HRC Realizes After the Fact That They Maybe Should Have Endorsed Openly Gay Candidate for Labor Secretary

Mary Beth Maxwell is just the sort of hopey, all-American person you’d pick for Labor Secretary. She’s openly gay, is the founding Executive Director of American Rights at Work, a progressive labor organization, heck– she was Fox News’ go-to gal for union and worker-related rankings this past Labor Day. She’s raising an adopted African-American child. Beyond her rainbow diversity goodness, she’s been lauded by both the left and the right as someone who is committed to making smart modernizations to the U.S. Labor movement. She’s especially appealing to progressives who wonder if they’ll have a seat in Obama’s increasingly centrist Cabinet.

It’s no surprise that she’s on everybody’s short list for Labor Secretary. Even Rep. David Bonior, whose also been put in the running for the job thinks she should get it. Many AFL-CIO leaders agree. But guess which prominent gay rights group with a history of not supporting openly gay candidates backed somebody else?

Oh, Human Rights Campaign, you never fail to disappoint.

The HRC had endorsed Rep. Linda Sanchez for the post and suddenly realizing that “Hey! Maybe we ought to support this highly qualified Maxwell lady since you know, we’ve never had an openly gay person serve in a Cabinet-level position and what is it we do exactly again?” they decided to endorse both Sanchez and Maxwell.

HRC President and XM Radio Talk Show Host Joe Solmonese had already sent President-Elect Obama his first endorsement before sending another letter to Obama yesterday that read in part:

“You would have received our letter in support of Representative Sanchez’s candidacy for Secretary of Labor last week.

While we remain supportive of Representative Sanchez’s candidacy, it has come to our attention that Mary Beth Maxwell is also being considered for this crucial position. Given Ms. Maxwell’s long history of leadership on labor issues, HRC is pleased to also endorse Mary Beth Maxwell for Secretary of Labor.”

So, the nation’s largest gay rights advocacy and political action organization was caught totally unawares that there’s a highly qualified openly-gay person who would make a great candidate for Labor Secretary? Isn’t the primary goal of the HRC to help out and advocate for gay and gay-friendly politicians and legislation? Are they even tracking the openly-gay political leadership in the U.S.?

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  • Joe Moag

    Wow. And the news about our “Leaders” just keeps getting better, and better, and better.

  • George

    Everything the HRC does should be followed by the Debbie Downer Trombone noise: wonhhh wonhhh wahhhhhh

  • The Gay Numbers

    I am not surprised. If you read the Wall Street article it’s clear that there is no coordination amongst the gay groups. This was pushed by the Victory Fund as I remember.

    Still, I have to say- if Obama chooses her it will be one more indicator that he is serious about including us. I hope it happens, and I hope Queerty will address it without cynacism.

  • Ann

    Once again HRC is showing its’ massive arrogance and stupidity. The “gay leadership” is just as ignorant as they were in the late 1970’s when they were trying to keep voices down and at times, silent.

    Please tell me why the so-called leaders are pulling down 6 plus figure salaries and doing a terrible job….? Maybe they should look at American History again….voices that are silent are not heard.

  • Johan

    If Obama selects her, it will commit him and his administration to the passage of ENDA. After all, you can’t possibly justify holding back on that issue if your Secretary of Labor is still legally vulnerable to orientation-based job discrimination.

    Here’s hoping the President-Elect is serious about his commitment to lgbt inclusion and equality.

  • Juanita de Talmas

    she was Fox News’ go-to gal for union and worker-related rankings

    If Faux News is using her, she probably isn’t very pro-worker.

  • The Gay Numbers

    @Johan: @<a There is nothing but cynacism that says he is not comitted to gay issues. One of his first moves after becoming Presient-Elect Obama was to list out his agenda as President. That list included civil rights issues like ENDA, repealing DADT, ending DOMA etc. On top of that, he made it clear that his hiring practices would include gays as those he wanted to include in the process. The fact is he has not lied or changed his position on where he stands one step along the way. If anything, he’s asserted it again and again. But, no one wants to believe him so its not his views thus far.

  • The Gay Numbers

    @Juanita de Talmas: Google is your friend. Look her up.

  • M Shane

    Fox news , in their stupidity , may have accidentally let a pro labor person by. It seems that an anti labor person would not be on the short list; I’m sure that that has no relation to the generally goofed up policies of HRC. As gueerty says “they never fail to disappoint.”

  • Darth Paul

    @Ann: TOTALLY! They’re nothing but a self-serving clique of assbags these days. They are irrelevant.

  • Serena Freewomyn


    LOL – good one!

    Not surprised the HRC dropped the ball on this one. They’re too busy planning ritzy dinner parties and spa days to actually do their jobs.

  • flightoftheseabird

    As an ardent supporter of HRC and routine defender, well not this time. This is just insane. Linda Sanchez is a great pick under any other circumstances, but not when there is such a pro-labor, activist, that also happens to be a lesbian candidate being considered.

  • Sean

    Considering all their work on ENDA shouldn’t they have know about her?

  • mark

    HRC continuously endorses pro-war, anti-immigrant, anti-chioce candidates and fails to endorse LGBT ones. STOP GIVING MONEY TO HRC!

  • blake

    @The Gay Numbers:


    Realistically, the Labor position is up for grabs. There’s a lot of pressure from Latino groups for more Latin cabinet picks. Two-thirds of Latino voters backed Obama.

    Also, Kansas and Michigan governors Kathleen Selibus and Jennifer Granholm are also in the running for the job. Selibus was an early supporter of Obama’s.

    Granholm has a lot of friends in the United Autoworkers.

  • seitan-on-a-stick

    As a drunk, privileged, Republicant board member of the Human Rights Champagne Fund, where’s the Dom Perignon, servant rent-boy? We won, even though we don’t endorse Gays, we cheer “We Won” after they are appointed or elected (you should see the cases of Champagne in our office hallway) despite US (Hey, nothing Gay in our title!). We print lots of pretty “Equals” stickers for the dumb-ass faggots who only read “Out” or “Advocate” mag and donate for the Christmas Card Envelope labels.

    Equal means not questioning your self-appointed Gay (Fearless) Leaders. Now, drink that champagne from my ASS, boy!

  • The Gay Numbers

    @blake: Yes, but they Latino groups already have two picks- both the Commerce Sec. nod is a Latino, and so is the guy Obama wants for the US Trade Representative. Were the gay groups smart they would be pushing for similar identity politics for a seat at the table. The fact is great at her job is wonderful, but that she is gay is something they need to push regarding adding more diversity to reflect all of America. The symbolism would be powerful. We need a seat at the table.

  • Ben

    The criticisms of HRC are not surprising. Large American civil rights organizations are always attacked by the “street” for their lack of fidelity to some fanciful “pure” idealogy.

    What is surprising is the vehemence of the attacks. Heads up people. We should not be devouring our own! For those who believe NGLTF or some other organization better represents LGBT interests, then go ahead and support them. Those who support HRC will continue to do likewise. The market place is a fair arbiter of such matters.

    By the way, HRC has NEVER supported an anti-choice canditate for political office.

  • chuck


    WTF planet are you living on?

    I WAS a dues-paying, card-carrying member of HRC for most of my life. No more.

    As such, one would think that I would be entitled to a response to at least one of the many letters I have written to that organization, asking for answers to specific questions. wouldn’t one?

    WRONG! Not even once, have I ever received an acknowledgement to any of my letters. Forget about a response to any of the questions I put to them.

    Why the fuck would anyone want to continue sending money to an organization that claims to represent you, when they won’t even acknowledge your existence and issue public statements that we of the gay community should maintain a low-profile and “pipe-down”?

    “Fanciful pure idelogy”, you say?

    Is that your definition of full civil-rights and equality for all?

    Keep writing those checks to HRC, bucko. Your head is obviously buried so deep in the sand, that you can’t even see the booted foot coming toward your ass.

  • RichardR

    @chuck: I’ve had the precise same experience — HRC doesn’t even acknowledge letters one writes to them. While they do some good, I think they’re overly enamored of what they see as their “place at the table.” Haven’t sent ’em any money for years. Not once have they asked, “Why, Richard?”

    Their Mary Beth Maxwell flub is astonishing. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and make some calls for her appointment. Would be fab.

  • Alexa

    Whether Obama picks her isn’t the point, though I hope he does. The problem is that HRC was unaware either of who she is or that she is in the running. Unbelievable.

  • Band of Thebes


    You need to retract your all caps “never.” In 1998, HRC endorsed pro-life Republican Sen. D’Amato over the pro-choice Democrat (and winner) Chuck Schumer.

  • Grlskr

    HRC sponsored an event for anti-choice Sen. Robert Casey at Arianna Huffington’s house a few years ago. She railed on him ! Nontheless, I think this is a little picture criticism, and we need to stick to the big stuff. Often with only two choices, one is not perfect. We did get a crack at him to express views on LGBT issues which he may not otherwise have heard so personally and articulately.

  • you're kidding

    The HRC is still in business? Amazing. As someone who used to support HRC & who stopped giving during the 90s due to their amazing stupidity, I find it hard to believe that gay people who are serious about gay rights are giving anything to this group of fat cats making a joke of their jobs.

  • Will

    Another completely disingenuous piece. HRC endorsed Rep. Linda Sanchez prior to knowing the Ms. Maxwell was being considered. Once they learned that her name was under consideration, they endorsed her as well. But its much easier to write bitchy little pieces than to report the actual facts of what happened.

  • mishi

    Let’s not forget that 10 years ago HRC endorsed conservative Republican Senator Alfonse D’Amato (who had a 90% approval rating from the Christian Coalition) over Democratic challenger Charles Schumer, who according to the HRC itself had a better record on LGBT rights. Politics should be the art of the possible, but not of the unpalatable.

  • Leonard

    @Will: First off, that’s exactly what the article says happened, so how is Japhy being disingenuous? The point is that the HRC didn’t even bother looking for an LGBT candidate and it wasn’t until SOMEBODY ELSE came out in support of one that they jumped on board.

  • paul

    HRC is a loser organization and I am amazed that anyone still gives their hard earned money to them.

  • Joe Moag

    @Juanita de Talmas: Actually, I asked a really good friend of mine who works internationally on labor issues for the Left and has worked with her on several issues, and he thinks that she is a great, great choice, a hell of an advocate for workers’ rights.

  • Joe Moag

    @Will: So, it is HRC’s job, per your comment, to sit around and wait for others to decided who should be under consideration, and then endorse? What about taking a proactive stance and pushing for her appointment, before anyone was being looked at? Or is HRC’s job merely to wait until others act, then chime in?

  • Thomas Johnson

    Lot’s of us still give our hard earned money to HRC and many other organizations. Perhaps you should look into their financials…you and the many others that say, “I quit giving” years ago…it is not making a difference. Maybe you did not give enough to make them notice. :)

    There is a place at the table of all of our groups. And until the naysayers create a better organization…I will keep giving.

  • Brad Luna

    HRC, like the labor unions, supports a few key candidates for this important position. HRC coalition partner Pride at Work has also endorsed Representative Linda Sánchez for Labor Secretary. Pride at Work recognized Sánchez’s steadfast dedication to our community through her leadership on LGBT issues in Congress. HRC agrees that Representative Sánchez has demonstrated unwavering support of issues that affect LGBT workers and we are confident in her understanding that an inclusive labor force is a successful labor force. While HRC remains supportive of Representative Sánchez’s candidacy, given Mary Beth Maxwell’s long history of leadership on labor issues, we were also pleased to endorse Ms. Maxwell for Secretary of Labor. As an out lesbian, Ms. Maxwell has been actively involved in the LGBT community’s efforts to enact protection against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. American Rights at Work and Ms. Maxwell are committed partners in our fight to pass an inclusive ENDA. As a result, HRC felt confident in recommending two extremely qualified candidates who have both demonstrated their commitment to LGBT equality, Representative Sánchez and Mary Beth Maxwell, for Secretary of the Department of Labor.

  • konrad


    What a joke. Your “coalition partner” Pride at Work? This is the group you have told to fuck off a million times.

    HRC has had a totally hostile relationship with labor unions and GLBT labor activists. Mary Beth Maxwell is a great candidate for Labor Secretary but HRC’s support does nothing for her.

    Let’s get advice on Labor Secretary from a group that actually believes in labor, not the corporate bossess HRC is devoted to.

    Second, as a general principle, promoting candidates by issuing press releases is a bad idea.

  • Brad Luna

    I also omitted that Mary Beth Maxwell is also a proud member of HRC.

  • Chapeau

    HRC needs to change or be given a decent burial.

    HRC has become a joke.

Comments are closed.