The Human Rights Campaign should not be supported by the queer (LGBT and non-gender identifying) community in the U.S. - or anyone else, for that matter. The HRC claims to fight for human rights while betraying its own, collecting dirty money and further boxing up the queer community into mainstream America.
My main issue with the HRC is their advocacy for gay marriage, but some of the more minor reasons are that the HRC hypocritically pushes for equal rights for everyone while openly neglecting transgendered people. As one protester last Febuary put it, there are many gay and lesbian celebrities on TV while thousands of transgendered Americans have to risk just using a public bathroom without getting ridiculed, beaten or even arrested. HRC has a history of leaving transgendered people out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and even tried to cover up their hypocrisy to make their recent support of a more inclusive bill more legitimate. It's pretty clear to me where the HRC's loyalties lie: a public image that can appeal to more mainstream straight audiences.
HRC also deals in dirty funds. The HRC has a fairly long list of corporate sponsors on their website, and a little research on any of these corporate giants will reveal an adjoining list of human rights abuses. Just a few of these companies that fund the HRC include:
- Nike, who admitted in 2001 that it had empolyed children 10 years and younger from Third World countries to work in sweatshops making shoes. While Nike is doing a little better, they must account for abusing women workers and immigrant workers in Malaysia (basically human trafficking; this Aussie news exposé video will shock you) as recent as last summer. Not to mention the its part in the complete commercialization of American culture (such as its contribution to the rise of American "sneakerhead" subculture; excuse my language, but who the fuck owns over six hundred Nike sneakers when the barefoot workers who made them live on six dollars a day?)
- Shell/Royal Dutch, who was illegally supported by the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service last year to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska, harming endangered bowhead whales, polar bears and other marine animals as well as threatening to destroy native Alaskan communities near the drilling area (a plan that was only recently dropped). Moreover, this month in Manhattan, Shell will stand trial for allegedly supporting the Nigerian dictator General Abacha by directly assisting in the illegal execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian poet, environmentalist and human rights activist. Saro-Wiwa, along with other activists, were hanged in 1994 for protesting Shell's wrongful drilling in their homeland, Ogoniland, which began in 1958 and has boosted the Nigerian community while bringing nothing but frequent oil spills, acid rain and death to farmland and cattle of the starving and poor Ogoni (not to mention an increase in cancer and respiratory diseases).
- Chevron, who (claimed to be involved in the illegal trials of the Ogoni activists to a somewhat lesser extent but complicit nonetheless) is also responsible for devastating the Nigerian environment, including disregarding Nigerian law to re-inject gas into the earth and instead pollute the air by flaring it. Additionally, Chevron has been accused of encouraging widespread human rights abuse in Burma such as rape, murder and forced labor. Chevron has also been accused of polluting the air of Richmond, California (where almost half the population is African American) as well as neglecting its oil spills in the Amazon rainforest.
- Chase Bank, who, among other abuses, stated in January 1995 memo that the Mexican government "will have to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and security policy." The Zapatistas (an armed but nonviolent indigeounos group of Chiapas who have fought for autonomy for decades) had just come into the public eye for their New Year's Day insurrection.
The other big banks and companies on the list show that the HRC is committed to advocating rights for the LGBT community so long as it's on terms and conditions set by their clearly mainstream backers. These terms and conditions consistently prove that actual human rights are as far from these goals as an ant is from the surface of the moon.
Lastly, the HRC seeks for gay marriage which is, as I've said, not something I support for several reasons, too many to list here. In general, marriage is not something that gay activists from the civil rights era would have focused on, as it institutionalizes the very image of "straightness" along with awarding the privileged few with rights to health care and economic stability denied to thousands of others. Instead of pushing for married gays and lesbians to get married in order to have tax cuts, hospital visitation, housing, fair treatment in the workplace, etc., a legitimate progressive group (in my opinion, anyway) would fight for these rights to be given indiscriminately to all people who identify as queer, be they a Christian gay man, an atheist lesbian or a homeless transgender (speaking of homeless, by the way, between 7,000 and 10,000 of the homeless in New York City are LGBT teenagers, and the HRC does little to aid the local shelters there).
Now, this isn't to say that the HRC hasn't done anything of value. I'm saying that instead of supporting the HRC, queers should support local movements that fight for the homeless, poor and marginalized while standing for human rights everywhere. Instead of paying for an annual debit card/membership with the HRC, donate to the Zapatistas or to environmentalist groups. Instead of responding to mass emails about writing legistlators about creating national laws, seek out grassroot campaigns and local efforts to change local laws that help the homeless, end domestic abuse and assist in gay/lesbian teenage suicides.