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Human Rights Campaign

For other uses, please see HRC (disambiguation).
Human Rights Campaign
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Official logo
Motto Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equal Rights
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Chad Griffin
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Formerly called
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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States.[1]


HRC is an umbrella group of two separate non-profit organizations and a political action committee: the HRC Foundation, a 501(c)(3)[2] organization that focuses on research, advocacy and education; the Human Rights Campaign, a 501(c)(4)[3] organization that focuses on promoting the social welfare of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people through lobbying Congress and state and local officials for support of pro-LGBT bills, and mobilizing grassroots action amongst its members; and the HRC Political Action Committee, which supports candidates that adhere to its positions on LGBT rights.[4][5]

Local activities are carried out by local steering committees, of which there are over 30 located throughout the United States.[6]


The Human Rights Campaign's leadership includes President Chad Griffin.[7] HRC's work is supported by three boards: the Board of Directors, which is the governing body for the organization; the HRC Foundation Board, which manages the foundation's finances and establishes official policies governing the foundation; and the Board of Governors, which manages the organization's local outreach nationwide. All three boards comprise volunteers from across the country.[8]


The Human Rights Campaign's priorities include: prevention of hate crimes and HIV/AIDS; advocacy for healthcare benefits, marriage, and adoption rights for same-sex couples; lobbying for a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and gender identity anti-discrimination laws; combating gay bashing in schools; and building relationships with straight allies, ethnic groups, religious leaders, and youth.[9]

The HRC Foundation provides educational resources and publications on coming out, transgender issues, LGBT-related healthcare topics and information about workplace issues faced by LGBT people, notably the Corporate Equality Index. It also maintains resources on LGBT parenting, religion and faith issues, immigration, and outreach for youth.[10]

The HRC Foundation's Coming Out Project provides information to people who are in the process of coming out.[11]

HRC lobbies for anti-discrimination, hate crimes laws, and worked on the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal hate-crime law to allow the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.[12] Referring to the law as a "historic milestone", former HRC President Joe Solmonese said its passage represents "the first time that we as a nation have explicitly protected the LGBT community in the law."[13]

The organization's work on health issues traditionally focused on responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In recent years, HRC has addressed discrimination in health care settings for LGBT employees, patients and their families. Since 2007, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has published the "Healthcare Equality Index", which rates hospitals on issues such as patient and employee non-discrimination policies, employee cultural competency training, and hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients' families.[14] As of 2013, the medical center at the University of California at San Francisco is the only institution in the United States to achieve perfect scores on the index.[15] Lobbyists from the Human Rights Campaign worked with the Obama administration to extend hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners.[16] In 2012, HRC announced the formation of its wide-ranging Health & Aging Program, which addresses both the health concerns of all LGBT Americans and the particular challenges faced by LGBT elders, including discrimination, mistreatment and isolation.[17]

HRC lobbied extensively for the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) law, which barred gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the United States military. Eric Alva, a gay Marine who was the first American wounded in combat in Iraq, has since been a spokesman on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign's efforts to repeal the law, and was invited to stand behind President Barack Obama at the signing ceremony.[18]


File:Human Right Campaign headquarters.JPG
Human Rights Campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Steve Endean, who had worked with a previously established Gay Rights National Lobby from 1978, established the Human Rights Campaign Fund political action committee in 1980 to raise money for gay-supportive congressional candidates. In 1983, Vic Basile, at the time one of the leading LGBT rights activists in Washington, D.C., was elected as the first executive director. In October 1986, the HRC Foundation (HRCF) was formed as a non-profit organization.[19] HRCF provides help for families with LGBT parents and/or children, along with hospital treatment for those who need it and those seeking workplace equality, among other things.[20]

In January 1989, Basile announced his departure, and HRC reorganized from serving mainly as a political action committee (PAC) to broadening its function to encompass lobbying, research, education, and media outreach.[21] HRC decided on a new Statement of Purpose:

Tim McFeeley, a Harvard Law School graduate, founder of the Boston Lesbian and Gay Political Alliance, and a co-chair of the New England HRC Committee, was elected the new executive director. Total membership was then approximately 25,000 members.[19]

In 1992, HRC endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time, Bill Clinton. In March 1993, HRC began a new project, National Coming Out Day. From January 1995 until January 2004, Elizabeth Birch served as the executive director of the HRC. Under her leadership, the institution more than quadrupled its membership to 500,000 members.[22]

In 1995, the organization dropped the word "Fund" from its name, becoming the Human Rights Campaign. That same year, it underwent a complete reorganization. The HRC Foundation added new programs such as the Workplace Project and the Family Project, while HRC itself broadly expanded its research, communications, and marketing/public relations functions. The organization also unveiled a new logo, a yellow equal sign inside of a blue square, which has become one of the most recognizable symbols in the LGBT community.[23]

In 2002, HRC purchased a headquarters building in Washington, D.C. The building, located at 1640 Rhode Island Avenue, was previously the headquarters for B'nai B'rith International. The organization renovated the building and moved in 2003.[24]

File:ChicagoGayPride2005 1.jpg
The Human Rights Campaign often has a large presence at LGBT-related events such as the Chicago Pride Parade as seen above.

As part of the activities surrounding the Millennium March on Washington, the HRC Foundation sponsored a fundraising concert at Washington, D.C.'s RFK Stadium on April 29, 2000. Billed as a concert to end hate crimes, "Equality Rocks" honored hate crime victims and their families, such as featured speakers Dennis and Judy Shepard, the parents of Matthew Shepard. More than 45,000 people[25] attended the event, which included Melissa Etheridge, Garth Brooks, Pet Shop Boys, k.d. lang, Nathan Lane, Rufus Wainwright, Albita Rodríguez, and Chaka Khan.[26]

Elizabeth Birch's successor, Cheryl Jacques, resigned in November 2004 after only 11 months as executive director. In a statement released by HRC, Jacques said she had resigned over "a difference in management philosophy".[27]

In March 2005, HRC announced the appointment of Joe Solmonese as the president, describing him as having an "unrivaled track record at the nation's foremost progressive electoral powerhouse" and appealing to "Americans across the political and ideological spectrum".[28]

HRC launched its Religion and Faith Program in 2005 to mobilize clergy to advocate for LGBT people, and helped form DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality, which was involved in the legalization of same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia.[29] On March 10, 2010, the first legally recognized same-sex weddings in the District of Columbia were held at the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign.[30]

On August 9, 2007, HRC and Logo TV co-hosted a forum for 2008 Democratic presidential candidates dedicated specifically to LGBT issues.[31]

HRC spent over $7 million in its "Year to Win" campaign during the 2008 elections, the largest electoral campaign in its history to date.[32][33]

In 2010, HRC lobbied for the repeal of the United States' ban on HIV-positive people's entry into the country for travel or immigration, stating the need to "combat the stigma and ignorance that still too often guides public policy debates around HIV/AIDS".[34][35]

In September 2011, it was announced that Solmonese would step down from the presidency following the end of his contract in 2012.[36] Despite initial speculation that former Atlanta City Council president Cathy Woolard would be appointed, no replacement was announced until March 2, 2012, when American Foundation for Equal Rights co-founder Chad Griffin was announced as Solmonese's successor. Griffin took office on June 11, 2012.[37]

In 2012, HRC executed its largest mobilization effort ever, raising and contributing $20 million to re-elect President Obama and to advance marriage equality and other electoral priorities.[38] A day after the election, The Washington Post highlighted HRC's key role in marriage-related victories in Washington, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota, the election of Tammy Baldwin, Obama's re-election and more.[39]

In 2013, HRC conducted a postcard campaign in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).[40] Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski credited the campaign for her vote in favor of ENDA.[41]

Annual fundraisers

Each year since 1997, HRC has hosted a national dinner that features high-profile speakers and serves as the organization's single largest annual fundraiser. In 2009, President Barack Obama addressed a crowd of approximately 3,000 guests[42] at HRC's 13th Annual National Dinner. In his speech, President Obama reaffirmed his pledge to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as his commitment to passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.[43] He gave the keynote speech in 2011 as well, reiterating his pledge to fight for DOMA repeal and for the passage of ENDA, and to combat bullying of LGBT youth. Other featured speakers at past dinners have included Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, Kweisi Mfume, Joseph Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, Richard Gephardt, John Lewis, Rosie O'Donnell, Nancy Pelosi, Tim Gunn, Suze Orman, Sally Field, Cory Booker, Tammy Baldwin, and Betty DeGeneres.[44]

HRC historical records

The historical records of the Human Rights Campaign are maintained in a collection at the Cornell University Library. Arriving at Cornell in 2004, the records include strategic planning documents, faxes, minutes, e-mails, press releases, posters, and campaign buttons. Taking up Script error: No such module "convert"., the archive is the second largest in the library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Human Sexuality Collection. In February 2007, the archive was opened to scholars at the library, and selected records were organized into an online exhibit called "25 Years of Political Influence: The Records of the Human Rights Campaign".[45][46]


The Human Rights Campaign maintains a number of awards for individuals distinguished for their LGBT-related work. In addition to awards from the national organization, local chapters also award their own versions of the awards. These awards are typically presented at national and local chapters' annual dinner galas.

Visibility Award winners

Ally for Equality Award winners

Equality Award

HRC Legacy Award

HRC Award for Workplace Equality Innovation

The official logo of the HRC, adopted in 1995, consists of a yellow equals sign imposed onto a blue background. The logo was created in 1995 by design firm Stone Yamashita, who attracted then-Executive Director Elizabeth Birch to its bold design.[48] The previous logo used by the HRC (then known as the HRCF) featured a stylized flaming torch.[49] HRC uses the term Equality Flag for flags bearing their logo.[50]

File:Hrc logo red.svg
The HRC equal sign logo reworked in red to show particular support for same-sex marriage.
HRC shared a red version of its logo – selected because the color is synonymous with love – on social network services on March 25, 2013, and asked its supporters to do the same to show support for marriage equality in light of two marriage equality cases that were before the U.S. Supreme Court (United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry). The logo went viral, and Facebook saw a 120% increase in the number of profile photo changes on March 26. Celebrities such as George Takei, Beyonce, Sophia Bush, Padma Lakshmi, Martha Stewart, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Ellen DeGeneres shared the logo with their millions of followers on social network services and politicians like Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Kay Hagan (D-NC) did the same.[51]

As the logo's popularity took off, countless memes were created. Highly recognized brands and corporations showed their support for marriage equality with creative recreations of the red HRC logo. Supporters included Bud Light, Bonobos,, Kenneth Cole, L'Occitane en Provence, Maybelline, Absolut, Marc Jacobs International, Smirnoff, Martha Stewart Weddings, and HBO's True Blood.[52]

Major print and online news sources reported on the success of the viral campaign, including MSNBC,[53] Time,[54] Mashable,[55] and The Wall Street Journal.[56]

Organizational leadership

The following people have led the Human Rights Campaign:

Executive Directors

  1. Vic Basile (1983–1989)
  2. Tim McFeeley (1989–1995)
  3. Elizabeth Birch (1995–2004)


  1. Cheryl Jacques (2004–2005)
  2. Joe Solmonese (2005–2012)
  3. Chad Griffin (2012– )


Critics of the HRC have accused the organization of favoring the Democratic Party. Andrew Sullivan, a gay political columnist and blogger, has been critical of the HRC, calling it "a patronage wing of the Democratic party".[57][58] The organization responded by saying, "There's nobody happier about what Andrew Sullivan is doing than Tony Perkins and James Dobson", two social conservative leaders and outspoken critics[59][60] of the LGBT community.[61]

HRC's endorsement of New York Republican Al D'Amato in his 1998 campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate brought more criticism. HRC defended the endorsement because of D'Amato's support for Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". However, many liberal LGBT leaders did not welcome D'Amato's conservative stances, including his opposition to affirmative action and abortion.[62]

HRC has also been accused of overstating the number of its actual members in order to appear more influential in politics.[63][64] Former HRC President Joe Solmonese responded, saying that "[m]embership is about more than contributions ... [i]t's about sending e-mails to elected officials, volunteering time or lobbying members of Congress" and more than half of its members made contributions during the previous two years.[65] Earlier, HRC spokesperson Steven Fisher stated that its membership includes anyone who has donated at least $1.[65]

Some transgender people have criticized the HRC for its stance on the 2007 version of ENDA, which enumerated sexual orientation as a protected category but not gender identity and expression.[66] Once the legislation was submitted by Rep. Barney Frank, HRC officially neither opposed nor supported it.[67] This followed a speech by former HRC President Joe Solmonese at the transgender Southern Comfort Conference the previous month, where he said that HRC "oppose[d] any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive".[68] HRC later explained that it could not actively support a non-inclusive bill, but did not oppose it because the legislation would strategically advance long-term efforts to pass a trans-inclusive ENDA.[69] However, in a letter to U.S. Representatives, HRC did express support for the bill, stating that while HRC is "greatly disappointed that the current version of ENDA is not fully-inclusive ... we appreciate the steadfast efforts of our ... allies ... even when they are forced ... to make progress that is measured by inches rather than yards."[70]

In 2014, long-time marriage equality activist Shenna Bellows was nominated for a U.S. Senate seat in Maine. HRC endorsed her opponent, incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins, who had previously lacked a history of supporting marriage equality initiatives. However, Collins later clarified her view in support of LGBT marriage equality.[71]

See also

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  1. ^ "Democratic hopefuls pressed on gay issues at forum – CNN". CNN. August 10, 2007. Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  2. ^ "HRC Foundation". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Human Rights Campaign Foundation". GuideStar. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Mission Statement". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  6. ^ "What is a Steering Committee?". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  7. ^ Harmon, Andrew (March 2, 2012). "Chad Griffin Named President of HRC". The Advocate. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ "The HRC Story: Boards". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Issues: Human Rights Campaign". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 
  10. ^ Resources
  11. ^ Resources: Coming Out
  12. ^ HRC: Matthew Shepard Act
  13. ^ President Barack Obama Signs Hate Crimes Legislation Into Law
  14. ^ Resources: Healthcare Equality Index
  15. ^ "Inclusive Policies, Communication Protocols and Ongoing Training Lead to Culturally Competent Care for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Patients". Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2013-09-18. 
  16. ^ Shear, Michael D. (April 16, 2010). "Obama extends hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners of gays". The Washington Post. 
  17. ^ "Human Rights Campaign Foundation Expands the Net of LGBT Healthcare Equality". September 12, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2013. 
  18. ^ Branigin, William; Wilgoren, Debbi; Bacon Jr, Perry (December 22, 2010). "Obama signs DADT repeal before big, emotional crowd". The Washington Post. 
  19. ^ a b Bailey, Mark (2000). "Human Rights Campaign." Gay Histories and Cultures. New York: Garland. 
  20. ^ "HRC Foundation". Retrieved April 1, 2015. 
  21. ^ Birch, Elizabeth (HRC Quarterly (Fall 1995)). "The Human Rights Campaign: So Much More Than a Fund.". Human Rights Campaign. pp. 2–3.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  22. ^ Althafer, Emily. "Leading gay rights advocate to speak at UF". University of Florida News: source: Adelisse Fontanet, xxx-1665 ext. 326. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  23. ^ "The HRC Story: About Our Logo". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  24. ^ "The HRC Story: Our Building". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved May 23, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Resources: Hate Crimes Timeline". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  26. ^ "More Artists Added to Equality Rocks: Michael Feinstein, Chaka Khan, Kathy Najimy and Rufus Wainwright Join Garth Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge, Anne Heche, Kristen Johnston, kd lang, Nathan Lane and Pet Shop Boys To Benefit the Human Rights Campaign Foundation". World Beat. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Cheryl Jacques to Leave Human Rights Campaign: HRC Boards Put Transition Plan in Place". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Joe Solmonese Named Human Rights Campaign President: Leader with Unmatched Record to Embark on Heartland Tour during First Week on Job". Human Rights Campaign. March 9, 2005. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  29. ^ Stewart, Nikita (December 18, 2009). "Fenty to sign same-sex marriage bill at church in NW D.C". The Washington Post. 
  30. ^ Marimow, Ann E.; Alexander, Keith L. (March 10, 2010). "First gay marriages in District performed". The Washington Post. 
  31. ^ Dems Court the Gay Vote
  32. ^ Our victo: Year to Win
  33. ^ "Our Victories (Election Heavyweights section)". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  34. ^ "After 22 Years, HIV Travel and Immigration Ban Lifted". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  35. ^ Miami Herald: After 22 years, HIV travel and immigration ban lifted
  36. ^ Chris Geidner (August 27, 2011). "HRC's Solmonese to Step Down, Sources Say No Replacement Has Been Selected". Metro Weekly. 
  37. ^ Andrew Harmon (March 2, 2012). "Chad Griffin Named President of HRC". The Advocate. 
  38. ^ "HRC 2012: Unprecedented Mobilization for Equality". Retrieved March 8, 2013. 
  39. ^ Martel, Ned (November 8, 2012). "Gay rights advocates welcome Election Day results for a change". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 8, 2013. 
  40. ^ Eilperin, Juliet. "Cindy McCain petitions husband to back gay rights bill". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  41. ^ "GOP Sen. Murkowski Credits HRC Postcard Campaign for her Pro-ENDA Vote". Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  42. ^ "Program Book". Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  43. ^ Huffington Post – Obama HRC Speech
  44. ^ "About the Dinner: Previous Dinners". Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  45. ^ Lowery, George. (January 30, 2007) 25 years of gay-rights struggles traced in online exhibit The Cornell Chronicle of Cornell University. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  46. ^ Cornell University Library. 25 Years of Political Influence:The Records of the Human Rights Campaign Cornell University. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  47. ^ Whoopi Goldberg To Receive Human Rights Campaign's Ally For Equality Award Retrieved November 26, 2014.
  48. ^ "About Our Logo". Human Rights Campaign. 
  49. ^ "Old HRCF logo on lapel". Cornell University. 
  50. ^ HRC Store page selling Equality Flag
  51. ^ Thielman, Sam (March 28, 2013). "DOMA Nation: The Human Rights Campaign had no idea this was going to happen". Adweek. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  52. ^ Brettman, Allan (March 30, 2013). "From Nike to marriage equality, controversy can be a good thing". The Oregonian. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  53. ^ Maresca, Cara. "Seeing red: Symbol for marriage equality goes viral". MSNBC. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  54. ^ Yang, Mackenzie (March 26, 2013). "What Is the Red Equal Sign All Over Facebook and Twitter?". Time. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  55. ^ Fox, Zoe. "Facebook Turns Red as SCOTUS Marriage Equality Hearings Begin". Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  56. ^ Neal, Mann. "Gay-Marriage Symbol Goes Viral". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  57. ^ Sullivan, Andrew. (February 19, 2007) The Human Rights Campaign (Blech) The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  58. ^ Sullivan, Andrew. "My Alliance with the Christianists"
  59. ^ Perkins, Tony (October 11, 2010). "Christian compassion requires the truth about harms of homosexuality". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  60. ^ Dodson, James. "Marriage Under Fire (excerpt)". Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  61. ^ HRC hits back at blogger criticisms – Washington Blade originally here
  62. ^ Kaiser, Charles. (July 18, 2000) The D'Amato Factor The Advocate. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  63. ^ Citizen Crain: Cooking the books at HRC
  64. ^ The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
  65. ^ a b HRC 'members' include all who ever donated $1 – Washington Blade originally here
  66. ^ Schindler, Paul. (October 4, 2007) HRC Alone in Eschewing No-Compromise Stand Gay City News. Retrieved October 8, 2007.
  67. ^ "Donna Rose on Why She Resigned as the Only Transgender Member of HRC's Board". The Advocate. October 4, 2007. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  68. ^ "HRC's ENDA dilemma: Dine, party or boycott?". EDGE Publications, Inc. July 22, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  69. ^ Sandeen, Autumn. "ENDA Passed Without "Real Or Perceived Gender" Protections". Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  70. ^ "Letter to U.S. Representatives"
  71. ^ "Susan Collins Endorsed By Major Gay Rights Group, Despite Not Backing Marriage Equality"

External links