They have - surprise! - not answered the question posed. I asked how many people had paid the suggested minimum membership fee of $35 in the last twelve months. They have responded with their own definitions of a "member" and a "supporter", definitions which were amended last June in the by-laws (after that Blade article came out). A "member" is defined by the Human Rights Campaign as anyone who has contributed as little as $5 - whether that means contributing $5 or buying a $5 magnet in one of their stores - over a two-year period. So it's $2.50 minimum membership a year, and it includes people who didn't even think they were becoming "members". (That's up from $1 a year in 2005.) "Supporters" are defined as anyone who has ever "taken action," which means anyone who has ever given HRC his or her email address. No dues are required for this at all. So HRC tells me the following:

According to the descriptions above, we currently have 379,429 "members" and 353,402 "supporters" of HRC, coming to a grand membership total of over 730,000. (So, in fact, you were right: Our membership is not 650,000, it's 732,831.)

Er: no. By HRC's own definition, they have a "membership" of roughly 380,000 members over two years, if you define that by a minimum purchase of $2.50 a year. If you assume that membership stays even across years, that gives us 190,000 actual "members" in the last twelve months. I asked, of course, for how many had paid the $35 suggested membership fee on their website. Somehow, I don't think we're going to find out that number. Oh well.

So now for five simple questions with respect to the group, which they have graciously agreed to answer:

What do you regard as your three most significant legislative or organizational achievements in the last five years?

What percentage of the 2006 budget for all of HRC (both foundation and lobbying group) was taken up by fundraising, events, mortgage payments and administration?

What percentage was devoted to lobbying and organizing?

What are your goals for the 2007 - 2009 legislative session?

How many people are on your bi-partisan board and how many are registered Republicans?

I promise to post their response in full on this blog, without any comment from me, and ask them merely to be as succinct as possible. My sole aim is accountability and progress toward gay equality. There's no doubt that many people at HRC do good work and are good people. But there's also no doubt that many donors and gay rights supporters have serious questions about their efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency. It helps HRC to clear these up.

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