Pam's House Blend is reporting that Joe Solmonese will be leaving as head of the Human Rights Campaign in December. An anonymous source says he'll announce his departure this Tuesday. If it's true, he'll be leaving several months before his contract expires in March 2012, according to Metro Weekly.
A good many gay intellectuals regard the HRC as the Halliburton of gay rights – a cog in the "non-profit industrial complex," monopolizing gay politics by dint of its fabulous piles of money and establishment connections.
Calling for Solmonese's resignation has been a common refrain. In late 2009, he was attacked for urging the LGBT community to be patient with President Obama – to give him the benefit of the doubt until his last day in 2017. Pam demanded Solmonese resign because of this alleged pandering to the political class and his slowness in getting the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell repealed. Andrew Sullivan said much the same thing in an angry interview. (Sullivan, a conservative, has called HRC "a patronage wing of the Democratic party.")
But now it looks like that patience has paid off – well, sorta. DOMA is very slowly withering (though its death is by no means assured and Obama's waffling is appalling). Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been finally, if fitfully, revoked. Gay marriage is increasingly becoming a fact. Critics were right to be steamed about the inching progress, but perhaps Solmonese was right, too, when he said, "Whatever you think of the Administration’s first nine months, you don’t pass laws by sitting out. You pass laws by sitting at the table."
Still, the HRC has been marked by an over-willingness to compromise. To take one example: In a conference after the 2004 elections, before Solmonese became head, one HRC official suggested "the group would consider supporting President Bush's efforts to privatize Social Security partly in exchange for the right of gay partners to receive benefits under the program." It was all part of an effort to make gay rights more palatable to Washington. And during Solmonese's tenure, the HRC backed a federal law to ban workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians – but not transgendered and transexual people.
Assuming the rumors of Solmonese's resignation are not greatly exaggerated, Pam asks if his departure will mean a new era for the HRC. We'll see.