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If timing is everything, then the hour could not be more favorable for a forum on LGBT leadership in Washington, D.C., the site of two acts of civil disobedience, on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, in the past two days.
Michelangelo Signorile, host of The Michelangelo Signorile Show on Sirius XM Radio's OutQ Channel, will broadcast his must-listen program live from D.C. on Thursday afternoon, with power brokers from far-flung corners of the LGBT movement.
Billed as an "emergency summit," The Path Forward: An LGBT Leadership Town Hall will feature National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey; National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling; Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis; former Clinton White House adviser on gay rights Richard Socarides; and blogger and activist Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend in the Sirius/XM studios. Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese will join the conversation from London, where volcanic ash has prevented him from flying home.
Signorile spoke with The Advocate about the special event Tuesday, hours before the latest acts of civil disobedience organized by GetEQUAL seemingly shifted the landscape once again.
The Advocate:Why did you decide to hold this forum?
Michelangelo Signorile: At this point, looking ahead to the next few weeks, it's a critical time on so many issues and there has been so much discussion, debate, and dissatisfaction with how this administration has moved on the big issues that people elected the president on: "don't ask, don't tell," ENDA, and [the Defense of Marriage Act]. There's been a lot of frustration with how LGBT leaders interact with the White House and engage with Congress. This event is about trying to get some answers, have a discussion, and get information about what is going to happen. It's important to get everyone all in the same room with people who can ask questions.
Will any discussion be devoted to what has gone right?
I think that will certainly be discussed. We will talk about what has happened over the past six months, what we have achieved. Is it what people expected? How is it different from what we have achieved before? Richard Socarides will be there. Is this incremental? There will be talk of hospital visitation, all of the issues that have been addressed.
As a longtime activist, have you ever organized anything like this town hall?
This is the first time that I've done an LGBT leadership town hall with Beltway leaders. I want to be clear what this isn't. It's not an all-encompassing leadership panel where we have every leader and talk about the next five years. This is about the Beltway and the lobbyists. It think it's the first time it's ever been done. It's not the first time I've done a remote event in front of an audience.
We've been talking about it since January, since the beginning of the year. We had tried to do it last month, but then we just kind of hit on this date as the time to do it, and as it turns out the timing is critical.
How were the panelists selected?
It's so tough because there are so many people working on behalf of LGBT people in Washington. Having six guests is a challenge, but even narrowing it down was tough. We wanted to get the people who have been most engaged, most public about the various issues and engaged with the White House and Congress. Pam Spaulding and Richard Socarides, for example, bring different perspectives.
Why not include any gay representatives from the Obama administration or Capitol Hill in this forum?
We really wanted to make this a discussion among activists and leaders in the LGBT movement. I know leaders could also be [Rep. Barney] Frank and [Rep. Tammy] Baldwin in Congress. We really wanted to keep it very focused on the strategy of activists. I've had Barney, Tammy, and Jared [Polis, out congressman from Colorado] on the show, and we wanted to put the focus on the activists who engage with Congress.
How can people attend, and will you be taking listeners' calls during the show?
There was a drawing. Today we will pick the names. There will be seating for 45 or 50 people. We'll be taking calls during the show. It will be online as well.
What kind of response have you received within the LGBT community?
It's been enormously positive. Everybody who hears about it says what a great idea it is. We've been getting a lot of attention. I wrote a piece on the The Huffington Post. I think everybody is really excited.