A Note From Joe Solmonese

HRC President Justifies HRC’s Existence

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Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese asked for some space to reply to yesterday’s Necessary Evil: Why We Need – But Shouldn’t Always Use – HRC.

Read what he wrote, after the jump.

One thing we can agree upon is that HRC does, in fact, play a significant political role here in Washington, DC. Because of the work that we do each day to lobby Congress on behalf of our community, we must work very hard to build and maintain relationships with key leaders on Capitol Hill. These relationships are critical to our political team being able to do their jobs effectively. It’s not always easy, but we work to stay in the fight. So, yes, we do have great connections on Capitol Hill.

In fact, it’s because of those relationships, and the groundwork that we laid in previous years, that both the House and Senate were successful in passing inclusive hate crimes legislation that will soon be heading to the President’s desk. Things like that just don’t happen. It takes a lot of strategizing, cajoling, pushing and organizing to get bills passed in Congress — and we did it successfully on Hate Crimes. Not only did we fight off the GOP’s deadly motion to recommit in the House, which would have effectively killed the bill, but we beat back a filibuster in the Senate. There aren’t very many groups who have that track record in this session of Congress.

That’s also what we’ve been doing on ENDA. Despite the baseless accusations of the “nameless activist” in your post, we’ve had a consistent message on ENDA extending back for years — not just the past couple of weeks. Again, it’s a long process to educate, get the bills drafted, and compile sponsors and cosponsors. That’s what we spend a lot of time doing. And Capitol Hill is ultimately where we need to see the results.

I did also want to correct one thing about Speaker Pelosi. Last week, Speaker Pelosi gave us her commitment that she would move an inclusive ENDA bill forward as soon as the GLBT community could muster the votes to pass the bill. It is indeed a rare occurrence for the Speaker of the House to make public declarations committing to floor action on a piece of legislation. For the past twelve years we’ve had the leaders of Congress actively working against our community, and now, we have a Speaker of the House making a commitment to move a key part of agenda forward. That’s what we called “unprecedented.”

So, yes, we are the nation’s largest GLBT lobbying organization. With that comes a lot of responsibility — and an enormous opportunity for criticism. But we’re in this to win so we can expand the rights for our community.