One of the people who was dragged down in former governor Andrew Cuomo’s sinking ship is former Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. David lost his job this week when the HRC board voted to fire him after a month long investigation into David’s conduct in Cuomo’s administration. The HRC investigation was launched after a New York Attorney General report cited David as helping Cuomo to retaliate against those who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.
HRC staffers had previously called for David’s resignation after the NYAG report was released on August 3. One employee asked David in a meeting: “When are you resigning?” and also said David was “creating a toxic environment where partners can’t trust us.”
HRC is one of the most well known LGBTQ-focused national organizations. The bumper stickers are on cars, the photos of celebrities at gala events are on social media, and the sound bites are always ready after major rulings or legislation. They fundraise a lot, and they’re usually pretty good at it. And it is worth saying that groups like HRC are necessary because they raise LGBTQ visibility nationally and internationally.
But when it comes to donations in 2021, your money is better spent elsewhere. This is true regardless of the Alphonso David fiasco. The reason is that the new political battlefield is being waged in individual states, not nationally. Just look at Texas’ new horrific abortion law. It was specifically designed to be difficult for a federal court to overturn. Or look at the Gavin Grimm decision, which helped trans students in some states, but not all.
Or, you can look at Pennsylvania itself. We’ve got more LGBTQ people than the state of Wyoming. But we don’t have a statewide LGBTQ nondiscrimination law. No amount of money donated to HRC is going to help that, because what we truly need to get such a law passed are local and regional organizations who get into communities and connect with people, help pass local laws, and help turn out the vote.
The Pennsylvania Youth Congress is one such regional organization. They have helped pass local LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws in municipalities all across the state. And compared to HRC, their work is done on a miniscule budget. When it comes to helping the LGBTQ community in Pennsylvania, you get far more for your money by donating to local and state organizations like Pennsylvania Youth Congress than to national organizations like Human Rights Campaign. The Pennsylvania Youth Congress might not have fancy cocktail parties and celebrity endorsements, but they have what matters most, vision, organization, and true connections to local communities. And in Pennsylvania, HRC falls behind in all three of those things.
Republicans are waging a statewide fight against women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights and basic civil rights. And the current Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, seems poised to side with states at this point than create new precedent or affirm existing precedent. So it’s time we shift our resources from glitzy national organizations and turn them towards local and statewide organizations.
Yes, the Alphonso David fiasco is a bad image for HRC, and he should have resigned last month. But there are plenty of other reasons to start donating to other organizations. Just remember to avoid the glitz and go local.