Thursday, December 24, 2009

Interview: HRC's Solmonese Looks Back & Ahead

Below is my interview with Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, from earlier in the week. We discussed a report to the HRC board by Solmonese in which he described the "significant strides" on LGBT rights in 2009. I agree with him: There were huge gains on marriage in the states, thanks to local activists.

But at the outset of the interview, when I asked Solmonese about the gains to which he was referring, it was telling that he began talking about President Obama and Congress. The HRC outlook on 2009 seems to be that just because Obama was elected and took office -- rather than John McCain and Sarah Palin -- and is light years better than George W. Bush, we have won something big. I think that's a pretty low standard by which to judge a president or anyone else. Did Obama keep his promises and move quickly on our rights? Did he live up to the self-described term of "fierce advocate?" Is there a passion from him on our issues? Most activists would say it would be laughable to answer "yes" to any of those questions.

Grass roots activists have pointed to the inaction of the administration, and much of the mainstream media, from Time and Newsweek to ABC and CNN, has covered it as well, looking specifically at the issues and at the injustice that is still very much with us. I noted to Solmonese that usually it is HRC that is in the mainstream but here is the mainstream agreeing with the grass roots/net roots while HRC seems to be out of touch. Solmonese did note that on issues like DADT tell and DOMA, when it came to court cases, the administration is problematic -- I would say this administration has been downright hostile, for example, defying a court order to give a lesbian federal worker her rights -- and on this he admitted the administration doesn't listen to HRC's advice. I'll say.

Newsweek recently predicted that in 2010 Obama would do "nada on gay rights." But Joe Solmonese thinks it will be a good year, that Obama will pull through and that we will see the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed and DADT repealed. Listen in.