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HRC Names New President

Jim Burroway

March 2nd, 2012

The Human Rights Campaign has announced that Chad Griffin, a founding member of the California-based LGBT group that is challenging Proposition 8 in Federal Court, has been selected to become the HRC’s president.  He will succeed Joe Solmonese when his contract expires March 31.

Despite Griffin’s extensive ties with Democratic and progressive causes — he is an enthusiastic supporter of President Barack Obama’s political campaign, as well as  causes encompassing equal rights, clean energy, universal health care, stem cell research and early childhood education — Griffin has also sought support from people on all sides of the political spectrum. As a founding board member of Americans for Equal Rights, Griffin is credited for recruiting Ted Olson and David Boies as the dream-team attorneys in AFER’s fight against  Prop 8. Griffin will remain on AFER’s board of directors.

It’s worth noting that when that lawsuit was first announced, many other LGBT organizations openly questioned whether AFER was taking too bold a risk. Some tried to derail it, others tried to hijack it, but AFER remained the sole litigant in the challenge that is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Where Solmonese showed timidity and a reluctance to challenge political leaders, Griffin has a rather different track record. Is Griffin big enough to lead the HRC to becoming a genuine advocacy group for its constituents — you know, LGBT people and not elected political leaders? HRC is larger than just a president. There’s an entire board of entrenched establishment figures whose access to power and celebrity is at least as important to them as the community’s goals, even when there is conflict between the two. Griffin’s appointment looks promising.

Update: Griffin was also an Executive Producer of Outrage, a documentary about the politics of “outing.” Again, another sign that he’s not one to defer to power.

Comments

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StraightGrandmother
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I am very excited by this! At least Chad Griffon does something. To me he is substance over image.

Pete
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I’ll be interested to see where things go from here with HRC. They often send pairs of volunteers to my campus to collect signatures for various things, and to this point, I’ve always rebuffed them because I’ve decided that there are other organizations that are far more effective and substantial in actually, y’know, advocating for gay rights. If they finally get moving in that direction, so much the better!

MattNYC
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I am cautiously optimistic. I agree that–while Griffin may be less than concerned about ruffling feathers–the board may take issue if they are ever made to feel remotely uncomfortable while having cocktails with their “celebri-tician” friends.

If he proposes to sell the money pit at 1640 Rhode Island Ave. and put the proceeds towards actually getting things accomplished in the trenches, I may consider donating again.

Theo
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

This is potentially a big story. Right now, we get about 15-20 cents of value on every dollar that HRC takes in. The rest, IMO, is sidelined or misallocated. That essentially takes $34 million off the gay rights battlefield every year. This is why I have always felt that we would be better off without HRC.

If Griffin can make the organization more goal-oriented and less interested in self-perpetuation, then that money might be properly deployed for battle for the first time. It is serious money and could be a real game changer.

Muscat
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I’m not an HRC supporter but this does sound like a potentially promising choice to lead the organization.

Timothy Kincaid
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

HRC’s says the following about the organization:

HRC seeks to improve the lives of LGBT Americans by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace, ensuring families are treated equally under the law and increasing public support among all Americans.

And I’m sure they do seek such improvement. Unfortunately, they haven’t been part of the process of change for quite a while.

HRC’s involvement in ending DADT, in challenging DOMA, in achieving marriage victories, or in electing gay people to office has been minimal, at best. When basically fund-less groups like Log Cabin or Empire State Pride and single issue grass-roots efforts like Victory Fund and Marriage Equality Whateverstate achieve more than the largest most cash-flush most recognized and most “influential” gay organization, it should cause them to question their effectiveness.

Hell, in terms of actually changing public perception, they are hardly players at all. I believe that much of the most recent surge in support can be attributed to a few factors: 1, the tipping point (everyone else supports gays so I will too), 2, coming out (and here Dan Savage deserves piles of credit – while I’m not sure ‘It Gets Better’ necessarily prevents suicides, that movement was the biggest coming-out program we’ve ever seen), 3, permission from religion.

Point 3 is probably bigger than many of us want to admit. When all churches said “no”, a good many people including the non-religious deferred to the church as the voice on “moral issues”. But with Episcopalian, Lutheran, UCC, Methodist, Presbyterian, and even Baptist churches are speaking about equality in terms of God, it removes one of the biggest obstacles in the minds of many people. Sure the Catholic heirachy and the Mormons and the Evangelicals rail against “sin” there no longer is one position. So now people who go to church for weddings, funerals, and Easter every couple of years don’t feel that they are anti-Christian for supporting equality – and, indeed, the unchurched support us in huge numbers.

And these churches didn’t just grudgingly say “okay, I guess”. If you follow the news in smaller towns where we are fighting the battle for local respect, you’ll see a phenomenon that has mostly escaped notice. Almost without exception over the past year or so, the main spokesman for equality is wearing a clerical collar.

And regardless of one’s view on religion,when straight Christian pastors are seen more often in city council and state legislative chambers than HRC, and they are, it should give them cause for self-reflection.

I’ll give them props for their business index. It does impact employment policies under which many gay employees of large corporations work. But I’m not sure it couldn’t be achieved at 1% of HRC’s budget.

Sadly, the potential that they have has been mostly squandered. They’ve become representative less of gay people and more of the gay 1%. In terms of the average gay person their interaction is mostly limited to “here’s your sticker, give me $40″ and the impact on individual lives is hard to see.

I suspect, however, that HRC board members see huge accomplishments. They got the President of the United States to speak at their dinner. They are recognized in the halls of Congress. They are seen as loyal and valuable contributors to the Democratic Party.

And there is merit to that thinking. It is good that the President speaks to a gay group. It would be better, however, if it was a gay group that measured its goals and accomplishment in terms other than that speech.

So it is with “here we go again” that I note that they have selected a Democratic Party activist to lead the group. Yeah, that’s going to get us the much needed handful of Republicans on important votes. Sheesh.

But, the ray of hope is that the Democratic Party activist they selected is Chad Griffin. He’s proven himself capable of working across the aisle and putting goals ahead of partisan posturing.

Maybe, just maybe, rather than tell gay voters that we have to vote for the Democrat and walk precincts and give money and overlook her positions will instead tell the candidate that HRC could not possibly endorse someone who thinks we do not deserve equality.

I guess I’m “hopeful but not optimistic”. I’ll have to wait and see.

StraightGrandmother
March 3rd, 2012 | LINK

That was a good comment Tim.

Today I mailed off a paper letter to Chad Griffin and suggested that he needs to represent the 99% so it is interesting to me Tim that you also referenced the 1%.

I also suggest to him that he and all HRC staff FLY COACH. I told him that those of us in the 99% all fly coach.

Also i suggested that he start leading some street protests. We have to protest on all fronts, in the Courts, in the Halls of our Legislators but also out on the streets. Public Protesting energizes US.

I suggested to him the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not have accomplished what he did if he did not take it to the streets. And Dr. King was at the front of the marches and protests, leading it. I suggested that for good street protests you gotta have drums. :)

So let’s see if he flies Coach or Business class.

Albert
March 3rd, 2012 | LINK

As a former Federal Club member, I hope Chad Griffin does something to focus more HRC attention to local areas. Having attended an HRC “inspection” of our local club, it was clear that their main purpose was directed to raising funds: “Why can’t your club be more like the one in Dallas?” There was no concern to what we were accomplishing at the local level. (It is expensive to live in DC.)

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