empty handed

Congress Abandons LGBT Health Care Provisions. HRC Is ‘Deeply Disappointed’

In addition to lobbying federal lawmakers about military service, marriage, and workplace discrimination, the Human Rights Campaign tells us that it’s active in shaping health care legislation. On its website, the organization says “HRC is broadening its scope to include a wider variety of issues such as lesbian health, healthcare discrimination and the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI).” So now that the House Rules Committee released the bill it’ll vote on to match up with the Senate’s health care bill — which is absent any LGBT-specific provisions — surely HRC must be devastated that, once again, its efforts at influencing lawmakers is a complete fail?

Well not “devastated.” Just “deeply disappointed.” In the latest series of tail-between-its-legs admissions, HRC alerts us that “after months of lobbying for their inclusion, important measures specifically addressing the needs of LGBT people and people with HIV – ending the unfair taxation of employer-provided domestic partner health benefits, permitting states to offer early HIV treatment under Medicaid, collecting critical health data on LGBT people and addressing discrimination in health care – are not a part of this bill. … HRC has lobbied for our inclusion in health care reform since the process began last spring, both on the Hill and at the White House, working with key leaders like Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), as well as other LGBT and progressive organizations. We have reached out to our members to generate grassroots support in targeted states and districts and engaged grasstops to influence particular Members and Senators.”

But hey, look on the bright side of what queer Americans will get with Sunday’s vote on the bill: “While we are saddened that the House has abandoned provisions that would make care more accessible and affordable to our community, we recognize that the health reform measure will still help all Americans, including LGBT people.” This is true: LGBTs with cancer and AIDS and diabetes who are regularly refused healthcare coverage because of “pre-existing conditions” should, technically, have an easier time securing coverage. But by its own admission, the Human Rights Campaign’s multi-million dollar budget failed the community it claims to represent.

Something tells us that Get Equal is going to have a new fight on its hands — picking up the mobilization slack that HRC simply cannot manage.

Is HRC entirely to blame for these woes? Of course not — for the same reasons it wouldn’t be able to take full credit if LGBT-specific provisions were included. It’s an enormous and complex task, this legislation-passing stuff, and pinning all your disappointment on HRC isn’t fair. There are countless national and regional organizations with their own set of priorities, lobbying their own representatives to include and exclude various interests. Everyone shares some of the responsibility, including gay lawmakers like Reps. Baldwin, Jared Polis, and Barney Frank (and, really, all lawmakers), who should be using their single vote to correct healthcare disparities.

What is fair, however, is to continue holding HRC accountable for — once again — claiming to represent the entire LGBT community, and to work on their behalf, only to have nothing to show for it. There are very good people at HRC. Some of them are our friends. But something isn’t working here. And it hasn’t been working for years.

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  • Cam

    Of course they will take full credit for anything that happens. They were attacking the gay march a few months ago before grudginly trying to join in, and now they are planning a big march on May 11th, so apparently Marches are only bad if THEY didn’t plan them.

  • Terance Greene

    What is HRC going to threaten to do. Rub elbows with Washington with a little less friction

  • Geoff M

    Maybe if I buy a 300 dollar plate at their next fundraiser I can spur them to action. What a colossal waste of resources they are.

  • Bob

    Lesbian health(?) What about gay men’s healthcare? Why the exception here?

  • David Ehrenstein

    So the KAPOS are “deeply disappointed” eh?


  • AndrewW

    $50 million a year to HRC and we’re left out again?

    Lobbying doesn’t work.


  • Mark

    Is Joe Solmonese trying to do an impression of a blow-up sex doll?

  • Donald

    Shock! I am absolutely shocked that HRC could not get these provisions included. *eyeroll*

  • terrwill

    Of course the Gays were included in this clusterfcuk of a bill!!……Silly people! Those wonderfull representives know just how much Gays love to get fcuked!!!

    And they really fcuked us good!!!

  • WT

    Solomonasse really gay? How can a gay giy who makes $400k/year not look good in a tee shirt?

  • Jon

    POST THIS ON HRC’s FB WALL: Joe – it is time you LISTEN to us that ARE the grassroots – HRC needs to move with us – or we are going to drag you kicking and screaming – and how dare HRC lie about what happened yesterday – THAT IS DISGUSTING!!!! Dr. King is rolling in his grave at HRC right now!

    we WILL be heard! GetEQUAL NOW!


  • Cam

    In the article in the Local DC gay paper “DC Agenda” about the Dan Choi situation, look what one of HRC’s supporters and a former employer said to the paper…in the middle of the article.


    “”Phil Attey, a gay D.C. activist who attended the HRC rally, expressed particular distaste with Choi’s march to the White House and called it “politically unsophisticated beyond belief.”

    “It’s a shame that our community needs to be educated about the political process and they don’t get it,” Attey said. “They don’t understand that Congress needs to be moved on this issue and that people across the country have the power to do that. And if they’re going to get them to yell and scream at the president, we’re going to fail, we’re going to lose.””

    So in the middle of an article on the Choi situation, this guy would rather take time out to attack other activists than to talk about winning the repeal of DADT. I think that shows you right there that HRC’s strategy seems more to be, to attack any other organization or people out there not working with them, rather than advocating for our rights. If they can kill every other group, then they feel they can get a bigger share of the gay money I guess.

  • Robert

    The HRC are very much a Leninist organization in my opinion. Obviously their politics aren’t Leninist, but their tactics are. The HRC thinks that only a few “professional”activists are required to lead the whole LGBT community to equal rights. This of course will not work, it is going to be the work of the LGBT community and only we are able to liberate ourselves.

    The condescending nature of the HRC and their “professional activism” is doomed to death. They can’t shake up or change the establishment – they ARE the establishment. They ARE the status quo.

    Say no to Queer Vanguardism!

  • Eric

    HRC and their closet-case stickers are shamefully inept. Bring back the rainbows and the action. Healthcare is an LGBT issue.

  • AndrewW

    @Jon: GetEqual is now threatening HRC. That’s priceless. And, useless.

  • AndrewW

    @Cam: He called Dan Choi stupid. Are you suggesting that’s not fair play?

  • Mark Kraft

    Hey Queerty… remember when you linked to the video of Andrew Sullivan calling for the LGBT community to withhold their money from HRC, and called on Joe Solmonese of HRC to resign?

    Remember when Sullivan wrote later that night that Joe Solmonese’s “real job is to get gay money to support healthcare reform.”

    Why didn’t you denounce Sullivan for damaging HRC and for using rhetoric that basically undermined the legitimate issues of millions of those in the LGBT community, including HIV/AIDS patients given virtual death sentences by insurance companies, all-too-eager to find any way whatsoever to drop their coverage?

    …clearly, the right of gays and lesbians to openly die for Andrew Sullivan’s favorite wars should come before saving the lives of AIDS patients, right?!

    If it was such an important issue to you, why did you spend last year helping those who undermined and demeaned HRC at every turn, and parroting false claims that HRC was really prepared and willing to wait until 2017 for equal rights?

    Might I suggest in the future that if you really believe that healthcare is, in fact, a big issue to those in the LBGT community, you should help “get gay money to support healthcare reform”?

    Failing that, you might perhaps benefit from “a nice steaming cup of shut-the-fuck-up?”

  • Mark Kraft

    Oh, and as clarification, since I edited it down, “a nice steaming cup of shut-the-fuck-up” was what Andrew Sullivan suggested our President have, when he announced he’d attend the HRC fundraiser in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington.

    Incredibly rude and damaging to our cause? Sure… but Queerty said when they heard he was speaking that “Obama has set the bar so law in his commitment to gay rights, we’re just surprised he’s showing up.”

    (Nevermind that DADT will be toast within a year, and that his administration has done more in the first half of his first term for the LGBT community than the prior five presidents did in their entire administrations… combined.)

    So… by all means, if that steaming cup is good enough for our President, it’s good enough for you too.

  • Mark Kraft

    Oh, and btw, why doesn’t Queerty point out the real Andrew Sullivan, for those later generations who forgot that he’s a frickin’ lune?!

    The devout Catholic who cheerleaded invading Iraq?

    The one who hailed President Bush’s transformation into a neocon?

    Who criticized the “self-righteousness” of the anti-war protesters, and their “facile, asinine support for “peace”?

    The one who endorsed Ron Paul, despite Paul’s anti-gay rhetoric and neo-nazi friends?

    The British jetsetting Eurotrash neocon Thatcherite?

    The one who idolized President Reagan, even though he waited nearly his entire administration — condemning over 50,000 gays to a hopeless death — before addressing the AIDS crisis?

    The one who opposed anti-discrimination laws against gays and lesbians, because of his “libertarian qualms”?

    The barebacking HIV+ Andrew Sullivan who defended Bush’s early policies that blocked funds for many of Africa’s family planning organizations — the ones that distributed condoms and educated Africans about AIDS — thereby helping spread AIDS throughout Africa?

    The “I’ll say it loud; I’ll say it proud: I love drug companies” Andrew Sullivan, who popped his anti-retrovirals while Africa burned, and labeled queer activism, “a strange confluence of political abdication and psychological violence”?

    Dear, dear Queerty… why do you give this guy serious attention, while insulting those who are actually trying to help our community?!

  • christopher di spirito

    As much as detest Joe Solmonese, remember, this was a decision made by the House Rules Committee.

    If the LGBT community wants to be angry — fine, but at least some of this wrath needs to be directed at Speaker Nanny Pelosi who is shaping up to be one of the weakest Speakers in modern, political history.

    It was Pelosi who sat on her hands while single payer and the public option went away and she did nothing about it. For Pelosi, it isn’t about the American people — it’s about the “win.”

    A weak piece of legislation is better than no bill at all.

  • rich.r

    The HRC, and Joe Solmonese, continue to fail the community.

  • AndrewW

    @rich.r: More accurately, lobbying continues to fail our community.

  • Mark Kraft

    …as opposed to street protests and marching on Washington, which have done so much for us for changing legislation at a national level.

    (Oh… wait. Nevermind.)

    The simple fact is, the only ones able to help us at that level are Democratic lawmakers. Republicans will not do it, because they fundamentally hate us.

    The problem being, Democratic lawmakers want to do it on *their* schedule, not ours… if they have a clear congressional majority. And their schedule is painfully slow. And they’ve only had a clear majority for four years out of the last thirty.

    And when they do have those majorities, they want to make sure that passing their key, sweeping legislative elements — such as healthcare — aren’t interfered with by a backlash on issues involving gay rights.

    That requires scheduling and timing. The Obama administration has been dealing with these sorts of issues by tying them to key pieces of legislation that the Republicans feel pressured to pass. (DADT will probably ultimately be swept away with text stuck into 2011’s Defense Appropriations Bill, I suspect.)

    So, while it would be nice to secure legislative equality, you have to remember the political side of things. I believe that the Democrats would like to keep their promises, but they aren’t going to risk themselves for us coming into an election season, because they don’t want to mobilize the churches, etc. against them. More likely, they will do so shortly after an election, or by making the issue one where some of the Republicans are pressured to go along.

    Things are happening behind the scenes, and groups like HRC are aware of this and working towards them, but the activists need to recognize that they don’t control the time schedule and politics of it, that any such legislation is going to be passed slowly and strategically, in order to avoid a major moral backlash that would benefit the Republicans. Activists certainly don’t make Washington move any faster than they feel comfortable with.

    The best we can do, frankly, is to keep up pressure in a respectful, dignified way, while helping get enough Democrats elected to maintain a working majority to pass legislation.

    Help give the Democrats four years in a row of real legislative power, rather than two years every decade, and maybe they’ll find a way to get things done.

  • Lincoln Rose

    *grin* Naw, that’s Joe practicing for his meeting with Barney Frank later that evening.

    I could be shocked at this, but I’m not. Once again, I think the right thing to do with HRC at this point is to:

    1) Mail them back everything you have of theirs at your LGBT community center. Tell them you don’t want it cluttering up your space.

    2) Lobby to have their memberships revoked at your local LGBT chamber of commerce.

    3) Give up your membership. And be persistent about it. HRC is sort of like the Catholic church. Once you’re on their rolls, they don’t tend to take you off unless you insist.

    That’s all I have to say about this.


  • Daniel

    The GLBT and Ally community should be running a candidate in every primary against politicians who do not vote to include GLBT equality in pieces of legislation where it is relevant. If Dems won’t act like Dems, then put candidates up in every primary who will. Knock out the bad Dems in primaries.

  • Daniel

    Also, run candidates in every Republican primary, too, if only to challenge the bigotry of any and all candidates. Make them answer basic questions like fairness and equality by challenging them, at the very least it will make them have to justify themselves to the general voters on human rights issues impacting the GLBT community. Sometimes shedding light on the real situation of human rights violations by politicians can move things forward.

  • McShane

    @Mark Kraft : Mrs. Sullivan is about the only gay voice that our demented media give a niche-BECAUSE of his appaling politics. Is he a particularly good writer: no! Has he ever said anything worth hearing since he rang the death peal of gay rights.? He’s the closest voice that the middle class-Neo cons can come to Bill O’Reily and , Sarah Palin who’s a fag.

    It ‘s not that there aren’t much better and certainly wiser writers, but Right wing gays and pseudo-liberals don’t object to his Mainstreaming B.S. because he’s the only person gay people who can read believe can write. The gay community actually listens to him apparently. To bad for us.
    If we don’t run him out no one will.

  • Advocates for Liberty

    Members of our staff quit supporting the HRC YEARS ago! They are nothing but a group of big government progressives who believe that the government gives us our rights. Instead of the LGBT community supporting this faux advocacy group, why not support the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute? Libertarians support equal access to FREEDOM. You should not use the force of government to legislate acceptance. It is the government who has imposed inequities upon the LGBT community. Less government provides the dream of freedom without the worry of who has the governmental reins.

    Oh, and another equal treatment legislation that HRC has ignored: HR 25/S 296 (the FairTax). Under the FairTax, LGBT families get the SAME federal tax treatment as married or single people.


  • Mark Kraft

    The Cato Institute is hardly friends to the LGBT community, or to Americans in general. They get a ton of their money from big corporate donors, and their policies show that kind of attitude.

    Amongst their largest funders are Coors, who are notorious for their support of homophobes.

    Rupert Murdoch used to be a board member, and has done much, through FoxNews and his other media sources, to encourage homophobia and hatred against our community.

    There’s also Cato’s nutty global warming skepticism, their support for and funding from Big Coal, their support of Big Tobacco, which disproportionately targets, addicts, and helps lead to the early deaths of those in our community. (See http://www.lgbttobacco.org )

    If that’s not enough, there are certainly plenty of other examples. Bob Barr, the most recent Libertarian Party candidate, authored the Defense of Marriage act. Ron Paul, the other major libertarian politician — and a former Libertarian Party candidate in his own right — wrote viciously homophobic screeds in the past… ( see http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/angry-white-man?page=0,2 ) and voted for an amendment to block same-sex partners from adopting.

    So, when you say that our community should support the Libertarian Party, it makes me think “Which one?!” The fantasyland where everyone has their freedom and deregulated corporations behave like responsible guardians of the public interest? Or the party led by bigots and funded by the worst corporate offenders?

    No thanks. Your kind of “freedom” won’t sell here.

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