During the protest on the steps of the Supreme Court during the SCOTUS DOMA hearing, members of the LGBT organization GetEQUAL faced some unsettling discrimination.
As anyone who has protested or joined a rally for LGBT rights knows, there are always protesters. Usually they are holding signs saying how God hates gays and that all gays are going to hell for being sinners. Well during the DOMA protests, transgender members of GetEQUAL faced discrimination from a group that they thought would be the last group in the world to discriminate, especially against transgender individuals..
According to an independent blog, O-blog-dee-o-blog-da , members of GetEQUAL were flying a trans flag outside the Supreme Court building on the DOMA day and placed near the podium. C.D. Kirven, GetEQUAL board member, was waving that trans flag most prominently when GetEQUAL, who were challenging Westboro Baptist Church, were told to remove their flag by members of the HRC. The HRC’s reason behind requesting GetEQUAL members to remove their flag was because they said Marriage Equality was not a “transgender issue”.
According to another website, The Bilerico Project, blogger Jerame Davis, who was at the event, reported the following on his blog:
Through the bustle and the crowd, I could discern that the HRC staffer was discussing the transgender equality flag the young man was waving. It was clear the staffer wanted him to move or to stop displaying the flag. It was also clear that the young trans man holding the flag was at the edge of his training (and his wits) in dealing with the situation as was the staffer. The HRC staffer moved on just as we got within speaking distance, so we asked the man with the flag what had happened.
He told us that the staffer had been harassing him about his flag and that he wasn’t going to move. He told us the staffer had stopped on three occasions to ask him to move or stop displaying the flag. He also mentioned that the staffer had denigrated trans issues in some manner, but I know this staffer and I cannot imagine they have any sort of anti-trans animus, so I chalked that up to a misunderstanding.
Since I first heard this story reported from a Tumblr post, I have been trying to get clarification on it. When the story first broke on Twitter via the Tumblr post, I found no other supporting information on the net to verify this happened. I spoke to a friend who is a huge supporter of the HRC, and although I feel his opinion was bias, he stated that he would couldn’t believe for a moment that the HRC would act in this manner.
Based on his reaction combined with my inability, at the time, to find information online to support this story, I decided I would email GetEQUAL and asked for clarification. I sent them an email on Thursday March 28. I mentioned in the email about what I had heard and sent them the Tumblr link I had found the story on. I asked them if any part of this story were true and if it were in fact the Human Rights Campaign that was involved in this. As of today, Sunday March 31, I hadn’t received a response back. I decided that I would send them a follow up email today asking again for clarification in the story. I told them in today’s email that I had heard that it could have been two possible organizations named HRC. One being the Human Rights Coalition and the other being of course the Human Rights Campaign. I did some research on the Human Rights Coalition, and from what I found, they are an advocacy group located in Pennsylvania who fights for the right of prisoners, not a group I would expect to be present during the DOMA protests. I have also decided I will be sending an email to the Human Rights Campaign asking for clarification in this story as well. Once I receive a response, if any, from either organization, I’ll make sure I pass it on to our readers on Back2Stonewall.
As I told GetEQUAL, unity and support of all is the only way we can move forward in our fight for LGBT rights.
I have received an update on this story. Today, Monday April 1, I received a response from the Human Rights Campaign. Yesterday after posting the article above, I decided to send an email to the HRC requesting clarification on the incident I reported about a member requesting a several transgender activists of GetEQUAL to remove their flag and also asking na “undocumented” activist was asked to edit his speech to hide part of who he is.
In the email to the HRC, I asked them if it were true that members of their organization were involved in the story reported above. Honestly, I didn’t even expect a response from the HRC. To my surprise, earlier today I did get an email in response to my email asking about the situation. This is what Jason Lott (Jason.Lott@hrc.org) emailed me the following as the HRC’s explanation to what had happened:
“Thank you for contacting the Human Rights Campaign with your concern about last week’s Supreme Court rallies.
In the midst of a tremendously historic week for our community, two unfortunate incidents at the United for Marriage event at the Supreme Court last week have caused pain in the community. In one case, a trans activist was asked to remove the trans pride flag from behind the podium, and in another, a queer undocumented speaker was asked to remove reference to his immigration status in his remarks.
HRC joined in a coalition statement on Friday apologizing for these incidents and the individuals involved have personally offered their apologies to those affected. But to be perfectly clear, HRC regrets the incidents and offers our apologies to those who were hurt by our actions. We failed to live up to the high standard to which we hold ourselves accountable and we will strive to do better in the future. Through both our legislative and programmatic work, HRC remains committed to making transgender equality a reality.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact us with your perspective. If you would like to read more about HRC’s work on transgender issues, please visit http://www.hrc.org/issues/transgender. And if you have any additional questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us.
The HRC Member Services team”
I have to be honest and say at first, I was impressed with the speed of their response, that is until I realized that this was basically a “stock”, “PR” response that they probably sent to everyone who has inquired about this situation.
Lets back this whole situation up a bit. When this situation first happened and the story broke, the HRC signed on to the United For Marriage Coalition in an apology for the mistreatment of Trans and Undocumented Activists. According to The New Civil Rights Movement, the HRC – a part of the coalition that also includes the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Family Equality Council, GetEQUAL, Marriage Equality USA and the New Organizing Institute – signed on to a group apology, and then issued a separate statement DENYING that the mistreatment occurred. The statement/apology signed by the coalition stated –
“Since the conclusion of the rallies on Wednesday, the coalition has learned about the mistreatment of a few individuals who were attending and speaking at the rallies,” United For Marriage’s statement notes:
In one case, a queer undocumented activist was asked to edit his speech to hide part of who he is. In another case, several activists were asked to lower the trans* pride flag in order to keep out of the scope of TV cameras.
We apologize for having caused harm to the individuals involved. Apologies are being made individually and collectively and we are working to make direct amends.
After this statement was released by the Coalition, the HRC decided to backpedal, retracting their apology and actually denying any wrongdoing even happened! The HRC issued a separate statement stating –
“It was agreed that featuring American flags at our program was the best way to illustrate this unifying issue which is why when managing the area behind the podium, several people were asked to move who were carrying organizational banners, pride flags or any other flag that was not an American flag. Several people refused and they were allowed to stay. The coalition welcomed the variety of signs and flags that were throughout the plaza that demonstrated the wonderful diversity of our community.
“It is a not true to suggest that any person or organization was told their flag was less important than another – this did not occur and no HRC staff member would ever tolerate such behavior. To be clear, it is the position of the Human Rights Campaign that marriage is an issue that affects everyone in the LGBT community.
“The events at the Court featured lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender speakers as well as LGBT families, religious leaders, Republicans, military spouses and civil rights activists. This has been a historic week and truly demonstrated how all of us – lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight, transgender and cisgender – can unite as one voice to advocate for our constitutional rights.”
How can anyone in the LGBT community trust the Human Rights Campaign at this point? In my opinion, they acted like children who were caught red handed getting into trouble. They gave a false apology and then lied to the very people they “claim” they are protecting and fighting for. In my opinion, I have lost all respect for the HRC. When I sent them the email last evening requesting clarification, I was hoping they would take the human approach and be honest and truthful. All I received was a stock, public relation answer to placate me. What they didn’t expect, or simply don’t care about is that that readers of Back2Stonewall as well as all of the rest of the LGBT community are intelligent individuals that can see right through the HRC’s lies and public relation B.S.
I sent them a response stating that they answer was not good enough for me or the readers of this blog or the listeners of my podcast. I specifically told them that I wanted to know why they thought they could get away with treating fellow advocates in this manner and then denying it! I asked them if they have given proper discipline to the HRC members involved.
I am sad to say that I highly doubt I will hear a response at this point. Sadly, the HRC does not value my concern in this situation. This should show the entire LGBT community what type of organization the HRC really is. They are not concerned with the “everyday” LGBT advocate like myself. Since I am unable to donate large sums of money, my concern and opinion are worth very little to them. They made it incredibly obvious, in my opinion, that they value their LGBT followers very little since they can lie to us so easily.
I have made a point that I will not longer support the HRC until they come out clean and act like the honest organization and decent human beings as they should act.