Why we’re covering this: The HRC is a bloated and inefficient gay rights organization. Broadcasting their incompetence on LGBTQ politics helps direct much-needed funds and attention to other human rights groups, like Amnesty International and other state and local LGBT organizations.
In a move that has disappointed pretty much everyone in LGBT media for its sheer calculating stupidity, America’s largest gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign — and we call them a “gay rights organization” because they pretty much suck at trans issues and bisexual issues? Forget it — has endorsed Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois for re-election over his Democratic opponent, Representative Tammy Duckworth. They did this even though Duckworth has a longer and more perfect record of supporting pro-LGBTQ legislation.
The HRC’s reason for supporting Kirk is his bipartisan leadership on the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. However, by their own measure of pro-LGBT votes, the HRC gave Kirk a score of 78 while they gave Duckworth a perfect score of 100.
More importantly, Kirk’s support of the Equality Act won’t amount to squat if Republicans maintain control of the Senate. With a GOP majority, Republican leadership will never let a pro-LGBT bill go to a vote. A Democrat majority leader would allow it however, something that could only happen if Duckworth and other Dems control the Senate.
There have been a few theories about why the HRC made such a dumb move. The strategy makes some sense to Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern: in order to get more Republicans to support pro-LGBT legislation, Stern argues, groups like the HRC need to reward GOPs who break ranks and vote for equality. But David Nir of Daily Kos is probably more correct when he says that the HRC needs to appear “bipartisan” to get donations from wealthy gay conservatives. Further digging suggests this is indeed the case.
In a defense of his organization’s endorsement, HRC Executive Director Chad Griffin published his response not at Medium or any other independent website, but at the conservative Independent Journal Review (IJR). Gay journalist Michaelangelo Signorile pointed out that IJR was co-founded by former Republican Party staffer Alex Skatell, a guy who started the Facebook page for the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA). The RGA’s major donors include billionaire Paul Singer, a major HRC and GOP donor who also founded of the American Unity Fund, a group that has been tweeting about HRC’s Kirk endorsement.
— American Unity Fund (@American_Unity) March 23, 2016
To recap: first, Griffin “defended” his group’s endorsement by explaining it to conservatives rather than to the queer and Democratic communities most angered by their endorsement. That’s like championing vanilla over chocolate and then defending that choice to chocolate-lovers, except in this case it’s not ice-cream flavors but queer people’s civil rights. Second, Griffin defended the decision on a site with connections to a billionaire donor who has helped fund lots of anti-LGBT politicians — bad company, no matter how deep their pockets.
Then again, the HRC isn’t exactly a progressive organization. In addition to sucking on bisexual and transgender issues, a 2015 internal report called the organization “exclusionary,” “sexist” and “homogenous” (i.e., predominantly “gay, white and male”), with one focus group member commenting, “A lot of folks are personally invested in diversity inclusion but their voices have been smothered or pushed away.”
In trying to secure more conservative donations for their financial future, the HRCs own actions continue to smother and push away other LGBTQ people too.