End of the Year Message from HRC President Joe Solmonese

by Admin

The air was misty and cold on November 7, 2006. Deep into the night and into Wednesday morning, we watched election returns roll in. As the dawn broke we knew that the elections had brought change, and hope. Just months after Congress had debated the Federal Marriage Amendment, anti-GLBT titans fell. Rick Santorum (R-PA) lost his Senate seat and his bully pulpit. Nancy Pelosi, whose career began with AIDS activism, would take the Speaker's gavel. As HRC staffers returned from campaign victories across the country, the hope and excitement here were palpable. We bid goodbye to the FMA, goodbye to hostile leadership, and welcomed the opportunities that lay before us.

2007 was a year that began with great hope, and ends with promise. Looking back on this momentous year, I am proud of how far we have come. In 2007, the nation's most conservative institution-our military-demonstrably shifted toward equality, with 28 flag officers coming out in opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Eric Alva, the first service member wounded in Iraq, became HRC's spokesman on the issue, capturing the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere. Business support for GLBT rights continued to grow, with 195 corporations earning a score of 100% on HRC's Corporate Equality Index, over 50 supporting tax equity for domestic partner benefits, and 153 Fortune 500 companies protecting transgender workers from discrimination. For the second time, major presidential candidates came to a forum and discussed GLBT issues for a TV audience. HRC's Family Project published the first ever guide for foster care and adoption agency leaders working with GLBT foster and adoptive parents. HRC brought 230 clergy from every state in the country to the Capitol to lobby Congress on our legislative priorities.

With our successful electoral work in the states last year, we saw historic legislative advances this year including: Iowa enacted a GLBT non-discrimination law New Hampshire passed a civil unions law Oregon enacted a GLBT non-discrimination law and domestic partnerships. And our multi-year partnership with MassEquality led to the Massachusetts legislature defeating a constitutional amendment that sought to dismantle marriage equality.

While the 108th and 109th Congresses saw our community attacked through cheap election-year politics, the 110th Congress portended hope for a new politics of possibility. That hope translated into results. Hate crimes legislation covering the entire GLBT community passed both chambers of Congress by wide margins in the Senate, hate crimes was one of the few progressive priorities able to muster the 60 votes needed for cloture. It was the first time that the bill had passed the House as a stand-alone measure. Embroiled in Iraq war politics and facing a strong veto threat, the legislation was dropped from the Department of Defense authorization bill, but now we know that without this anti-GLBT president standing in the way, it would become law. And with all of the Democratic candidates supporting the hate crimes bill, 2008 brings great promise for its passage. HRC has worked for over a decade to make this law a reality we are committed to getting the job done.

For the first time, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was introduced with protections for transgender employees. This marked the culmination of years of lobbying, drafting, and educating members of Congress. The measure secured 173 co-sponsors, a strong showing for the first session it existed. And although the House ultimately voted on a more limited bill, the vote was a historic one: it passed 235-184. In the 108th and 109th Congresses, merely holding a vote to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation would have been impossible-leadership focused on the FMA and the House even passed a bill to prevent GLBT people from having our day in federal court. But in 2007, we won. We have more work to do, particularly educating members of Congress about how to protect our entire community. But our high hopes translated into tangible progress.

Now the year is coming to a close, and the traffic through the halls of Congress has slowed. Behind us is 2007, the year of hope, when our community's voice was more powerful and more relevant than it had ever been. Down by the White House, the National Christmas Tree glows beneath a grim grey sky. It is a beautiful sight. Like so many Washington traditions, from Fourth of July fireworks to election night parties, it reminds me that we are in the center of everything. In 2007, George W. Bush lit that tree for the seventh time. Ironically, he is what keeps us in the periphery, at the brink of great accomplishments, but short of making law. By this time next year, we could be celebrating the election of a supportive president. We know that this is what it will take to translate promise to results, and we are committed to making it happen.

From all of us at the Human Rights Campaign, happy holidays and a peaceful New Year.

Sincerely,

Joe Solmonese



2007 was a year that began with great hope, and ends with promise. Looking back on this momentous year, I am proud of how far we have come. In 2007, the nation's most conservative institution-our military-demonstrably shifted toward equality, with 28 flag officers coming out in opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Eric Alva, the first service member wounded in Iraq, became HRC's spokesman on the issue, capturing the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere. Business support for GLBT rights continued to grow, with 195 corporations earning a score of 100% on HRC's Corporate Equality Index, over 50 supporting tax equity for domestic partner benefits, and 153 Fortune 500 companies protecting transgender workers from discrimination. For the second time, major presidential candidates came to a forum and discussed GLBT issues for a TV audience. HRC's Family Project published the first ever guide for foster care and adoption agency leaders working with GLBT foster and adoptive parents. HRC brought 230 clergy from every state in the country to the Capitol to lobby Congress on our legislative priorities.

With our successful electoral work in the states last year, we saw historic legislative advances this year including: Iowa enacted a GLBT non-discrimination law New Hampshire passed a civil unions law Oregon enacted a GLBT non-discrimination law and domestic partnerships. And our multi-year partnership with MassEquality led to the Massachusetts legislature defeating a constitutional amendment that sought to dismantle marriage equality.

While the 108th and 109th Congresses saw our community attacked through cheap election-year politics, the 110th Congress portended hope for a new politics of possibility. That hope translated into results. Hate crimes legislation covering the entire GLBT community passed both chambers of Congress by wide margins in the Senate, hate crimes was one of the few progressive priorities able to muster the 60 votes needed for cloture. It was the first time that the bill had passed the House as a stand-alone measure. Embroiled in Iraq war politics and facing a strong veto threat, the legislation was dropped from the Department of Defense authorization bill, but now we know that without this anti-GLBT president standing in the way, it would become law. And with all of the Democratic candidates supporting the hate crimes bill, 2008 brings great promise for its passage. HRC has worked for over a decade to make this law a reality we are committed to getting the job done.

For the first time, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was introduced with protections for transgender employees. This marked the culmination of years of lobbying, drafting, and educating members of Congress. The measure secured 173 co-sponsors, a strong showing for the first session it existed. And although the House ultimately voted on a more limited bill, the vote was a historic one: it passed 235-184. In the 108th and 109th Congresses, merely holding a vote to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation would have been impossible-leadership focused on the FMA and the House even passed a bill to prevent GLBT people from having our day in federal court. But in 2007, we won. We have more work to do, particularly educating members of Congress about how to protect our entire community. But our high hopes translated into tangible progress.

Now the year is coming to a close, and the traffic through the halls of Congress has slowed. Behind us is 2007, the year of hope, when our community's voice was more powerful and more relevant than it had ever been. Down by the White House, the National Christmas Tree glows beneath a grim grey sky. It is a beautiful sight. Like so many Washington traditions, from Fourth of July fireworks to election night parties, it reminds me that we are in the center of everything. In 2007, George W. Bush lit that tree for the seventh time. Ironically, he is what keeps us in the periphery, at the brink of great accomplishments, but short of making law. By this time next year, we could be celebrating the election of a supportive president. We know that this is what it will take to translate promise to results, and we are committed to making it happen.

From all of us at the Human Rights Campaign, happy holidays and a peaceful New Year.

Sincerely,

Joe Solmonese

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