Lesbian activist ousted from HRC dinner

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Last night the Human Rights Campaign Fund (HRC) held a fundraising dinner in San Francisco. Many local activists consider HRC a Washington Beltway outfit that rakes in liberal LGBT donations, but which betrayed part of its constituency last fall. HRC agreed then to exclude from proposed employment discrimination legislation (known as ENDA) protections for people whose gender presentation is not conventional. That is, HRC adopted the stance that it is fine to be gay — but just don’t be too queer. And certainly don’t expect legal protection if you are transgender or gender-transgressive.For more on the controversy, see this article by San Francisco Pride at Work, an LGBT labor organization.

Greatly to the credit of most San Francisco LGBT activists and even the city’s progressive political establishment, civil rights for only some of the community does not win a lot of local friends. And so the HRC dinner was greeted with a boycott and, outside the hotel, a “Left Out Party: A Genderful Gala.” The HRC’s original keynote speaker, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villagraigosa, withdrew on learning of the protest.

My friend Catherine Cusic, a 63 year old lesbian activist who is currently a vice-president of the Harvey Milk Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democratic Club, figured that some people attending the dinner might not know what the controversy was about. So she bought a ticket and attended the dinner. She describes what happened to her:

Around 7:00 I sat at table #72 (which was in the back row). My table had a few nice men who asked me what the issue was about ENDA. They really didn’t know.

I listened to [speaker] Diego Sanchez’s speech. During [HRC Executive Director]Joe Solomonese’s talk I left my seat and walked towards the tables in front of me with the intent of distributing printed materials. At this point 2-3 large men accosted me. I don’t remember their exact words but I quietly said that I had bought a ticket and had the right to be there. I began to place printed material on a table when I was grabbed roughly by at least 2 men (who I think were behind me). One of them put my right arm in an armlock behind my back and up and bent my right wrist with tremendous force.  I was also held by both arms  (with force enough around both upper arms that I had bruises within 20 minutes).

At some point I was knocked to the ground and dragged out of the dining area into the outer room where they lifted me to my feet but did not let go. I then said to them: “let me go, I will leave.” (We were walking to a stairwell). They did not let go and dragged me off my feet again and down the stairs to the exit on Post street.

I have huge bruises on my arms and a shoulder that feels like it was half pulled out of its socket.  Years ago I was thrown out of the St Francis by SFPD and they didn’t hurt me at all. These are a company of private goons hired by Human Rights Campaign to police their event.

Still in some shock from her treatment, Cusic is exploring whether private security guards can be charged with assault.

Cross posted at Happening Here.

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