April 2, 2010 at 9:31 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
1 in, 2 out in HRC communications shake up

The director and deputy director of the Human Rights Campaign’s communications department have left their jobs following a staff restructuring.

Both departures come after HRC announced March 15 it had created the new position of vice president of communications and marketing, naming the communications head of the gay oriented Gill Foundation, Fred Sainz, to fill the new post.

In creating the new position, HRC eliminated its position of director of communication, resulting in the layoff of Brad Luna, who held that post for the past four years, according to David Smith, HRC’s vice president for programs.

Luna’s departure from HRC on March 26 was followed one week later by the resignation of the HRC deputy communications director, Trevor Thomas, who’s taking a position with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Smith said.

“In this rapidly changing and often volatile political environment, HRC must continue to both prod and persuade in our mission to improve the lives of LGBT people across the country,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a March 15 statement announcing Sainz’s appointment.

“And often a key component in changing hearts and minds or moving recalcitrant elected officials is an aggressive and creative communications strategy,” Solmonese said.

He said Sainz, who served as press secretary for San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders before joining the Gill Foundation, “brings deep political instincts and a commitment to LGBT equality that will enhance our work. We’re thrilled to have him join our senior team.”

Smith told DC Agenda on Friday that the restructuring of the HRC communications department was prompted by political and societal changes in recent years. He said Sainz is scheduled to begin at HRC on May 10.

“With our vibrant Foundation programs — Workplace, Religion and Faith; Family and Campus Outreach; and the shifting political and societal landscape on which our political and legislative work continues, it’s important for the organization to grow and adapt,” Smith said in an e-mail.

Smith did not respond to a question asking whether Luna’s layoff and Thomas’s resignation stemmed from disagreements over HRC policy or strategy.

On March 18, two days after it announced the appointment of Sainz and the restructuring of its communications department, HRC came under fire from some activists for teaming up with comedienne Kathy Griffin in a Washington rally supporting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The rally, which drew about 1,000 people, took place in Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington.

Sentiment by some activists that Griffin’s off-color humor was not appropriate for a serious issue like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was underscored by gay Army Lt. Dan Choi, who expressed such a view in unscheduled remarks at the rally.

On stage, Choi asked the crowd to march with him to the White House, about four blocks away. Several hundred people followed Choi to the White House, where he and former Army Capt. Jim Pietrangelo handcuffed themselves to the White House fence in an action the two did not announce in advance.

Police arrested Choi and Pietrangelo, along with activist Robin McGhee, who assisted the men, creating a civil disobedience event that overshadowed the HRC rally and triggered a national debate among LGBT activists over the movement’s strategy and tactics.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Unfortunately, HRC is becoming a useless organization that refuses to apply pressure to the politicians it says it has such great relations with. Too often Joe Solmonese and the leadership at HRC come across as rich self-serving individuals who would rather attend $500.00 a plate fundraisers than do any real lobbying or protests. If HRC has any pull, then its time for them to force a vote on the many Pro-LGBT bills that have been sitting around in Congress for years.

  • Solmonese is the one that needs to go. He is a miserable failure.

  • I am wating for HRC to take the same strong stance on DC Voting Rights that it did for marriage equality. Its silence and non-participation in this local critical event is simply hypocritical.

  • I believe that both Brad Luna and Trevor Thomas served HRC with distinction. They are both totally professional and great at their jobs. Both often had the difficult role of defending HRC during some difficult times when the community didn’t always agree with the direction HRC was taking. Brad Luna who was the youngest Director of Communications for a Congressperson when he first came to DC has a distinguished record in his field and I know that he is committed to continuing to fight for the GLBT community and will do so in whatever new role he chooses to pursue.

    SLDN is lucky to get someone of the caliber of Trevor Thomas to work with them in this crucial period of time as we all work to repeal DADT.

  • The HRC is out of touch with the GLBT community, in fact with Solmonese acting as the president of HRC has become increasingly elitist and and condescending toward the GLBT community.

    When Joe Solmonese emerged with with his meeting with President Obama, saying we needed to give the president a second term to become our fierce advocate, and claiming to have a better understanding of the subtler points of Washington D.C politics and the legislature, I knew HRC had at its head a president who had a developed a school-girl crush on the president of the United States.

    I, for one, will no longer support HRC with my dollars just so solmonese can rub elbows with the president. Until he apologizes for his elitist and condescending behavior, and steps down as that organizations president, I will not give HRC my support again.

  • They are too impressed with themselves and have become so out of touch. There needs to be a changing of the guard. Until that happens my support goes elsewhere. And, by the way, they don’t return phone calls and emails. I got through once and was told that they were too busy to do that!

  • HRC has been a waste of money for years! They’ve been more concerned about maintaining themselves as an institution rather than agitating for any REAL change.

    Bring on the tactics of Queer Nation, ACT UP and the real radicals rather than the inside-the-beltway, cocktail-party-attending hacks who siphon money out of the Gay community and get NOTHING done.

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