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With Election Day nearing, LGBT groups ramp up efforts against Trump

HRC launches GOTV campaign in six crucial states



LGBT rights supporters are seeking to channel the energy of the resist movement into action in Election 2018. (Photo by Mark Dixon; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

With fewer than 100 days remaining before the 2018 congressional mid-term elections, LGBT groups are ramping up efforts to channel the “resist” movement into action on Election Day and elect a new Congress able to place a check on President Trump.

Chief among those efforts is the Human Rights Campaign’s #TurnOUT campaign, a $26 million effort that seeks to mobilize and get to the polls the estimated 10 million Americans who identify as LGBT and 52 million Americans who support pro-LGBT policies.

Leading the effort is Geoff Wetrosky, the campaign director for HRC Rising who came to the organization last year after serving as national campaign manager for the AFL-CIO with more than a decade of experience.

In a briefing with the Washington Blade last week, Wetrosky said the campaign is engaging HRC members and calling on them to volunteer and put together a training curriculum “to make sure that we’re strengthening our political organizing muscles.”

Additionally, HRC is touting its doubling of staffers to 130 — the hiring of another 45 organizers and the deployment of 50 more to join the 35 already on the ground — to contribute to get-out-the-vote efforts.

“I’ve referred to some of them as the cavalry,” Wetrosky said. “They go where the fight needs to be fought at any given moment. They cover large regions of the country. They do live out in the field, but they’re responsible for several states, and if there’s a legislative battle or particular election that’s competitive, then they go to that state and work on that race.”

Wetrosky called the 2018 elections “a historical moment for the LGBTQ community” at a time when — unlike in decades past — support for LGBT rights will drive people to the polls in opposition to Trump.

“We’re now at a point where we can no longer be used as a wedge issue to turn out anti-equality voters in support of anti-equality candidates,” Wetrosky said. “That is an outdated playbook.”

As evidence that opposition to LGBT rights is a losing position for candidates, Wetrosky pointed to the defeat in 2016 of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed into law the anti-trans House Bill 2, the loss in Alabama last year of Roy Moore, whose call to disregard the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling for same-sex marriage nationwide animated his political career. Both candidates were running as Republicans in traditionally “red” states, but were unable to achieve victory.

Meanwhile, support for same-sex marriage, once an unpopular concept, has reached 67 percent, and popularity of non-discrimination laws that would protect LGBT workers is even higher.

“That level of support across demographic groups would have been unthinkable just a few years ago,” Wetrosky said.

The #TurnOUT campaign has identified six states — Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — on which to focus its efforts.

The commonality in each of these states is elections for seats in the U.S. Senate. Political candidates Jacky Rosen in Nevada and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona offer the chance for pickups to claim seats formerly held by Republicans. (Sinema would also be the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Senate.)

In the four other states, U.S. senators who support LGBT rights — Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) — are defending their seats. Baldwin, the first out lesbian elected to the U.S. Senate, is seeking re-election against efforts to unseat her by the Koch brothers, who have already spent around $10 million in the effort and are likely to spend more.

Those six states, Wetrosky said, also offer opportunities beyond the races for U.S. Senate, such as statewide contests to become the next governor, attorney general and secretary of state, as well as two dozen congressional races and races for seats in the state legislature.

Chris Sgro, a spokesperson for HRC, said victories in those elections will be key to halting the Trump administration and the anti-LGBT policies it has enacted.

“The road to pulling an emergency break on Trump and Pence runs through the six HRC Rising states,” Sgro said. “The Senate races there, key House races there, and subsequently the road to altogether stopping Donald Trump and ending his presidency runs though the 81 electoral votes in those states.”

Baldwin’s race in Wisconsin could be a nail-biter. The good news for her in three separate polls was she had a sizable lead over either of her potential Republican opponents — Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson — that in some cases was double-digits. The Aug. 14 primary in Wisconsin will decide which Republican Baldwin will face.

The flip side is that in 2016 Democratic candidate Russ Feingold had the same lead over Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) before ultimately losing to the incumbent. (It was the second time Feingold lost to Johnson in a U.S. Senate race. The Republican ousted Feingold from the seat in 2010 during the Republican wave that year.)

Moreover, buried in one of the three polls  — one conducted by Marquette University — was other revealing information: Baldwin was viewed unfavorably by 43 percent of Wisconsin residents, slightly more than 41 percent who viewed her favorably. An additional 15 percent said they didn’t know her enough to form an opinion.

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Baldwin’s opponents will likely see those numbers as an opportunity to define her for Wisconsin voters and continue massive spending on TV ads in the effort to unseat her.

Other LGBT groups are joining in the effort to encourage LGBT people to head to the polls on Election Day to vote against Trump in the name of LGBT rights.

The LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD is unable to endorse specific candidates as a 501(c)3 designated non-profit, but is nonetheless undertaking efforts.

Chief among them is GLAAD’s “Amp Your Voice” LGBT youth voter engagement campaign, which seeks to focus on increasing LGBTQ youth turnout for the midterm elections. Additionally, GLAAD during Pride month sent a traveling billboard throughout the country reading, “GLAAD is Counting: 75 Attacks on our community, 1 every 6 days since January 2017, It’s Time to Stop,” to encourage awareness and voter turnout.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, said the participation of LGBT youth and allies will be crucial to achieving change in the upcoming election.

“Young people in this country are at the forefront of articulating the connection between the perilousness of their rights and safety under the Trump administration and the power of their own voices to create change.” Ellis said. “GLAAD’s ‘Amp Your Voice’ campaign will further empower young people, especially LGBTQ youth and allies, in their leadership roles.”

For LGBT rights supporters who are seeking to back Republicans who support LGBT rights, you would have to turn to Log Cabin Republicans.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said his organization’s political action committee will largely base its support for candidates in 2018 on co-sponsorship of the Fair & Equal Housing Act, LGBT housing non-discrimination legislation introduced by Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.).

“Our main legislative push in this 215th Congress has been Congressman Taylor’s Fair & Equal Housing Act, and the priorities of our PAC will largely be aligned with supporting those Republican members of Congress who co-sponsored this historic legislation,” Angelo said. “Generally, our efforts will be geared toward assisting incumbent allies.”

In years past, the Human Rights Campaign has faced criticism from progressives for endorsing Republican candidates, such as former Sen. Mark Kirk in Illinois in 2016. (HRC ended up dropping that endorsement in favor Tammy Duckworth after racially charged comments from Kirk.)

In response to whether the Human Rights Campaign has endorsed any Republican candidates in 2018, Sgro said via email the organization maintains its bipartisan approach and additional endorsements are forthcoming.

“We’ve endorsed a record number of pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot this year in key races across the country,” Sgro said. “We will continue to make and announce our endorsements throughout the cycle. HRC is a bipartisan organization that has endorsed candidates from both parties who support LGBTQ rights.”

Wetrosky cautioned that supporters of LGBT rights seeking change in the congressional mid-term elections can’t just talk about Trump’s anti-LGBT policies, but also policies that have hurt Muslims, immigrants and other marginalized groups.

“There’s always more that we can do,” Wetrosky said. “But there’s also been a recognition that we need to go beyond self-identified LGBTQ voters and talk about our issues because somebody being anti-equality is a motivating factor in turning out our voters as well.”

What will LGBT supporters seek after victories in the mid-term elections? Wetrosky said HRC won’t just stick it to Trump, but work to advance LGBT rights.

“We’re not building political power just for the sake of having political power,” Wetrosky said. “We want to use it to advance equality. There’s so much still to be done. We know from polling the public understands that marriage wasn’t the end of our movement’s work to achieve full legal equality. There’s still so much more to do that’s at the federal level and the state level.”

In the event Democrats take control of the U.S. House, Sgro said a top priority of HRC would be advancement of the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation that would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in every aspect of federal civil rights law.

But that all depends on victories on Election Day. Despite the efforts to achieve change in 2018, Wetrosky cautioned the anticipated “blue” wave may fizzle out if Trump opponents aren’t energized.

“If we don’t make sure the wave is large enough, the wave will crash right into the sea wall,” Wetrosky said.


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Honoring the legacy of New Orleans’ 1973 UpStairs Lounge fire

Why the arson attack that killed 32 gay men still resonates 50 years later



Fifty years ago this week, 32 gay men were killed in an arson attack on the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans. (Photo by G.E. Arnold/Times-Picayune; reprinted with permission)

On June 23 of last year, I held the microphone as a gay man in the New Orleans City Council Chamber and related a lost piece of queer history to the seven council members. I told this story to disabuse all New Orleanians of the notion that silence and accommodation, in the face of institutional and official failures, are a path to healing.  

The story I related to them began on a typical Sunday night at a second-story bar on the fringe of New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1973, where working-class men would gather around a white baby grand piano and belt out the lyrics to a song that was the anthem of their hidden community, “United We Stand” by the Brotherhood of Man. 

“United we stand,” the men would sing together, “divided we fall” — the words epitomizing the ethos of their beloved UpStairs Lounge bar, an egalitarian free space that served as a forerunner to today’s queer safe havens. 

Around that piano in the 1970s Deep South, gays and lesbians, white and Black queens, Christians and non-Christians, and even early gender minorities could cast aside the racism, sexism, and homophobia of the times to find acceptance and companionship for a moment. 

For regulars, the UpStairs Lounge was a miracle, a small pocket of acceptance in a broader world where their very identities were illegal. 

On the Sunday night of June 24, 1973, their voices were silenced in a murderous act of arson that claimed 32 lives and still stands as the deadliest fire in New Orleans history — and the worst mass killing of gays in 20th century America. 

As 13 fire companies struggled to douse the inferno, police refused to question the chief suspect, even though gay witnesses identified and brought the soot-covered man to officers idly standing by. This suspect, an internally conflicted gay-for-pay sex worker named Rodger Dale Nunez, had been ejected from the UpStairs Lounge screaming the word “burn” minutes before, but New Orleans police rebuffed the testimony of fire survivors on the street and allowed Nunez to disappear.

As the fire raged, police denigrated the deceased to reporters on the street: “Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar.” 

For days afterward, the carnage met with official silence. With no local gay political leaders willing to step forward, national Gay Liberation-era figures like Rev. Troy Perry of the Metropolitan Community Church flew in to “help our bereaved brothers and sisters” — and shatter officialdom’s code of silence. 

Perry broke local taboos by holding a press conference as an openly gay man. “It’s high time that you people, in New Orleans, Louisiana, got the message and joined the rest of the Union,” Perry said. 

Two days later, on June 26, 1973, as families hesitated to step forward to identify their kin in the morgue, UpStairs Lounge owner Phil Esteve stood in his badly charred bar, the air still foul with death. He rebuffed attempts by Perry to turn the fire into a call for visibility and progress for homosexuals. 

“This fire had very little to do with the gay movement or with anything gay,” Esteve told a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I do not want my bar or this tragedy to be used to further any of their causes.” 

Conspicuously, no photos of Esteve appeared in coverage of the UpStairs Lounge fire or its aftermath — and the bar owner also remained silent as he witnessed police looting the ashes of his business. 

“Phil said the cash register, juke box, cigarette machine and some wallets had money removed,” recounted Esteve’s friend Bob McAnear, a former U.S. Customs officer. “Phil wouldn’t report it because, if he did, police would never allow him to operate a bar in New Orleans again.” 

The next day, gay bar owners, incensed at declining gay bar traffic amid an atmosphere of anxiety, confronted Perry at a clandestine meeting. “How dare you hold your damn news conferences!” one business owner shouted. 

Ignoring calls for gay self-censorship, Perry held a 250-person memorial for the fire victims the following Sunday, July 1, culminating in mourners defiantly marching out the front door of a French Quarter church into waiting news cameras. “Reverend Troy Perry awoke several sleeping giants, me being one of them,” recalled Charlene Schneider, a lesbian activist who walked out of that front door with Perry.

(Photo by G.E. Arnold/Times-Picayune; reprinted with permission)

Esteve doubted the UpStairs Lounge story’s capacity to rouse gay political fervor. As the coroner buried four of his former patrons anonymously on the edge of town, Esteve quietly collected at least $25,000 in fire insurance proceeds. Less than a year later, he used the money to open another gay bar called the Post Office, where patrons of the UpStairs Lounge — some with visible burn scars — gathered but were discouraged from singing “United We Stand.” 

New Orleans cops neglected to question the chief arson suspect and closed the investigation without answers in late August 1973. Gay elites in the city’s power structure began gaslighting the mourners who marched with Perry into the news cameras, casting suspicion on their memories and re-characterizing their moment of liberation as a stunt. 

When a local gay journalist asked in April 1977, “Where are the gay activists in New Orleans?,” Esteve responded that there were none, because none were needed. “We don’t feel we’re discriminated against,” Esteve said. “New Orleans gays are different from gays anywhere else… Perhaps there is some correlation between the amount of gay activism in other cities and the degree of police harassment.” 

(Photo by H.J. Patterson/Times-Picayune; reprinted with permission)

An attitude of nihilism and disavowal descended upon the memory of the UpStairs Lounge victims, goaded by Esteve and fellow gay entrepreneurs who earned their keep via gay patrons drowning their sorrows each night instead of protesting the injustices that kept them drinking. 

Into the 1980s, the story of the UpStairs Lounge all but vanished from conversation — with the exception of a few sanctuaries for gay political debate such as the local lesbian bar Charlene’s, run by the activist Charlene Schneider. 

By 1988, the 15th anniversary of the fire, the UpStairs Lounge narrative comprised little more than a call for better fire codes and indoor sprinklers. UpStairs Lounge survivor Stewart Butler summed it up: “A tragedy that, as far as I know, no good came of.” 

Finally, in 1991, at Stewart Butler and Charlene Schneider’s nudging, the UpStairs Lounge story became aligned with the crusade of liberated gays and lesbians seeking equal rights in Louisiana. The halls of power responded with intermittent progress. The New Orleans City Council, horrified by the story but not yet ready to take its look in the mirror, enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting gays and lesbians in housing, employment, and public accommodations that Dec. 12 — more than 18 years after the fire. 

“I believe the fire was the catalyst for the anger to bring us all to the table,” Schneider told The Times-Picayune, a tacit rebuke to Esteve’s strategy of silent accommodation. Even Esteve seemed to change his stance with time, granting a full interview with the first UpStairs Lounge scholar Johnny Townsend sometime around 1989. 

Most of the figures in this historic tale are now deceased. What’s left is an enduring story that refused to go gently. The story now echoes around the world — a musical about the UpStairs Lounge fire recently played in Tokyo, translating the gay underworld of the 1973 French Quarter for Japanese audiences.

When I finished my presentation to the City Council last June, I looked up to see the seven council members in tears. Unanimously, they approved a resolution acknowledging the historic failures of city leaders in the wake of the UpStairs Lounge fire. 

Council members personally apologized to UpStairs Lounge families and survivors seated in the chamber in a symbolic act that, though it could not bring back those who died, still mattered greatly to those whose pain had been denied, leaving them to grieve alone. At long last, official silence and indifference gave way to heartfelt words of healing. 

The way Americans remember the past is an active, ongoing process. Our collective memory is malleable, but it matters because it speaks volumes about our maturity as a people, how we acknowledge the past’s influence in our lives, and how it shapes the examples we set for our youth. Do we grapple with difficult truths, or do we duck accountability by defaulting to nostalgia and bluster? Or worse, do we simply ignore the past until it fades into a black hole of ignorance and indifference? 

I believe that a factual retelling of the UpStairs Lounge tragedy — and how, 50 years onward, it became known internationally — resonates beyond our current divides. It reminds queer and non-queer Americans that ignoring the past holds back the present, and that silence is no cure for what ails a participatory nation. 

Silence isolates. Silence gaslights and shrouds. It preserves the power structures that scapegoat the disempowered. 

Solidarity, on the other hand, unites. Solidarity illuminates a path forward together. Above all, solidarity transforms the downtrodden into a resounding chorus of citizens — in the spirit of voices who once gathered ‘round a white baby grand piano and sang, joyfully and loudly, “United We Stand.” 

(Photo by Philip Ames/Times-Picayune; reprinted with permission)

Robert W. Fieseler is a New Orleans-based journalist and the author of “Tinderbox: the Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation.”

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New Supreme Court term includes critical LGBTQ case with ‘terrifying’ consequences

Business owner seeks to decline services for same-sex weddings



The U.S. Supreme Court is to set consider the case of 303 Creative, which seeks to refuse design services for same-sex weddings. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court, after a decision overturning Roe v. Wade that still leaves many reeling, is starting a new term with justices slated to revisit the issue of LGBTQ rights.

In 303 Creative v. Elenis, the court will return to the issue of whether or not providers of custom-made goods can refuse service to LGBTQ customers on First Amendment grounds. In this case, the business owner is Lorie Smith, a website designer in Colorado who wants to opt out of providing her graphic design services for same-sex weddings despite the civil rights law in her state.

Jennifer Pizer, acting chief legal officer of Lambda Legal, said in an interview with the Blade, “it’s not too much to say an immeasurably huge amount is at stake” for LGBTQ people depending on the outcome of the case.

“This contrived idea that making custom goods, or offering a custom service, somehow tacitly conveys an endorsement of the person — if that were to be accepted, that would be a profound change in the law,” Pizer said. “And the stakes are very high because there are no practical, obvious, principled ways to limit that kind of an exception, and if the law isn’t clear in this regard, then the people who are at risk of experiencing discrimination have no security, no effective protection by having a non-discrimination laws, because at any moment, as one makes their way through the commercial marketplace, you don’t know whether a particular business person is going to refuse to serve you.”

The upcoming arguments and decision in the 303 Creative case mark a return to LGBTQ rights for the Supreme Court, which had no lawsuit to directly address the issue in its previous term, although many argued the Dobbs decision put LGBTQ rights in peril and threatened access to abortion for LGBTQ people.

And yet, the 303 Creative case is similar to other cases the Supreme Court has previously heard on the providers of services seeking the right to deny services based on First Amendment grounds, such as Masterpiece Cakeshop and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In both of those cases, however, the court issued narrow rulings on the facts of litigation, declining to issue sweeping rulings either upholding non-discrimination principles or First Amendment exemptions.

Pizer, who signed one of the friend-of-the-court briefs in opposition to 303 Creative, said the case is “similar in the goals” of the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation on the basis they both seek exemptions to the same non-discrimination law that governs their business, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, or CADA, and seek “to further the social and political argument that they should be free to refuse same-sex couples or LGBTQ people in particular.”

“So there’s the legal goal, and it connects to the social and political goals and in that sense, it’s the same as Masterpiece,” Pizer said. “And so there are multiple problems with it again, as a legal matter, but also as a social matter, because as with the religion argument, it flows from the idea that having something to do with us is endorsing us.”

One difference: the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation stemmed from an act of refusal of service after owner, Jack Phillips, declined to make a custom-made wedding cake for a same-sex couple for their upcoming wedding. No act of discrimination in the past, however, is present in the 303 Creative case. The owner seeks to put on her website a disclaimer she won’t provide services for same-sex weddings, signaling an intent to discriminate against same-sex couples rather than having done so.

As such, expect issues of standing — whether or not either party is personally aggrieved and able bring to a lawsuit — to be hashed out in arguments as well as whether the litigation is ripe for review as justices consider the case. It’s not hard to see U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has sought to lead the court to reach less sweeping decisions (sometimes successfully, and sometimes in the Dobbs case not successfully) to push for a decision along these lines.

Another key difference: The 303 Creative case hinges on the argument of freedom of speech as opposed to the two-fold argument of freedom of speech and freedom of religious exercise in the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation. Although 303 Creative requested in its petition to the Supreme Court review of both issues of speech and religion, justices elected only to take up the issue of free speech in granting a writ of certiorari (or agreement to take up a case). Justices also declined to accept another question in the petition request of review of the 1990 precedent in Smith v. Employment Division, which concluded states can enforce neutral generally applicable laws on citizens with religious objections without violating the First Amendment.

Representing 303 Creative in the lawsuit is Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that has sought to undermine civil rights laws for LGBTQ people with litigation seeking exemptions based on the First Amendment, such as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

Kristen Waggoner, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote in a Sept. 12 legal brief signed by her and other attorneys that a decision in favor of 303 Creative boils down to a clear-cut violation of the First Amendment.

“Colorado and the United States still contend that CADA only regulates sales transactions,” the brief says. “But their cases do not apply because they involve non-expressive activities: selling BBQ, firing employees, restricting school attendance, limiting club memberships, and providing room access. Colorado’s own cases agree that the government may not use public-accommodation laws to affect a commercial actor’s speech.”

Pizer, however, pushed back strongly on the idea a decision in favor of 303 Creative would be as focused as Alliance Defending Freedom purports it would be, arguing it could open the door to widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people.

“One way to put it is art tends to be in the eye of the beholder,” Pizer said. “Is something of a craft, or is it art? I feel like I’m channeling Lily Tomlin. Remember ‘soup and art’? We have had an understanding that whether something is beautiful or not is not the determining factor about whether something is protected as artistic expression. There’s a legal test that recognizes if this is speech, whose speech is it, whose message is it? Would anyone who was hearing the speech or seeing the message understand it to be the message of the customer or of the merchants or craftsmen or business person?”

Despite the implications in the case for LGBTQ rights, 303 Creative may have supporters among LGBTQ people who consider themselves proponents of free speech.

One joint friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court, written by Dale Carpenter, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who’s written in favor of LGBTQ rights, and Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment legal scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, argues the case is an opportunity to affirm the First Amendment applies to goods and services that are uniquely expressive.

“Distinguishing expressive from non-expressive products in some contexts might be hard, but the Tenth Circuit agreed that Smith’s product does not present a hard case,” the brief says. “Yet that court (and Colorado) declined to recognize any exemption for products constituting speech. The Tenth Circuit has effectively recognized a state interest in subjecting the creation of speech itself to antidiscrimination laws.”

Oral arguments in the case aren’t yet set, but may be announced soon. Set to defend the state of Colorado and enforcement of its non-discrimination law in the case is Colorado Solicitor General Eric Reuel Olson. Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would grant the request to the U.S. solicitor general to present arguments before the justices on behalf of the Biden administration.

With a 6-3 conservative majority on the court that has recently scrapped the super-precedent guaranteeing the right to abortion, supporters of LGBTQ rights may think the outcome of the case is all but lost, especially amid widespread fears same-sex marriage would be next on the chopping block. After the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against 303 Creative in the lawsuit, the simple action by the Supreme Court to grant review in the lawsuit suggests they are primed to issue a reversal and rule in favor of the company.

Pizer, acknowledging the call to action issued by LGBTQ groups in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, conceded the current Supreme Court issuing the ruling in this case is “a terrifying prospect,” but cautioned the issue isn’t so much the makeup of the court but whether or not justices will continue down the path of abolishing case law.

“I think the question that we’re facing with respect to all of the cases or at least many of the cases that are in front of the court right now, is whether this court is going to continue on this radical sort of wrecking ball to the edifice of settled law and seemingly a goal of setting up whole new structures of what our basic legal principles are going to be. Are we going to have another term of that?” Pizer said. “And if so, that’s terrifying.”

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Kelley Robinson, a Black, queer woman, named president of Human Rights Campaign

Progressive activist a veteran of Planned Parenthood Action Fund



Kelley Robinson (Screen capture via HRC YouTube)

Kelley Robinson, a Black, queer woman and veteran of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, is to become the next president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading LGBTQ group announced on Tuesday.

Robinson is set to become the ninth president of the Human Rights Campaign after having served as executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and more than 12 years of experience as a leader in the progressive movement. She’ll be the first Black, queer woman to serve in that role.

“I’m honored and ready to lead HRC — and our more than three million member-advocates — as we continue working to achieve equality and liberation for all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people,” Robinson said. “This is a pivotal moment in our movement for equality for LGBTQ+ people. We, particularly our trans and BIPOC communities, are quite literally in the fight for our lives and facing unprecedented threats that seek to destroy us.”

Kelley Robinson IS NAMED as The next human rights Campaign president

The next Human Rights Campaign president is named as Democrats are performing well in polls in the mid-term elections after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving an opening for the LGBTQ group to play a key role amid fears LGBTQ rights are next on the chopping block.

“The overturning of Roe v. Wade reminds us we are just one Supreme Court decision away from losing fundamental freedoms including the freedom to marry, voting rights, and privacy,” Robinson said. “We are facing a generational opportunity to rise to these challenges and create real, sustainable change. I believe that working together this change is possible right now. This next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign is about getting to freedom and liberation without any exceptions — and today I am making a promise and commitment to carry this work forward.”

The Human Rights Campaign announces its next president after a nearly year-long search process after the board of directors terminated its former president Alphonso David when he was ensnared in the sexual misconduct scandal that led former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign. David has denied wrongdoing and filed a lawsuit against the LGBTQ group alleging racial discrimination.

Kelley Robinson, Planned Parenthood, Cathy Chu, SMYAL, Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, Amy Nelson, Whitman-Walker Health, Sheroes of the Movement, Mayor's office of GLBT Affairs, gay news, Washington Blade
Kelley Robinson, seen here with Cathy Chu of SMYAL and Amy Nelson of Whitman-Walker Health, is the next Human Rights Campaign president. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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