What the international community can do to support LGBTQ Ugandans
I digested the reporting on Andrew Cuomo, sexual harassment and reverberations in the LGBTQ community.
Sexual harassment is despicable. It doesn’t matter what form it takes.
Charlotte Bennett, an accuser of Cuomo, told investigators Cuomo asked her if she was monogamous. Cuomo has denied all allegations of sexual harassment.
If you are gay, you or a friend of yours has likely been sexually harassed.
Maybe you have been sexually assaulted.
Maybe you have a friend who is afraid to go out because their boss is making anti-queer “jokes”.
In the 1990s, I was ridiculed and berated at a work staff meeting for talking about the “gay sex life” of my (then) partner and myself. (The only thing I had mentioned about my girlfriend and I was that we both liked pizza without anchovies.)
Unfortunately, despite #MeToo and marriage equality, things haven’t changed much when it comes to sexual harassment.
In 2017, NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard conducted a survey of LGBTQ people.
More than half of those polled, NPR reported, said that “they or an LGBTQ friend or family member have experienced sexual harassment.”
Given the experience of the gay community and the fight against sexual harassment, allegations that, as reported by Blade, human rights campaign chairman Alphonso David has potentially played a role. role in covering up Cuomo’s behavior, are deeply troubling.
David, who before taking over as head of the HRC in 2019, was Cuomo’s advisor, denies doing anything wrong.
David is the first black president of the HRC in the organization’s 40-year history. He has worked to make the HRC more diverse – more welcoming and inclusive for people of color and transgender people. He was instrumental in drafting and enacting marriage equality legislation in New York State.
David can be innocent of any wrongdoing.
But, claims of David’s potential complicity in Cuomo’s efforts to discredit his accusers are serious. He’s named, as Blade reports, nearly a dozen times in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ report. The report revealed that Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 female employees.
I am not a lawyer. But James’ report doesn’t appear to be ax work.
The report appears to be well documented. Overnight, Cuomo would likely have been dismissed had he not resigned.
You would think HRC would have acted immediately – that it would have taken steps to investigate the veracity of the allegations against David.
After all, some HRC staff have called for David’s resignation. Some of his donors, including the Michigan attorney general, have called for David’s resignation.
Instead, HRC issued a statement supporting David. Although the timing is a coincidence, the group renewed David’s contract for another five years.
After intense pressure, HRC, as reported by The Blade, hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP to conduct a 30-day investigation into the allegations against David.
It would be welcome, but the law firm has done a lot of work with HRC. He says he has “a long-standing relationship” with HRC.
Legally, it might not be a conflict of interest, but that doesn’t make it any less fishy.
You can’t help but wonder: How can a law firm that has a relationship with HRC conduct a fair and independent investigation into the allegations against David?
The conclusions of such an investigation would have little weight in our perception of David and HRC.
If the allegations against David turned out to be false, what significance would this conclusion have?
If HRC sincerely wishes to conduct an independent investigation, it should not be limited to 30 days.
For due diligence to be carried out, no time limit should be set for the investigation.
Finally, David should be placed on unpaid administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.
I hope David will be declared innocent of wrongdoing.
But, to maintain its credibility, the HRC must conduct a fair, transparent and independent investigation.
Kathi wolfe, writer and poet, contributes regularly to The Blade.