Saturday, January 16, 2010

a message from Joe Solmonese / HRC:

Dear Daniel,

On Monday our nation will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, our national holiday dedicated not only to this leader but to the civil rights legacy that he and millions of other brave Americans left us. Dr. King and the civil rights movement moved us from a nation of laws to a nation of laws and rights. Each time we invoke the constitutional and human rights behind LGBT equality, economic justice, and peace, we build that legacy. It is a legacy in progress.

In America, there is work to do in underserved communities. Many will mark this day with community service. Learn more about the MLK National Day of Service. You can make a difference.

In 2008, voters in California stripped same-sex couples of equal rights when they passed Proposition 8. For many, Proposition 8 stands as an ugly symbol of how far we are from living up to our Constitution's promise and Dr. King's dream. This week in California, a federal trial court will hear a challenge to that law. We were disappointed that the Supreme Court prevented the court from making the proceedings accessible to every interested viewer. The defendants—Prop 8's supporters, had argued that broadcasting the trial would expose them to threats and harassment. As someone who debated many of these anti-equality leaders on television and in public, and who had to watch their deceptive advertisements, I am amazed that anyone would believe this. We—LGBT people and allies, activists, marchers, neighbors, are the real story. We will all continue to petition our government with honor and with the power of truth.

In the District of Columbia, the Superior Court ruled that a Prop 8-like ballot initiative cannot go forward. The D.C. Council recently passed a marriage equality law, and opponents are trying to put a repeal to the voters. On Thursday, January 14, Superior Court Judge Macaluso ruled that such a ballot measure would violate D.C.'s Human Rights Act. No one's civil rights should be subject to the popular vote. We hold equal rights as human beings, not because of a popularity contest.

The American civil rights vision has meaning around the world, but we have a long way to go to realize Dr. King's dream. In Uganda, legislators have introduced a bill to increase criminal penalties for same-sex sexual relations, including the death penalty for “serial offenders.” Anti-LGBT activists from the United States visited Uganda to spread false information about “ex-gay” therapy last year, and this legislation seems to be the bitter result of their mission of deceit. Read HRC Religion and Faith Director Harry Knox's views on the subject here.

We were heartened to learn that a Congressional commission has scheduled a hearing on this abominable legislation, and will hear testimony about it next week. Already, many in Congress are calling for the United States to ensure that the Ugandan government does not impose a de facto death sentence on its LGBT people.

Finally, on Tuesday, January 12, the world saw a devastating tragedy unfold in Haiti, the western hemisphere's poorest country. A massive earthquake shook the island nation, its epicenter near the populous capital Port au Prince. Tens of thousands are feared dead, and the nation's weak infrastructure leveled. Poverty is our world's most egregious civil rights violation, and the nation's poverty contributed enormously to the carnage in Haiti. Shoddy construction caused buildings to tumble. Limited resources affected rescue efforts, which are still ongoing. To learn how you can help, visit the Rainbow World Fund's website. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti and with the many Americans who have lost or are searching for family abroad.

Have a good weekend, and a peaceful MLK holiday.


Joe Solmonese
President, Human Rights Campaign

P.S. If you are looking for plans this Sunday evening, consider joining us at one of our inaugural Her HRC events around the country. Building on the momentum of our L Word premiere parties of the past, thousands of women from around the country will gather for a national night of celebration. Find the event nearest you at