain: when an LGBT bill gets to the Oval Office, this president will sign it.

FILE UNDER: Politics


(All comments are reviewed before being published, and I review submissions several times per day.)

9 Remarks

  1. Blah Blah Blah. I could care less about looking back. I’d just like to see a beginning to these accomplishments. Solmonese just comes across like another of the President’s lapdogs.

  2. October 14th, 2009 at 3:13 pm
    Michael McKeon says:

    The HRC has become nothing more than a fund raising arm for the Democratic party.

    What about an executive order on DOMA and DADT? And would someone please shove a sock in Barney Frank’s mouth, he was one of my heroes which make’s it so much harder to watch him turn on the community.

    “Wait almost always means never” MLK.

  3. Joe, drop dead. You’re irrelevant just like Barney Frank. If you spent half as much time fighting for equality as you do on Botox, we might be somewhere. Go play with your rich white politician buddies. We’re building a movement for equal rights down here on the ground.

    We all know the difference between what you SAY and what you MEAN. You hang around politicians so you talk like one. When you say “Of course, we are not a community that sees everything through the same lens (and thank goodness for that!)”, you mean “I don’t give a fuck what you think or what you have to say, just gimme your damn check and I’LL make the rules and decide on behalf of millions of lgbt people how we’re going to win equality.”

    Joe, you’re fucking strategy is the same it’s always been: elect Democrats. YOU FAIL.

  4. What keeps reverberating for me is the comment about January, 2017. Does Solmonese truly think that Obama’s re-election is a given? Does he really think that a Democratic majority in Congress after 2010 is a sure thing?

    With the President’s inability to build a progressive coalition in Congress, considering the Democratic majority, I’d say a GOP swing at midterms is a very real possibility, as well as a GOP Presidential win in 2012. Rather than wasting time making promises, the President should be getting the job done. And HRC’s apologist stance is helping no one.

    The time for action is now.

  5. It annoys me when gay men say things like, “We got Obama elected”. Really? All by yourselves? That is impressive! I guess all the black people, Democrats, and disillusioned Republicans stayed home that day. Do you really think that it is all because of you that he is in office and he owes you the world? I’m not saying don’t fight for equality but Obama is probably doing more for gays then McCain would ever have done so give him a little bit of credit. Right now, he’s getting shit from every direction from Republicans on a number of issues like Health Care and the War. I don’t think Marriage Equality is first on his list right now. He’s also got 3 more years to make something happen so be a little patient.

  6. I’m surprised and disheartened by Joe’s comment, and his response. Whatever he says his intentions are, there is a bit of complacency in his tone, which is something GLBT’s don’t need more of – especially from the head of the largest group fighting for our rights. And we certainly can’t assume Obama will be re-elected next term and put all our hopes in that. We need to do things now. Strike while the iron is hot (and while things are not great, the iron has never been hotter than now).

    Another disappointment: As great as it was to hear a President address gay issues in detail, I noticed that Obama never used the word “marriage”. And I haven’t heard anyone mention this (did I miss the responses somewhere?). Does this mean he won’t fight for gay “marriage” but only for “civil unions”? I guess equality is farther away than we thought.

  7. Joe Solmonese is just the George W Bush of our LGBT community. The real interesting thing would be to find OUT who’s pulling the strings at HRC and who is controlling the purse?

  8. I agree with the speaker in the video. The HRC has become arrogant and self-serving, like he said, a party for people who feel entitled and connected, and who use events as a social clatch.

    The HRC has no sense of urgency because if they actually succeeded, Joe S. and pals would not get to hobnob.

  9. January 26th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
    formerhrcboardmember says:

    as a former board member for hrc. the strategy is to burn out volunteers, and then kick them off the board when they start to get tired. No joke. Take take take. A sure fire road to burnout.

    the only people who maintained power were the ones with money and connections. they are not reaching the masses. for all the money they raise, they are accomplishgin very little. my advice, focus your energy elsewhere. This organization is not the one making major change happen at all–it is the local state grass roots organizations. It is an elite social network, good for networking with people that are sure to be fair weather friends.

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