The always faconnable Joe Solmonese was given a chance to speak his mind about how Dan Choi and Robin McGehee’s Get Equal are making the Human Rights Campaign look like Patrick Swayze’s pancreas. LOLz, yah? But given his years in professional activism, you’ve gotta give Joe his due. So, let’s!
“The beauty of our movement is that we have a dedicated community that is constantly searching for new and innovative ways to effect change in Washington and at home,” Joe tells DC Agenda when asked whether non-violent civil disobedience is an acceptable form of activism. “Whether it be the actions last week or meeting with a senator in a district office, these are ways that our community continues to advocate for LGBT equality. Activism by Dan Choi and others has one common intent in mind that we also share: to advance equality in the fastest way possible. As we said last week, this is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play.”
Hi. Is Nothing Of Substance there? Yes, could you please have him call us back? Thanks.
Here’s Joe on why ENDA hasn’t passed: “The Human Rights Campaign and the entire LGBT community have worked hard over the last two years to build support in Congress to pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). In recent weeks, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the lead sponsor of ENDA, has publicly stated on a number of occasions that he believes that the House should move ENDA in the coming weeks and that we can pass an inclusive bill. We agree. We also agree with Speaker Pelosi that ensuring we will win that vote and protect the bill from harmful amendments is a critical factor in timing of floor action. ”
Here’s Joe on HRC’s too-close-for-comfort relationship with the White House and Democrats: “There has been understandable frustration in the community at the pace of progress at advancing some of the pieces of key legislation that are important to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We continue to press the president and Congress to live up to the promises they made to advance real, substantive equality for LGBT Americans. It is critical that everyone in the LGBT community and our allies engage in this effort. All senators (or House members) who are not co-sponsors of ENDA, DADT or other LGBT bills are pursued as key votes needed in order to pass pro-equality legislation.”
Here is Joe explaining why HRC won’t identify, through its own lobbying, which lawmakers refuse to come out in support of ENDA: “Members’ positions on ENDA are determined by their co-sponsorship of the legislation, a clear public statement or their vote. Ensuring we will win that vote and protect the bill from harmful amendments is a critical factor for determining floor action and timing. There are 15 Democratic senators and 39 Republican senators who are not cosponsors of ENDA. We must win 14 of these votes to get to 60 votes to overcome a potential filibuster. Unless a member of Congress makes a clear public statement, we do not assume we have their vote.”
And here is Joe — in, literally, his only reply of substance — on why he doesn’t want ENDA brought to a vote unless it’s a sure thing: “An unsuccessful vote can be very harmful to an issue and prevent successful action for many years. In some cases, having the vote can be a useful marker. Particularly in regard to ENDA, bringing the bill to the Senate floor without very careful consideration could result in some incredibly harmful amendments, some related to ENDA and other anti-LGBT-related amendments. Harmful congressional votes can spill over into fights over state legislation and into state and federal court cases. In addition, it is unusual for congressional leaders to schedule votes that are expected to fail.”
What’s remarkable isn’t that Joe is a gold medalist in giving non-answers. It’s that he hasn’t used that skill to mount a campaign for elected office, where he’d really excel.