Saying no to the HRC to say yes to gay rights

The Human Rights Campaign has been a continuing disappointment: for such a (allegedly) large organization, it seems to get so little done in the field of GLBT freedoms. Their headquarters is about half-way between my old apartment and my office, and I left scratching my head when I saw it. What did they do, apart from host dinners? Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan — who I think invests too much in convincing the people of the rightness of same-sex marriage — has been particularly savage in denouncing HRC today and in the past. My favorite line: “You will also notice that a handful of young non-professionals were able to organize in a few days what HRC has been incapable of doing in months or years. ”

Referring to the the demonstration Saturday in opposition to Proposition 8, writer Rachel Balick oozes about how

HRC was a ubiquitous presence at the Washington protest. Not only did I spot dozens of soaked HRC staffers and interns, I saw hundreds of HRC flags, shirts, hats, bags and pins.

Really? I trust her when she says she saw her colleagues, but it wasn’t because the HRC organized the event. Government agents could have been present, too (and probably were, but on their own time; is is D.C.) and wouldn’t have any more conspicuous than the HRC staffers. And if merchandising is your proof of effectiveness, God help us all.

By contrast, the NOW was — officially or not; I don’t quite care — very obviously present with large circular signs (see here for an example) and — here’s the important part — canvassers taking names. That’s taking advantage of a potent situation. Made me proud to be a lesbian. Er, no: but you know what I mean.

So, having had enough and suspect of HRC’s big membership, I decided to quit my long-dead (to me) membership. And so I wrote:

I am not using the Membership Center to sever any remaining relationship I may have with the HRC because it allowed no place for comment, and I want to make my reasons plain.

I joined HRC four years ago — the day after the 2004 election — because I thought that in solidarity I could protect my freedoms as a gay man, and help defend my (but for the law) marriage. But while other, smaller group are able to mobilize our community around particular efforts, HRC seems stuck in a hapless state of branding, merchandising and publicity seeking. You failed me, so I did not give any more money. But given the HRC’s flabby way of identifying “members or supporters” I can’t be sure I’m still counted among the faithful. Since you continue to fail me, I refuse to be counted in your numbers.

These days many individual Mormons are giving up their church memberships in protest of organized LDS action against our people. For some, to be sure, this is an act of disgust against an institution that has family ties but no real affection. I am also convinced that leaving this church is a crisis and a considerable loss. My feelings about the HRC do not rise to either of these; it is a garment that does not fit, does not wear and cannot be mended. Other groups will get my attention and money; my friends will get a copy of this letter.

Dear friends: don’t we deserve a better GLBT advocacy movement? Yes, we do and yet we can. Go thou and do likewise.

About Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 44, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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