The Path Forward, an LGBT Leadership Town Hall has begun. Signorile is giving his introduction of the program, talking it about how we can move forward in the near future, not the long term future. Signorile says that all the panelists are in studio except HRC President Joe Solmonese, who is joining them from London where he is stuck due to the Icelandic volcano who, as Signorile says, shall remain nameless.
Signorile introducing each panelist: Joe Solmonese, Rea Carey, Mara Keisling, Aubrey Sarvis, Pam Spaulding, Richard Socarides.
First question: Where do the panelists stand on the administration. What's the administration's grade and Congress' grade on LGBT issues
Pam Spaulding: D for both
Aubrey Sarvis: C for both
Richard Socarides: D for both
Rea Carey: D for both
Mara Keisling: B for Obama, C for Congress
Joe Solmonese: B for Obama, B for the House and C for the Senate
Spaulding talks about lack of communication with White House.
Sarvis brings up State of the Union address on DADT and how Mullen and Gates both called for a repeal of DADT, but the lack of progress or push by Obama publicly.
Signorile says Obama hasn't spent much capital on GLBT issues and asks Joe Solomonese about his grade based on that. Joe Solomonese replies that we grade him on what he's done. Talks about Hate crimes and is over stating IMO, Obama's push for it given his public comments on hate crime act was limited to a couple of mentions in two or three speeches at most. Joe Solomonese acknowledges we aren't as far along as we'd like, but that Obama is as far as Obama thought he'd be.
Richard Socarides talking about the expectations game, says Obama campaigned on being a game changer, but has turned out to be an incrementalist of the highest order. Calls DOJ briefs despicable. Says the world is moving forward, but we haven't seen that progress.
Mara Keisling on her "B": Policy is a serious business. Obama administration is not turning the keys over to us, says the administration wants to hear the arguments first. Says we do have access and people that will listen. Comparing Obama as a huge improvement over Bush.
Rea Carey, says we grade on the standards we expect. Obama came in at a challenging time, but we have high expectations. Says we are way behind in what the community needs and Obama needs to do better.
Carey asked about how the various advocacy groups work together. Rea Carey says they try to work more grass roots, training activists. Talks about the hundreds of emails they gave Obama on the frustration by the community. Says Obama must stop the DADT discharges. Says its great we are seeing a variety of activism to push our issues in different ways. Michaelangleo Signorile asks about the "low hanging fruit", the list of items NGLTF gave administration during the transition and the high expectations coming in. Rea Carey: "We do have high expectations...there haven't been as many in the first year as we wanted but we keep pushing." Says how Bush turned out all the lamps on funding for GLBT stuff in govt, and they're having a long haul finding them all to get them turned back on.
Richard Socarides: "This two year period provided us a unique opportunity to move forward on the big items" and this was the kind of administration we expected to move [on the big issues]. Says when there is a lot going like the economy, war, etc, but that's when you do these things because not as many people are watching. They are busy with other issues to get too mad or put up as much opposition.
Joe Solomonese touting how John Berry is high ranking official we've ever had and saying Obama appointing a lot of GLBTs. Talking about HUD and transgender protection in govt.
Pam Spaulding: When Obama was elected, there were high expectations. When you see the behavior on DADT, her readers are asking why aren't we seeing press conferences on this or discussions by the administration to educate and talk about GLBT issues.
Michaelangleo Signorile bringing up Advocate article by Kerry Eleveld on DADT being "definitively shut down" after the State of the Union in meeting with White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina. Followup story says it may have been "non-committal" though. Asking Joe Solomonese about his statement in North Carolina at a fundraiser definitively saying DADT would be repealed this year. Playing clip from the dinner where he says they are going to bring down DADT this year. Michaelangleo Signorile asks about the hospital visitation memo, which Joe Solomonese didn't mention in the clip. Joe Solomonese says they have hundreds of things they are talking about with the administration. Says we still can get DADT this year. Joe Solomonese frames the "non-committal" about "getting the Pentagon to include it, not the White House." Says the community needs to weigh in and says we need to press "about 6 Senators" to get it this year because we probably have the House.
Asks Aubrey Sarvis about the DADT meeting at White House and why SLDN wasn't there. Aubrey Sarvis says he wasn't invited to the meeting. A year ago SLDN wrote to President and published a full page ad in Politico asking for DADT repeal in first defense budget. This year SLDN asked again. "The White House is in a box, they got themselves into it." They made a commitment to Gates and Mullen that they'd support a process (the one they presented Congress), but the legislative calendar is different. Aubrey Sarvis wants to help the administration out of the box, but they are not wanting the help.
After another commercial break, Michaelangleo Signorile asks Mara Keisling about the markup of ENDA. He points out the protest at the committee meeting and Nancy Pelosi's office. Her response: We hear its going to be moving but we've heard that a lot. No formal action, but we have three more cosponsors this week. She's confident we'll see markup within two weeks, but she's still disappointed in the progress. "We each have roles to play." Points out Choi in audience and talking about the employment discrimination in general with ENDA and DADT.
Michaelangleo Signorile: What is the role of LGBT groups in Washington?
Richard Socarides: They have some of the toughest jobs in Washington. They have to figure out a strategy to convince politicians it is in their best interest to pass our agenda. If some strategies don't work, we need to come up with new ones. Obama will only respond to hard pressure. This approach of acting nice hasn't been productive and is not accurate. They'll do it if they know we'll be angry with them if they don't.
Mara Keisling: We're talking about ENDA. Our problem on ENDA is with Congress, not the administration.
Richard Socarides: Members of Congress respond to the top. If President says he wants this and this is when I want it, Congress will respond.
Mara Keisling: As we have professionalized. We no longer have to be just marching in the streets, but we still have to march in the streets.
Michaelangleo Signorile asking about better lobbying, playing clip of Barney Frank talking about NRA lobbying, how we need to be more like the NRA. Are our groups being like the NRA? Are we "putting guns to their head"?
Joe Solomonese: Yes it is true politicians respond to the President. That didn't work for Clinton on DADT though. At no point have we talked about the right things today. We need to talk about the 6 Senators. We need to focus on the ground in the six states of those Senators.
Michaelangleo Signorile thanks BBC again for giving Joe Solomonese a link to make the Town Hall. He's stuck in London due to volcanic ash.
Michaelangleo Signorile: What is the relationship between netroots/grassroots and the groups in Washington?
Pam Spaulding: "We're sometimes perceived as the crazy granny in the attic." Blogs bring a lot of fear to the institutions and makes them reluctant to connect with blogs. She's done several state level connections, and we have transparency at the state level, but it is not translating to the federal level.
Michaelangleo Signorile: Do that have a fear of engaging?
Pam Spaulding: Yes because of criticism of them, because they see the anger, but aren't willing to be transparent. There is a disconnect between whether they are fundraising for the issue or for their own self-sustenance.
Michaelangleo Signorile: How do the orgs respond?
Rea Carey: At the Task Force, the grassroots and netroots are our world. We have a lot of relationships with bloggers. There are so many ways we can engage for those that can't afford to come to Washington. For example the Queer the Census stickers. They ended up having to print 200,000 stickers thanks to the blogs instead of the initial order of just a few thousand. On ENDA, NGLTF has coordinated on phone banking with 18,000 calls to Congress, helping people who can't go to Washington or their Rep's office connect on the issue.
Joe Solomonese: I read Pam's blog. She has some inherent philosophies and her criticism of HRC is generally constructive. But if she likes something we do, she says so, if she doesn't, we listen and learn from it. That's helpful. Not everybody in the blogosphere engages that way. Claims 1 million members (though acknowledges most aren't donors, but HRC considers sticker buyers donors). Wants to talk about the 6 Senators again and moving them to support repeal of DADT.
Michaelangleo Signorile asks him to name them since he keeps bringing it up.
Joe Solomonese: Jim Webb (D-VA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Scott Brown (R-MA).
Michaelangleo Signorile: We've been mentioning them on his show all the time and generating calls to them. After another commercial break we'll take questions from audience starting with Robin McGehee of Get Equal.
First question from the audience, Robin McGehee of Get Equal. Michaelangleo Signorile says they have been a game changer. Robin: I agree with Richard Socarides that we are all here to gain equality and doing our part. With HRC's grade of B, they are out of touch. We feel used. To Joe Solomonese, what will you do to pressure the White House on DADT repeal this year before we lose any hope of it being able to pass? If you can't lead, get out of the way.
Joe Solomonese: We're doing everything we can everyday. We have a six week window for the President to do the work he needs to close the deal. We have the votes in the House. We made a decision as a community to put it in the Defense authorization bill. Putting it in a bigger bill insures it is done right. We will continue to push this administration to do the work they need to do. It may not be evident to everyone, but it is being done. We don't get the credit we should get on each victory. I'm going to spend the next 6 weeks on this.
Mara Keisling: I'm a huge Robin McGehee and Get Equal fan. Its not just DADT. We have other issues too. What is happening on DADT is unconscionable, but there are other things. We got some in the health care bill even though a lot got taken out.
Aubrey Sarvis: I will work with the entire coalition to round up those 6 senators, but we're unlikely to get a majority of those without the President's help. We need to get a strategy to get the President to push on this. We need a working group. We have to help the President out of the box, but we need the President on the phone talking to these 6 Senators.
next question by Ronald Johnson of AIDS action Council: Soon the 30th year of AIDS, its affecting full spectrum of GLBT community, but importance has waned. Asks panel where HIV/AIDS ranks as a priority and what they will be doing to address HIV/AIDS?
Rea Carey: I have grown concerned we are not paying enough attention. We need to get it back on the agenda. We need to leverage it into the larger fight.
Pam Spaulding: This is the perfect opportunity to connect with blogs. Distressing we don't see blogs addressing it as much especially how it affect women of color.
Richard Socarides: I agree with the premise of the question. We said a year ago we're going to have to fight on marriage, DADT, ENDA, but we told ourselves we at least won't have to fight on HIV/AIDS, but instead we've seen a flatlining on funding for AIDS. It also says how careful we have to be, and nobody has the right answers here. Mentions Frank Kameny saying we need people playing the inside game and playing the outside game. The people on the iside have been too soft and the people playing the outside need to be even harder. I think we are coming together on this.
Anthony in Chicago on the phone: I'm with the organization LGBT change. We see such a divide with ideology on how to achieve our rights. We look to leaders on how to organize. How can we bring people together?
Michaelangleo Signorile: As Pam Spaulding said, people not being invited to meeting, people divided, etc.
Mara Keisling: the issue of coordination of natl orgs is actually spectacular. We work well together, but that could be a problem that we often don't connect outside of that circle. Talks about connection with NGLTF. In most policy areas we work well together with task fore, NCLR, etc. There has never been a natl GLBT org that has done grassroots well.
Pam Spaulding: its a lack of communication. Its a disconnect. I get hundreds of releases with the same quote. We need joint releases that show all our organizations are on the same page. The White House sees that and it makes a difference.
Member of Queer Rising New York: What will each of you do to support rally at White House to transmit DADT repeal language to Congress. Rally on May 2nd.
Joe Solomonese: Don't know about the rally, but I want to know about. Admires Robin and Get Equal. Joe Solomonese wants to know more about it and says we need more communication to promote it.
Michaelangleo Signorile: Support the rally?
Mara Keisling: Yes
Rea Carey: Want to talk about it more, but probably yes
Aubrey Sarvis: Yes, we're working with people on the rally.
Donald Hitchcock of Act on Principles: on Pam Spaulding lack of transparency issue of the orgs. Why didn't we start the advocacy last year and do the panelists support the public whip count to pressure those 6 Senators?
Joe Solomonese talks about HRC scorecard on Congress.
Mara Keisling: Doesn't support the public whip count. We just need people to call Congress. Henry Waxman needs calls. Democrats that are with us still need calls. If Waxman says he's not getting calls from West Hollywood, that hurts us.
Caller to Joe Solomonese: As pres of the largest national org, if the HRC promises made don't get kept, how are we going to trust you?
Joe Solomonese. I still believe we are going to repeal DADT this year. We talk about what we are going to push for in the next year and the accomplishments we made in the last year
Pam Spaulding: I filmed you saying that statement. The audience was very firmly in their belief that it was going to happen, that HRC is in the White House. I think the message conveyed wasn't true that this was a done deal.
Joe Solomonese. I believed then we're going to pass repeal this year and I still believe that. I think we owe the community on how we're going to do that. At the end of the day, HRC will decide whether we were right or not.
Aubrey Sarvis: I agree we can get it repealed this year, but we don't have the votes. We need to be on a path to get the White House to get those votes we need.
To the audience, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog: big story I learned today. I learned SLDN, our best org on the issue DADT hasn't been invited to the meetings. Why is HRC going to DADT meetings where our groups are being cut out
Joe Solomonese: I was not at the meeting.
Michaelangleo Signorile: Two HRC staff were there.
Joe Solomonese: I'd ask Aubrey if he's not being invited to any meetings.
Aubrey Sarvis: I was asked to a meeting a few days later along with the Palm Center and it was not a meeting at the level of the other meeting.
Richard Socarides: I think it is a bit of a side show. Aubrey, after today, I think you'll never not be invited to another White House meeting. We are at a crossroads. We have five weeks left to go to know whether we'll have a DADT repeal. After that Boxer fundraiser we know they are having to talk about DADT more. Obama left that stage not happy and knows they have to do more. Choi wants basic fairness and we need people like Jim Webb and we need to pressure people like Jim Webb.
Aubrey Sarvis: SLDN, over the past few months, we sat down with Webb twice. If we get another meeting with him, we ought to do it together as a coalition.
Writer with the soon to be resurrected Washington Blade to Joe Solomonese: Do you regret the Kathy Griffin rally?
Joe Solomonese: It was Kathy Griffin's idea. She announced and was undeterred. She filmed an episode on DADT like she did one last year on Prop 8. We tried to put as many parameters on that as we could. I think it was a difficult thing to pull off. We thought it better to be involved than not.
Michaelangleo Signorile wrapping it up. Says they ought to do this again, thinks it was helpful, thanking panelists. And that's the end.
I'm going to clean up what I wrote and then get to the comments again. See ya'll down there in a few.
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