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Despite Controversy, Human Rights Campaign Starts Moving Into Harvey Milk's Camera Store

Barely rattled by a national controversy, the Human Rights Campaign, the gay rights lobbying group based in Washington D.C., is starting to move forward with its plan to open a gift shop at the site where gay rights icon Harvey Milk once operated his camera store in San Francisco's Castro District.

Gay blogger Michael Petrelis took pictures of the renovation and posted them on the Internet, which show sleek overhead lighting and plenty of T-shirts soon to be for sale.

The L.A. Weekly cover story, "Mission Drift at Gay Inc.," explains why gay rights activists, including Milk confidant Cleve Jones, are not happy about HRC's plans for the store.

In many activists' eyes, HRC is the kind of major organization, also known as Gay Inc., that carves out its own political turf, raises millions of dollars to build its empire, and beats down or takes over smaller gay rights groups that are viewed as competitors for influence and money -- all to the detriment of the larger gay rights movement.

As Cleve Jones told the Weekly, "It's the antithesis of what Harvey stood for."

The HRC controversy made national headlines, with the New York Times covering the dust-up.

But when a Gay Inc. group like HRC wants to do something, it often steam rolls ahead and does it -- no matter what people in the gay community are saying.

The New York Times reported that Jones has pushed HRC for a kind of compromise and allow the Trevor Project, a gay youth outreach group based in West Hollywood, to also work out of Milk's former store. No official announcement, though, has been made about such a partnership.

In the meantime, HRC president Joe Solmonese will soon cash in on Milk's legacy. In a way, it's shaping up to be yet another take over by Gay Inc.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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