Friday, March 02, 2012

AFER Head Chad Griffin Named HRC Head

Chad Griffin, 38, is board president and founder of the American Foundation
 for Equal Rights, the group that organized the Proposition 8 federal lawsuit
The Advocate is reporting that 38-year-old political consultant Chad Griffin, the force behind the Los Angeles-based group which is shepherding the original Perry v Schwarzenegger federal legal challenge to Proposition 8 (American Foundation for Equal Rights or AFER) has been named the new head of the Human Rights Campaign, the most prominent LGBT advocacy position in the United States:
A major fundraiser for the Obama campaign who began his career in the early days of the Clinton White House, Griffin will replace current president Joe Solmonese at the helm of the $40 million organization on June 11, HRC announced Friday following a board of directors vote. Solmonese, who joined HRC as president in 2005 and said in August that he would leave after his contract expires at the end of this month, will continue in his role until June. Solmonese was named a national co-chair for the Obama campaign last month. 

In its pick of Griffin as president, HRC has chosen someone who was shaped from an early age by Washington political culture yet who is not defined by it, having spent the vast majority of his career outside the Beltway. Griffin, 38, is a fervent supporter of President Obama with personal ties to White House officials, but has pushed the bipartisan case for marriage equality, notably hiring former George W. Bush solicitor general Theodore Olson to co-lead the Prop. 8 suit and aligning with conservatives including gay former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, who has raised money for the legal effort. Griffin has been openly critical of the president’s evolving position on marriage equality, calling Obama’s indicated support for states' rights on deciding who can marry “a step backwards.” And, central to the job, Griffin has a proven ability to be a formidable fundraiser.

“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,” Griffin said in a statement. “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.”
This is very big news and should raise the profile of marriage equality even higher in the nexus of LGBT issues that enter into the mainstream political consciousness of the 2012 political campaigns.

It will be interesting to see what impact Griffin's selection will have on the other issues which America's largest LGBT advocacy organization is also responsible for advancing, such as trans-inclusive national employment non-discrimination legislation, repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, passing the Uniting All Families Act, and the multiple statewide pro-gay and anti-gay ballot measures around the country (just to name a few).

In larger terms, the question of how the movement for LGBT equality will interface with other progressive movements like comprehensive immigration reform, the pro-choice movement, the labor movement and people of color civil rights organizations when the players involved are becoming more bipartisan in nature will be important to watch. Griffin is known for defying "Gay, Inc." orthodoxy in the past and is clearly comfortable working across party lines, having personally recruited David Boies and Ted Olson to be the superlawyers leading the Perry lawsuit to strike down California's same-sex marriage ban.

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