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.