A nice piece of reporting on GetEqual, the activist group that appears to come out of nowhere to become a major player du jour in the LGBT movement. The story, by Advocate staffers Andrew Harmon and Kerry Eleveld takes readers behind the scenes to learn more about the group and their funders.
The D.C. home where GetEqual often plans its direct actions — and where members routinely crash on bunk beds and mattresses — belongs to Paul Yandura, known by many in Washington as the man who sued the Democratic National Committee after his partner, Donald Hitchcock, was fired from the organization in 2006. Yandura claimed Hitchcock had been wrongfully terminated for an e-mail Yandura sent to major LGBT donors criticizing the DNC; after months of he-said, he-said articles, depositions, and lawyers’ statements, the DNC settled the workplace discrimination and defamation lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. But the scuffle put Beltway insiders on notice that Yandura wasn’t afraid of the political establishment in a town that feeds on group-think and rewards those who worship at its altar.
Last summer Yandura began requesting a meeting with senior White House officials such as chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and political director Patrick Gaspard. In spring 2009 he’d been told by the administration’s de facto LGBT liaison that repeal of DADT was slated for 2010 — a revelation that came right around the same time Human Rights Campaign executive director Joe Solmonese was asserting in the media that the administration had “a vision” and “a plan” for LGBT legislation.
“I said to Brian [Bond, White House public liaison], ‘We’ll help with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’—we know it’s going to be a heavy lift,’” Yandura says. “We will fund polling, data collection, lobbying, but we have to know there’s a plan and that there will be benchmarks.”
By “we,” Yandura was referring to himself and Jonathan Lewis, an heir to the billion-dollar Progressive Insurance fortune. Yandura has served as Lewis’s political adviser since 2003, when Lewis started taking an active interest in getting young people more involved in politics. “They’re the only class of people that continuously inspires me and gives me hope that there’s going to be change,” Lewis says of youths.
I wish the story hadn’t waited until the end of the lengthy piece to start discussing criticism of GetEqual and that there were more critical questions asked about the infamous Highlander retreat, which was criticized at the time for its exclusiveness and the motivations of those who funded it.
Still, this is a great piece and answered a lot of the questions I’ve had about GetEqual.