Human Rights Campaign

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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lobbying group and political action committee in the United States, claiming more than 700,000 members and supporters. This membership count is questioned by some.[1][2][3] The HRC mission statement is "HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights; and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community."[4]

Programs, functions, and actions of the HRC

The Human Rights Campaign is a visible entity in U.S. politics. It lobbies Congress for support of LGBT-positive bills, works to build an LGBT-friendly Congress by funding those politicians that support the LGBT community, mobilizes grassroots action amongst its members, and encourages members to exercise their right to vote in every election. The organization overwhelmingly supports Democratic candidates running for office, although HRC supports some moderate Republicans.[5]

Through its website, the HRC also helps members identify their state and local lawmakers, review scorecards of how legislators rate on LGBT issues, and draft correspondence to lawmakers. Additionally, the website helps members research state and local laws on issues that are central to LGBT causes.

Additionally, HRC maintains suggestions on coming out and information about workplace issues (in the Corporate Equality Index).

History and leadership

The Human Rights Campaign Fund was established in 1980 by Steve Endean to raise money for gay-supportive congressional candidates. Within three months, the HRC was registered with the Federal Election Commission as an independent political action committee. In 1983, Vic Basile, one of the leading LGBT rights activists in Washington, D.C. at the time, was elected as the first executive director. In October 1986, the HRC Foundation was formed. As with many gay organizations in the 1980s, HRC was devastated by the onslaught of AIDS and its membership spent much of the decade struggling to hold their ground.

In January 1989, Basile announced his departure, and the HRC reorganized from serving mainly as a political action committee (PAC) to becoming a lobbying and political organization. HRC's new Statement of Purpose became,

Tim McFeeley, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and founder of the Boston Lesbian and Gay Political Alliance and a co-chair of the New England HRC Committee, was elected the new executive director. Total membership was then approximately 25,000 members.[citation needed]

In 1992, the HRC endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time — Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. In March 1993, National Coming Out Day became a project of the HRC. From January 1995 until January 2004, Elizabeth Birch served as the executive director of the HRC. Under her leadership, the institution more than quadrupled its membership to 500,000 members and purchased an office building for its Washington, D.C. headquarters.[citation needed]

The headquarters building was purchased from B'nai B'rith International in 2002 for $9.8 million. A large national capital campaign raised over $28 million for the project. After extensive renovations of the mid-century modern structure, the building is currently valued at over $18 million.[citation needed] As part of the festivities surrounding the Millennium March on Washington, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation sponsored a fundraising concert, "Equality Rocks," on 29 April, 2000. Over 45,000 people attended at Washington DC's RFK Stadium to watch Melissa Etheridge, Garth Brooks, Pet Shop Boys, k.d. lang, Nathan Lane, Rufus Wainwright, Albita Rodríguez, and Chaka Khan. Billed as a concert to end hate crimes, the event featured the parents of Matthew Shepard, and also honored families of hate crime victims.

In August 2000, Birch became the first leader of a LGBT organization to address the convention of a major political party when she spoke before the Democratic National Convention.

Birch's successor, Cheryl Jacques, resigned in November 2004 after only 11 months as executive director. In a statement released by the organization, Jacques resigned over "a difference in management philosophy". Incidentally, Birch's partner, Hilary Rosen, former chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America, was named as interim replacement.

In March 2005, HRC announced the appointment of Joe Solmonese as the president, describing him as one of the "nation's most accomplished and respected progressive leaders".

The Human Rights Campaign also consists of a Board of Directors and a Board of Governors. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a non-profit entity, also maintains a separate Board. In December 2004, they named Michael S. Berman as their Board chair.

On 5 May 2007, the House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepard Act, which would expand the 1969 federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, as well as remove the existing prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity. The HRC has lobbied extensively for this expansion. The legislation passed the United States Senate on 20 September 2007. The amendment was attached to the Defense Reauthorization Bill and President Bush announced he would likely veto the bill if it reached his desk with the amendment attached.[6] Ultimately, the House and Senate were not able to reconcile their individual versions of the amendment, and it was dropped from the final draft of the Defense Reauthorization Bill.[7]

HRC historical records

The historical records of the Human Rights Campaign are maintained in a collection at the Cornell University Library. Arriving at Cornell in 2004, the records include strategic-planning documents, faxes, minutes, e-mails, press releases, posters and campaign buttons which constitute the second largest collection of records in the Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Human Sexuality Collection area with of records. In February 2007, the records were opened to scholars at the library, and selected records were organized into an online exhibit called "25 Years of Political Influence: The Records of the Human Rights Campaign."[8][9]


Political ideology

Critics of the HRC have accused the organization of favoring the Democratic party platform over gay and lesbian equality in regards to gay marriage and ending the don't ask, don't tell policy.[10][11][12] The HRC states they are fighting for equality in all areas of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.

Andrew Sullivan, a prominent conservative gay political columnist and blogger, has been critical of the HRC calling them "a patronage wing of the Democratic party, designed primarily to get its members jobs in future Democratic administrations or with Democrats on the Hill".[13] The organization responded by saying, "There’s nobody happier about what Andrew Sullivan is doing than Tony Perkins and James Dobson" who are known for opposing LGBT rights.[14] As of January 2008, HRC campaign donations for the 2008 election have totaled $396,940. That amount includes $377,154, or 95% of the total, to Democrats.[15]


HRC has been accused of overstating the number of actual members in order to appear more influential in politics.[16][17] HRC refuses to release the count of current, dues-paying members.[18]

1998 New York Senate election

The HRC angered many of its supporters in New York, and many of its African American, Asian American, and female supporters nationwide by endorsing Republican Senator Al D'Amato in the 1998 election.[19] D'Amato earned the nomination by supporting an end to discrimination in the workplace and voting to allow gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military, but his stances against abortion, and affirmative action and racist jokes he told at the expense of Judge Lance Ito left many LGBT people angry over the nomination.[citation needed] D'Amato went on to be defeated by Chuck Schumer.


HRC has been criticized by transgender people and activists for supporting a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which lacks language including protections for gender identity and gender expression.[20] On September 14, 2007, HRC President Joe Solmonese promised to oppose any ENDA legislation that did not include transgender provisions, and only to support those that did include them; a policy first articulated in 2004.[21] HRC reversed this position on October 2nd by ceasing opposition of a transgender-exclusive ENDA, which lead to the resignation of board member Donna Rose on October 3rd.[22] On November 6th, HRC once again announced its support for a new exclusive version,[21] a change which they attempted to cover up.[23]

Support of Bush's social security plan

HRC was criticized by LGBT activists when the group's leaders announced that the organization would be softening its demands for equal rights and consider making political bargains, such as supporting President George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security partly in exchange for the right of same-sex partners to receive benefits under the program.[24][25]

Presidential forum

In 2007, HRC and Logo sponsored the first presidential forum in history to discuss LGBT-related issues. The event was criticized for excluding Democratic presidential nominee Mike Gravel from the debate. Gravel said, "According to a HRC spokesperson, I didn't raise enough money and therefore my candidacy did not meet their standard of 'viability.' But that's strange — CNN, PBS, NBC and the NAACP invited me to their debates without evaluating my financial viability. Ironically I think the real reason why HRC didn't invite me is that I'm too vocal in my advocacy of gay rights. None of the top tier candidates would have been comfortable facing an opponent who consistently points out their refusal to embrace true equality for gays and lesbians. HRC simply bowed to the star factor. It's just a shame that this travesty was perpetrated in the name of the LGBT community."[26] Senator Gravel was later invited to the forum, and Dennis Kucinich and he were the only candidates to express support for same-sex marriage.


  1. Steve Endean, HRC founder (1980–1983)
  2. Executive Director Vic Basile (1983–1989)
  3. Executive Director Tim McFeeley (1989–1995)
  4. Executive Director Elizabeth Birch (1995–2004)
  5. President Cheryl Jacques (2004)
  6. President Joe Solmonese (2005–present)

Musical merchandising

In 2002, the Human Rights Campaign, in collaboration with Centaur Entertainment, released an awareness album named Being Out Rocks. It was released on 11 October 2002 to celebrate National Coming Out Day that year. It features a cross-section of LGBT and LGBT-supportive straight artists. Its release was accompanied with signing events at the Times Square Virgin Megastore in New York City and at the HRC Action Center in Washington, D.C.

In February 2005 HRC released a second CD compilation with Centaur, a 2-disc set called Love Rocks.

National corporate sponsors

As one of the major LGBT advocacy groups in the United States HRC maintains considerable support from mainstream corporations. As of August 2007, the following companies are the current national corporate sponsors of HRC:[27]

  • Abreva of GlaxoSmithKline
  • The Advocate & Out Magazines (LPI Media)
  • Replacements, Ltd.
  • Volvo Cars of North America

See also


  1. The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
  2. HRC ‘members’ include all who ever donated $1 - Washington Blade
  3. The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
  4. HRC | What We Do
  5. Donor Profiles
  6. US Senate passes gay hate crimes law- from Pink News- all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News
  7. "House nixes hate crimes" Retrieved on 2008-08-25.
  8. Lowery, George. (30 January 2007) 25 years of gay-rights struggles traced in online exhibit The Cornell Chronicle of Cornell University. Accessed 29 July 2007.
  9. Cornell University Library. 25 Years of Political Influence:The Records of the Human Rights Campaign Cornell University. Accessed 29 July 2007.
  10. Independent Gay Forum - Rudy's Run
  11. The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
  12. Independent Gay Forum - Whose Agenda?
  13. Sullivan, Andrew. (19 February 2007) The Human Rights Campaign (Blech) The Atlantic Monthly. Accessed 29 July 2007.
  14. HRC hits back at blogger criticisms - Washington Blade
  15. Donor Profiles
  16. Citizen Crain: Cooking the books at HRC
  17. The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
  18. HRC ‘members’ include all who ever donated $1 - Washington Blade
  19. Kaiser, Charles. (18 July 2000) The D'Amato Factor - Article Brief at The Advocate. Accessed 29 July 2007.
  20. Schindler, Paul. (4 October 2007) HRC Alone in Eschewing No-Compromise Stand Gay City News. Accessed 8 October 2007.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Sandeen, Autumn. (6 November 2007) [1] Trans Advocate Blog. Accessed November 9 2007.
  22. Rose, Donna. (3 October 2007) [2]
  23. [3] Pam's House Blend. Accessed 9 November 2007.
  24. John M. Broder (9 December 2004). "Groups Debate Slower Strategy on Gay Rights", New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-11-24. 
  25. Evelyn Nieves (12 December 2004). "Gay Activists Refuse to Bargain Away Rights", Washington Post. Retrieved on 2007-11-24. 
  26. Sen. Mike Gravel: Why I Wasn't Invited to the Debate on Gay Issues - Politics on The Huffington Post
  27. HRC. National Corporate Sponsors Accessed 29 July 2007.

External links


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