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Topics In the News
 
Meet Chad Griffin, New Head of HRC
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 07/11/12
Last updated on: 07/11/12
 
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Chad Griffin.

Chad Griffin, new president of America's largest and most influential gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign, has hit the ground running. He brings to his new position a great deal of experience taking on entrenched interests like big tobacco, big oil, and the religious right. He has expressed a particular interest in outreach to glbtq youth.

Devastated by the passage of California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state, Griffin co-founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sole sponsor of the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8. He is personally responsible for recruiting the legal dream team of Theodore Olson and David Boies to argue the case.

An Associated Press profile of Griffin, published on July 6, 2012, reveals that on his first day as president of HRC, he returned home to Arkadelphia, Arkansas, "where he spent his Sundays in a Baptist church and heard kids call him gay slurs in school, to show that he stands with young gay people in small towns across the country, not just on the coasts."

The article makes the point that "Arkansas helped shape Griffin into the leader he is today: a man uniquely qualified to fight a civil rights battle that will be difficult . . . . As the first Southerner to head the Washington-based group, Griffin has a knack for translating the fight for gay rights into language familiar to people in the Bible Belt. He sometimes borrows phrases from the pulpit--brothers and sisters, God's children--to advocate equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

"This is nothing more than the golden rule," Griffin told community leaders during his visit. "Treat others as you wish to be treated."

Griffin was born in Hope, Arkansas, the same town in which Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee were born, and grew up about 45 miles northeast in Arkadelphia.

From childhood, Griffin was fascinated by politics. As a teenager, he became a page at the state Capitol. He then joined Clinton's presidential campaign and followed him to the White House as part of the communications team.

After graduating from Georgetown University, he moved to California to run a charitable foundation. He subsequently became involved in several high-profile political campaigns, many of them involving ballot initiatives.

Many of us hope that Griffin will bring new energy and more aggressive leadership to the HRC. Although Griffin was a major fundraiser for President Obama in 2008, he did not hesitate to criticize him during his foot-dragging on the question of marriage equality during his first two years in office.

Moreover, Griffin has demonstrated his ability to defy conventional thinking and take bold action. At a time when most glbtq legal groups cautioned against fighting for marriage equality in federal court, Griffin pressed ahead with his plan to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 8 on grounds that could lead to a major victory in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Similarly, despite his deep roots in the Democratic Party, Griffin has made a point of attempting to involve Republicans in the fight for marriage equality, most notably through engaging former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson as co-counsel in the Proposition 8 case.

The HRC has produced a wonderful video introducing Griffin to the larger glbtq community.

 
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