North Carolina's HRC Gala returns to Charlotte

But doesn't necessarily give back

| February 20, 2013
HRC's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

HRC's headquarters in Washington, D.C.


Denise Bauer is excited to be a first-time table captain for North Carolina's Human Rights Campaign gala, held Saturday in Charlotte. Her duties include selling dinner tickets — which cost between $96 and $225 — to 12 people who will sit at her table.

Bauer didn't know this when she started donating to HRC, the largest LGBT rights organization in the country, but the money she and others spend on their gala ticket doesn't necessarily stay in North Carolina. Nor do regular donations made to North Carolina's HRC chapter throughout the year. Instead, everything goes to national headquarters, in Washington, D.C. From there, the nonprofit decides which state-level campaigns and politicians to back.

"I can't say I had the foresight enough to think that through," said Bauer.

While HRC is not obligated to fund local LGBT organizations, some say its high visibility — it counts more than 1.5 million members nationally — and prominence should be used to also promote local, grassroots causes. This has presented an oft-unspoken moral dilemma within the LGBT community.

"I don't think the HRC gala actually impacts any of the local organizations, other than providing them an opportunity to come to a dinner and possibly listen to a speaker and learn something," said Shane Windmeyer, who first brought the North Carolina HRC Gala to Charlotte in 2005, when he was on the HRC's national board of governors. He also co-founded Campus Pride, a national sponsor of the local HRC gala that supports university-level LGBT causes.

In 2009, Windmeyer wrote a controversial opinion piece for Q-Notes that questioned the significance of the gala to Charlotte's LGBT community.

"If anything, HRC and the dinner have helped Charlotte realize that we can throw a great party and raise a lot of money," Windmeyer wrote. "But was the $700,000 raised by the HRC Carolinas dinners a good investment to get us any closer to achieving LGBT equality?"

The piece was accepted by some, rejected by others. Feelings were hurt, Windmeyer said. Teresa Davis, president of the gay-friendly Charlotte Business Guild, agrees. After the piece published, she noticed people were afraid to criticize HRC because of its large national presence.

"Those who supported the article and agreed with Shane's claims quickly learned that it's best to keep such opinions silent," she said.

HRC does not officially disclose how much money the 25 galas held across the country raise. North Carolina's is usually the second most-popular, behind Washington, D.C. But member contributions collected at the galas and throughout 2012 totaled $17,886,878 and comprised about 50 percent of the nonprofit's revenue. Those funds go toward its education and mobilization programs, which instruct members on current LGBT issues and how to lobby for them, and provides resources for same-sex couples to arrange healthcare visitation authorizations, last will and testaments, and co-parenting agreements.

HRC also helps fund political campaigns. The organization spent $55,370 supporting Democratic candidates in the 2011-12 election cycle, per the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan research group that tracks money in politics. Democratic Congressman Ron Barber from Arizona topped the list with $15,000, President Obama came in third with $12,305, and first openly lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin came in fourth with $11,493. It spent $28,934 against Republicans.

Despite its national focus, some high-profile local issues attract its attention. Last year, HRC helped fund the Coalition to Protect All NC Families, which tried to stop the passage of the constitutional amendment known as Amendment One. It ultimately passed and now limits the types of unions recognized by North Carolina. HRC committed almost $500,000 to the campaign through the political action committee HRC North Carolina Families.

HRC "does really amazing work on the national level and also put a lot in on the state," said Connie Vetter, a local attorney and co-chair of the HRC gala committee.

Day-to-day organizations have some local support in the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund. Founded in 2003, it's part of the Foundation for the Carolinas and is not affiliated with HRC. Its board of advisers decide which local LGBT organizations receive grants — donated by private citizens — each year.

In 2012, the fund gave its top donation, $21,500, to Time Out Youth. The Lesbian & Gay Community Center got $13,500. In total, it gave $110,000.

"The people who want to see wide national change regarding the laws really ... find themselves attracted more to HRC," said Jenni Gaisbauer, chairwoman of the fund and senior vice president of development for Levine Museum of the New South. "I have friends give at the national level for HRC, but they're also giving through the fund and through the various gay organizations that are on the ground serving the community."

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Comments (8)

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So sad that this article is full of erroneous details and misinformation.

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Posted by Zuni N Jason on 02/20/2013 at 9:54 PM

Spataro: "Gotcha," sensationalist journalsim at its finest.

Half-truths. Inaccuracy. Imbalance. Overall disappointment. You would think I am referring to FOX News. But I am not. I am speaking about the "gotcha," sensational writing of Creative Loafing's Joanne Spotaro who decides to quote an OpEd from four years ago as basis for an entire article and then provides merely a one-sided claim without any balance of opinions or shall we say "real" journalism.

Yes. HRC is a national lobbying organization who raises money to support passing laws for LGBT equality, mostly on a national or state level. You can read all about that at www.HRC.org. Spataro surely realizes this is not news and there is not anything "newsworthy" about this. So what's her angle? What's the point?

Spataro originally asked me for an interview for this story to discuss how our Charlotte-based national organization Campus Pride is a sponsor of the HRC Gala this year and the last two years. I took the interview to share how HRC has committed to partner with Campus Pride and fund an annual "College Summit" the two days prior to the dinner as a meaningful engagement and learning opportunity for Charlotte area colleges and across the Carolinas. This actually started a few years back and illustrates how HRC volunteers in the Carolinas have localized the empowerment of the dinner through a partnership. Of course, these words never made it into the article, did they?

After about 15 minutes of the interview, it was clear though what Spataro really wanted to talk about. She then launched into an onslaught of pointed questions about an OpEd I had written on the HRC Gala four years prior. I indicated that I felt the OpEd shared accurately my opinions four years ago and that one of the regrets is how personal the volunteers locally took the criticism (which was really geared toward HRC national and challenging our local community fundraising efforts). I talked about how there has been much progress in our local community from four years ago. How HRC volunteers are active in our community. I talked about the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund and how it has been a great addition for our community to focus on funding local efforts. I also continued doing my best to illustrate how HRC is a national organization and has amazing volunteers who work tirelessly on a local level to get HRC involved too (MLK parades, bowling, panels, etc). I also sent her local HRC contacts to provide current local HRC activities beyond the HRC Gala.

Sneaky and truly sad, Spataro seems to have neglected these details or even those quotes that would not have fit her angle. I deal with reporters (broadcast and print) all the time. I know Creative Loafing who I value as a voice which strives to be diverse in the Charlotte community. I know Spataro. I have had dinner with Spataro. She claims to be an ally to the LGBT community. But this article shows that she knows very little about LGBT people, our organizations, our local community -- or I really question if she cares.

What was the "real" point of this article? Seriously. Spataro digs up a four year old OpEd. She rehashes what is inaccurate, outdated in some respect as well as hurtful to many local volunteers. Why? I am not sure. Her article could have had such a greater purpose. But instead it sunk to tabloid "gotcha" standards of half-truths.

As I have said repeatedly, I care about the Charlotte LGBT community and our local efforts to build a stronger community. My husband and I have lived here over 15 plus years. I think there are real questions to be asked about what benefits local LGBT community organizations. I asked those questions four years ago in relation to the HRC Gala. Been there, done that Spataro. This article does not progress that topic in anyway that is helpful or which shows how things have changed in our local LGBT community.

Some thoughts: It would be fascinating to know why Raleigh has a full time executive director staff person in their LGBT community center and we don't in Charlotte. It would be great to know what local funding is like in Charlotte versus Raleigh, other NC or comparable cities. You can't blame that on HRC or a HRC Gala, can you? BUT we can look toward our local government, corporations, our coalitions of straight allies and other systemic problems that may impede local fundraising, however. BUT that would take "real" journalism to dig deep into the LGBT Community Center and do some research elsewhere. Unlike Spataro and this article, the angle would be: "to actually help our LGBT community grow and build a stronger community."

Spataro is not an ally to LGBT people with this article. If you learn one thing from this article Creative Loafing, listen up. This is one example where having a "straight ally" who is not LGBT, nor does she know about the LGBT community, write about such matters is NOT helpful. If you are going to write about the LGBT community, I suggest you have writers who actually are LGBT do the writing or at least have journalists that are willing to do the research to listen and learn.

More food for thought: It is 2013. Does Creative Loafing even have an out LGBT writer or staff? Why not? Yes. It's important. Surely there are some LGBT qualified people out there.

FAIL.

*** Please consider printing this in your print edition as a Letter to the Editor ***

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Posted by Shane L. Windmeyer on 02/21/2013 at 12:02 AM

So why is the half a million dollars HRC contributed to fight NC's Amendment One last year buried three paragraphs from the end?

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Posted by Rich Hurley on 02/21/2013 at 1:18 AM

No one who contributes money to events that the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen fund or Cystic Fibrosis Foundation sponsors thinks that their money is only going to combat these illnesses in Charlotte, so why is it any different when a national LGBT rights organization also holds a fundraiser here? I don't see why this is controversial? What was the purpose of this article?

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Posted by ScottB on 02/21/2013 at 9:53 AM

HRC is a good organization doing amazing work in the state and on the national level. I hope no one lets the inaccuracies and clear bias in this story take away from their support of that good work.

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Posted by CJV on 02/21/2013 at 1:20 PM

My Feb 21 letter to the Editor of CL, Mark Kemp

Letter to the editor in response to the slanted, ambush reporting of Jonne Spataro in Creative Loafing’s February 21-27 article titled “North Carolina’s HRC Gala returns to Charlotte”.

Spataro’s agenda was to portray a segment of Charlotte’s LGBT Community as being disgruntled with or unaware of the Human Rights Campaign’s national fund raising mission.

Spataro’s article rife with outdated statements and perspectives from as far back as 2005 needed current day relevance, enter unwitting me.

My name was given to Spataro by Theresa Davis, the President of the Charlotte Business Guild. I spoke at the Guild’s January Sports Expo where I introduce my non-profit One World Dragon Boat (OWDB).

Spataro’s out of moth balls article chose to use the introductory two paragraphs, my name and a slanted out of context quote to create a “present day story”. There is no there there, not with me.

I honor reporters, their profession, they provide an invaluable service to society by seeking the truth,the facts, then sharing the same with us. That is not the route Spataro nor her editor Ana McKenzie chose to tread to get this article to press.

I am guilty of being naïve, for sure. I thought Creative Loafing was reaching out to me to write a story about OWDB given my name was passed on by Theresa (Sports Expo) and I’d been in communication with Creative Loafing to get press.

Yes, I am excited to be a Table Captain at the HRC. That was my reply to Spataro’s query and it stands.

I contribute to local LGBT organizations because of my personal belief that it is important for individuals to make a better world wherever, whenever and however you can.

I am a 52 year old gay woman. I am part of the LGBT Community, the local and the large. For me and people like me to one day gain full equality as a citizen of this nation laws need to change. The HRC works to that end.

We are a nation of laws, our lives, our liberties are directly impacted by them many of which do not protect or provide equality to all citizens. To effect positive change in the lives of people laws are changed by lobbying Congress, state and local officials who support pro-LGBT bills. The HRC does that. They also look forward and seek out political candidates who will support and stick to positions on LGBT rights.

So, the HRC works for me, for my community and they are able to do this necessary and good work through contributions and donations which is why I’ve contributed to them for well over 25 years way before moving to North Carolina in 2008.

I am a proud table Captain, I am an HRC Athlete for Equality and I have donated a Silent Auction Item to the 2013 Gala because I support and will continue to support the HRC through donations and volunteerism until there is no longer a need for them to exist.

I stand by my quote in context. I stand by every utterance that comes out of this proud, gay, Italian, German mouth of mine. If you have questions about what was discussed with Joanne Spataro or Ana McKenzie and you want the truth, ask me.

If you want a fairy tale, a fable, a lie or a kitty litter liner refer to Sporato’s aforementioned article in Creative Loafing.

Sincerely, proudly,
Denise A. Bauer
Founder and President of
One World Dragon Boat

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Posted by Denise Bauer on 02/22/2013 at 11:41 AM

Kudos to some good old fashion reporting on HRC, the largest national organization championing the rights for the LGBT community. Seems your reporter ruffled some NC feathers. Why, baffles me... but this is what good journalism does. No one will question the visibility of HRC on equal rights battles... including recently an almost complete focus on on same sex civil marriage. Good... But most people do not realize that ALL the money raised at a HRC GALA after costs is carted back to DC. And how cost effective are these Galas?

I suggest that all the people who have written in condemning Creative Loafing take a deep breath and realize how consistently supportive of LGBT issues in the State of North Carolina CL has been. Please stop taking umbrage and set about creating a new formula that would work certainly in North Carolina and everywhere else these Gala's take place... I strongly think that some of the money raised — may I suggest 25% after payment of expenses? 75% is a good amount to send to HRC in DC.

But the real battles for change actually always exist on the local level. Yes I say thank you, HRC, for using some of the money in your DC bank account to mobilize around Amendment One. But repeat: some of the local money raised must stay where it was raised. Local organizations need the support and this kind of formula would show true partnership between a national organization and the local grass roots organizations. Think about it please. So may I simply say, “girlfriends of all genders,” fight the real homopolymers in Charlotte and be grateful for the media allies you do have.

Jim Fouratt
Stonewall Participant
Co-founder Gay Liberation Front (1969)
Founding Member Act Up (1987)
Member Occupy the Pipeline

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Posted by jim fouratt on 03/01/2013 at 1:34 AM

Mr. Fouratt,

With all respect, please read the comments and then read my OpEd I wrote from 5 years ago about HRC and local giving. I don't believe you have done either -- or you might realize that this issue is not what CL reported. The issue is that the reporter said nothing new five years later, chose to ignore reporting any of the changes locally and basically just rehashed old news -- and for "what purpose?"

PLUS, CL does not have any out LGBT staff/writers in 2013. Do you find this permissable, justifiable for any "alternative" news outlet to not have a diversity of staff to reflect the community it serves? Surely as a queer pioneer, you must realize that without a meaningful LGBT commitment or real involvement within our LGBT community this is part of a larger systemic issue and a "real" failure in being a news outlet like Creative Loafing.

Of course, you would not know about our Charlotte LGBT community living in NYC, I presume. Please understand (and read the OpEd that I wrote 5 years ago) I don't disagree on giving back locally, BUT I said that five years ago. I do disagree with a local paper like Creative Loafing writing about "my" Charlotte LGBT community from the outside and pretending to know what they are talking about as "well intentioned" straight person might.

Respectfully,

Your Girlfriend across the Queer Spectrum -- Shane

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Posted by Shane L. Windmeyer on 03/02/2013 at 1:58 AM
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