ICANN has used his last day on the job to fire a broadside over the “.gay” top-level domain.
In a ruling published on his own website, Chris LaHatte argues that the organization’s board should reject a recommendation by its own governance committee (BGC) and should grant special community status to one of the four applicants for .gay, effectively handing it control of the registry.
LaHatte argues that a recent acceptance by ICANN that it should incorporate human rights principles into its functioning means that it should negate the circular logic that has led the organization to repeatedly reject Dot Gay LLC’s bid.
“I recommend that the board looks at the bigger picture beyond the BGC recommendation,” LaHatte wrote, pointing out that the ICANN board is not obliged to follow its governance committee’s recommendations. “The board should grant the community application status to the applicant and put an end to this long and difficult issue.”
The issue has indeed been long and difficult. It has been nearly five years since Dot Gay LLC – which is endorsed by an enormous number of gay organizations across the globe – applied for the internet extension. It was seen by many as a shoo-in for the special “community” status that was created to enable groups of people to gain control of their relevant online space without having to go up against large corporations.
In .gay’s case, the three other bidders are commercial organizations that have applied for, and also run, dozens of other top-level domains.
There was some surprise then when back in 2014, Dot Gay’s bid was rejected by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) – which has been hired by ICANN to review community applications – for not being gay enough.
There was no “nexus between proposed string and community,” the EIU argued. “The group of self-identified gay individuals globally is estimated to be 1.2 per cent of the world population (more than 70 million), while the application states that the size of the community it has defined … is 7 million. This difference is substantial and is indicative of the degree to which the applied-for string substantially over-reaches beyond the community.”
What made the decision all the more peculiar was that the EIU approved community applications for a number of other names that were clearly commercial entities – and so appeared to be undermining the entire idea behind the community status. Among those approved were .radio, .hotel and .Osaka.