HRC announced Friday that Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, will succeed Joe Solmonese as president after his contract expires.
According to the organization, Griffin’s appointment followed a six-month search by board members, who considered more than one hundred candidates. Griffin is set take on his new role on June 11, 2012 and Solmonese will continue to lead the group until that time.
In a statement provided by HRC, Griffin said he was honored to take on the role as head of the nation’s largest LGBT organization, which has an annual budget of $40 million a year.
“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.”
Griffin gained notoriety after he founded AFER in 2009 and secured Ted Olson and David Boies as attorneys in litigation against Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Last month, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ban was unconstitutional as a result of this lawsuit.
But Griffin has had an extensive career fighting for progressive causes. According to his bio on AFER’s website, Griffin is founding partner of political and communications strategy firm Griffin-Schake, and taken on the tobacco and oil industry while pushing forward with issues such as equal rights, clean energy, universal health care, stem cell research and early childhood education.
His bio states he was responsible for spearheading Proposition 87, California’s Clean Alternative Energy Initiative; Proposition 10, which provides $600 million each year to early childhood education; and Proposition 71, which enables billions of dollars to flow to stem cell research.
HRC co-chair Tim Downing and HRC Foundation co-chair Sandra Hartness issued a joint statement on behalf of their colleagues on the Board of Directors regarding the selection of Griffin.
“We’re ecstatic to have someone of Chad’s caliber as our next president,” the co-chair said. “His superior credentials and achievements, both as a visionary and strategist, make him uniquely qualified to lead this organization forward. Chad has a proven track record of consistently delivering results during his career. That’s something that our community rightly expects and deserves.”
The Los Angeles-based activist has roots both in Hollywood and Washington. During the Clinton administration, Griffin became the youngest staffer ever to serve in the White House. He was also an executive producer of the 2009 film “Outrage,” which discusses the hypocrisy of closeted individuals in power who promote anti-gay policies.
Hilary Rosen, a D.C.-based Democratic activist and former interim head of HRC, said she’s “thrilled” with the selection of Griffin because he’s “entrepreneurial and visionary.”
“He anticipated how not just that Prop 8 needed to be overturned, but the right way to do it,” Rosen said. “That was both be smart legally as well as galvanize the best cross-section of allies. He built an organization to do that.”
Rosen said Griffin’s top challenges over the next couple years will be determining the best way to “maintain the momentum in all the above strategy that is our struggle for equality.”
“There are ballot measures, there’s legislation federally, there’s legislations statewide,” Rosen said. “How you weave that together in the national conversation and where you choose to devote resources and bring out new allies, I think, that’s the challenge.”
Rosen added Griffin has “all the right instincts and all of the right experience” to take on these challenges.
“I think that this job is a perfect job for him, and he’s perfect for the community,” Rosen said. “And that’s a nice combo.”
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said Griffin’s selection of Olson, a U.S. solicitor general under former President George W. Bush, and Boies for his legal team shows he’s willing to work on a bipartisan basis. The two attorney represented opposite sides in the case of Bush v. Gore.
“The campaign for equality is not a partisan matter, it is about doing what is right for all LGBT Americans,” Cooper said. “By selecting Chad Griffin as their new President, the Human Rights Campaign has selected a leader who knows achieving victory will require advocacy and champions on both sides of the aisle.”
Mark Glaze, a principal of the Raben Group, which works on LGBT issues, said Griffin is “a great choice” for the role.
“He’s smart, he’s strategic, he has the kind of sizzle that you’d want in a movement,” Glaze said. “His work on AFER has been a model of effective advocacy, which isn’t easy given the crowded field of groups doing LGBT work.”
Congratulations for Griffin also came from the White House. Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, issued a statement after his appointment was announced.
“The president appreciates the work that the Human Rights Campaign has done with us and we congratulate Chad on his new position as President of HRC,” Jarrett said. “We look forward to working with him.”