We were fortunate last year to see the passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.But when we pushed for Washington to move forward on repealing "The Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), we were told by Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese and other dyed in the wool gay Democrats to slow down and be patient. The "slow and steady" crowd told the rest of us we were whining like spoiled brats demanding instant gratification and that we didn't understand the political process. Solmonese even told us to wait until after Obama's second term before we assess his record.
As Washington insiders, Joe and his crowd where awfully short-sighted not to see that the president was spending so much political capital on health care reform, that there would be precious little left to advance LGBT rights. They ignored the growing nationwide discontent with the Democrats, who squandered their super-majority over the last year and accomplished virtually nothing. They didn't seem to understand until this week that the mid-term elections would mean a reshuffling of the balance of power in DC. They didn't see the window of opportunity slamming shut... until now.
A couple of weeks ago I reported on the "blog swarm", a coalition of LGBT bloggers, including John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, Pam Spaudling of "Pam's House Blend", Bil Browning of The Bilerico Project, Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God, Andy Towle of TowleRoad on several others, that was formed in order to put pressure on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to use its influence in Washington to push the president and congress to move more quickly on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year. As expected, HRC initially poo-pooed the gay net roots and again called for patience.
Pam Spaulding attended the HRC Carolinas Gala fundraiser in Raleigh, NC Saturday night. Guest speakers included Clay Aiken and Meredith Baxter, but the real show stopper turned out to be Joe Solmonese himself, who made some bold pronouncements that appear to signal a reversal in strategy for the nation's largest LGBT advocacy organization.
Pam reports that Solmonese made the following four promises to the crowd:
1. "We are going to eliminate the tax that you pay on domestic partner benefits. We're going to get rid of that this year at long last."Solmonese added, "I also get that there is a drumbeat coming from our community to put more pressure on, to make more demands of the President and members of Congress to get it done this year because who knows what's going to happen at the mid-term elections and frankly they are right and our time is now."
2. "We are going to extend domestic partnerships to federal employees."
3. "We are going to get people living with HIV/AIDS treatment much earlier if they are on public assistance."
4. "And finally, finally this year we are going to bring down the discriminatory policy known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'...once and for all."
I'm not quite sure how Joe can make such grandiose promises, but it should be interesting to see how all of this plays out. The year-long Pentagon study on repeal of DADT hasn't even begun yet and there has been no timetable put forth for full repeal. Solmonese has a habit of making grand pronouncements only to reverse himself weeks later. I'm glad he's finally gotten on board, but I can't help but wonder for how long.
The following video of Joe Solmonese's speech at the HRC Gala is courtesy of Pam's House Blend: