November 7, 2016 at 3:18 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
HRC’s Griffin says he won’t join Clinton administration
Chelsea Clinton, Chad Griffin, gay news, Washington Blade

Chelsea Clinton and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin speak at a Hillary Clinton event in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 5. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Saturday said he has no plans to join Hillary Clinton’s administration if she is elected president.

“I very happily have my dream job and will be in this job for years to come,” Griffin told the Washington Blade during a joint interview with Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, in Charlotte. “Our work is far from over.”

Griffin and Sgro, who is a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, sat down with the Blade shortly after Chelsea Clinton spoke at an event for TurnOUT NC, a campaign that HRC and the Equality North Carolina Action Fund PAC launched to encourage LGBT North Carolinians to vote.

Actor Lee Daniels was among those who also spoke at the event.

Lee Daniels speaks at a Hillary Clinton event in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Lee Daniels speaks at a Hillary Clinton event in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Griffin said Clinton has spoken “passionately” in support of the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law. He told the Blade that she will “ensure that the full force of the federal government is leading the charge legally against taking down” North Carolina’s House Bill 2 and other anti-LGBT laws around the country.

“I have no doubt that a Hillary Clinton Justice Department will be solid and steadfast allies,” he said.

Griffin told the Blade that Hillary Clinton has also “passionately talked about” violence against trans women of color and other issues “that the American public frankly doesn’t talk about enough.” He also noted she was secretary of state when President Obama in 2011 directed government agencies that implement U.S. foreign policy to promote LGBT rights.

“She really helped to make, along with our president, LGBTQ people central to the foreign policy agenda of this country,” said Griffin. “This has not always been the case.”

Griffin and Sgro spoke with the Blade hours after McCrory appeared with Donald Trump at a rally in Wilmington.

Griffin said before Chelsea Clinton took the stage at the TurnOUT NC event that Trump “cynically tried to use” the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., for political gain. Griffin conceded to the Blade that HRC has yet to determine what its “focus would be” if the Republican billionaire were to become president.

“I don’t believe we’re going to see that reality,” said Griffin. “Donald Trump has attacked a majority of Americans.”

“This man has attacked the majority of people in this country,” he added. “For that reason, I don’t believe that he will be president. I hope that not only our country but also the world does not have to experience that.”

N.C. voters view HB 2 as ‘discrimination bill’

HRC and Equality North Carolina launched TurnOUT NC after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB 2, which bans transgender people from using public restrooms based on their gender identity and prevents local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures. The National LGBTQ Task Force has also launched an initiative that seeks to spur people of faith in North Carolina to vote.

TurnOUT NC has opened field offices in Mecklenburg and Wake Counties in which Charlotte and Raleigh are located respectively.

Sgro told the Blade that HB 2 has had the “highest impact” on legislative races in these two counties. He said they also have the highest number of Equality North Carolina and HRC members in North Carolina.

“We can win enough seats to break the anti-equality veto-proof majority just in those counties alone,” Sgro told the Blade.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is running against McCrory, has repeatedly highlighted his opposition to HB 2 on the campaign trail. Former state Rep. Deborah Ross, who is running against U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and former state Sen. Josh Stein, who hopes to succeed Cooper, are among the other Democrats who have noted the law.

Griffin and Sgro canvassed in the Charlotte metropolitan area over the weekend with retired Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, a lesbian who is running for the state House of Representatives. Members of Trans United for Hillary and hundreds of others from D.C. and other cities were also in North Carolina to campaign on behalf of Clinton, Cooper, Ross, Stein and other candidates who oppose HB 2.

North Carolina, gay news, Washington Blade

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, first from left, canvasses with North Carolina House candidate Jane Campbell and Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro in Cornelius, N.C., on Nov. 6. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Lorenz/Human Rights Campaign)

Sgro told the Blade that HB 2 has motivated “average” and “moderate” North Carolina voters more than any other issue.

“We have now had a conversation around what it means to discriminate against transgender people in a Southern state for six, seven, eight months at a time,” he said.

“These same moderate voters are not just motivated around the economic part,” added Sgro. “They view this as a discrimination bill.”

A New York Times Upshot/Siena College survey that was conducted between Nov. 4-6 found Cooper was ahead of McCrory by a 47-46 percent margin. A poll that SurveyUSA conducted on behalf of WRAL, a North Carolina television station, between Oct. 28-31 indicated Cooper was ahead of McCrory by a 48-47 percent margin.

Both Sgro and Griffin said they remain hopeful that Cooper will defeat McCrory on Tuesday.

“Regardless of the outcome of the election, HB 2 and its repeal will be the number one policy objective of the LGBT community and the broader progressive community here,” said Sgro. “We will have won a significant number of hearts and minds in this campaign that is not just marked by the result of the governor’s actions. It’s marked by the fact that the vast majority of North Carolinians hate this hate bill.”

Griffin: N.C. could send ‘message to the entire country’

Griffin on Saturday did not specifically mention HRC’s decision to rescind its controversial endorsement of U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in the wake of racially insensitive comments he made against his opponent, Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, last month during a debate. Griffin told the Blade that the 2018 mid-term elections and supporting Clinton’s potential re-election campaign will be HRC’s priorities after Election Day.

“Post-election, we’ll have plenty of time to look back and look at our research and figure out how we can perfect what we’ve built in this cycle,” he said.

As for this election, Griffin told the Blade that he plans to remain in North Carolina through Election Day.

Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and former President Bill Clinton are expected to attend a midnight rally in Raleigh on Monday.

“I hope that this will be a state that ensures Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States,” said Griffin.

Griffin added a Cooper victory over McCrory would send “a message to the entire country that you cannot get away with” signing HB 2 and other anti-LGBT bills into law.

“He denied our community a voice,” Griffin told the Blade. “But at the end of the day they’re going to have the final voice by casting their votes.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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