[Photo: Chad Griffin (Photo by Rex Wockner.)]
The Human Rights Campaign today announced that Chad Griffin, the force behind the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, will take over as the next president of HRC.
In a statement released by HRC, Griffin said, “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.”
A founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which brought the federal challenge to Proposition 8, Griffin has significant bipartisan accomplishments under his belt — including having secured the “odd couple” team of Ted Olson and David Boies, who faced off in Bush v. Gore, to fight the lawsuit — despite his past work in the Clinton White House communications team.
HRC board co-chair Tim Downing and HRC Foundation board co-chair Sandra Hartness spoke on behalf of their colleagues on the board of directors in issuing a statement about the news of the selection of Griffin to replace HRC president Joe Solmonese, which was first reported by The Advocate‘s Andrew Harmon.
“We’re ecstatic to have someone of Chad’s caliber as our next president. His superior credentials and achievements, both as a visionary and strategist, make him uniquely qualified to lead this organization forward,” they said. “Chad has a proven track record of consistently delivering results during his career. That’s something that our community rightly expects and deserves.”
To that, Griffin said, “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.”
In a statement released by AFER, Olson — who repesented Bush — and Boies — who represented Gore — both praised the selection.
Olson said, “I cannot think of anyone better to take the helm of the Human Rights Campaign than my dear friend and colleague Chad Griffin. There is no one more passionate, more resourceful or more effective than Chad. His brilliant and visionary leadership makes me confident that one day, very soon, every American will be treated equally under the law. HRC is extraordinarily lucky to have him.”
For his part, Boies added, “Time after time over the past several years, Chad has proven that he is easily one of the most skilled strategists and tacticians in American politics today. That is a rare combination of skill sets for one person to have. His diplomacy, his intellect and his passion for issues of equality are second to none. I cannot think of a better person to lead HRC into the future.”
The search committee to find the successor for Solmonese has been co-chaired by HRC board of directors members Joni Madison of Hillsborough, N.C., and Dana Perlman of Los Angeles.
Solmonese has led the organization since March 2005, following the rocky and brief tenure of Cheryl Jacques, whose resignation in November 2004 led to the appointment by the board of Hilary Rosen as interim executive director and began the national search that resulted in Solmonese’s hiring.
He helmed the organization during historic successes like passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 but also during one of the most divisive moments of the organization’s history — its support in 2007 for a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that was not inclusive of gender identity.
Solmonese — whose planned departure was announced, abruptly when news leaked, in August 2011 — has led the organization into the 2012 election cycle, where the organization issued an early endorsement to President Obama for his re-election, and the task of carrying out the organization’s general election activity will fall now to his successor.
Prior to Jacques, Elizabeth Birch had served as the head of the organization from early 1995 until January 2004. Birch had been the worldwide director of litigation for Apply Computer prior to taking the job at HRC.
Birch, whose tenure marked significant growth for the organization, was preceded by Tim McFeeley, who was preceded in turn by Vic Basile. Basile served as the first executive director for the Human Rights Campaign beginning in 1983, although it was known as the Human Rights Campaign Fund at the time and its purpose was solely a political action committee.