HRC denies wrongdoing in alleged transgender flag incident at Supreme Court

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: March 28, 2013 in News

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, faced criticism in various social media today after allegations surfaced that one of the group’s staffers told transgender community members to remove their flag from a podium area at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Human Rights Campaign’s usually blue-and-yellow logo was shaded red to show support for marriage equality this week. It was shared heavily on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

The national group, which is denying any wrongdoing, was one of several organizations present during press conferences and other short speeches at the court, where two historic cases challenging anti-LGBT marriage discrimination were heard this week.

Various posts on Facebook and Tumblr asserted that an HRC staffer asked transgender community members to remove a transgender flag from the podium area and said, according to one post, that “marriage equality is not a transgender issue.”

Jerame Davis, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats, said in an update on Facebook that he witnessed an HRC staffer asking that a transgender flag be removed, though he did not hear the alleged statement regarding marriage and transgender issues.

“I was there. I saw this happen,” Davis wrote on Wednesday. “It was only the HRC reps asking for the trans flag to be moved. If they’d only asked once, I’d have given them a pass, but they continued to harass this person over a flag.”

Davis described the incident as “really poor behavior.”

HRC Communications Director Michael Cole-Schwartz issued a statement to qnotes in response to the allegations.

“It was agreed that featuring American flags at our program was the best way to illustrate this unifying issue which is why when managing the area behind the podium, several people were asked to move who were carrying organizational banners, pride flags or any other flag that was not an American flag,” the statement read. “Several people refused and they were allowed to stay. The coalition welcomed the variety of signs and flags that were throughout the plaza that demonstrated the wonderful diversity of our community.”

HRC added, “It is a not true to suggest that any person or organization was told their flag was less important than another — this did not occur and no HRC staff member would ever tolerate such behavior. To be clear, it is the position of the Human Rights Campaign that marriage is an issue that affects everyone in the LGBT community.”

The national group’s history with the transgender community has been strained. In 2007, the group faced tremendous push back when it endorsed a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which excluded protections for transgender workers.

HRC is also facing criticism from United We Dream’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project. In a video posted to YouTube today, QUIP leader Jerssay Arredondo claims his speech at an HRC-organized event at the Supreme Court was revised by the national LGBT group. qnotes has reached out to United We Dream for further clarification on the alleged revisions.

HRC’s full statement below:

“Tuesday and Wednesday were historic days for our community, as thousands of LGBT people gathered in front of the Supreme Court and in every state across the country to demonstrate their support for marriage equality. HRC was proud to play a role in these events as a member of the United for Marriage coalition, the group which organized the gathering at the Supreme Court. Marriage equality is an issue that fundamentally impacts hundreds of thousands of LGBT people and families across our nation and is greater than any one organization.

“It was agreed that featuring American flags at our program was the best way to illustrate this unifying issue which is why when managing the area behind the podium, several people were asked to move who were carrying organizational banners, pride flags or any other flag that was not an American flag. Several people refused and they were allowed to stay. The coalition welcomed the variety of signs and flags that were throughout the plaza that demonstrated the wonderful diversity of our community.

“It is a not true to suggest that any person or organization was told their flag was less important than another – this did not occur and no HRC staff member would ever tolerate such behavior. To be clear, it is the position of the Human Rights Campaign that marriage is an issue that affects everyone in the LGBT community.

“The events at the Court featured lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender speakers as well as LGBT families, religious leaders, Republicans, military spouses and civil rights activists. This has been a historic week and truly demonstrated how all of us – lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight, transgender and cisgender – can unite as one voice to advocate for our constitutional rights.”