I really like a lot of the questions Bil Browning has raised about GetEQUAL, the Jonathan Lewis-funded and Paul Yandura-powered activist group led by Robin McGehee and Kip Williams. These are points that need to be raised, and answers that need delivering. But is branding GetEQUAL as “HRC Lite” accurate?
If you look at GetEQUAL’s financing, maybe. They’ve got six figures coming in from Lewis’ Progressive Insurance billions, and that’ll be enough to keep them afloat for a bit. HRC also collects major cash from a small pool of wealthy donors. But unlike HRC, McGehee and Williams aren’t pretending black tie galas count as activism. Rather than tie themselves to the whims of many, their efforts are being funded by individuals with very clear goals in mind: go balls to the wall and do whatever it takes to kill DADT, DOMA, pass ENDA, and all the rest.
Being accountable to just two moneyed financiers raises its own slew of problems. But it’s a nice alternative to HRC, and not necessarily a “lite” version of the Gay Inc. group, for the problems burning at Joe Solmonese’s feet have to do with bureaucracy and inaction and lowest common denominators, things GetEQUAL appears to be eliminating. Or rather, not even participating in at all.
I have no vested interest in the future of GetEQUAL, at least no more than any queer person who’d like to achieve equality sometime soon. And while Browning’s concerns are worth expressing and monitoring —
After billing themselves as a grassroots organization meant for the common queer activist, so far what I’m seeing is wealthy funders giving two recently successful organizers quite a bit of cash to raise hell with no concrete strategy, deliverables, standards or apparent benefit to the LGBT community. While the group seems to know their place in this insiders/out strategy they’re playing with HRC, some of the similarities are still too obvious to be overlooked.
— I’m the type who’s going to welcome an alternative to the tried (and failed) strategy sessions of Gay Inc. What we’re seeing in GetEQUAL is just what so many LGBT Americans have been begging for over the past couple years: A departure from negotiating our rights and instead demanding them. I would love GetEQUAL to embrace transparency. I would love them to embrace diversity (right now it looks like a bunch of white folks running things, and image is everything). And I would love to see them earn credit, alongside other activist groups, for enacting change.
So I’m there with Browning, encouraging skepticism and evaluation, because we’ve gone so long without it. But I’m willing to see just how far GetEQUAL’s brand of activism can take us. Trust, but verify.