The criticism of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) came swiftly after they first endorsed Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois for reelection. His opponent is Purple Heart recipient Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth who has a 100% HRC rating.
We all know HRC plays politics and many understood they wanted to endorse at least one Republican and chose Kirk as the least objectionable. What was missing from their analysis is Kirk’s first vote should Republican’s maintain a majority in the Senate, and he could have been the one Senator who helped them keep that, will be for Mitch McConnell. Then whether or not he is supportive of LGBT individuals in anyway will be of no value as no LGBT civil rights legislation would pass a Republican Senate.
My comments on the endorsement of Kirk at the time were it shouldn’t have happened but if HRC felt they had to give a sop to the Republicans the least they should have done in this race was a dual endorsement.
Kirk took his HRC endorsement and proceeded to endorse Trump. That gave the HRC a legitimate opportunity to take back the endorsement. They didn’t! When it finally became apparent Trump looked like he would hurt Kirk’s campaign he gently walked away from him. Now Kirk has made an overtly racist comment about Duckworth’s family and HRC has another perfect opportunity to again do the right thing and rescind their endorsement. Again they won’t and it was reported by the Advocate their spokesperson Brandon Lorenz “tweeted a statement that has the HRC standing behind its endorsement of Kirk despite backlash over the derogatory comment about Duckworth’s ethnicity.”
The Advocate reported the incident which occurred in a debate between Kirk and Duckworth. Duckworth said, “My family has served this nation in uniform, going back to the Revolution. I’m a daughter of the American Revolution. I’ve bled for this nation.” Kirk then responded “by snidely bringing up Duckworth’s ethnicity. I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.” The facts are Duckworth’s mother is of Thai and Chinese descent and her father is a military man and American who can trace his roots back to family members who fought in the American Revolution. So Kirk’s comment was not only wrong it was clearly racist.
Responding to the HRC spokesperson’s tweet Eric Alva, a war hero and one of the LGBT activists I most respect, posted this on his FB account about the Human Rights Campaign. “The organization I once stood behind as their “National Spokesperson,” has lost my trust and I want a divorce. You are so wrong on this, as an organization and as a President Chad. Last year I was awarded the Chuck Jordan Award for all the work I did with HRC and other communities. I honor Chuck’s memory every day but I will NOT attend another single HRC event till you earn my trust again. Until then we are done!!!! Tammy Duckworth is a fellow Purple Heart recipient and for you to allow and stand by Senator Kirk to treat her with these racist comments – You are no better than him or Donald Trump!!!
I understand the machinations organizations like the Human Rights Campaign must go through as they try to lobby Congress and at the same time try to raise the money to do so from both Republicans and Democrats. The LGBT community needs an organization like HRC in Washington to lobby and speak up for our rights. But it does seem at times they are deaf to the voices of the community.
The LGBT community is diverse and broad. There are times when it seems the HRC in their actions hark back to what they were dubbed when there was an F at the end of their acronym standing for Fund. Back in those days the organization was often called the Human Rights Champagne Fund because many considered them an organization of, by and for, rich gay white men.
It is clear they have come a long way since those days, but it’s just as apparent they have a long way to go. They are more understanding of the diversity of our community which includes men, women, transgender individuals, people of color and people outside the Washington, DC vortex of politics. But every once in a while they seem to revert back to their HRCF roots as they did with this Kirk endorsement.
Thankfully it looks like Duckworth will win the Senate seat and hopefully HRC will have learned something from this fiasco.
NOTE: Two hours after this column was posted HRC rescinded their endorsement of Kirk and endorsed Duckworth. I am not claiming any credit but what this does show is the community speaking out can make a difference. Always be willing to speak out.- your voice can be heard.