The LGBT organization responsible for acts of civil disobedience across the country is considering taking action against U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her appearance this month at a Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund fundraiser.
Robin McGehee, co-founder of GetEQUAL, said activists affiliated with the organization are weighing the possibility of action directed toward the speaker at the Victory Fund’s Gay & Lesbian Leadership Awards, which is scheduled for Sept. 29 at the Mayflower Hotel in D.C.
The Victory Fund is set to award Pelosi with the organization’s 2010 Gay & Lesbian Leadershup Award for her “leadership on issues important to LGBT Americans” and for how she “continues to challenge official Washington to realize and embrace the fair-mindedness of their fellow Americans,” according to a promo for the event.
McGehee said GetEQUAL is “definitely making plans” for possible action against Pelosi at this event.
“We’re taking about whether or not that’s a possible target for us,” McGehee said. “It hasn’t been determined yet, but that’s one of the items on the agenda.”
McGehee said one purpose of the protest would be to encourage Pelosi to bring to the House floor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar job bias on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in most public and private workforce situations.
Pelosi has said a House vote on ENDA won’t take place until legislative action on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is complete.
Additionally, McGehee said the protest would be geared toward pushing Pelosi to work to earn the award that the Victory Fund is slated to give her.
“She needs to earn the award that she’s being honored with, which is the leadership award,” McGehee said. “So, we want to her show leadership around ENDA and commit to making the promises that she’s made to us true.”
McGehee said organizers haven’t yet decided on details on what the possible protest would entail, or even whether the action would take place inside or outside the Mayflower Hotel.
“We will have people on the inside, but whether or not we will do anything on the inside or outside — we haven’t decided yet,” she said.
McGehee said the decision on whether the protest would disrupt the Victory Fund fundraiser would be “totally up to” protesters.
In response to these plans, Robin Brand, deputy executive director for the Victory Fund, said her organization respects GetEQUAL and “the work they’re doing to try and get ENDA passed.”
Still, Brand maintained that Pelosi deserves of the award that the Victory Fund plans to give her.
“We also are proud to be honoring Nancy Pelosi because we think — we feel that she’s accomplished a lot of the LGBT community this year,” Brand said.
Brand counted the passage of hate crimes protections legislation and moving toward legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as among Pelosi’s accomplishments.
Additionally, Brand commended Pelosi for being outspoken about the repeal of Proposition 8, which prohibits same-sex marriage in California, as well as her support the recent federal court ruling overturning the amendment.
“No doubt there’s more work to do, and we know that GetEQUAL is a critical component to making sure we move on as fast a timeline as possible to get all the protections we need for the community,” Brand said. “At the same time, we are proud of Nancy Pelosi’s leadership on LGBT issues this past year.”
McGehee maintained the possible protest isn’t intended as criticism for the Victory Fund.
“We really think the Victory Fund does wonderful work and we know that she’s helping them by attending the fundraiser,” McGehee said.
Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesperson, said the speaker has “been a staunch advocate for equality and against discrimination” for more than 20 years in Congress.
“She has led the way in the fight against AIDS and against attempts to enshrine discrimination in the Constitution,” Hammill said. “As speaker, she led the effort to make the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land and led the House to pass repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The speaker’s advocacy and record of accomplishment for the LGBT community is clear.”