HRC says sorry:
Chad Griffin apologizes for betrayal to trans community
Chad Griffin took the stage at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta, acknowledged as president of the Human Rights Campaign that he was the “elephant in this room” and then apologized on behalf of HRC for the organization’s betrayal to trans people seven years ago.
“So I am here today, at Southern Comfort, to deliver a message. I deliver it on behalf of HRC, and I say it here in the hopes that it will eventually be heard by everyone who is willing to hear it,” he said Aug. 5. “HRC has done wrong by the transgender community in the past, and I am here to formally apologize.”
“Amen, it’s about time,” one person could be heard saying over applause.
Griffin spoke to about a crowd of approximately 300 during a lunchtime keynote address at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
“I am sorry for the times when we stood apart when we should have been standing together. Even more than that, I am sorry for the times you have been underrepresented or unrepresented by this organization,” Griffin added. “What happens to trans people is absolutely central to the LGBT struggle. And as the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, HRC has a responsibility to do that struggle justice, or else we are failing at our fundamental mission.”
Griffin acknowledged that it was his responsibility to help close the large divide between HRC and the trans community. Griffin didn’t mention specifics as to why the divide exists, but most notably in 2007 former HRC President Joe Solmonese gave a keynote address at Southern Comfort and promised HRC would only support a version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act which includes gender identity.
However, shortly after that speech, former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, the only openly gay lawmaker in Congress at the time, said he had to remove the transgender aspect of the bill because it would not pass in Congress if the “T” was included. Many in the trans community said they were betrayed by HRC for supporting Frank and the non-inclusive ENDA.
Marisa Sandlin of Florida, who has been attending Southern Comfort for 13 years and was in the audience in 2007 when Solmonese promised to support only an inclusive ENDA, said she was “cautiously optimistic” after hearing Griffin’s speech.
“I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s a start. I think Chad’s smart enough to know there is a divide. It started in 2007 when [Joe] Solmonese and [former U.S. Rep.] Barney Frank sold us up the river,” she said. “There were a lot of hurt feelings.
“I think now he has to deliver. It’s just that simple,” she added. “Everyone wants to believe. They [HRC] do a lot of good work. Right now everyone’s pumped up, but he has to deliver.”
SCC MOVING TO FLORIDA
The SCC board of directors announced during this year’s conference that it would be moving next year to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Yes, we are moving the conference to Fort Lauderdale next year. We were approached by the Broward County Convention and Visitors Bureau last year,” Joann Purcell, this year’s conference chair, told the GA Voice.
“It was a lengthy process and a difficult decision. But, in the best interests of the conference and the community we serve, it was decided to move,” Purcell added.
Next year’s dates are Sept. 30 - Oct. 4, 2015, at the Bonaventure Resort and Spa Conference Center in Westin, Florida, she said. The conference is currently contracted to be in Florida through 2017.
Southern Comfort celebrated its 24th anniversary in Atlanta this year.
Trans community members applauded HRC President’s Chad Griffin apology at this year’s conference in Atlanta. (File photo)