Human Rights Campaign

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For other uses, please see HRC (disambiguation).
Human Rights Campaign
Hrc logo.svg
Motto "Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equal Rights"
Formation 1980
Founder Steve Endean
Type Nonprofit advocacy organization
Purpose LGBT rights
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Chad Griffin
Affiliations Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Human Rights Campaign PAC
Revenue (2014)
Expenses (2014) $35,393,692[1]

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States.[2]


HRC is an umbrella group of two separate non-profit organizations and a political action committee: the HRC Foundation, a 501(c)(3)[3] organization that focuses on research, advocacy and education; the Human Rights Campaign, a 501(c)(4)[4] organization that focuses on promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights through lobbying Congress and state and local officials for support of pro-LGBT bills, and mobilizing grassroots action amongst its members; and the HRC Political Action Committee, a super PAC which supports and opposes political candidates.[5]


The Human Rights Campaign's leadership includes President Chad Griffin.[6] HRC's work is supported by three boards: the Board of Directors, which is the governing body for the organization; the HRC Foundation Board, which manages the foundation's finances and establishes official policies governing the foundation; and the Board of Governors, which manages the organization's local outreach nationwide.[7]

In the fall of 2014, HRC commissioned outside consultants to conduct a series of focus groups and surveys with the organization's staff. In the report, which was obtained by BuzzFeed, staff of the organization described the working environment at HRC as “judgmental,” “exclusionary,” “sexist,” and “homogenous." The report stated that “Leadership culture is experienced as homogenous — gay, white, male." Acknowledging the report, HRC president Chad Griffin said: "Like many organizations and companies throughout our country, HRC has embarked on a thoughtful and comprehensive diversity and inclusion effort with the goals of better representing the communities we serve."[8]


Human Rights Campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Steve Endean, who had worked with a previously established Gay Rights National Lobby from 1978, established the Human Rights Campaign Fund political action committee in 1980.[9] The two groups eventually merged. In 1983, Vic Basile, at the time one of the leading LGBT rights activists in Washington, D.C., was elected as the first executive director. In October 1986, the HRC Foundation (HRCF) was formed as a non-profit organization.[10]

In January 1989, Basile announced his departure, and HRC reorganized from serving mainly as a political action committee (PAC) to broadening its function to encompass lobbying, research, education, and media outreach.[11] HRC decided on a new Statement of Purpose: "For the promotion of the social welfare of the gay and lesbian community by drafting, supporting and influencing legislation and policy at the federal, state and local level." Tim McFeeley, a Harvard Law School graduate, 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.[12]

In 1992, HRC endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time, Bill Clinton. In March 1993, HRC began a new project, National Coming Out Day. 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.[13]

In 1995, the organization dropped the word "Fund" from its name, becoming the Human Rights Campaign. That same year, it underwent a complete reorganization. The HRC Foundation added new programs such as the Workplace Project and the Family Project, while HRC itself broadly expanded its research, communications, and marketing/public relations functions. The organization also unveiled a new logo, a yellow equal sign inside of a blue square.[14]

The Human Rights Campaign often has a large presence at LGBT-related events such as the Chicago Pride Parade as seen above.

As part of the activities surrounding the Millennium March on Washington, the HRC Foundation sponsored a fundraising concert at Washington, D.C.'s RFK Stadium on April 29, 2000. Billed as a concert to end hate crimes, "Equality Rocks" honored hate crime victims and their families, such as featured speakers Dennis and Judy Shepard, the parents of Matthew Shepard. The event included included Melissa Etheridge, Garth Brooks, Pet Shop Boys, k.d. lang, Nathan Lane, Rufus Wainwright, Albita Rodríguez, and Chaka Khan.[15][16]

Elizabeth Birch's successor, Cheryl Jacques, resigned in November 2004 after only 11 months as executive director. Jacques said she had resigned over "a difference in management philosophy".[17]

In March 2005, HRC announced the appointment of Joe Solmonese as the president. He served in that position until stepping down in May 2012 to co-chair the Barack Obama presidential campaign.[18]

HRC launched its Religion and Faith Program in 2005 to mobilize clergy to advocate for LGBT people, and helped form DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality, which was involved in the legalization of same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia.[19] On March 10, 2010, the first legally recognized same-sex weddings in the District of Columbia were held at the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign.[20]

On August 9, 2007, HRC and Logo TV co-hosted a forum for 2008 Democratic presidential candidates dedicated specifically to LGBT issues.[21]

In 2010, HRC lobbied for the repeal of the United States' ban on HIV-positive people's entry into the country for travel or immigration.[22][23]

In September 2011, it was announced that Joe Solmonese would step down as president of HRC following the end of his contract in 2012.[24] Despite initial speculation that former Atlanta City Council president Cathy Woolard would be appointed, no replacement was announced until March 2, 2012, when American Foundation for Equal Rights co-founder Chad Griffin was announced as Solmonese's successor. Griffin took office on June 11, 2012.[25]

In 2012, HRC said that it had raised and contributed $20 million to re-elect President Obama and to advance same-sex marriage.[26] In addition to the Obama re-election campaign, HRC spent money on marriage-related ballot measures in Washington, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota, and the election of Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.[27]

In 2013, HRC conducted a postcard campaign in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).[28]

Annual fundraisers[edit]

Each year since 1997, HRC has hosted a national dinner that serves as the organization's single largest annual fundraiser. In 2009, President Barack Obama spoke at HRC's 13th Annual National Dinner. In his speech, President Obama reaffirmed his pledge to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as his commitment to passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.[29] He gave the keynote speech in 2011 as well, reiterating his pledge to fight for DOMA repeal and for the passage of ENDA, and to combat bullying of LGBT youth. Other featured speakers at past dinners have included Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, Kweisi Mfume, Joseph Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, Richard Gephardt, John Lewis, Rosie O'Donnell, Nancy Pelosi, Tim Gunn, Suze Orman, Sally Field, Cory Booker, Tammy Baldwin, and Betty DeGeneres.[30]

HRC historical records[edit]

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. Taking up 84 cubic feet (2.4 m3), the archive is the second largest in the library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Human Sexuality Collection. In February 2007, the archive was 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".[31][32]


According to the organization, the Human Rights Campaign "is organized for the charitable and educational purposes of promoting public education and welfare for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."[33]

The HRC Foundation provides resources on coming out,[34] transgender issues,[35] LGBT-related healthcare topics,[36] and information about workplace issues faced by LGBT people, including the Corporate Equality Index.[37] In August 2015, Pride at Work, an LGBT affiliate of the AFL–CIO, approved a resolution that calls on member organizations to stop funding HRC until the group addresses what Pride at Work sees as problems with HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.[38]

HRC has lobbied for the passage of anti-discrimination and hate crime laws.[39][40] The organization supported the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal hate-crime law to allow the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.[41]

The organization's work on health issues traditionally focused on responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In recent years, HRC has addressed discrimination in health care settings for LGBT employees, patients and their families. Since 2007, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has published the "Healthcare Equality Index", which rates hospitals on issues such as patient and employee non-discrimination policies, employee cultural competency training, and hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients' families.[42]

Lobbyists from the Human Rights Campaign worked with the Obama administration to extend hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners.[43] HRC lobbied extensively for the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) law, which barred gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the United States military.[44]


The official logo of the HRC, adopted in 1995, consists of a yellow equals sign imposed onto a blue background. The logo was created in 1995 by design firm Stone Yamashita.[45] The previous logo used by the HRC (then known as the HRCF) featured a stylized flaming torch.[46] HRC uses the term Equality Flag for flags bearing their logo.[47]


The HRC equal sign logo reworked in red and pink to show particular support for same-sex marriage.

HRC shared a red version of its logo – selected by marketing director Anastasia Khoo because the color is synonymous with love – on social network services on March 25, 2013, and asked its supporters to do the same to show support for same-sex marriage in light of two cases that were before the U.S. Supreme Court (United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry). The logo went viral, and Facebook saw a 120% increase in the number of profile photo changes on March 26. Celebrities such as George Takei, Beyonce, Sophia Bush, Padma Lakshmi, Martha Stewart, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Ellen DeGeneres shared the logo with their millions of followers on social network services and politicians like Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Kay Hagan (D-NC) did the same.[48][49]

Brands and corporations showed their support for same-sex marriage with creative recreations of the red HRC logo. Supporters included Bud Light, Bonobos,, Kenneth Cole, L'Occitane en Provence, Maybelline, Absolut, Marc Jacobs International, Smirnoff, Martha Stewart Weddings, and HBO's True Blood.[50]

Major print and online news sources reported on the success of the viral campaign, including MSNBC,[51] Time,[52] Mashable,[53] and The Wall Street Journal.[54]


Critics of the HRC have accused the organization of favoring the Democratic Party. Andrew Sullivan, a gay political columnist and blogger, has been critical of the HRC, calling it "a patronage wing of the Democratic party".[55][56]

HRC was criticized for its endorsement of New York Republican Al D'Amato in his 1998 campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. HRC defended the endorsement because of D'Amato's support for Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". However, many liberal LGBT leaders did not welcome D'Amato's conservative stances, including his opposition to affirmative action and abortion.[57]

HRC has been accused of overstating the number of its actual members in order to appear more influential in politics.[58][59] Former HRC President Joe Solmonese responded, saying that "[m]embership is about more than contributions ... [i]t's about sending e-mails to elected officials, volunteering time or lobbying members of Congress" and more than half of its members made contributions during the previous two years.[60] Earlier, HRC spokesperson Steven Fisher stated that its membership includes anyone who has donated at least $1.[60]

Some transgender people have criticized the HRC for its stance on the 2007 version of ENDA, which enumerated sexual orientation as a protected category but not gender identity and expression.[61] Once the legislation was submitted by Rep. Barney Frank, HRC officially neither opposed nor supported it.[62] This followed a speech by former HRC President Joe Solmonese at the transgender Southern Comfort Conference the previous month, where he said that HRC "oppose[d] any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive".[63] HRC later explained that it could not actively support a non-inclusive bill, but did not oppose it because the legislation would strategically advance long-term efforts to pass a trans-inclusive ENDA.[64] However, in a letter to U.S. Representatives, HRC did express support for the bill, stating that while HRC is "greatly disappointed that the current version of ENDA is not fully-inclusive ... we appreciate the steadfast efforts of our ... allies ... even when they are forced ... to make progress that is measured by inches rather than yards."[65]

In 2014, long-time supporter of same-sex marriage Shenna Bellows was nominated for a U.S. Senate seat in Maine. HRC endorsed her opponent, incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins, who had previously lacked a history of supporting marriage equality initiatives. However, Collins later clarified her view in support of LGBT marriage equality.[66]


The Human Rights Campaign gives out a number of awards.

Visibility Award winners
Ally for Equality Award winners
Equality Award
HRC Legacy Award
HRC Award for Workplace Equality Innovation

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "IRS Form 990 2014" (PDF). GuideStar. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Democratic hopefuls pressed on gay issues at forum". CNN. August 10, 2007. Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  3. ^ "HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN FOUNDATION". ProPublica. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "Human Rights Campaign". Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Leven, Rachel (January 3, 2012). "Human Rights Campaign creates super-PAC". The Hill. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  6. ^ Harmon, Andrew (March 2, 2012). "Chad Griffin Named President of HRC". The Advocate. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  7. ^ "The HRC Story: Boards". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  8. ^ Geider, Chris (June 3, 2015). "Internal Report: Major Diversity, Organizational Problems At Human Rights Campaign". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  9. ^ Lambert, Bruce (August 6, 1993). "Stephen R. Endean, 44, Founder Of Largest Gay Political Group". New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  10. ^ Haggerty, George; Zimmerman, Bonnie (2003). Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures. Garland Science. p. 710. ISBN 9781135578718. 
  11. ^ Birch, Elizabeth (HRC Quarterly (Fall 1995)). "The Human Rights Campaign: So Much More Than a Fund.". Human Rights Campaign. pp. 2–3.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ Bailey, Mark (2000). "Human Rights Campaign." Gay Histories and Cultures. New York: Garland. 
  13. ^ Althafer, Emily. "Leading gay rights advocate to speak at UF". University of Florida News: source: Adelisse Fontanet, xxx-1665 ext. 326. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
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  16. ^ "Resources: Hate Crimes Timeline". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  17. ^ Seelye, Katharine (December 1, 2004). "Gay Advocacy Group Says Its President Is Resigning". New York Times. Retrieved 15 September 2015. 
  18. ^ "Joe Solmonese Named Human Rights Campaign President: Leader with Unmatched Record to Embark on Heartland Tour during First Week on Job". Human Rights Campaign. March 9, 2005. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  19. ^ Stewart, Nikita (December 18, 2009). "Fenty to sign same-sex marriage bill at church in NW D.C". The Washington Post. 
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  27. ^ Martel, Ned (November 8, 2012). "Gay rights advocates welcome Election Day results for a change". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 8, 2013. 
  28. ^ Eilperin, Juliet (October 25, 2013). "Cindy McCain petitions husband to back gay rights bill". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  29. ^ "Obama HRC Speech: "I Will End Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Says President Obama". The Huffington Post. October 10, 2009. 
  30. ^ "About the Dinner: Previous Dinners". Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  31. ^ Lowery, George. (January 30, 2007) 25 years of gay-rights struggles traced in online exhibit The Cornell Chronicle of Cornell University. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  32. ^ Cornell University Library. 25 Years of Political Influence:The Records of the Human Rights Campaign Cornell University. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  33. ^ "Mission Statement". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  34. ^ Nichols, James Michael (October 11, 2013). "Coming Out Of The Closet: Some Resources To Aid The Process". Huffington Post. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  35. ^ "Transgender Resources". NBC News. April 27, 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  36. ^ Harrington, Elizabeth (June 19, 2012). "Sebelius, Human Rights Campaign Praise Each Other for Promoting LGBT Equality in Healthcare". CNS News. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  37. ^ Mitchell, Elizabeth (June 1, 2015). "2015 Corporate Equality Index Shows Highest-Ever Inclusion of LGBT Employees". PR Newser. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  38. ^ Brydum, Sunnivie (August 30, 2015). "Pride at Work Tells HRC: ‘Enough Is Enough’". The Advocate. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  39. ^ Phelps, Timothy (June 26, 2015). "Gay-rights advocates now turn focus to employment, housing". Seattle Times. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
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  44. ^ Branigin, William; Wilgoren, Debbi; Bacon Jr, Perry (December 22, 2010). "Obama signs DADT repeal before big, emotional crowd". The Washington Post. 
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  46. ^ "Old HRCF logo on lapel". Cornell University. 
  47. ^ HRC Store page selling Equality Flag
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  49. ^ Alison Starling. "Working Women: Anastasia Khoo builds viral content for Human Rights Campaign". 
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  53. ^ Fox, Zoe. "Facebook Turns Red as SCOTUS Marriage Equality Hearings Begin". Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
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  56. ^ Sullivan, Andrew. "My Alliance with the Christianists"
  57. ^ Kaiser, Charles. (July 18, 2000) The D'Amato Factor The Advocate. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  58. ^ "Citizen Crain: Cooking the books at HRC". 
  59. ^ "HRC Responds". The Atlantic. 
  60. ^ a b HRC 'members' include all who ever donated $1 – Washington Blade originally here
  61. ^ Schindler, Paul. (October 4, 2007) HRC Alone in Eschewing No-Compromise Stand Gay City News. Retrieved October 8, 2007.
  62. ^ "Donna Rose on Why She Resigned as the Only Transgender Member of HRC's Board". The Advocate. October 4, 2007. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  63. ^ "HRC's ENDA dilemma: Dine, party or boycott?". EDGE Publications, Inc. July 22, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  64. ^ Sandeen, Autumn. "ENDA Passed Without "Real Or Perceived Gender" Protections". Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  65. ^ "Letter to U.S. Representatives"
  66. ^ "Susan Collins Endorsed By Major Gay Rights Group, Despite Not Backing Marriage Equality". The Huffington Post. June 25, 2014. 
  67. ^ Whoopi Goldberg To Receive Human Rights Campaign's Ally For Equality Award Retrieved November 26, 2014.

External links[edit]