At the final President’s Forum of the year, on April 19 in Albright Auditorium, Joe Solmonese, head of Human Rights Campaign addressed the issues that the HRC faces and the relevancy of GLBT rights to HWS students and community members.
Solmonese worked on the Michael Dukakis campaign in Massachusetts with President Gearan in 1986 and since then has worked as the CEO of EMILY’s List and the campaign for the past year.
He opened his speech with some humor before offering the crowd an important piece of advice, encouraging students to take advantage of any and all opportunities offered them while they're in their twenties. He told the audience to “decide on the one issue you want to fight for for the rest of your life, and work on it every day.”
For him, this issue is GLBT rights, and he does fight for it everyday. He spoke about his work in the campaign in the past year and the progress that the organization has made in its 25-year history.
Solmonese addressed what he called the three major obstacles facing the GBLT community in the United States: time, the Constitution, and religion.
Recalling the Stonewall Riots of 1969, he urged his audience to get involved in the cause, and to not be discouraged by the amount of time that progress takes in fighting for these issues.
He spoke about the amount of Constitutional ignorance in the United States today, and said that most people in the United States have never read the Constitution and do not understand the document.
In reference to the Marriage Protection Act, an amendment proposed to the constitution since 2003, Solmonese said that, “when we promise liberty and equality, we promise it to everyone.” He said that this act, if adopted, would being the first time that the Constitution would discriminate against a group, something he said should not be allowed to happen — and that both gay and straight Americans do not want discrimination in the Constitution.
In his discussion of religion, Solmonese described the “far right’s use of religion as an excuse for bigotry,” and said “I think Jesus has just about had it with people using his name to preach hate.”