If activism were a sport, HRC president Joe Solmonese would be playing recreational badminton, while David Mixner would be an Olympic boxing gold medalist. Asked to give a brief report card of Obama’s first full year in office, Solmonese (who heads a multi-million dollar organization with hundreds of staffers) provides a cagey nothing response, while Mixner (who operates independently and whose only official infrastructure is his blog), whose balls look like granite tanks, reminds us that, hey, we’ve got a horse in this race.
Solmonese: “In 2009 there was historic progress — including enactment of hate-crimes protections and the lifting of the HIV travel and immigration ban — but LGBT people and our families still face discrimination and that has to change now. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members are still being discharged from the military, LGBT people can still be fired because of who we are in too many places, and our families are treated unequally under federal law. Although we have a strong ally in the White House and pro-equality leadership on Capitol Hill, change won’t happen unless all of us increase our pressure and advocacy.”
Mixner: “There is no question that President Obama has missed a historic opportunity for change in the last year. The Republican victory in Massachusetts proves the point many of us had been making the entire year — now is the time. Never again will we have the political opportunity with 60 Senators and a majority in the House to make change for the LGBT community. Instead, some amazingly stupid calculations of taking everything slowly for our rights has resulted in a year with little progress for the LGBT community. Yes, there have been highlights and some victories, but the chance for a really historic breakthrough in our rights has been lost to those who played to caution instead of substantial action. What a tragic missed opportunity.? ?In fact, the president’s silence while we have been fighting major battles have actually begun to hurt us. His words of proclaiming marriage is between a man and a woman has been used over and over against us without a word from the White House. Silence has been a way of action for this White House on the major LGBT battles. Even Pope Benedict XVI spoke more passionately against the ‘kill gays’ legislation in Uganda than our own president.?”
The difference in approach — and choice on whether to give the Obama administration a wrist-slap or a bitch-slap — isn’t just apples to oranges, or night to day. It is the difference between institutional acceptance of inaction and identifying hacktivocacy when you see it.