Metro Weekly

HRC President: “We are at Code Red. This is an emergency.”

HRC's Joni Madison denounced efforts to walk back progress on LGBTQ equality at the group's New York Gala.

HRC's Joni Madison - Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for HRC
HRC’s Joni Madison – Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for HRC

The president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, sounded the alarm at the organization’s annual Greater New York Dinner, warning attendees that the current political climate constitutes an “emergency” for LGBTQ rights.

In her speech, HRC Interim President Joni Madison decried the slew of anti-LGBTQ bills being proposed in various states, and the misinformation about the LGBTQ community being spread by those pushing such legislation. She denounced the recent political trend in which anti-LGBTQ opponents accuse those who support LGBTQ rights of being “groomers” who pose a potential risk to children.

“These lawmakers are simply pouring gasoline on a wildfire,” Madison said of those behind the proposed legislation and harmful rhetoric surrounding bills like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

“They’re going on Fox News and reclaiming vintage hand-me-down hate — calling us predators and groomers. Marjorie Taylor Greene has called our community ‘pro-pedophile.’ But at the exact same time, one of her staunchest allies — Matt Gaetz — is under federal investigation for alleged sex crimes with a minor.

“Alabama Governor Kay Ivey went out of her way to attack trans kids under the guise of ‘protecting the children. But she supported Roy Moore even after news came out that he engaged in sexual misconduct with 14-year-olds. It’s disgusting.

“It is clear that these leaders do not care at all about protecting children,” she added. “Their hypocrisy is vile. Their actions are vile. Their rhetoric is vile. They are painting a target on our back — and then telling folks it is okay to go ahead and shoot.”

She urged LGBTQ people and those who profess to be their allies to be more proactive by speaking up publicly against efforts to rescind protections for LGBTQ individuals or roll back hard-won rights.

“I will say it again: we are at Code Red. This is an emergency,” Madison said. “And we can’t just turn on the bat signal and wait to be rescued. We have to be our own damn superheroes. Like the damn superheroes who came before us. Let me tell you, friends, there is no security in complacency….

“There are people asking why they should get involved because they think they’re going to be okay — because they are cis, because they are white, because they are well-to-do. Many movements are guilty of this. HRC has been guilty of this. But we must change,” she added. “The safety of every single member of our community must be our priority. Because that’s what liberation requires. And because that’s the only way we save ourselves.”

Madison’s comments were echoed by other speakers at the event, including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, actress Gold Rosheuvel, actors Tituss Burgess and Ian Alexander, and transgender rights activist Nicole Maines, who accused those who oppose LGBTQ progress of knowing their outlandish claims to be false. 

“People know what it means to be transgender now,” Maines said. “People know that gender-affirming care saves lives. We know that transgender kids are not being groomed by their parents. And we know that allowing a trans girl to play soccer doesn’t give her team a game-breaking advantage because we know she’s a fourth grader and not the goddamn winter soldier.”

In her remarks, Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke out against anti-LGBTQ legislation in schools and her wish to leave a legacy for her new grandchild, who had been born just two hours prior to the event.

“Whatever I do from this moment forward has an effect on my grandchild’s life,” Hochul said. “I wanted this baby to enter a world in 2022 that was filled with love, and compassion, and tolerance, and embraces individuality and diversity and people’s individual human rights.

“And I want to make sure that even though I couldn’t welcome this baby into the world in that environment, I want to be sure when that baby grows up to be a teenager, and in her 20s and 30s, becomes an adult, I want her to know that the world changed.”

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