When a group of us calling ourselves Occupy the Castro took over the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) store on December 3 to read a proclamation that the group needed to make housing, jobs and healthcare for all priorities on both the national and local levels, some folks were quick to criticize us.
Why target a national gay organization that does some good things? these people asked.
The question was answered a little over a month later (this past Saturday, February 4) when we went back to the store to protest HRC again, this time because the group was honoring Goldman Sachs with a “Workplace Equality Innovation Award” at its $650/ plate dinner at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The same investment banking firm responsible for screwing up the economy of this and other countries with its questionable business practices.
There’s no doubt in my mind that HRC, which was originally formed in 1980 as a political PAC to support Democratic candidates, has become a detriment rather than an asset to the queer community. HRC is accountable to no one in our community. It does not hold community meetings or, in any way that I can see, solicit input from the very people it says it represents.
Worse yet, it’s actually worked against segments of our community. In 2007, HRC supported the exclusion of transgender people from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the federal gay employment bill that has been stalled in Congress for years.
Three years before, according to the New York Times (“Groups debate Slower Strategy on Gay Rights,” December 9, 2004) HRC considered bargaining with the Bush administration to support the privatization of Social Security in return for allowing domestic partners to receive this benefit. In other words, sell out those of us in the community who are seniors or don’t have partners so that those who are coupled would gain rights.
No doubt honoring Goldman Sachs is partly payback for Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein’s strong support for gay marriage. But did the A-gays who run HRC have to honor this corporation? Don’t they understand that Americans, including queer ones, are fed up with the way that Goldman Sachs and its buddies on Wall Street operate? It’s one thing to take its money and use it for a good cause, but to publicly bestow a stamp of approval on a corporation such as Goldman Sachs is another thing altogether.
HRC’s brand of equality is a double-edged sword. Sure, no one wants to be discriminated against, but what is this equality HRC is buying us? Equal to head up predatory Wall Street firms and throw millions of American homeowners out on the sidewalks? Equal to get bailed out and use the money to pad the salaries of already overpaid execs? Blankfein’s base salary went up to $2 million last year.
Equal to put profits over people?
Is that the message HRC is sending with its award -- that it’s okay to make as much money as you can by any means necessary, even by trashing the economy of this country, as long as you support gay rights?
It’s time for us all to say, “Enough!” and stop supporting HRC in any way, shape or form. The kind of legitimacy that HRC is trying to buy us comes at too heavy of a price. It alienates us from our traditional left allies and from other disenfranchised communities. It moves the queer movement to the right, and puts us in bed with people like Blankfein and corporations such as Goldman Sachs.
HRC doesn’t represent me.