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Coalition builds for boycott of New England HRC gala

by Rachel Kossman
Monday August 25, 2008

In response to Human Rights Campaign's stance on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the activist group Queertoday.com, along with activists from Queers Without Borders, Pride at Work and KnowThyNeighbor.org are organizing a protest of the organization's New England gala dinner, which will be held at the Sheraton in Boston on October 25th.

It's no secret that these organizations are frustrated with HRC's support last year for an ENDA bill that did not provide anti-discrimination protections to the transgender community, and they have made it clear that they do not support many other aspects of the organization.

"We hope to continue what they've ignited. Activists have been protesting the HRC dinner in every major city," said Mark Snyder, founder of Queertoday.com.

According to Brad Luna, communications director for HRC, the organization is working alongside the National Center for Transgender Equality to fight for the rights of transgender individuals across the nation.

"There are a lot of different assets of the organization that are dedicated to working on this issue and the tough work of education is ongoing, especially with an election year facing us. There will be a new face in Congress and a new president," he said. "There is no organization who is dedicating more resources to educating members of Congress and the public on the need for protections of our entire GLBT community than HRC."

Queertoday hopes to recruit allies outside the LGBT community to join in the protest and is in conversation with a number of anti-war, civil rights and labor groups about participating. The group has yet to announce any official endorsements from non-LGBT groups.

"Locally, we hope to build a small coalition of diverse groups to really show HRC what a true coalition looks like and show them the value in organizing with our allies and with movements that are important to us," said Snyder.

HRC is aware of the upcoming protests and has plans to deal with them accordingly.

"This is not the first dinner that we have had protestors at ... There have been a handful of protestors who show up and have their voices heard," acknowledged Luna.

"And at every dinner, we will be doing the same in Boston, we obviously respect and honor their right to have their voices heard and we make accommodations outside the venue so that they have a safe environment to exercise their freedom of speech."

Snyder disagrees, and believes that the actions of HRC at previous events have been inappropriate. He hopes that these protests will force HRC to question their actions.

"We think it's important for HRC to recognize the value of difference. To call in riot police for a few dozen trans activists is an overreaction, to say the least," said Snyder, referring to allegations by Houston activists that HRC called in riot police last April to intimidate them during their protest of the Houston HRC gala. "We're calling on them to ensure that they have a policy to treat protestors compassionately because we are concerned about the way they've been treating protestors at some of their past events."

Copyright Bay Windows. For more articles from New England's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.baywindows.com


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