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Signorile: Palm Center Source Backs Bellini Claims on HRC Deal

The Human Rights Campaign sent out a statement last night adamantly denying the claims in Jason Bellini's Daily Beast interview that the group had made a deal with Congressional leaders to delay the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in favor of other items on its agenda, specifically a federal hate crimes bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Belkin While Bellini's sources were unnamed, Sirius radio host Michelangelo Signorile has a source on record — Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center (the research institute that focuses on the military and sexuality, located at the University of California, Santa Barbara) — backing up Bellini's claims.

Writes Signorile, who interviewed HRC President Joe Solmonese just yesterday:

I didn't see or know about the Bellini piece when I interviewed Joe (it either had just posted or wasn't up yet), but I did ask him about what Belkin claimed. Belkin was relatively certain in what he told me:

AB: "...Our major national gay rights organizations -- it would be one thing to say nothing, but there is pro-active lobbying on the hill for Congress not to consider [the "don't ask, don't tell"] issue. And so the community has been appalling on this issue.

MS: Have you seen any response from any of those groups, and I guess we're talking about the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, other Washington groups?

AB:...We've heard from so many offices that not only are they not doing anything but they're pro-actively lobbying against consideration of the issue. I feel very confident in saying that.

You may remember that on May 11, I posted a major report by The Palm Center outlining a strategy by which the President could halt discharges of military personnel immediately if he so wished. The Palm Center's "Roadmap of Political, Legal, Regulatory, and Organizational Steps to Equal Treatment" provided a blueprint for that action to take place.

Solmonese Signorile notes that yesterday Solmonese suddenly came forward after months of refusal for interview requests "since shortly after Joe Solmonese went into a meeting with the White House weeks ago (after the first complaints of Obama's lagging on gay issues arose) and came out saying to the NY Times that he was 'pleased' and that the White House had a 'plan.'"

While it could be a coincidence, the timing is certainly notable considering The Daily Beast piece went up shortly after Solmonese emerged to speak with the press.

Listen to the Belkin and the Solmonese interview at Signorile's blog The Gist.

And Pam Spaulding notes that last night Solmonese appeared on Hardball, telling Chris Matthews that Obama could halt the discharges. Video, AFTER THE JUMP:

SOLMONESE: There's overturning the policy, which I believe that the administration will do within the course of a year or so, and then there are good hard working people like Dan Choi, an Arab language interpreter, who could be potentially thrown out of the military in the next few weeks. The President has the opportunity to stop that from happening. We've asked him to do that and pressed him to do that and hope that he will.

MATTHEWS: But if he does that by executive order, what is he worried about? Why is he not doing it? Joe?

SOLMONESE: Well...well...we don't know...he may do it and he has the opportunity to do it, and it may be that...I don't know why he wouldn't do it, but with regard to overturning the policy generally...I.mean...I don't think it's the case that he wants to not necessarily upset military leaders, but I think he understands that there is an implementation part of this policy that has to be worked through.

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Schumer UPDATE: Jason Bellini said in his original report that New York Senator Chuck Schumer "let slip" to a number of gay leaders that the Human Rights Campaign told him that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not the White House's priority.

Schumer's spokesman Brian Fallon released this statement: "Senator Schumer has never said the White House didn't consider the repeal of 'Don't ask, Don't tell' a priority, and he never said the Human Rights Campaign struck some quote-unquote deal on this issue. Any rumors to the contrary are flat-out wrong."

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Comments

  1. The HRC needs to be put out of business.

    Posted by: Mike | Jun 5, 2009 7:23:09 AM


  2. HRC has, for too long, run around our various cities and towns sucking up money, to furnish their $20 million building and print expensive business cards for Joe and David Smith to hand out at cocktail parties. What has all of that gotten us? Not one single major bill signed into law and in the case of Don't Ask Don't Tell a major delay in ending the discharges. Now these Mary-come-lately activists have been exposed. Not one more dime to Solomenese until they stop playing games. My money will go to local organizations in my community and ones that are actually doing the work of advancing civil rights for us all.

    Posted by: David | Jun 5, 2009 7:46:07 AM


  3. It sounds the HRC helped put together a sound strategy: address relatively achievable goals that directly impact a greater number of people first, then onto DADT which may face resistance.

    Prioritizing doesn't mean ignoring. This drama sounds manufactured.

    Posted by: Nick | Jun 5, 2009 8:02:16 AM


  4. If this is true, Joe Solmonese must step down.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Jun 5, 2009 8:10:44 AM


  5. I have been a little suprised by the negative comments about HRC from other readers of this site. This also goes for GLAAD, GLSEN, NGLTF, etc. I do think it is good to hear weaknesses about HRC and other organizations that I may have not been aware of but to totally write them off doesn't seem to be helpful. This goes for Lambda Legal also which has won so many cases across the country. Yes we lost Prop 8 (not sure if Lamba lawyers argued this case) but there was no way the Supreme Court was going to overturn it. They were ruling on the legality of the inititive process not if they agree with gay marriage. Lamba's victories are slowly changing the country one case at a time even if they aren't as big or high profile as Prop 8. I think all these LGBT organizations are helping to build a solid foundation for gay rights support which is helping shift opinions on major issues like gay marriage. It might not seem like they are having success since we lost Prop 8 but changing public opinion on gays and LGBT issues is a massive undertaking which won't be decided overnight. It is ongoing and will be for the rest of our lives. People should recall just 4 years ago we were fighting a Federal Marriage Amendment. Now 6 states have gay marriage. Anyways, I don't know if HRC could be doing a better job but I think that they know how Washington works. I am not saying they are perfect but maybe the problem is the policy making process. It is a very long, tedious road to pass ENDA, Hate Crimes, etc, since there is so much bureacracy. I don't think it's reasonable to expect HRC to pass all these new laws in the first couple months of Obama's term. However they are in the works and Obama said he will sign them. As for Obama it is too early to make any judgement on his handling of LGBT issues. He can't make ENDA and Hate Crimes come to him. They have to go through Congress but he will sign them. As for DADT, I understand that gays want it done now but I believe Obama has said he wants it to go through the proper process and to be done right. Since so many military are against repealing DADT, even though the public is for repealing the ban, this makes the issue complicated since it is a policy for the military. We might think it is silly that soldiers are worried about being around openly gay soldiers but that is where they are coming from so they need to be educated and informed in order for their opinions to change. With all the terrible economic problems at the moment and nominating a Supreme Court Justice, I can see why Obama would not want to take this issue on now. I think it is good though that gays are voicing there frusterations with him as it keeps the pressue on him and keeps him in check. Lastly, I am not trying to defend anything or anyone that is slowing down LGBT equality but I am just trying to view everything from a realistic, objective point of view. No, gays don't have 100% equal rights in America at this moment and it makes me mad, but all these organizations are working to change that. While sometimes progress seems very slow, I think it is happening and it is due to work they are doing.

    Posted by: Johnny | Jun 5, 2009 8:11:20 AM


  6. Mr. Solmonese is in for the money but not for the issues.
    The longer it takes the better for him.

    Posted by: Martin | Jun 5, 2009 8:28:08 AM


  7. What do we think Harvey Milk would say to us today about this?

    We cannot wait until it is convenient for the ruling class and the bigots to give us our civil rights. We must demand it.

    Solmonese and the other HRC cronies have always struck me as Armistead Maupin's "A Gays" -- too distracted by their paychecks and socialite life on the hill to really care about the rest of serfs in the village below. This is just more proof of that.

    The answer to this problem is already being addressed by hundreds of thousands nationwide who are no longer waiting for these politically inefficient organizations. Find a march, find a rally, get involved and stop waiting, folks!

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 5, 2009 8:40:10 AM


  8. Micheal, I agree that Harvey Milk would be demanding civil rights if he were alive today. However, he was also a politician, a supervisor, and had to work within the governement to get what he wanted done. That was the point I was trying to get across. You need to work within the system to get things done. I think the protests and rallies, etc, are all great and necessary but they go hand in hand with the organizations who are working within the system.

    Posted by: Johnny | Jun 5, 2009 8:48:55 AM


  9. No more $$$$ from me. And I want off their mailing list!

    Posted by: Leto | Jun 5, 2009 9:15:29 AM


  10. Jeezus, Johnny, I haven't even had my coffee yet and that giant hunk of text is assaulting my eyes.

    Paragraph breaks are your friend, dear.

    Posted by: crispy | Jun 5, 2009 9:20:06 AM


  11. Don't civil rights organizations always prioritize their agendas? Wouldn't ENDA provide greater relief to more people immediately than repeal of DADT?

    During the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s through the 1960s, didn't the leaders negotiate amongst themselves and their allies as to what legislation could get passed, etc.?

    From what I've read about Harvey Milk, wasn't he a wheeler and dealer?

    Posted by: noah | Jun 5, 2009 9:36:18 AM


  12. Here's reality: We can't win equality with just the national groups, or just marches and rallies, or just electing pro-gay politicians, or just organizing pressure campaigns. It will take ALL of these things, and that includes HRC, Join the Impact, NGLTF, Victory Fund, state groups, individuals speaking out, everybody coming out, etc.

    One way won't work, so stop pretending that YOUR way is the right way.

    Posted by: Bill | Jun 5, 2009 9:43:29 AM


  13. I don't know what's so surprising about this. As long as we're oppressed, HRC will have a purpose, political power, and consistently flowing cash for their posh little parties. If we get our rights, all that goes away.

    Posted by: taodon | Jun 5, 2009 9:46:53 AM


  14. I agree with Noah. It makes sense for both HRC and the White House to prioritize. Listen to Tammy Baldwin: she says the votes are there for hate crimes now, so start there. ENDA next, then DADT, then DOMA.

    I guess I think this is a sensible order. I do not really see hate crimes legislation as equality legislation, and I don't think it actually makes any difference in gay people's lives. I think it's good, but I don't see it as progress in the same way that the other items on the gay agenda are.

    Posted by: Landon Bryce | Jun 5, 2009 9:47:55 AM


  15. Some of you guys are missing the point. This isn't about putting ending DADT low on their agenda. They are actively lobbying to have congress delay moving on this issue. Why do we need the religious right if HRC is going to lobby against gay issues. This organization soaks 50 million dollars of gay money and it has accomplished virtually nothing.

    Posted by: Chris | Jun 5, 2009 9:48:23 AM


  16. If the NAACP was as ineffective as HRC, we'd still have "white" and "colored" rest rooms.

    Posted by: jd | Jun 5, 2009 9:53:36 AM


  17. LOL Crispy. Paragraph breaks! You are right I should have included some. I hope people aren't skipping my post now =( I wonder if I should repost with breaks...
    Anyways, I just had so much to say that I wanted to get it all off my chest.

    Posted by: Johnny | Jun 5, 2009 10:11:50 AM


  18. HRC is useless. They're just bloated fund-raising party queens. You'd be sick to your stomach if you know how much money people work at HRC makes. On the other hand, they seems to have a corner on the market for pretty party boys. You know what I'm talking about if you have visited the building or see their DC Pride Booth. Besides Results the GYM, HRC have all the pretty ones. I'm sure all of them work out at Results anyway, so really it's the same boys.

    Posted by: This is kinda a good thing. | Jun 5, 2009 10:44:00 AM


  19. Even if we accept the argument that priorization is good and ENDA and the Hate Crimes Bill would help more people, what has the HRC acoomplished on these issue with their pact? ENDA hasn't been introduced and the Hate Crimes Bill is languishing in the Senate Committee.

    This is in direct contrast to how quickly the Credit Bill was approved. If they are unwilling to fight, for God's sake at least get out of the way.

    Posted by: loki7329 | Jun 5, 2009 10:50:14 AM


  20. The coverup is always worse than the crime itself.

    Look, if HRC thinks that it makes sense to lobby congress not to end discrimination in the military this year, let them come out and say why. But doing it behind closed doors and then lying about it? That destrys their credibility, and unless they come clean I do hope they go out of business. There are plenty of other organizations and individuals that already do good work and could fill the lobbying void.

    Posted by: dk | Jun 5, 2009 10:57:22 AM


  21. I'm not great fan of HRC, so please don't interpret this as a defense. Presumably they think that they can get one or two pieces of pro-LGBT legislation passed in this Congress. I imagine their strategy is to focus their priorities on the bills with the most consensus, both in Congress and in public opinion, and least opposition. Attempting to move bills with mixed support dilutes support from the stronger bills.

    If this is actually their strategy, and not my conjecture, why not just say so? The criticism in part is the behind-closed-doors dealing. In addition to ignoring an issue that a significant part of their purported constituency cares a lot about.

    Posted by: Cheesehead | Jun 5, 2009 11:07:36 AM


  22. It's time to shut down HRC. A closeted organization getting in the way of progress, while the grassroots LGBTs are fighting to get things done. I can't believe I used to be one of their monthly donors.

    Posted by: Randy | Jun 5, 2009 11:41:07 AM


  23. "Senator Schumer has never said the White House didn't consider the repeal of 'Don't ask, Don't tell' a priority, and he never said the Human Rights Campaign struck some quote-unquote deal on this issue. Any rumors to the contrary are flat-out wrong."

    I hope Jason has enjoyed getting publicity at the expense of the gay community.

    Posted by: Mike | Jun 5, 2009 11:53:30 AM


  24. The spotlight is on the wrong group. Yes, HRC has long been the most expensive car in our garage that doesn't run very well, but they're "generalists." D.A.D.T. is just one of their many agenda items.

    A much bigger scandal is that SLND - - the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network - - which was created for the sole purpose of fighting to get D.A.D.T. repealed & help soldiers being discharged, after seeming to suggest last year that President Obama could wait until 2011 to act upon D.A.D.T, is now saying that President Obama SHOULD NOT STOP DISCHARGES OF THEIR OWN CLIENTS using the entirely legal method available to him. :-O

    In a shocking and inexplicable public fight with the experts at the Palm Ctr (like Belkin the guy Signorile quotes above), whose research they have used for years to back up their work, they're saying (as much as one can figure out their contradictory "reasoning") that "your suggestion that the President could immediately stop discharges with his national emergency powers is wrong because it's only a temporary solution and would be an end run that pisses people off. We want him to stop discharges by cutting funding for them in the military's budget."

    What makes no sense is that cutting $$$ would be even more of a "temporary solution" because the defense budget has to be renewed every year while it sure looks like we're going to have troops stationed in the mideast for a long time - - certainly long past when the next budget is voted on.

    That's right: unlike a national emergency Executive Order, the budget has to be voted on by Congress. If they're not ready to repeal D.A.D.T. why would they approve defunding?

    The 2010 budget, that SLDN didn't lay a glove on, is out the door, so now they're fantasizing about the 2011 budget by which time over 1000 more gay servicemembers will have been discharged.

    As for the "end run" excuse - - SLDN's idea of indirectly stopping discharges with money games would surely give ammunition to those in Congress & the public that hate that type of thing. A bill comes up for X and someone slaps on Y which has nothing to do with.

    By freezing discharges in the name of the country's safety - - something called "stop loss" that's actually been done before - - the President would be DIRECTLY focusing on the insanity behind kicking people out who, for instance, speak Arabic just because they're gay. He could build the case on what Americans already care deeply about - - their nation's and their families' safety.

    They've been under the radar but the young gay mideast vets against D.A.D.T. that you might remember traveling the country a couple of years ago & featured in the documentary "Ask Not" touring the country right now and will be shown on PBS on June 16th created a group entirely separate from SLDN.

    "Those who have served and who have been affected by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ are the ones who should be at the center of the debate and at the head of the table on this issue. We’re the ones who know the military, the Pentagon, and the issue, so it’s only natural that we be out front on this in the most strategic manner.”

    They recently opened their own DC office apparently thinking SLDN isn't cutting it. They specifically say that the law will never be repealed just because it's unfair to gays - - it will only happen after making the case that gay soldiers are necessary to defend the country.

    In May, Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United, an Arabic translator who was discharged himself, "praised the Palm Center’s work today, saying, 'These scholars’ creative approach to finding a politically viable solution to the ongoing problems of forced discharges and the continuous drainage of critically skilled and badly needed military personnel pursuant to this law is, as always, quite commendable'."

    On the other side - - the former head of SLDN, Mr. Osburn, who never served in the military. When not incoherently dissing his former partners at Palm, he's writing a book called "Making Giants Dance" about "how to get things done in Washington and the case study will be D.A.D.T." Even though he failed for 14 years to get it repealed.

    And, Mr. Sarvis, his 65-yr. old replacement, like Solmonese, a professional lobbyist who was in the Army when the Beatles were still together.

    Mr. Sarvis immediately accomplished one thing - - much of SLDN's staff, including the development director, the director of communications, the director of law and policy, the director of legislative affairs and a communications associate, quit saying he didn't know what he was doing. And others, including a PR director and attorney have left since then.

    Jason Knight, the communications associate and Navy vet who was once in the news for having been discharged TWICE for being gay,
    said of Mr. Sarvis, "From his misquoting of the law on national news mediums, to the seeming quest for a personal legacy, Mr. Sarvis is failing our service men and women who are forced to live under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ every single day."

    Mr. Osburn says, "Keep discharging gays because my failed Congressional strategy was better." The other says, "Yes, I've failed, too, but keep discharging gays because my way (though no more a permanent solution and ass backwards) is my way."

    Strategies are debatable but if the admission by Mr. Sarvis that "we are not privy" to what's going on at the Pentagon regarding discussions about D.A.D.t doesn't demonstrate how impotent and irrelevant SLDN has become then this surely does: Cong. Ellen Tauscher, the chief sponsor of the D.A.D.T. repeal bill, didn't bother to attend SLDN's March rally in front of the Capitol FOR HER OWN BILL. Neither did gay Representatives Barney Frank nor Tammy Baldwin. Nor were any of them at SLDN's annual gala the next night.

    Having been roasted by former key employees, then by gay media for originally saying it would be just fine for the President to wait until 2011 to act on D.A.D.T, Mr. Sarvis keeps his desk chair warm and cashing his $141,000 a year checks, while every day another 1-2 gay servicemembers join the nation's unemployment line and the holes in the nation's security get bigger and bigger.

    Posted by: PJ | Jun 5, 2009 11:57:06 AM


  25. I think that the HRC is to gays as PETA is to animal rights activists, nothing but media whores.

    Posted by: Juan | Jun 5, 2009 12:03:39 PM


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