Two Key Staffers Leave HRC
Next Stop, the White House--and Controversy
Choi extended an invitation to accompany him to the president of the HRC, Joe Solmonese, to openly gay war hero Eric Alva, also a leading proponent of rescinding the ban, and to Griffin, who shouted, "Of course!" But when Choi tried to get their attention later, neither Solmonese nor Griffin went with him. Choi and a crowd of about 100 people proceeded to the White House, where Choi and Pietrangelo were reportedly assisted in handcuffing themselves to the White House fence by Robin McGehee, who was also placed under arrest.
Some gay pundits reflected that Choi's act of civil disobedience hearkened back to an earlier time when gays took to the streets and demanded that they be accorded the protections of the law, rather than persecuted under the rubric of law. By contrast, commentators noted the dinners, banquets, and celebrity speakers that the HRC relies on to being attention to GLBT issues. Right-wing pundits also weighed in, claiming that Choi's act was an example of the kind of breakdown of "good moral order" that proponents of DADT say the ban is designed to uphold among the ranks of America's men and women in uniform.
The HRC posted an online statement about the March 18 rally on the same day. "There's been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi's role in the rally," text at the HRC's website read. "As Joe Solmonese was walking to the stage, Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn't his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans. After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks.
"Lt. Choi in his speech called on the crowd to march on the White House. Joe Solmonese along with Eric Alva and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal. This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play."
"That is simply untrue," wrote John Aravosis at AmericaBlog in a posting that same day. "I was there, standing next to Dan, about 10 feet from Kathy Griffin and Solmonese. They were behind a rope line, to keep them from the rally attendees. They looked over at Dan when he asked them, for the second time, to come with him to the White House (mind you, they had no idea that he was planning to handcuff himself), and they just stared back at him. They were not helping engage the rally about how to build pressure--the rally was over, they were already off the stage, behind it actually, getting ready to leave behind a secure rope line to separate them from the crowd. I'm sorry, but this statement is flat out untrue. They were getting their photos taken."
Aravosis was also at the White House when Choi and Pietrangelo handcuffed themselves to the fence. Aravosis documented the event through photos.
A March 29 story at PCBliberal called the rally and Choi's subsequent actions "a public relations debacle" for the HRC, noting that Solmonese having been named one of Washington, D.C.'s best dressed people by Washington Life Magazine didn't help. The same story also reported that Brad Luna, the HRC's director of communications, had also departed the organization. The article quoted the organization's human resources director, John Green, as saying, "The position was eliminated."
"HRC simply will not answer questions about" events at the rally, the story said, "They will neither confirm nor deny that GetEqual's Robin McGehee was told Choi couldn't speak because he hadn't signed a release that would give Griffin's production company intellectual property rights to his speech. They'll say nothing further about any support they'll offer Choi," added the article.
Neither the HRC nor Luna made any statement about Luna's departure, and the HRC has not said what the departures mean for the organization's staffing other than Green, commenting on Luna's departure, saying that, "We will determine what positions will come out of that."
Another, smaller, GLBT advocacy organization, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, lists four members on its communications staff. The HRC's website currently lists only one communications staffer, Michael Cole.