HRC’s Elusive ‘Road Map’ to Repealing DADT Is Here. And It Says Nothing!

Accused of defrauding donors of any real LGBT rights progress, the Human Rights Campaign today released one of its much-discussed, never-seen “road maps” to equality. This one explains how HRC is going to help repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It notes “the pressure must increase on all fronts to abolish this discriminatory law.” This is funny, because the only ones feeling pressure right now are HRC’s leaders, not lawmakers. But hey, HRC has five bullet-points worth a gander.

Not surprisingly, they are all things we’ve heard before:

• Continued Presidential Leadership
• Congressional Action in 2010
• Gates/Mullen review
• Strategic Partnerships
• Voices of Veterans

For an organization accused of having little to no transparency, this road map isn’t good enough.

Or maybe HRC’s problem isn’t its lack of transparency, but that the organization, in fact, has nothing to even hide. Because for all its pomp about its reach in D.C., and how it has the ear of lawmakers, there’s a very real possibility that legislators don’t care much about what Gay Inc. has to say. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made that clear already in her independent move on DADT. And Rep. Barney Frank, the gay congressman who you might assume HRC has the closest ties with, continues to dump on the organization’s public image.

While HRC stands aside and applauds President Obama for merely talking about DADT (while, laughably, “calling on” him to act), it’s Rep. Frank who’s telling it like it is: The White House “muddled about when we should move,” he tells the D.C. Agenda‘s Chris Johnson. “I do hope in the next couple weeks, he’ll make it clear that he wants us to act this year as well legislatively.”

Moreover, when HRC isn’t misleading supporters, it’s outright lying to them. In today’s “road map” release, the organization insists, “The path forward has always been the Department of Defense Authorization bill — which was the birthplace of DADT in 1993 — and it will move through Congress as early as April and be on the President’s desk by year’s end.” Sorry. Whose path forward “has always been” the Defense bill? Because HRC only found out about it in November, after Frank told them about it.

Then again, the Human Rights Campaign is the same organization that, under the leadership of Elizabeth Birch, decided it must sit on its hands about all LGBT equality legislation until the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed. Yes, the same Employment Non-Discrimination Act that HRC was willing to support without transgender protections. Yes, the same Employment Non-Discrimination Act that Joe Solmonese stands accused of advising Obama to push forth before even touching DADT. And yes, the same Employment Non-Discrimination Act that has, uh, yet to pass.

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  • AndrewW

    I have been raising the question of whether lobbying is really effective just as the recent HRC BlogSwarm was announced. The response of an arrogant HRC, and the many comments on LGBT-Blogs confirm it is NOT. We should honor that fact by figuring out what IS effective.

    An elected officials position on LGBT issues is non-negotiable. It does us no good to send letters, emails or make calls. The only thing we can express to them is anger or frustration. Their minds are NOT changeable.

    During our 50 years of struggle/fight we have never changed a politicians mind about LGBT issues. (I spent a lot of money researching that fact). There are only two solutions:

    1. Replace the politician, or
    2. Change the minds of their constituents.

    Harold Ford is a very recent example of a Politician changing his mind. When Ford was in Tennessee (78% religious) he was against same-sex marriage. Now, with Ford in New York (48% religious) he now supports same-sex marriage. HE didn’t change his mind – the polls did.

    I raised the issue of ineffective lobbying because we keep sending people down that fruitless path. They simply end up more frustrated and less likely to participate in our movement. We are literally asking people to commit participation suicide. That must stop.

    The Victory Fund and the efforts of Tim Gill, Jon Stryker and others seeking to replace anti-LGBT politicians is one potential solution. But, it is a difficult proposition UNTIL we change the minds of constituents.

    As a community we spend millions of dollars and we rarely make an honest and objective effort to determine the effectiveness of tactics, ideas and strategies. The one benefit of the BlogSwarm may be a better understanding of the effectiveness of HRC (or lack thereof).

    During the last year I have been encouraging accountability and I have been seeking ideas to WIN. A tremendous amount of money has been spent on research and the development of new ideas – each with the requirement of proving their effectiveness.

    I would invite everyone to ask a simple question of any non-profit advocacy group, activist group or community leader: How many Americans support the full equality of LGBT persons? See if they know the answer to THAT question.

    I have learned the answer to that question and it is encouraging. A strategy is being created to finally project HOW and WHEN we will achieve our full equality. Everyone will be able to participate/contribute. The strategy is made up of 4 new ideas and 7 national media campaigns. For the first time in the history of our movement, it ALL adds up to victory. The “math” works.

    The challenge we face will be our ability to be completely honest and objective about the effectiveness of ALL ideas/tactics. We will not re-ignite a real, sustainable movement until we let go of “perceived” benefits and focus ONLY on “verifiable” benefits. I hope we can.

    Our movement will not have the required direction, unity or participation it needs, until we can see the evidence that it will lead to victory. We NEED to see HOW and WHEN we will WIN. “One of these days” and “keep trying” are simply not good enough, not anymore.

  • Cam

    Andrew, a REAL lobbyist organization would be effective. One of them like Aiken Gump or Alcalde and Fay get paid for the results they are hired to get. That is the difference. HRC set themselves up and asks for our money because they are telling us they do a good job. Alcalde and Fay would pitch their services, we would pay them and they would get the results we want or wouldn’t get the full payment. HRC isn’t connected, they are lazy, and they are MUCH MUCH too impressed with the people they are lobbying to ever be effective.

  • InExile

    Love the bullets:

    • Continued Presidential Leadership
    • Congressional Action in 2010
    • Gates/Mullen review
    • Strategic Partnerships
    • Voices of Veterans

    My favorite bullet is the first one! LOL

    “Continued Presidential Leadership” would be great if he had ever started leading. Don’t you have to start first before you can continue?

  • AndrewW

    @Cam: Please provide evidence of successful lobbying on an LGBT-related issue.

    Since you believe it can be effective, give me one US Senator that has changed his/her mind about an LGBT issue because of lobbying.

  • wondermann

    Okay so what do you suggest or better yet, what does anyone suggest? No wonder why NOM and other groups win their battles. They don’t waste time on foolishness.

    We should try lobbying. The boycotts, silly Blog Swarms and whining activism are failures. Let’s get back to basics and get things done for once.

  • AndrewW

    @wondermann: We need to let go of all the tired-and-untrue tactics of the Past and create a real, sustainable movement. We need a strategy to actually win and it needs to provide evidence of its effectiveness.

    Our community has many great minds that could contribute a lot to a renewed effort. I suspect that will happen as we begin to retire HRC, GLAAD and others.

    We’ve been doing the same things for 50 years and if we keep doing them we will see the same results: frustration and despair.

  • Brian En Guarde

    The HRC applauds Oblahblah, and criticizes us. Fuck them.

  • Steve

    The only reason there has been any movement on DADT at all, is the grass-roots campaigns. Blogs and emails telling people to contact congressmen, and giving the contact information, actually work. The “Dont Ask Dont Give” campaign seems to be getting noticed.

    When the Courage Campaign asked everybody to comment re whether or not the Prop 8 trial should be televised, more than 100,000 comments were submitted in just a couple days. 100,000 emails has an effect. 100,000 faxes (that take paper to print), or 100,000 phone calls (that take staff to answer), or 100,000 snail mail letters (that take staff to open and reply) has an effect.

    Bullet points in a power-point slide have no effect. No one pays any attention to power-point slides any more.

    The serious question that needs an answer is: How to generate 10,000 emails/faxes/calls/letters to each Rep and each Senator, each week, until they actually do something. Shortly after that starts happening, DADT will be history.

  • Steve

    The most effective political action an individual can take is to write letters directly to your own Representative and your own two Senators. Email gets scanned and counted, but snail mail is more effective. Snail mail requires staff time to open and answer, and makes piles on the desks, so it gets noticed.

    $100 spent on postage and stationary is much more likely to get results than $100 donated to any particular organization.

    Here is the contact information:



  • Bill Perdue

    Our reasons for opposing DADT are not the same as those of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama war crowd or those who shill for the war and enlistment. The White House and Pentagon worry about the escalation of on-duty suicides in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ongoing physical and PTSD causalities and combat deaths. At the same time they’re petrified of bringing back the draft. They prefer to let the Clinton-Bush-Obama recession force working class people in the military. Obama is intent, as he promised on escalating in Afghanistan and Pakistan and holding Iran hostage for their oil. Stop loss is no solution so they need fresh meat for the grinder.

    Nor do Obama and the Pentagon brass give a damn about the violence, loss of benefits and emotional strife imposed on our brothers and sisters by Clintons ugly law. In his State of the Union message Obama said he wanted GLBT folks as fresh meat for the grinder to protect Texaco’s oil piracy, although like all politicians, Obama lied and called it ‘service’.

    Our reasons for opposing DADT are not the same as those of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama war crowd or those who shill for the war and enlistment. The White House and Pentagon are terrified of bringing back the draft. They prefer to let the Clinton-Bush-Obama recession force working class people in the military. Obama is intent, as he promised on escalating in Afghanistan and Pakistan and holding Iran hostage for their oil. Stop loss is no solution so they need fresh meat for the grinder.

    The LGBT movements should be very clear that we oppose both Clinton’s bigoted DADT and enlistment in support of Obama’s occupations, escalations and his rabid menacing of Iran. Pro-enlistment is pro-war. We should do everything on our power to discourage enlistment by GLBT folks and everyone else while demanding an immediate, total and permanent withdrawal of the military to US home bases.

    If the military wants to earn their pay they can arrest lenders and the scumbag (except for a few civil libertarians that sums it up) lawyers who assist them in auto repo’s and foreclosures. Other good targets or arrest would be overpaid execs in financial institutions and union busting employers. And let’s not forget insurance company and HMO execs who kill 50,000 or so patients a year denying lifesaving care. Or the profit gouging pharmaceutical giants.

    Instead of asking the losers at HRC to beg for crumbs why not call for a blog swarm of the White House combined with constant national, regional and local marches and invite anti-war GI and veterans groups and Code Pink.



  • Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"

    @ Andrew W

    In general, I mostly agree with your comments and analysis. There are some specifics, however, that you have missed, and, perhaps, offer avenues for the LGBT community to provide new leadership for our cause.

    Your blanket statement that over the past 50 years of lobbying efforts have failed to change a single politicians mind is erroneous. [I don’t know your age, I’m 50, so these might or might not be familiar for you.] The obvious successes of lobbying efforts are the many state laws that now prohibit employment discrimination. I remember well the attempt in California for passage of the Briggs Initiative (a law banning gays/lesbians from being teachers, counselors, and administrators in California’s primary and secondary education systems). Even Ronald Reagan spoke publicly against this proposal. About 8 years later, the California legislature, after enormous lobbying efforts passed AB1 which added sexual orientation to the protected minority status. Unfortunately, Gov. Dukemajian twice vetoed the bill. Later, the California legislature passed the similar AB101, alas Gov. Wilson vetoed it. But, the point is, the California LGBT community, aligning itself with labor unions and the teachers union, lobbied until success succeeded.

    This scenario was repeated throughout the country in “blue” states. And on the national level, and again with much lobbying efforts and aligning with medical associations and (hard to believe) insurance companies, the LGBT community succeeded in lobbying for real and meaningful funding of HIV/AIDS research and treatment programs. Even with Reagan refusing to ever mention AIDS, upon the lobbying efforts by the LGBT and medical groups, the US government, through the Surgeon General’s office issued a national campaign of information and new support programs, including Ryan White Bill among others. Also, lobbying efforts in states hit hard by the AIDS crisis resulted in state funded programs for treatment and prevention. (Yes many states failed to act and continue to fail to take important actions.) Indeed many cancer and other disease support groups were jealous of the successfulness of lobbying efforts for spending on AIDS.

    And while domestic partnerships/civil unions are inferior to marriage, nonetheless prior to 1984, no government agency (federal, state, local) even offered any benefits for partners of gay employees let alone requiring business within their jurisdictions to provide benefits. It started in Berkeley, and within a few years, became state law. Those actions required heavy heavy lobbying.

    As per no politicians changing their minds, that is simply not the case. The two most famous that I can name off the top of my head are Barry Goldwater and Thurgood Marshal. Goldwater, the 1964 Republican nominee for president and a stalwart conservative, made his change of mind public after his grandson had come out to him. While Goldwater was retired, he maintained an active role in GOP politics. Marshal, after retiring from the Supreme Court, announced that during his career on the Court, the only vote he regretted was his support for the Bowers Case that upheld state rights to ban sodomy.

    Two others also come to mind, the mayor of San Diego, who changed his mind attempting to ensure equality for his lesbian daughter. And in Massachusetts, the Republican minority leader in the state assembly, changed his vote about allowing a ballot measure on same-sex marriage, effectively ending the efforts to undo the marriage laws. I personally, along with my BF/hubby and out best-of-friends in Boston lobbied our friend of the family and Boston friends’ in-law, successfully.


    I am not here to bash HRC; there are plenty of others who do a good job at that. My BF/hubby and I quit HRC in the mid 1990s when, after years of buying full tables at the annual SF fundraiser, were rebuffed at all levels when we attempted to get them to look into the Hawaiian Marriage project. HRC said that marriage was going nowhere and they had more important issues to work on. Oh well.

    Dismissing lobbying flat out is a mistake; I am, though, not interested in playing that game anymore. One would hope that the powers at the various Gay, Inc. organizations are listening to all the anger being generated and are looking at ways to improve their abilities.

    More importantly, though, is moving onto and creating new ideas and new initiatives. It has been disappointing to me that no Gay, Inc. group nor their many complainers, have taken a step back and mused over our successes and failures, and begin a new effort.

    By that, I mean, we have been mightily successful winning the day among those with a rational view of our country’s founding principles of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. But those efforts are having no effect on the larger irrational population. That, of course, is where NOM and other wingnut groups, have been successful. Of recent votes and political lobbying, NOM/wingnuts success among irrational supporters has, not by too much, overmatched our successes among the rational.

    We don’t need to win over everyone, we just need to win over a few more percentages of voters. The best field to mine this support is not among our friends but among the irrational. Again, we don’t need them all, we need 5-10% of them. To fight and win over the irrational, we must look to irrational efforts employing emotions ala “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”.

  • jason

    The Human Rights Campaign appears to be a front organization for the Democratic Party. As such, it would appear to be more concerned about getting Democratic Party politicians re-elected than repealing DADT.

    All I can say to the Human Rights Campaign is “take a hike”.

  • Mark Dallas

    @Steve: You must be kidding Steve. If the “number of emails and calls” really mattered we would just send more than the other side. Politicians DO NOT vote based on the quantity of emails, they make decisions on the beliefs of their voters – in there District or State.

    Suggesting we can just overwhelm them with calls and emails is, quite frankly, silly.

  • AndrewW

    @ Mike in Asheville, nee “in Brooklyn”:

    Thank-you for a very thoughtful and accurate comment.

    I agree that some lobbying – local issues primarily – does have some value. I have been highlighting the illusion of lobbying US Senators. It hasn’t worked and there are very good reasons why it will never work. But, that’s why we give HRC $50 million a year. We should use those funds either locally, or for different ideas.

    I am hopeful as HRC fades away and the realization within our community that we need a new direction and a healthy dose of accountability, that you reconsider participating. I believe a sustainable strategy, that demonstrates both HOW and WHEN we will achieve our equality, will re-ignite most of our community.

    The first step is for us ALL to become very honest and objective about what works and what doesn’t. To that end, it is encouraging for people to begin to understand that HRC has been largely a waste of money – a lot of money, $550 million.

  • Chance

    Mike – For the most part you’re describing personal anecdote and first-hand experience, not lobbying. As you said, Goldwater wasn’t lobbied, he loved his grandson. The mayor of San Diego wasn’t lobbied, he loves his daughter. I don’t see that Reagan was lobbied, he was just an intelligent man who understood science. This is what he said: Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this. Not a ringing endorsement, just a basic understanding.

    Otherwise, the successes you mention are all “successes-but”s. We successfully passed AB1, but not well enough to get it passed into law. Twice. Three times once you include AB101. I can not call all of the very well-meaning time, effort, and money that went into those lobbying efforts “successful.” I don’t think we lobby SCOTUS justices, but nonetheless – Marshall came around – success – but only after he retired and had no direct influence. I would add Clinton to that list. Thanks for your support, but… a decade earlier would have been nice. No disrespect to our allies; every voice that speaks for us is welcome. But if we’re going to expend our “movement” on these efforts, we are, at best, terribly misguided.

    I would consider lobbying a supplement to the ideal movement, and nothing more. You’ve really hit something when you mention “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” And I absolutely agree with your math. Forget the people who are hell-bent against us, they’re already slipping into irrelevance. But the answer is cultural before it’s ever political. We have to bring that 5-10% to our side, and we can’t lobby them into it. More cultural representation, not more Washington lobbyists.

  • Josh AZ

    It’s pretty clear that the only ones suggesting or promoting the idea that lobbying is effective are lobbyists. Just like sending numerous emails or making numerous phone calls has no foundation, lobbying has no proof or even anecdotal evidence that it is effective.

    I wasted money with HRC. I believed. I was fooled.

  • Lukas P.

    The Lobby Hobby…Let’s remember there are “professional” lobbyists and citizen lobbyists. The “pros” work for HRC, and other orgs, and rely on our checks and donations. I admit to having fallen into the trap of “leaving lobbying to the experts” for years until realizing that they were talking a good game but couldn’t and wouldn’t spell out how those checks were creating tangible results.

    Citizen lobbyists can help, some, by countering the cards/calls and letters that are sent by the fundies who seek to deny us our rights. When Pastor Joe Bob gets his entire congregation to flood the Senator, State Rep. or School Board with letters, we’d be stupid to be silent. It’s necessary, but not sufficient.

    I almost hate to use the analogy but look at the NRA or perhaps even the pro-choice people or the ADL as examples of lobbyists who ARE able to keep politicians running scared if they don’t vote the right way. They have legions of voters who vote BASED ON their issues, and will call/write if there’s any suspicion about a pol’s leaning the “wrong way.”

    Final point: Polls do matter A LOT. Until a politician believes that his/her (re-)election could be in jeopardy if a vote on legislation goes the “wrong way,” not much we say or do matters.

  • Josh AZ

    @Lukas P.: I agree with most of what you said. I just don’t think there is ANY reason to counter the cards, letters and calls of the religious nuts. Politicians don’t count their calls, or emails or letters – they study polling data.

    In Arizona I can’t think of a single example of a politician CHANGING their mind about anything gay. I even spent hours on Google. It just doens’t happen until the polls change.

  • Lukas P.

    @Josh AZ: Ask any staffer who works for a US (or state) Senator/Rep if they keep track of letters. Yes they do.

    Do they read them? From what I hear, nope, they just sort them into piles, by issue, and then into piles such as PRO, ANTI, and, um, WTF. They do keep track of volume, e.g. More people are writing about unemployment than abortion.

    Polls matter more, yes, but not every issue is polled, and polling #s change based on activities on the ground—e.g. Articles/TV reports/what the local paper says in editorials, and when churches rally their flocks, etc. Unless it’s close to an election, the polls don’t gauge very well whether people are deciding their votes based on issue X or issue Y.

  • Josh AZ

    @Lukas P.: That’s just goofy Lukas.

    Any US Senator has between 1 million and 25 million people in their State. It would be amazing if they received as many as a few thousand letters or emails. It is completely insignificant. The only thing letter writing does is make YOU believe you are part of the process – you aren’t.

    Let me know when millions of letters reach a Senator’s office. the first thing they’ll do is figure out who did the “mass mailing.”

    Polls (which they conduct with great regularity) are much more reliable than stuffing a Senators “in-box.”

    Finally, issues regarding the LGBT Community change very, very slowly. Maybe one percentage point a year. These weasely politicians know how to “play to the audience,” not the few that write or call, but the whole audience.

  • Lukas P.

    @Josh AZ: No need to believe me: Ask a staffer how they handle mail. It’s a scut job, but the letters are sorted and weighed.

    They’re not impressed with form letters, as you mention. Out of state/district letters are typically disregarded.

    The issues I’m most closely familiar with and follow closely have to do with funding education/healthcare and research, and so do not fall strictly into social or GBL issues. You’re right that change in social issues is slow to happen: I have NOT suggested that letter writing should be our primary tool, by any stretch.

  • wondermann

    @Steve: The “Dont Ask Dont Give” campaign is a joke. That was considered a fail. It has nothing to do with the movement

  • Bill Perdue

    @wondermann: wonder(how he survived this long)man says;

    (1)”The “Dont Ask Dont Give” campaign is a joke. On the contrary, the bigots who run the DNC and the White House are the joke, but a very sick one.

    (2)”That was considered a fail.” Wishful thinking on the part of the DNC, the White House and their front groups like HRC and SLDN.

    (3) “It has nothing to do with the movement.” For the most part ot was limited to Democrats taking their first big steps leaving the Democrat Party. So it builds the GLBT movement while it hurts the Democrats and Republicans – win, win.

  • christopher di spirito

    I was done with the HRC when Joe Solmonese threw transgendered folks under the bus.

    It’s all fine and well when bloggers like John Aravosis make stupid assertions like “the ‘T’ doesn’t belong in LGBT,” but the HRC allegedly represents and advocates for the great LGBT community. Apparently, under Solmonese’s leadership, not all gays are created equal.

    Not one thin, dime for the HRC until they fire Joe Solmonese and clean up their act.

  • Josh AZ

    @Lukas P.: I’m curious. In order to have an impact with letter writing, what’s the magic number? 1 million letters, 5 million letters? How many letters change a politicians mind?

    Does it work for calls, too? We can just keep hitting redial.

    Of course a “staffer” would suggest they save them and “weigh them,” they would like to think their job is important. But the whole idea that “calls, cards and letters” have any effect is just goofy.

    I remember Tanner Effinger’s goofy “postcards to the white house” scheme. It was just useless.


    @AndrewW: I would like to add to your point about changing the constituents mind. When I was Director of Diversity Outreach for The National Equality March I was told time and again by Black leaders straight and Gay that they had stopped listening to Gay Inc because it was basically a group of white guys coming in and telling them that the Black community needed to change its Homophobic image and therefore they needed to support LGBT issues. They also said that whenever LGBT events were held in DC , Gay Inc never spent any money in the community (hiring caterers, moving companies, etc.).

    Until Gay Inc understands what true diversity is, aint a damn thing gonna change through with certain constituencies.

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