New HRC President, Chad Griffin (Rex Wockner)
After a six month search that included "over one hundred diverse and extremely well-qualified candidates" Human Rights Campaign has settled on a successor to the outgoing President Joe Solomnese:
Chad H. Griffin was appointed today as the next president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, by the organization’s Board of Directors. Griffin, a national communications and policy strategist, is widely credited for being the mastermind behind the federal lawsuit to overturn California's Proposition 8, which has now been ruled unconstitutional by two federal courts.
Griffin is a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sole sponsor of the Prop. 8 lawsuit. He is personally responsible for recruiting the legal dream team of Theodore Olson and David Boies to successfully argue the case. Griffin will remain on the board of directors of AFER.
A veteran of the Clinton White House communications team, and a native of Arkansas, Griffin was highly motivated by young people in taking this new endeavor. “All over this country in big cities and small towns, there are families and young people who long to be accepted for who they are, and who want be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else," said Griffin. "I’m honored by the board’s confidence in my ability to lead HRC. While there’s no doubt that we’ve made tremendous progress on the road to equality, we must not forget that millions of LGBT Americans still lack basic legal protections and suffer the consequences of discrimination every day. Today's generation of young people, and each generation hereafter, must grow up with the full and equal protection of our laws, and finally be free to participate in the American dream. As HRC president, I’ll approach our work with a great sense of urgency because there are real life consequences to inaction.”
Griffin worked under Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers at the age of 19. He also appears to be a well-rounded politico, from HRC's release:
The founding partner of strategic communications and campaign firm, Griffin|Schein, Griffin has taken on entrenched, well-financed interests like Big Tobacco, Big Oil and the far right, and shaped national policy debates around equal rights, clean energy, universal health care, stem cell research, and early childhood education. He has also led groundbreaking ballot initiative campaigns including the largest ballot initiative ever recorded, Proposition 87: California’s Clean Alternative Energy Initiative; the Proposition 10 campaign, which generates $600 million a year for early childhood education; and Proposition 71, which secured billions of dollars for stem cell research despite the Bush Administration ban.
When Human Rights Campaign announced they'd be searching for a president, after Joe Solomnese announced he'd be stepping down, many felt it was a chance to remake the organization for a new era. They appear to have made a very solid choice. It's definitely encouraging that Griffin is clearly a very bright, ambitious man with a proven record of success, who's well-connected and has intimate roots to a deeply red state.
Victory Fund says:
“Chad Griffin is an outstanding choice to become the Human Rights Campaign’s next president, and I congratulate the HRC board for picking such an effective and talented leader. In his work on the Prop 8 case, Chad has demonstrated the passion and focus necessary to energize our movement’s largest organization and draw more Americans to this fight. I am fortunate to have worked closely with three HRC presidents, and I look forward to working with my friend Chad, whose keen insight and sense of humor will serve us well as we move toward a country where all Americans are equal under law.”
And Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign
"I met Chad nine years ago during the Howard Dean campaign. I have worked with, watched and admired his leadership and unparalleled strategic and campaign skills on a multitude of issues. He simplifies the complex, never misses a detail and keeps his eye firmly fixed on the horizon. Chad is the rare combination of a passionate, tough, experienced leader who will take our movement to full equality."
The initial reviews that are coming in are quite good even from HRC's harsher critics. Pam Spaulding says:
I have no doubt, based on AFER’s stellar track record, that he can handle the external communication and politics in this almost-impossible job (you’re never going to please everyone in the LGBT community). I can say as a new media journalist, AFER sets the standard for keeping the Blend and other blogs in the loop by providing excellent advance work and on-point communications.
John Aravosis at AmericaBlog says:
I never expected to say this about the next HRC President, but I'm thrilled that it's Chad. In addition to Chad's record at AFER, Joe and I got to spend some time with him last year and he's quite impressive. He's smart as hell, excellent on camera (how many national leaders do we have that are?), has a serious grasp on politics (something HRC, and we, need), and being young(ish) he's hopefully more open to working with the gay Netroots than his predecessor. I'm really quite surprised that they picked Chad, and that Chad picked HRC.
And Joe Sudbay adds this:
A gay political friend, who is no friend of HRC, put it best in an email to me: "I think I might start to care about HRC again."
If the goal was to find a leader who could seamlessly transition between the worlds of fierce grassroots and netroots advocacy to the more gentle diplomacy required in the halls of Congress and the White House, they may have made exactly the right choice in Chad Griffin.
Griffin bucked conventional wisdom when he founded AFER and began the quest to take the marriage equality fight into the federal courts in 2009. Many were skeptical the Proposition 8 federal challenge would end well. Still more were skeptical about what hard-right Republican like Ted Olsen was doing on the legal team. ("It can only be a trap!" many said.)
A telling bit of trivia is Griffin also was an executive producer for the documentary Outrage. Netflix it sometime.
Bruce Cohen, a fellow AFER board is quoted by Andrew Harmon in The Advocate:
“Chad thinks big. And then he goes out and accomplishes his goal,” Cohen said. “If AFER is any blueprint, then I think we have exciting things to look forward to. And for those who haven't felt that they had a home at HRC, I believe he’ll make them feel that they do now."
Cohen appears to be addressing critics who contend that Human Rights Campaign has inadequately represented the interests of transgender, women and people of color, HIV-positive and economically disenfranchised.
That Chad Griffin is a gay white male may not immunize them entirely, but Griffin's stewardship of the organizations priorities will soon enough speak for itself. Sounds like it's worth granting Griffin the benefit of the doubt and let him show us for himself what are HRC's priorities in the coming years.
HRC forwards this collection of quotes, a veritable who's who in the LGBT and civil rights movement:
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
“I congratulate Chad Griffin on his appointment as the new President of HRC. I’m confident Chad will continue to provide the strong leadership that HRC has become known for here in Washington. I’m proud to count myself as a strong supporter of issues important to the LGBT community and look forward to working with Chad and HRC to advance these issues.”
Judy Shepard, President, Matthew Shepard Foundation:
“I couldn’t be happier for HRC and my good friend, Chad Griffin. He’s just brilliant. The ways in which he connects with people on issues of equality continue to amaze me. He’s going to be a great leader for HRC, and the equality movement and I look forward to working with him.”
Kate Kendall, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights:
"Chad Griffin is a visionary and a force of nature. Chad sees around corners and finds ways to surmount obstacles and bring together disparate voices. The LGBT movement will benefit greatly from his unflagging confidence in the rightness of our cause and his career spent fighting for equality and fairness on a wide range of progressive causes."
Evan Wolfson, Founder & President, Freedom to Marry:
“This is a terrific choice for HRC and our movement. I admire people who raise the bar and bring creativity, smarts, and, of course, more people into the work of getting important things done. As we've worked together to win the freedom to marry, I have seen Chad do all of that with fresh energy and exceptional talent, and Freedom to Marry and I look forward to partnering even closer as he takes the helm of HRC.”
Julian Bond, Chairman Emeritus, NAACP:
"Chad Griffin is a great choice - he is a major leader in the fight for equality. HRC has staged a coup!"
Anthony Romero, Executive Director, ACLU:
“Chad’s appointment to the Human Rights Campaign comes at a historic time for LGBT equality. Chad is exactly the right person to lead the organization at this incredible time. He has courage, passion, dynamism and a willingness to push tough issues forward in a thoughtful and strategic manner.”
Shannon Minter, Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights
“Chad Griffin is an inspired choice. In addition to his legendary genius and relentlessness, Chad has a deep understanding of how social and political change happen and an unflinching commitment to full equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. As someone who grew up in the South, he will bring a fierce commitment to ensuring that change comes to all parts of our country and that every young person can grow up with unqualified love, acceptance, and support. Chad is exactly the type of creative new leader that we will need to make the most of the unprecedented opportunities opening up for our community in the years ahead.”