Rosendall presents award to Barbara Menard

Distinguished Service Award to Barbara Menard

Presented by former GLAA President Rick Rosendall

GLAA 31st Anniversary Reception
Hotel Washington
Thursday, April 18, 2002

From the interest that some members of Congress take in local DC affairs, you might think that Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and North Carolina are Wards 10, 11, 12, and 13. (If you want to know where Ward 9 is, ask Inspector General Maddox.) These members, inspired by Article I Section 8 of the Constitution and by the presence of cameras in the House chamber, work all sorts of mischief on DC's annual appropriations bill. The fact that we pay federal taxes is entirely forgotten as representatives of distant jurisdictions grandstand about their pet issues at our expense.

Many of us find this highly annoying, and our response to the problem demonstrates two things: the value of working in coalitions, and the value of back-room politics. You see, politicians do some of their best work away from the cameras and microphones, particularly through their staffs. Steve Endean understood this a quarter century ago when he landed on GAA President Cade Ware's doorstep and announced he had come to Washington to launch the Gay Rights National Lobby. Steve and Cade are long gone, but their successors at the Human Rights Campaign and at GLAA remember the lessons they taught. Politics is a dirty and disreputable business -- nowhere more so than on Capitol Hill -- but our stake in it is enormous, and it takes a tough and savvy lobbyist to get us a piece of the action. Tonight we honor such a professional in Barbara Menard.

Every year at about this time, a bipartisan coalition called the DC Appropriations Working Group starts to organize our efforts to oppose the next batch of obnoxious congressional riders to DC's budget. The group is facilitated by two people: Carl Schmid, whom we have honored previously, and Barbara Menard, Deputy Director of Legislation for the Human Rights Campaign.

Besides HRC, our coalition has had representatives from national groups like NGLTF, amfAR, PFLAG, AIDS Action, Adopt America, ACLU, People for the American Way, and organized labor. Besides GLAA, local groups like ACT UP, Whitman-Walker Clinic, Log Cabin, and Gertrude Stein have been involved. Hill staffers like Jon Bouker and Mark Agrast play a key role. Barbara is ably assisted by HRC senior policy advocate Christopher Labonte, and is backed up by Political Director Winnie Stachelberg and the muscle of the entire HRC organization, headed by Elizabeth Birch.

Working closely with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to strategize and coordinate our efforts, we meet in person, by phone and by email, pulling together talking points, keeping tabs on members and their staffs, discussing how to deal with the media and stay "on message," coordinating with our allies in the DC Council and the Mayor's office. We navigate a seemingly endless process of chairman's mark, subcommittee markup, full committee, floor debate, and conference committee -- prioritizing our issues, choosing angles of approach, scouring lists of committee members to determine whom to ask to introduce an amendment or write a "Dear Colleagues" letter. In the end we have surprised a lot of people with our victories.

The recent victory on domestic partners is but the latest. In the summer of 1999, the hot issue was adoption, and that year we won a vote on gay adoptions on the floor of the House of Representatives. Every success paves the way for the next. You have to celebrate incremental progress in this business, because that's the way it comes. Through all our advances and setbacks, Barbara Menard has set a standard for judgment, perseverance, creativity, focus, and finesse.

Barbara is extremely modest, so we had to twist her arm a bit to get her to accept this award. It helped when I pointed out how many of her cohorts in the Working Group have already received one. Failing to honor a key leader and organizer like Barbara would be like recognizing the team but ignoring the coach. So for keeping an effective coalition together, for showing what it really means to do your homework, for having the right stuff and knowing when and how to use it -- it is my privilege to present this Distinguished Service Award to Barbara Menard.