Bil Browning

Through a Glass Darkly: Is GetEqual the New HRC?

Filed By Bil Browning | June 03, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: accountability, behind the veil, Get Equal, GetEqual, Heather Cronk, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, Jonathan Lewis, Kip Williams, Paul Yandura, Robin McGehee

This week I've been taking a closer look at the new direct action group GetEqual and asking if the group has too many similarities to HRC, the group that everyone loves to hate. Many readers and other bloggers around the web have weighed in and criticized my analogy citing the areas where the two groups differ. GetEqual's Managing Director, Heather Cronk, has also responded twice to the series here on the site with her own guest posts.

Part 1: Follow the Money: Is GetEqual the New HRC?
GetEqual's Managing Director: GetEqual: A Response & Clarification
Part 2: Behind the Veil: Is GetEqual the New HRC?
GetEqual's Managing Director: Part 2: GetEqual responds againgethrc.jpg

I'd like to commend GetEqual for directly and bravely stepping forward and engaging in a debate and dialogue with Projectors who had questions. While we're seeing many of the mainstream orgs - especially HRC - improve dramatically with their online and press relations, GetEqual has really set the bar high for directly answering some of the concerns we've shared.

That said, it's still disappointing to see that it was bad publicity that has forced them to be more transparent - even with information they would have to publicly disclose as a not-for-profit organization. With such a small staff and short time in existence, is the group heading down the same road of insular decisions and hidden agendas HRC is known for?

Let's take a look at GetEqual's transparency issues and what they are and are not.

Transparency Isn't an Afterthought

While Cronk released the org's leaders salaries after my first post based on the generalizations provided by co-director Kip Williams, it wasn't until I published my thoughts on those as they'd stated them that the org decided to actually come off with real numbers.

Williams told journalist Michael Petrelis the amounts were "less than $90k per year" and The Advocate quoted their source as "less than $90,000." When I e-mailed all three leaders, Cronk, Williams, and McGehee, about the salary amounts I was given vague generalizations and non-answers.

"I'm not sure what relevance this has to a story about GetEQUAL," Cronk replied when I asked if she was taking a paycut to work for the new org.

"I'm not sure what the hang-up on staff salaries is -- can you say more about that? Some of us are making about the same as we were before joining GetEQUAL -- some are making less," Cronk wrote in response to my second attempt to get her to simply say what she'd be making.

Neither Williams nor McGehee responded to my requests for salary amounts even though those payouts have to be publicly available since GetEqual is being run through a 501(c)(3) organization. The amounts would have to be recorded in the parent non-profit's annual report and tax reports. Cronk revealed their salary amounts in her guest post on Bilerico Project yesterday.

Other reporters and bloggers have also expressed similar frustration at getting clear answers from the GetEqual team. Even when someone responds, it's usually so full of vague answers and general platitudes that it reads like one of those generic "Thank you for your opinion" letters you get back when you send a message to your Congressperson.

Generalities capped with a Kumbayah moment has become a pattern with Williams and McGehee. What's always missing is the concrete action plan and deliverable items. There's a difference between calling yourself a direct action group and actually planning out actions instead of knee-jerk re-actions.

What GetEqual Is Not

While GetEqual is being hailed as the new conquering hero in some quarters and they are entitled to their due as a group of hardworking individuals, it's important to also keep in mind what they aren't.

GetEqual is not responsible for the passage of the mealy-mouthed Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal legislation currently pending before the Senate. In fact, the group has often railed against the legislation saying that the compromise is unacceptable. To give them credit for getting something passed that they opposed is a ludicrous leap of logic touted by blind fans and acolytes.

In a similar manner, GetEqual is not responsible for "forward movement on the passage of ENDA" as one reader wrote. Let's be clear, there hasn't been any movement on ENDA. It's stuck in committee in both houses of Congress. Politicians have promised us movement for months and no amount of interruptions to deliver markers or sit-ins at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office have helped drag the needed legislation out of the ditch.

The group, while much ballyhooed as the people's answer to the corporate-like structure of HRC, is also not a grassroots organization. It is very much a grasstops organization. This is not the people coming together with a demand; it is rich funders supporting the work of a few handpicked activists to stir up their community and put pressure on government officials they have a personal beef with.

Just like HRC, they have rich backers that they need to keep happy to keep the dollars flowing in. This isn't a mean attack; it's a reality of any not-for-profit. You can bluff your way so far in politics, but when it comes down to brass tacks, you have to put up or shut up. If GetEqual doesn't accomplish something concrete, no one is going to be willing to pay them to do nothing.

Sadly, the group has also not been effective. Instead of falling over themselves to perform spontaneous actions like chaining themselves to the White House fence without a solid media communications plan, mouthing self-aggrandizing media soundbites that turn off viewers, or organizing small protests attended by a dozen or so activists, why not turn in a solid and well planned performance like the National Equality March?

After Williams heckled the President during a Barbara Boxer event recently, the President, guests and media laughed - not just at Williams but at what he represents. They laughed at him and by extension they laughed at us.

Witness the visceral distate many felt at a spreadeagled Choi aping Christ on the cross in the few pictures taken of his first White House protest or his spotlight stealing moment with Kathy Griffin at an HRC rally before the second protest. Throw in his constant self-referential comparisons to Christ, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr when describing his actions and you've got a public relations nightmare that's not working as much for our advantage as their namebrand recognition.

Lt. Dan Choi is not the second coming of Gandhi or Jesus Christ. As I said in my first post, no matter how many times you quote Bayard Rustin or Martin Luther King Jr, you won't be able to morph into them and continue their work for equality. The LGBT community has long complained that we've not had our own version of MLK instead of simply rising up and becoming our own instruments of justice.

The New HRC?

Is GetEqual the new HRC? They're not a lobbying organization, true. They're not a large membership organization with a budget of several million dollars. They're not nearly as old or established as the Human Rights Campaign either.

But they do have a budget that will be approaching at least a million dollars - no small-time amount of cash. They will have a board charged not with what's best for the community, but with the legal obligation of always considering what's best for the organization. And while they're touting themselves as a "grassroots" group based on "volunteer" (instead of "members") ideas, they keep the true chain of command and authority for decisions masked behind a smokescreen.

As a regular queer activist or community member, do you really know who it was at HRC that made the final decision on whether or not the org would support a version of ENDA that wasn't trans-inclusive a few years ago? That decision split the community apart and caused schisms that still haven't healed and we don't even know how it really happened.

So what happens when GetEqual potentially does something similarly stupid that really divides the community? There is no one around to hold accountable if "there's no 'Wizard' behind the curtain," as Cronk says. Those guilty of gross injustices to our community and our entire movement could be allowed to skate free with even the knowledge that they were responsible hidden from us.

Is GetEqual the new HRC? No. Hardly. It takes a while to develop a reputation as deep and nuanced as the Human Rights Campaign's. But unless GetEqual changes some of their way, they're headed down the same road to hell HRC took years ago.

After all, it's paved with good intentions.


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"I'd like to commend GetEqual for directly and bravely stepping forward and engaging in a debate and dialogue with Projectors who had questions."

Debate? What debate? The only questions I've seen answered were yours, Bil. The concerns expressed by the rest of us remain ignored and unanswered.

Real debate requires input from both sides, not just one. Maybe you can count your exchange with Heather Cronk as a "debate", but such a description does not apply to addressing anyone's concerns other than your own.

In my opinion, that's neither a debate nor a credible response to the valid concerns expressed by Projectors.

Bill...
You sit here ans bloviate about how they're a ridiculously small org, whith very little history in one breath, and in the next you're saying they're headed down the same road as a behemoth that claims to speak for us all in the next?

What exactly is your fascination with this group? Why are you so quick to judge GetEqual?

It almost sounds as though you're an HRC shill.

Like others have said, they aren't beholden to you, no matter how important you think you or your site are. Get over it and let them create a history before you condemn them.

You have better and more important things you could be using bandwidth on. And Neil Patrick Harris isn't one of them.

headed down the same road as a behemoth that claims to speak for us all in the next

Noooooo, GetEqual will never claim to speak for "LGBT people." I can't imagine them ever doing that.

It almost sounds as though you're an HRC shill.

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Like others have said, they aren't beholden to you, no matter how important you think you or your site are.

"Others"? Reread the post - that's exactly bil's argument - they're beholden to no one but their donors. To which Heather Cronk responded isn't true. So, like, know the argument your side is making at least.

Get over it and let them create a history before you condemn them.

No, criticism, questioning, and independent thought should not start after an org or an entity or a person has pissed us off. We shouldn't always be reacting to these things. These conversations should happen before we have a problem in order to stave off these problems.

"Wait for them to do something I disagree with before asking how they're set up and complain that they're not transparent/democratic/liberal/whatever enough" just isn't a strategy that we should be accepting anymore, what with epic failures from HRC, the No on 8 campaign, the Democratic party, etc., that had us complaining "What went wrong?" after it was too late. No, straight up no, we can't just wait for a problem before we ask questions of the people who purport to be working on our behalf.

Plus you misspelt Bil's name.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 3, 2010 9:15 PM

"No, straight up no, we can't just wait for a problem before we ask questions of the people who purport to be working on our behalf."

Exactly. Well said. Huzzah. Etc.

So why didn't you or Bil challenge Obama instead of blindly advocating that we vote for him?

Because he's a lesser evil? Give us a break.

I find these comments attacking Bil as if he hates Kip and Robin hilarious.

Bil was one of the biggest supporters for the National Equality March - and really supported the movement of Equality Across America.

Now that Bil has valid concerns, he is being shot as the messenger.

JonathonEdwards | June 4, 2010 12:04 PM

Not beholden to the press? Those who suckle at the teat of democracy are by damn fully well beholden to the press. If GetEqual purports to work on issues on my behalf, they need my permission. They get that permission by engaging in public discussion - partially through the press. Bil as a journalist has the right to ask these questions and GetEqual, enjoying tax exemption (which means tax subsidy), sure as hell is responsible for providing answers.

I believe they are also, since obviously a reader of this site, responsible for listening to and responding to the questions of the other commenters. Its 2010. They obviously know their way around a blog and they know that the blogs are now defacto 24 hour a day town hall meetings. If they are so effete that they don't think the comments, questions and concerns of the "little people" aren't important enough to respond to, then they don't represent us.

As Bil said, they only represent their donors. Let me ask you: HRC only represents their wealthy donors. Otherwise, how else did we get a trans-exclusive ENDA out of them? Is this how you think those who are supposed to work on our behalf should be acting.

Ludicrous.

It almost sounds as though you're an HRC shill.
ROFL! OMG! I can't breathe. Can someone pass me my inhaler? *Wipes tears from eyes* LMAO!

That is as likely as me and Rush Limpballs tying the knot in Massachusetts.

If you want to piss away your time griping about something that hasn't happened yet, by all means do so.

Continue to fight with people that are actually agitating for responsible representation, and continue to berate those who don't play by your rules.

Just quit whining when nothing goes your way.

But do not expect everyone else to do things the way you think they should be done.

You have seriously lost the plot here.

Bil Browning should be commended for having the courage to expect more from our so-called advocates - including GetEQUAL. Any organization that claims to represent "us," needs to answer to "us." You either represent us, or Johnathan Lewis.

I have spent the past 9 months engaged in the conversation about "accountability" in the LGBT Rights Industry. I am very concerned about how we spend our resources - money, time and energy. It is apparent we haven't been trying to win, we have been trying to survive. We have been feeding an industry that does not have a strategy to win. We have witnessed frustrated and angry activists that have recognized that Gay Inc. was failing us. We have been repeatedly disappointed by an elusive "political solution." To suggest our Movement is anything more than dysfunctional are simply fund-raising appeals and not the truth.

We're fucked. We keep trying everything and expecting nothing. That's insane. It is time for us to have the courage to challenge everything we do and everything we believe. That is happening now for GetEQUAL and it should be welcomed. This organization didn't show up quietly or try to "fit in." They came out guns blazing and, by their own admission, engaged in "radical, crazy shenanigans." It is fair to determine if those activities are in our best interest.

For nearly five decades many organizations and countless advocates and activists have contributed their time, money and energy to the effort to obtain our equality. That contribution should be respected. It has been a huge investment and most of the time I think people were sensitive to those that went before them and they gave sufficient consideration to the consequences of their actions. The same should apply to GetEQUAL.

My opinion is well established regarding not only GetEQUAL's offensive publicity stunts, but also the simpleton idea of "demanding" as a strategy. But, it is simply my opinion. It is neither right or wrong, but part of the refection of our community. It is offered only as an attempt to achieve understanding. It is imperative that we ALL offer our insights and opinions about anything pertaining to our equality.

In order for us to succeed we don't need to agree, we need to understand and to that end the conversation Bilerico has attempted is admirable. GetEqual WILL be judged by whether or not they join that conversation and contribute to our collective understanding of their intents, strategies and organizational structure. It is their choice.

GetEQUAL has been given an opportunity to give thoughtful consideration of the concerns expressed by our community and they have been invited to respond in kind. So far, they have chosen to dismiss these concerns. That's very short-sighted.

I hope Kip, Robin and Heather choose to engage in some meaningful conversation and they decide to help us gain a better understanding of their organization. We deserve that much. They should provide their rationale for their tactics and strategies.

Sooner or later GetEQUAL will need our support or participation. I can't see any reason to waste time - theirs or ours.

I have spent the past 9 months engaged in the conversation about "accountability" in the LGBT Rights Industry.

This is probably the most ridiculous thing you've said yet, Andrew. You don't engage in conversations, you just shout a limited vocabulary of words as many times as you can, and hope that your historically-ignorant, apologist arguments stick.

Most ironically, you remain completely unaccountable for the half-truths, mis-steps, and bold-faced lies that you regularly post in the comments here.

How about you read all the comments here Jordan. This isn't a popularity contest it is a conversation. I have asked GetEQUAL to simply provide some rationale for their "crazy shenanigans" (their words) and the whole idea of "demanding." That's a simple request.

It is in GetEQUAL's best interests to provide answers. Encourage them to do that.

"Demanding" answers is not a strategy, Andrew.

I didn't "demand answers," I asked questions.

Many people have warned GetEQUAL that unless they answer some very basic questions they will lose whatever respect or credibility they have left. They also have a responsibility to engage in thoughtful, considered actions that are not counterproductive. As a non-profit organization they are required to have community governance of their activities and finances. Otherwise they are just employees of Jonathan Lewis.

I know better than to childishly "demand" anything. It doesn't work.

Feel free to ask me something else. Questions are rather effective. Well, usually. (SEE ABOVE).

Anthony in Nashville | June 4, 2010 12:48 AM

After months of reading negative comments about Andrew W, I'm noticing a lot of people here and on other gay blogs co-signing what he's been saying all along.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 4, 2010 1:11 AM

Which comments are those?

His claim that the author of 'Gawd's in the mix" deserves some respect because he fooled a bit over 1/3 of eligible voters? Something many of them have come to bitterly regret.

His belief that Westboro Baptist and GetEQUAL share the same tactics? Not even the most rabid Obots claim that publicly questioning Obama was equivalent to saying that "Matthew Shepard is in Hell".

His belief that he ought to be running things? "I am not one of the six."

His belief that our strategy should consist of winning over the neighbors with tea and sympathy sessions? Or winning over der Papenfuehrer with hugs and kisses?

Or his copycat criticisms of dozens of others who've criticized HRC, ECQA and other sellouts for a long time?


It might be one of those things were people didn't bother to look hard enough in the beginning and are now realising he was right all along.

Heather C | June 4, 2010 7:37 AM

Thanks, everyone -- Bil and Projectors alike -- for joining in a limited conversation about GetEQUAL's work. We're proud of the work we have done, are doing, and will continue to do.

That being said, do we have more to learn? Yes.

Are we interested in collaborating with more organizations and more activists? Yes.

Can we find additional ways to seek input from the LGBT community and our allies? Absolutely.

I would never say that our work is over or that we have all the answers or that we've figured everything out. It took my divinity school classmates to teach me that absolutism is dead and we all have more to learn than we can shake a stick at.

But will I continue to stand by GetEQUAL's vision for fearless work to secure full legal and social equality for LGBT Americans? I absolutely will.

That work may not look the way that some readers want it to, and we may not always agree on tactics and strategy. But I hope that we can all find common ground in a vision for equality that honors our individual and collective humanity, and that values the diversity of our community.

Bil, thanks for the hard questions - I look forward to finding a platform to have a more engaging conversation than simply back-and-forth responses, but this was genuinely more fun and interesting than I expected. :)

Projectors, thanks for engaging with us. GetEQUAL has a lot more work to do, as does everyone reading Bilerico. We have passed the point at which we can ask nicely for our rights -- we are moving to the point at which we must create the political will to take them. Will that be easy? No. Will that be messy? You can bet on it.

I look forward to seeing some of you at GetEQUAL events and actions - I hope you'll join us soon!

Get out. Get active. GetEQUAL.

Heather- two honest suggestions for you and GE.

1) Stop publicly berating HRC. I get it, its really easy, they fuck up a lot, they are a giant walking easy target.

But, as long as you are contrasting GE to them, in a way you are giving your power to them, admitting they control the agenda and that you only exist to counteract them.

Set your own agenda independently of them, and don't feed the beast.

Also, when your leaders demand accountability out of HRC, you kind of end up pointing the question back at yourself.

Set your own agenda, don't let them control it.

2. Stop the comparisons of your leadership to MLK, Gandhi, insert generic ethnic freedom fighter here. It raises expectations far higher than anyone alive will ever meet. Not to mention the leadership of GE is white. It reeks of cultural appropriation. Allow your own history to be written, new heroes to be made. Also when your leadership fucks up, as everyone does, it will make your fall to the ground a lot less hard.

Thanks

Thanks for bringing up the under-representation of people of color in the current make up of GetEqual's leadership. I hope that when their board is revealed that it represents the entire spectrum of our community.

Also I'd like to see how GetEqual will handle all the other policy issues that affect our community outside of DADT and ENDA. What about fair housing, immigration, health care and the inclusion of our community in those? I really need to some indicator of their work on intersectionality.

What work does GetEqual do outside of the highly publicized, media-sexy ones? This isn't meant as a jab but I'd like to know how they would deal with local and state govt budget cuts or housing provisions that affect our community, and other issues that can't be handled with rallies or hunger strikes. If GetEqual steps up with a plan to address these concerns, add me to their list of donors.

Get REAL, Ms. Cronk. How about you actually respond to some of our concerns instead of offering us just vague and valueless HRC-style platitudes and slogans?

Bil isn't the only one who deserves answers here, and frankly, your continuing avoidance of addressing the important issues raised by the rest of us makes it more and more difficult, for me at least, to consider you as anything more than just yet another subsidiary of Gay, Inc.

You want US to take YOU seriously, Ms. Cronk? How about YOU show US that courtesy first?

Heather,
I wholeheartedly agree....

" I look forward to finding a platform to have a more engaging conversation than simply back-and-forth responses."

Found. This IS that "platform." It hasn't been back-and-forth - except for some salary amounts, all the questions about GetEQUAL remain unanswered.


"We have passed the point at which we can ask nicely for our rights -- we are moving to the point at which we must create the political will to take them."

Again, you try to belittle all other efforts by suggesting people are being too "nice." You suggest that we must simply "take" our Rights. This goes to the GetEQUAL idea that "demanding" is in fact a strategy. How? Is it the number of demanders? Is it the volume? Is it the level of in-your-face rudeness? Who do we "take" our Rights from?

GetEQUAL has many questions to answer, but I think it is important for you provide the rationale for "making demands" and tell us how that adds up to changed minds and/or additional support. How will these stunts increase our ability to achieve our full equality?

If you want the LGBT Community to participate in your "events and actions," you'll need to convince us that they are effective or even helpful. So far, nobody from GetEQUAL has done that.

Many of us might enjoy gathering for some "crazy shenanigans" (your words) if we thought they made sense. Help make sense of them, please.

JonathonEdwards | June 4, 2010 12:15 PM

Andrew, I have no idea who you are or why everyone hates on you. And don't really care. Your a bunch of electrons to me. However...your bunch of electrons does keep saying one thing that is just categorically wrong. Ghandi knew and said it. MLK Jr knew and said it. Every successful leader has known it and said it through all of time. You don't ask nicely. You demand. And if your demands aren't met, you take.

Every time you demean "demanding" as a strategy, you lose a little more credibility and look like someone who hasn't read a history book.

(This isn't, by the way, an endorsement of GetEqual. I'm not sure their "demands" have been taken seriously and I suspect that's because the powers that be know that GetEqual is a tiny little private concern that represents essentially no one. Demands get met when those doing the demanding have an army at their back. None of our organizations can make that claim.)

I appreciate your comment. I have asked GetEQUAL to explain their strategy of "demanding" and of course I am aware of Gandhi's civil disobedience - that was more than 60 years ago. I am also aware of MLK and his efforts - that was more than 50 years ago.

I don't think the historical references are automatically sufficient. They are very different issues in very different times. To blindly endorse them TODAY denies the reality that WE have changed and the WORLD has changed. They are inspiring historical references but not necessarily applicable to our struggle.

Let's put the history books on the shelf for a moment and just look at the act of "demanding." We have had a few examples of high-profile demanding and yet we have no evidence of any results. In the Spring of 2006 an estimated 4 million people marched in 160 cities across the Country "demanding immigration reform." Four years later these demands have been ignored. GetEQUAL "demanded" Chairman Miller "mark-up the ENDA Bill." Robin McGehee even brought him some colorful markers so he wouldn't have an excuse. It was not only ignored, it was laughed at. Barney frank called it "immature and tacky," while adding it didn't change any vote or minds."

Last October thousands of people went to DC and made 6 hours of "demands." Even Lady GaGa - one of the most popular artists in America - participated in a loud, sometimes angry list of demands. Nothing happened.

Kip Williams "demanded" our President "move faster" on DADT Repeal. Williams and his "demands" were laughed at and dismissed. We learned later that the real intent of that particular stunt was to "embarrass" the President. That, too doesn't seem to benefit us in any way.

I simply cannot find any evidence of successful "demanding." Part of the problem is the lack of a viable threat. Our demands do not have any recourse. That means they are seen as irritating and not threatening. That's why they don't work. We don't have what you've described as the necessary "army at our back." We have no army. I have been investing in a series of ideas that seek to create that "army," and it will be big enough to make demanding unimportant - it will be a majority.

Other approaches have been working. The cultural conversation has helped change many minds. People who understand Harvey Milk's legacy have been reaching out to friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers. They understand that we make progress only when we change minds or gain support. Groups like PFLAG, GLSEN and others are seeking to educate and share. They are creating measurable results.

Perhaps the most important reason to honestly and objectively analyze "demanding" and any other strategy is the risks of alienating our friends or turning public opinion against us. There is no reason to risk the progress we've made, especially if the apparent strategy doesn't make any sense.

Aggressive, in-your-face radical protest groups like Westboro Baptist do not change any minds or garner any support. In fact, they are summarily dismissed as lunatics by most of America.

If GetEQUAL can furnish some form of evidence that is relevant TODAY about the effectiveness of "crazy shenanigans" and the use of "demanding" as a strategy is would help their cause. So far, they haven't. I would like to know why they believe it is helpful and simply citing leaders from the past isn't sufficient - they need to provide some rationale for it.

I'd also like the missing logic this supposed post-demand "taking" of our Rights. Saying we demand our rights OR ELSE we're just going "take them" sounds childish and in fact, unnecessary. If our rights are somewhere for the "taking," let's go take them - fuck the "demanding" part, they're OUR rights.

Thank-you for helping to explore what tactics, strategies and methods are effective for our Movement. i think we can all remain honest and objective in that pursuit.


Apparently none of you remember Urvashi Vaid's comments as she stepped down from her leadership role. After much good work, and constant attacks, she suggested that we have a penchant for "eating our leaders" because they don't move fast enough, or because they don't support the right candidates, or because they don't get quick action, or because there are too many boys or too many girls or not enough trans folks in the mix.

If GE can add to the effort in a productive way, and if HRC, NGLTF, Victory, and all the others can learn to play nice with them, there's a chance that we'll all be better off because of it.

Just my two cents.

JonathonEdwards | June 4, 2010 12:23 PM

The reason we appear to "eat our leaders" is because they aren't our leaders. They are their boards' puppets. I remember Urvashi. An earnest and dedicated woman. Hamstrung by undemocratic organizational structures that meant a disconnect from the rank and file.

If our leaders truly represented "us" not just the interests of their boards, we wouldn't be seeing this dynamic.

And its simply not enough to say "come on, J, all those boards are comprised of GLBT folk and allies, they are us, how can you say that?" No. They aren't. The wealthy in our community can insulate themselves from the kinds of things the rest of us can't. And even if they go through incredible gyrations to stay connected, they still can't know what its like to be threatened with termination or foreclosure just because they are gay. Or are you going to tell me David Geffen or Tim Gill sweats that stuff?

Tbis isn't a criticism of them, its a diagnosis of the dysfunction. If you want "us" to stop eating our leaders, then create an organization with an open leadership structure, with membership open to all GLBT people and which membership provides an opportunity to vote and elect our leadership and set the agenda. Then they will truly represent us and then, if we get a Joe Solomonese, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Jonathon, I respectfully disagree with your diagnosis and suggestion. I was completely in your same thought-process just a year or so ago, when we started the process of forming the statewide coalition of organizations and individuals that would repeal Proposition 8 here in California. Through the course of summits, meetings, and statewide elections, here's what I found: LGBT people don't want to lead. People don't want to have responsibility. The only thing they want to do is show up and be told what to do, if they want to show up at all.

Take this for what it's worth, as it's anecdotal, of course. But I have been through this process, and found it not only exhausting, but completely self-defeating.

Here's what we faced: the community showed-up to preliminary discussions regarding how to proceed. But everyone was viciously divided. A compromise was reached that those who wanted to go forward would do so. Everyone else decided to boycott. And that's the first problem inherent: instead of reaching a position where there's a willingness to participate, instead, anyone who disagreed with the idea of forming a campaign actively worked against it. You can already see that found in the beginnings of Get Equal's actions -- those who disagree with their approach don't just avoid it, they actively campaign against it.

Then we started the process of trying to form leadership that was open and democratically elected. We had an election where anyone was allowed to show up, nominate themselves, and make their case. We had to beg people to do so. Then we started the process of forming an even larger council of people from around the state, by holding meetings in each region. People rarely showed up to be spectators, let alone be a part of the leadership.

And those folks who were most actively involved in the planning and formation of all this (myself included -- full disclosure) were vilified and criticized, despite our best efforts to be inclusive, fully diverse, and open. There were mistakes, of course, but no one was EVER given the benefit of the doubt. Instead, we were harassed by vocal critics demanding that we do more, do it faster, and do it better. Yet no one was ever satisfied. Nonetheless, we, the people working the hardest to try and get something done, ended-up burned out and overwhelmed by the process. In essence, the most dedicated people were forced to work to find their replacements for the sake of "democratic process." And by the time we found out that no one wanted the job, we were too exhausted to care. Enthusiasm was gone.

So therein is the problem: leaders are only elected in government and unions. In social movements, they rise organically. And this is sort of the "tripped circuit" problem we have here. Everyone believes that the panacea to our problems is created an elected structure. But the very people who would be elected by that structure have already been beaten into submission and disgust because they've stuck their necks out. The idea that there is a vast group of people out there ready to take the mantle of leadership is a farce. There is a very small group of activists in this nation who are ready to lead, and then there is a slightly larger group of people demanding that anyone but those people be the ones to do it. And beyond that, it's just a huge group of people who want to do the very least they can.

I reiterate the examples of the past in social movements -- MLK, Gandhi. Neither were elected, but had a following nonetheless.

I say this not to downplay the need for openness, transparency, and grassroots idealism. But it is to say that we should spend less time focusing on HOW the leaders get there, and instead on WHO the people are that inspire us, and how we can support them in doing the right things, in the right way. We should allow the people, like Robin or Kip, who have the resources, knowledge, and stage to make change, to do what they can. We shouldn't be so quick to condemn everyone. And if there are others who we believe would do it better, instead of simply expecting them to be anointed by an election, we should be supporting their efforts.

kip and Robin didn't establish themselves as leaders and then attract "financial support." you don't get to re-write history Jordan. Jonathan Lewis and Paul Yandura hired them for the specific purpose of trying to "embarrass Democrats into action."

Kip and Robin didn't prepare organizational papers and make a pitch to potential funders - they said yes to Lewis and Yandura. Well, they probably said "Hell, yes."

I've seen the documents and I've had several conversations with people involved. There was no community response that said "we need Kip and Robin as our Leaders." That's just silly.

Kip and Robin were hired.

You're a liar, plain and simple.

Your most recent missive about demands and the effectiveness of civil disobedience may be interesting, and the first well-written thing I have seen from you that wasn't a demand of accountability. It is, nonetheless, mis-guided and disregards the nuances of the tactics that you don't seem to understand.

But when it comes down to Get Equal, you're falling back to bold-face lying, or at the very least, complete and total ignorance of the facts, to make your case. You've completely disregarded what I posted, which is pretty difficult considering the 5,000 people that were at Meet in the Middle and the 100,000 people who were at NEM, and buried your head in the your total disregard for honesty and decency in discourse.

I care not so much about being their cheerleader -- they can take care of themselves, as adults -- but I do care about them having at least a fair fight. And you, alone, are the one trying to re-write history, and that I will not abide.

Evidence of AndrewW as a liar.

"The crowd was no bigger than 25,000. It doesn't help when WE lie and try to make the March appear more successful. The crowd never filled the West Lawn. The West Lawn holds 50,000 - without stages and secure zones. Please tell the truth about the attendance." Posted by: Andrew | Oct 11, 2009 7:20:35 PM on Queerty.

This is only one of many examples of his distorting information. He also blogs under multiple names that are SO EASY to detect.

Just ignore him...most do.

Estimates of the crowd size at the NEM varied from 20,000 to 200,000. I have friends in DC that went to the March. They concluded "it couldn't have been more than 25,000." The only estimates of 100,000 to 200,000 came from organizers.

Estimates are always exaggerated by organizers. Maybe there were 50,000 people, but I doubt it and nobody ever produced any photo or video evidence. I trust my friends estimate.

It's not even worth engaging you at this point, because your pronouncements are so ridiculous. You conjure anything you can just to prove yourself right. It's incredible how good at deceiving yourself you are; I just hope others can see through your nonsense as well.

Just get your friends at GetEQUAL to answer some very simple, but important, questions. They're afraid to. Maybe it would help if you encouraged them.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 4, 2010 11:25 PM

Don't worry. We do.

Re photographic evidence of how many people there were at the National Equality March, Andrew, here's one of my photos from the event. There are a few more in my Facebook photos labeled "National Equality March." Looks like more than 25,000 to me. Could be wrong, I'm no crowd estimation expert.

Richard Socarides (Bill Clinton's former LGBT advisor) and Paul Yandura (a Dallas Principles organizer and leading critic of the gay-cash-loving DNC) were the two organizers of the Knoxville meeting of activists. It wasn't Kip and Robin's show, but they were invited.

Jonathan Lewis, heir to the Progressive Insurance fortune paid the bill; Yandura is be on his payroll.

I don't mind your cheer leading for Kip and Robin and GetEQUAL. But, that's not the point.

You refuse to provide any rationale for the "crazy shenanigans" of GetEQUAL, the simple idea of "demanding" as a tactic or strategy or the primary goal of "embarrassing Democrats into action."

Just explain how these actions are effective or helpful. That would do a lot more to help GetEQUAL than suggesting I am lying.

Fair fight? This isn't a fight, it's an exchange of ideas, questions and concerns. GetEQUAL hasn't participated. Ask them to.

It wasn't Kip and Robin's show, but they were invited.

Okay, if you say so.

You refuse to provide any rationale for the "crazy shenanigans" of GetEQUAL, the simple idea of "demanding" as a tactic or strategy or the primary goal of "embarrassing Democrats into action."

I don't have to provide any rationale. I don't answer for them. I'm not a part of Get Equal, and have not participated in any of their actions. If you want a rationale, you talk to them. I'm just won't allow you to say things that are so clearly untrue, merely to advance your own personal agenda. That's ridiculous.

That would do a lot more to help GetEQUAL than suggesting I am lying.

I'm not suggesting. I'm stating clearly: you are lying. There's no quibbling about it.

Can you get them to answer? Otherwise, they are sealing their fate.

Michael Buchanan | June 5, 2010 10:47 AM

What's wrong with embarrassing the democrats? They deserve it. And maybe if they are embarrassed enough, they'll either step out of the way or do the right thing for once.

Perhaps LGBT are not motivated to work for same sex marriage?

Did anyone vote to prioritize same sex marriage?

Of course not, polls taken even by the HRC in the 1990s, no longer available, indicated that the community's priorities were housing and job protections first.

But since the wealthy LGBT had no skin in the game for basic economic rights, our movement was hijacked for two decades promoting conservative issues dear to the rich.

Presumptions that marriage was the correct question were mistaken, confirming a lack of legitimacy upon which to base any claims to leadership.

Dan Massey | June 4, 2010 11:11 AM

Bil,

Your arguments and comments on GetEQUAL sound, frankly, like a list of talking points from Equality Across America. This hostility goes back to the National Equality March and the disorganizing aftermath among the EAA board at the time.

While you may or may not be shilling for EAA on this, your inquiry and commentary seems unbalanced and highly editorial. OK, it's your blog and you're the editor.

I believe by taking this attack posture, you are reducing your ability to comment meaningfully on and irresponsibly adding to the heat level in the incredibly baroque and goodwill-wasting politics of lgbt. And that is too bad...

If this tirade was conceived as a cynical move on your part to build readership, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Just sayin'... It's your decision and your mouth.

When did asking questions from a self defined LGBT Equality Activist group (GetEQUAL), that refuses to answer questions become an "attack?"

Kip and Robin fought over their paltry "stipends" from NEM and had a disagreement with the direction of EEA. EAA never gained much support or participation and Kip and Robin have $72,000 and $89,000 salaries. I think Kip and Robin made out quite well.

But, that's not the issue here. The issue is accountability. Ask your friends to answer the numerous questions and concerns of the LGBT Community. That's the smartest way to handle this. Hiding, like demanding, is not an effective strategy.

Dan Massey | June 5, 2010 2:23 AM

When did taking up so many column-inches for three days in a row harping on talking points recycled from the Equality Across America board amount to serious reporting?

I know Sherry and Tanner and Nay and Ann and Kip and Robin and Jay and Dan all personally and they are all nice people devoted to the cause of equality.

The idea of the National Equality March brought together "activists" across an very wide spectrum of our community. Once the march was done, the activists divided between those who sought to lead by personal example (eventually becoming GetEQUAL) and those who sought to establish a more corporate presence and identity, yet to do so as a largely grassroots organized and funded totally democratic organization (which has been an emerging theme of EAA development since the NEM). And they will continue to evolve in various ways.

While EAA has not succeeded in making itself nearly as newsworthy as GE, that has not necessarily been their goal. In fact, the goals of the EAA BOD are pretty opaque to me, and I have been working with them and our local DC grassroots team (Full Equality Now! DC or FENDC) ever since the NEM. It's not clear to me that EAA's governance and funding is nearly as clear as that of GE, now that so many of Bil's challenges have been met.

Perhaps, if what Bil has done is what we want to accept in the community as fair and helpful journalism, then he needs to apply the same examination and complaints to EAA. Of course, I don't think GE has time or inclination to put out talking points, but now that they have a full-time ED, the Xerox could be churning them out right now.

I think we need to learn to trust and appreciate the common goals we share and allow this unity to help us work together, compensating for each other's inadequacies, so that our whole movement becomes a powerful, unified force for liberty, justice, equality, and freedom for all, pooling the varied contributions of each person and team.

Journalists who would be leaders in our movement must recognize the power that has been given them and use it responsibly. I do not feel that stirring up trouble and taking sides in interorganizational spats when one really doesn't seem to know much of anything about either side of the argument makes a useful contribution or constitutes responsible use of journalistic power.

Yes, everyone should be accountable. Some are willing to act and listen, while others simply impose their views and issues on the group. Is lgbt social justice more important than lgbt full legal equality? That's the split you're seeing between EAA and GE and both sides are really allies but sometimes have a hard time seeing how.

This conflict is a lot more subtle than you would think from Bil's journalistic posturing.

Confused? I think Adam Lambert's poetry sums it up pretty well:

I know, you'll see
Things ain't what they used to be

We are the face of the new generation
We are the ones who have no reservation
Don't give a damn 'bout your cold calculation
Welcome to the Masterplan
Don't care if you understand

Unanswered questions "stir up trouble," not the questions.

For what it's worth, Dan, I was the journalist who broke the news that Kip and Robin were leaving EAA and the implosion that followed. I also did a piece on the finances behind the NEM and EAA.

While you're complaining that I'm some sort of tool of EAA, I don't think those folks are very happy with me either right now. I'm not a member of either group, so I feel comfortable investigating these stories for readers.

Anyone can divide the community. It doesn't have to be a 501(c)(3) organization.

The Ten Unanswered Questions for GetEQUAL:

1. Who started GetEQUAL?

2. Who decided how much to pay everyone? And, why?

3. With only two major funding sources, who sets GetEqual's goals and priorities?

4. Who's accountable for GetEqual's actions? Who is in charge?

5. Will the GetEQUAL soon-to-be-formed Board be packed with cronies and allies or will it consist of a respectable and diverse mix of seasoned and new activists?

6. What is GetEQUAL's strategy and what are the results you must achieve to be successful?

7. How do the "crazy shenanigans" (Cronk's words) benefit the LGBT Community?

8. How do efforts to embarrass our political friends (Democrats) help the LGBT Community?

9. How does "demanding" lead to changed minds or additional support for the LGBT Community? What "threat" is attached to these so-called "demands?"

10. When will GetEQUAL organize formally and comply with legal and disclosure requirements for Non-profit organizations?

Any honest, sincere organization would gladly answer these important questions before engaging in "crazy shenanigans." But, even late is better than never.

Kip Williams and Robin McGehee have a responsibility to the LGBT Community to answer ALL of these questions completely.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 5, 2010 11:25 PM

Ten questions for AndrewW

1- Why are you still here?

2 - Why are you worried about GetEQUAL? Is it because they go out of the way to confront Obama, the Bigot in Chief? That's good, not bad.

3 - Who sets your priorities? Are they based on opportunistically jumping on any side of any question that gives you a chance to grab attention?

4 - Who are you accountable to?

5 - Are you as angry at GetEQUAL as you are at all the LBGT groups that refuse to even consider you for their Board. Apparently so. That must sting. Ouchie.

6 - What's your strategy. More to the point, what have you ever done but whine and complain? And please no tall tales about your huge, undocumented monetary investments in a Five Year Plan to figure things out and get back to us.

7 - Direct action is a good way to build bass actions. They work. Begging doesn't.

8 - Only GLBT Democrats have the temerity to pretend that we have friends in the Democrat Party. Have you joined their ranks?

9 - Demanding change is preferable to your plan for begging for it. Politicians love beggars; they pat 'em on the back and dismiss them. Begging is for losers.

10 - Who do you work for?

GetEQUAL has been around for three months and done some good things. They're a breath of fresh air. Most of us will put off judging them for awhile, especially those who want Obama put on the spot.

The Democrat party, on the other hand has a long, long history stabbing us in the back, beginning with since Clinton's DADT and DOMA. Obama, whose DoJ defends DADT and DOMA in court and who sabotaged same sex marriage in California is firmly embedded in their history of bigotry and contempt for the LGBT communities.

Democrats can be judged, and so can their supporters.

10. When will GetEQUAL organize formally and comply with legal and disclosure requirements for Non-profit organizations?

Probably when they're required to - they have until their first filing.

One down...

Where did you get that crazy idea?

Non-profits are required to formally organize - including by-laws and governance, BEFORE they accept funding. I know it is GetEQUAL's style to simply "make it up as we go along," but that's illegal.

An Applicant, such as GetEQUAL (as far as we know), for a 501 (c)(4) doesn't have any safe-harbor under Citizen Engagement (an existing 501(c)(3) organization), as Cronk suggested. They are risking Citizen Engagement's tax exempt status and may have already compromised it.

This only leads to more questions.

I think you misunderstand. Even if they're registered as a 501, the information will not be public until they've filed their returns at the end of the year. And they have a year in which they can "operate as a 501" without receiving their official status.

In order to accept donations that are deductible you would need to have some articles of organization, like articles of incorporation or articles of association or trust document and by-laws, which is discussed starting on page 22 of:

www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p557.pdf

at "Organizational test." You must have the required clauses in the organizational document regarding non-profit status and intended IRS designations.

Plus, operating with a "political purpose" voids a 501(c)(3), which in this case would apply to the supposed "sponsor" of GetEQUAL, Citizen Engagement.

GetEqual does have time to file an Application with the IRS and, if granted, is retroactive for up to 15 months. But, they can't accept any funding without the "organizational documents" required by State and Federal laws. If those documents were completed it is customary and advisable to make them public.

Kip Williams formed a business called GetEqualAction on March 15, 2010, in California. I have ordered copies of those documents to see if they include By-laws and Goverance documents.

Your question was:

When will GetEQUAL organize formally and comply with legal and disclosure requirements for Non-profit organizations?

When they file, they will submit their articles and bylaws -- presumably, they have already done-so. You can then get them from the Secretary of State, no? As far as I'm aware, they're not required to mail out their articles or bylaws to people unless they want to. From what you yourself stated, Kip has filed for status in the state of California. They can't then file for IRS status until they get the information back from the Secretary of State.

Plus, operating with a "political purpose" voids a 501(c)(3), which in this case would apply to the supposed "sponsor" of GetEQUAL, Citizen Engagement.

That's hazy, at best. Generally, it's interpreted as meaning they cannot campaign for a candidate seeking office. After all, Churches openly campaigned for Proposition 8 and no one batted an eyelash. So I don't think they're in any danger of going over any lines, there.

I appreciate your enthusiasm, but Kip and Robin should get some good legal and accounting advice.

501(c)(3) Chraitable Organizations are prohibited from (among other things) "seeking to influence legislation," such as passing ENDA or repealing DADT.

In their defense, I think GetEQUAL could make a very compelling argument that all they were doing is trying to "embarrass Democrats" and that their stunts didn't seek to influence legislation. Yes, I would testify on their behalf.

501(c)(3) Chraitable Organizations are prohibited from (among other things) "seeking to influence legislation," such as passing ENDA or repealing DADT.

Yes, I can read the IRS website too. Try again -- it's pretty clear that their activities don't fall within the realm of lobbying. Either way, I don't think they need to take their legal advice from you. With $300,000, I'm sure they have a lawyer who knows the rules.