Since the day the preeminent LGBT organization, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced its endorsement in favor of Republican Senator Mark Kirk, (R-IL) the incumbent for the Illinois Senate seat, instead of supporting the Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth who has a 100% equality rating to Kirk’s 76% , many LGBT activists have questioned the move and asked HRC to reconsider its position. This week the nonsensical endorsement became even more questionable, as HRC fails to withdraw the endorsement, despite a racist comment, directed personally against Duckworth, by Kirk during a debate.
In the second debate between the candidates, Kirk flagrantly insulted Duckworth and every American immigrant, especially those of color and Asian decent, when he interrupted her while she was talking about her family’s history of military service, saying:
“I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”
Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot and suffered severe combat wounds, losing both of her legs and damaging her right arm. She was the first female double amputee from the war. She had noted that her father was a Marine and that members family had served the nation in uniform since the Revolution.
Duckworth told supporters today:
“My family and I have bled for this country, and for Mark Kirk to question our service — simply because I am a Thai American — is appalling.”
Today, again, after many months of asking HRC to reverse it endorsement of Kirk, it seems as if the organization has dug its heels in, and is still refusing to honor the very many LGBT immigrants in our community, who are highly offended by what Kirk said in his uncalled for interruption.
This current failure to publicly speak out against Kirk by HRC and to retract the endorsement is untenable. One wonders to whom HRC is obligated to keep this endorsement alive? This is so senseless, that I question whether there is some underlying conflict of interest. Could it be that a Republican funder has provided HRC with hefty donations, ensuring Chad Griffin’s $500,000 per year salary / benefit – not to mention the several other organizational executives who earn well in excess of $220,000 per year?
Back in May this blog reported for a second time, as follows, noting the several activist and writers who have slammed HRC for the endorsement:
Equality Activists Ask HRC To Reverse Endorsement for US Senate, By Melanie Nathan, May 27, 2016
Several 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 was never a response:
To: Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
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.
(INCOMPLETE LIST OF SIGNATORIES HERE.)
Today, after hearing about this latest reason to dump Kirk, several activists tweeted the HRC and its Executive Director, Chad Griffin using the hashtag #HRCdumpKirk. its seems these please are being ignored.
Here is a sampling: