Equality Activists Ask HRC To Reverse Endorsement for US Senate

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 10.17.28 AMSeveral high profile LGBT community members, activists and leaders have written articles expressing disdain at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)  decision to endorse Republican Senator Mark Kirk, instead of Rep. Tammy Duckworth, for the Illinois U.S. Senate seat.  HRC did not budge.

Duckworth has been endorsed by President Obama, VP Biden, MOVEON.ORG, Daily Kos, and many more.

Soon after the HRC endorsement, Kirk expressed that he would support Donald Trump for President. Many of us were perplexed that HRC did not reverse its decision when Trump, who has expressed an intention to deny LGBT equality,  became presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, especially after a CNN article noted: ” Whether he likes it or not, Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk has a new running mate: Donald Trump.”  Since that was published, Trump has actually won the nomination.

On May 10, 17 days ago, several members of our LGBT leadership and activist community sent an email, copied below, to HRC’s president, Chad Griffin, requesting that HRC reverse the endorsement of Kirk, in favor of Duckworth. There has been no response.  If you would like to co-endorse this letter, please let me know at [email protected]:

To: Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
Chad Griffin,
Executives at HRC
Board of Directors, HRC.

Dated: May 07, 2016.

Open Letter From: Coalition of LGBT Endorsing Rep. Tammy Duckworth for U.S. Senate.

Dear Chad, HRC Executives and members of the HRC Board,

We represent a coalition of LGBT activists and community members who are endorsing Rep. Tammy Duckworth for the U.S. Senate. We are asking the Human Rights Campaign to reconsider its endorsement of incumbent Republican Senator Mark Kirk for the Illinois Senate seat this next election, especially now that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee and that Senator Kirk has indicated his support for Trump’s presidency.

Tammy Duckworth, a Wounded Woman Warrior, and Democratic IL Representative in the U.S. Congress, has been a champion for LGBT rights, earning a 100% score from The Human Rights Campaign. HRC has endorsed Sen. Mark Kirk who only earned a 78% score in the same index.
HRC’s initial statement on the endorsement of Senator Kirk: “Whether it was becoming the first Republican Senator to co-sponsor the Equality Act, co-sponsoring a bill to help schools combat anti-LGBT bullying or supporting marriage equality, Senator Kirk has demonstrated time and again that he believes in full federal equality,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Senator Kirk’s leadership on the Equality Act sends a strong message that fairness and equality are bipartisan values. Senator Kirk has fought for us, and we are proud to support him in his re-election campaign.” ( http://www.hrc.org/press/human-rights-campaign-endorses-senator-mark-kirk-for-re-election )

While this may be the case many in our community expressed their disapproval. The Advocate noted a few:

“Several commentators have excoriated the endorsement this week. Slate ’s Mark Stern, a blogger on LGBT issues, called it “an unforced error of astonishing ineptitude.” Daily Kos contributor David Nir termed it “shameful” and “rank idiocy,” designed to “keep donations flowing from corporations and wealthy gay Republicans.” At Trans Griot, Monica Roberts described it as “another glaring example of HRC political malpractice,” comparable to the group’s endorsement of incumbent Republican Sen. Al D’Amato of New York over Democratic challenger Chuck Schumer in 1998 (Schumer won).”

A few examples of the criticism: ( http://www.advocate.com/election/2016/3/24/hrc-defends-endorsing-republican-senate )





After the extensive criticism, Chad Griffin responded in a statement justifying the endorsement:  “HRC has always aimed to make LGBT equality a bipartisan issue. That’s why HRC is, and always has been, a bipartisan organization. In fact, we have never in our history won a major legislative battle without bipartisan support. Today, that bipartisan support is all the more important when the threshold for passing anything through the Senate is 60 votes. The truth is we need more cross party cooperation on issues of equality, not less.”

We understand HRC’s strategy. However, circumstances changed since the endorsement, with Trump now being the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party. We believe that LGBT community’s best interests are served through our endorsement of Tammy Duckworth. Given the risks we face this election, the importance of now coming out to endorse Duckworth far outweighs the strategy angle adopted by HRC, as follows:

  • The Senate needs a Democratic majority to pass pro LGBT legislation, such as The equality Act, and one seat could determine that outcome. (Signorile notes how losing the Senate to a anti-LGBT majority makes no sense to the passage of pro LGBT legislation);
  • Tammy Duckworth has a 100% pro LGBT score to Kirk’s 78% – not only does this speak to the core sentiment and trust of the candidate, it also speaks to the fact that we do not believe a Republican with a lower score is more worthy than a Democrat with the higher score, and so the former should not be rewarded with our support;
  • Kirk has announced his support for Donald Trump, and hence supporting Kirk is a tacit nod for Trump and what he stands for, as well as a mechanism to bring out more votes for Trump. According to HRC’s website – Trump is a man who has said he will repeal marriage equality and support religious liberty legislation. We also know that Trump will appoint a conservative Supreme Court justice.  He expressed support for the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) which would expose LGBT people to more discrimination.” See http://www.hrc.org/2016RepublicanFacts/donald-trump;
  • The HRC support of Kirk has come under fire and is divisive in the LGBT community, including many HRC members;
  • HRC has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. Endorsing Kirk amounts to working against her presidency which will need as many Democrats in Congress as possible and as such is counter productive to what we as an LGBT community hope to accomplish;
  • In addition to her unwavering support for pro LGBT issues, Tammy Duckworth can be trusted to represent progressive values on intersecting issues, such as immigration, whereas Kirk has not earned that trust and will likely support or could be swayed, through party affiliation, toward the more conservative platform of the Republican Party and the Presidential candidate he now supports;
  • Women are disproportionately represented in the Senate;
  • Kirk may be an ally but cannot escape the fact that he is aligned and would be elected under the banner of the party where the platform is to deny LGBT people our rights. The symbolic message of supporting the best for our LGBT community outweighs patronizing recognition of an ally. The message HRC is sending, by not supporting the very best person for the job, does not model authenticity to our community; and
  • At the time of sending this we note that President Obama has endorsed Tammy Duckworth, indicating the importance of this election.

We have fought hard and long to accomplish what we have so far, and as our fight continues toward full equality we cannot afford to take any risks. Supporting Kirk is risky. Supporting Tammy is solid, not only for the issues at hand, but toward regaining the Senate for the party that champions LGBT equality.

It is for these reasons we are endorsing Tammy Duckworth for the U.S. Senate and asking HRC to reverse its endorsement of Mark Kirk and to endorse Tammy Duckworth instead.

This letter will be published for the purposes of adding endorsements.

Thank you for considering this request.

In solidarity,

Melanie Nathan, ED, African Human Rights Coalition, signed in personal capacity.

Liz Abzug, CEO Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, Professor Barnard /Columbia University, signing in personal capacity

Peter Rosenstein

Lane Hudson

Kimberly Hoover

Robin Tyler, Executive Director of the Equality Campaign,

Gary Virginia, Past Board President San Francisco Pride, signing in personal capacity

Alan R. Spector, Hawaii, Co-founder and past Co-Chair Equality Hawaii, signed in personal capacity

Ken Kidd

David John Fleck

Kristina Lapinski

Alan Schwartz

Allida Black

Cathy Kristopherson, Co-Founder 1AngryOldLesbian.org

Ellen Sturtz, Co-Founder 1AngryOldLesbian.org

Samuel Harrison,

Britta Schulte

Evelyn Thomas, DADT Activist, U.S. Veteran.

Adam Mehis, Executive Board Officer, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, signing in personal capacity.

Michael Petrelis, write-In Candidate for CA Sen. D-11

Brad Joseph Chapin, LGBT and Political Activist, Queer Outreach Coordinator at Bay Area for Bernie Sanders, signing in personal capacity

David P. Waggoner, CA, Managing Attorney, Homeless Action Center, and former President of Milk Club, if you think it matters, signing in personal capacity

Sam Deetz, Co-founded Pennsylvania Rural Gay Caucus, Appointed to Penna, Governor’s Council for Sexual Minorities, signed in personal capacity.

Madison Reed, Human-LGBT Rights Activist, Founder of New Earth Resource Company


Max Brava

Jim Fouratt: AS a lifelong activist since before Stonewall Rebellion and a participant in the four nights of rebellion against internalized homophobia and external oppression and as a founding member of the first post -Stonewall Rebellion political group, the Gay Liberation Front, which was formed the 3rd night of the rebellion, I would have signed this call for action if I had know about the petition. I have protested and written to HDC and spoken publicly about this outrageous endorsement by the Human Rights Campaign .. As a founding Board member of the LGBT community center in NYC and as a founding member of HEAL/Wipe Out AIDS (1982 ) and Act Up (1987) I know that community pushback has real meaning Thank you ufor the initiative. I am proud to stand up for Tammy Duckworth and to support this petition calling on HRC to reverse is endorsement

*all signors are signing  in their personal capacity, unless otherwise stated.

If you would like to co-endorse this Letter – please let me, Melanie Nathan, know at [email protected]


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