The Human Rights Campaign is continuing to face attacks for its backing of incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk ( R-IL ) in the 2016 elections. The endorsement engendered numerous complaints from members of the LGBT community, many of whom believe that Kirk's Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth ( D-IL ), is more worthy of the endorsement.
HRC President Chad Griffin, on March 23, released a statement defending his organization's endorsement.
Kirk's HRC congressional scorecard, in 2013-2014, was 78 percent. Duckworth's was 100 percent in that same time period.
In the statement, posted to the Independent Journal Review, Griffin emphasized that HRC was a bipartisan organization, and depended on bipartisan cooperation in order to move any of its initiatives forward.
"Senator Kirk has been a strong ally in the Republican Party," Griffin said. "He was the first Senate Republican to cosponsor the Equality Act, a critical step towards full federal equality. He was one of fewer than a dozen Congressional Republicans to support marriage equality, and he was also the Republican lead on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ). He supported the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. And, the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' would never have passed the Senate without the leadership of Republican Senators including Mark Kirk."
Griffin acknowledged criticism of Kirk's imperfect scorecard in the last congress, but said it did not acknowledge Kirk's current sponsorship of the Equality Act. He added that it would be unfair to compare Duckworth's record to Kirk's, since she is currently a member of the House, not the Senate.
Duckworth's HRC scorecard for the 113th Congress shows that she supported all the positions that HRC was supporting, among them the McMorris Rodgers Amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act; the Nadler Amendment to the FY 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appreciations Act; Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ); Respect for Marriage Act; Student Non-Discrimination Act; Safe Schools Improvement Act; and marriage equality support. Duckworth began her congressional career in 2013, so her scores from the 113th Congress make up her only scorecard.
Kirk's scorecard is different from Duckworth's since the Senate's agenda over that time period was different from the House's; HRC was measuring against 10 criteria, of which Kirk issued 5 votes in favor of HRC's position, in the 113th Congress. The senator supported ENDA, as well as a motion to invoke cloture on ENDA; the Grassley Amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act; a sponsorship of the Safe Schools Improvement Act; and marriage equality support. Kirk voted against HRC's position by voting not to invoke cloture on the nominations of Staci Michelle Yandle as U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Illinois as well as Darrin P. Gayles for U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida. He also did not become a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act or the Student Non-Discrimination Act. He did not vote at all with regards to invoking cloture on the nomination of Chai Rachel Feldblum for a second term as a commisioner Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Kirk had no HRC scorecard for the 112th Congress, since he was absent for much of the session due to his illness. His scorecard in the 111th Congress, from when he was a member of the House, was 39 percent.
Writer David Nir, in a March 21 Daily Kos commentary, said that HRC's calls for bipartisanship were actually plays for Republican and corporate sponsors.
"That's an incredibly callow approach to politics, but one the organization has practiced for years ( HRC infamously endorsed Republican Sen. Al D'Amato over Chuck Schumer in 1998 )," Nir wrote. "Do we seriously need to ask whether the LGBT community would be better off if HRC's coffers were flush, or if instead it would be better off if ENDA became law? Everyone knows the answer to thateveryone, that is, except HRC."
Nir also noted that a vote for Kirk was an implicit vote to keep Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in place, and that votes for pro-LGBT legislation would be highly unlikely under his watch.
Chicago activist Rick Garcia also echoed those concerns about support for Kirk ultimately perpetuating an obstructionist agenda in congress.
"HRC is being blasted from coast-to-coast for that endorsement, and rightfully so," Garcia added. "In matters of politics, they don't know what they're doing. No one can ever accuse them of being out-of-touch with fundraising, but that's not the case with their politics. In all fairness to Sen. Kirk, he has consistently stood with the LGBT community, but at the end of the day, is he going to be standing with Mitch McConnell?"
In a March 23 New Republic commentary, Eric Sasson wrote, "If HRC was troubled by taking a side in the race, it could have chosen to remain neutral. It could have proclaimed how wonderful it is to have two candidates with strong pro-LGBT voting records vying for the Senate seat and wished them both luck. By choosing to endorse Kirk, HRC has simply reopened old wounds while creating fresh ones."
Griffin's statement for the Independent Journal Review is at: bit.ly/1WIcI23 . Daily Kos' commentary is at bit.ly/1pGdqCS . New Republic's commentary is at bit.ly/1RzL9Ke .