Chad Griffin leaves AFER for HRC and is welcomed by Dustin Lance Black and other activists at Harvey Milk settings in the Castro with the promise to be inclusive of all the LGBT community of activists and leaders.
By Melanie Nathan, June 10,2012.
Chad Griffin made a quick visit to San Francisco today where he met with a small gathering of LGBT activists and press at the historic Harvey Milk Castro Camera store, now rented by HRC. Accompanied by Dustin Lance Black and Cleve Jones, Griffin spoke briefly outside the store, symbolically linking old and new, and denoting that tomorrow, when he starts work to lead the largest national advocacy LGBT rights organization in the USA, Human Rights Campaign, he may well launch a new trajectory, a more inclusive one which will focus on full equality for LGBT America.
Human Rights Campaign has been under the controversial leadership of Joe Solmonese for many years. A good few local activist present at today’s meet have criticized the Solmonese reign as exclusive and elitist.
The day presented many historic moments as Dustin Lance Black, the academy award winning screenwriter of “Milk,” the Harvey Milk story, celebrated his birthday with the group and Griffin acknowledged his appreciation of the imperative part played by grass roots activist in the LGBT movement.
After the first stop, the illustrious group of leaders and activists turned the heads of Sunday pancake eaters, as they strolled past the coffee shops and rainbow lined streets, to the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, where Griffin was welcomed with questions and concerns posed by more than 50 Bay Area community leaders and activists.
Griffin spoke about the recent LGBT youth report released by the Human Rights Campaign, noting the enormous difficulties experienced by gay (LGBT) youth. Many issues were raised in the meeting, including LGBT seniors, ENDA, the idea of working for equality at the state and local levels, and what seemed to be a prominent theme the engagement and importance of the grass root activist community.
Griffin told the audience he agreed with my comments which included my hope that HRC will use its extraordinary resources to mobilize people to come out “on the streets” to demand our full equality and to look for ways to change the insidious separation of our binational couples as I believe that waiting for the repeal of DOMA seems too far off.
Griffin mentioned a good few times that his respect and appreciation for the grass roots community of activists is enormous and that he hopes to engage in an inclusive fashion during his tenure.
When a Log Cabin Republican asked a question, Griffin reminded him of the strategies he used when he lead AFER in its successful sponsorship of the case against Prop 8 and how he had hired a staunch Republican onto the team. He noted the importance of unity and acknowledging that which we can all agree upon and the ability to “lift the partisan veil on marriage equality” as being integral to the fight.
At the same time Griffin was unabashed in his support for President Obama, asserting that he could not fathom how there could ever be no common ground in the LGBT community (referring probably to Log Cabin Republicans) on the ideal of returning President Obama to the White House, which he noted as an imperative mission.
As a vocal critic of HRC for many years, I share the sentiment of activist and LGBT New York Life Insurance representative Aaron Baldwin. Baldwin noted his personal upset over the years with HRC. He then assured the room, that because of the new promise of a Chad Griffin leadership based on all that Griffin has done thus far for LGBTI America, he is willing to let bygones be bygones and support HRC again after so many years.
While we maintain our guard, we all look forward to welcoming Chad Griffin to this important role for what promises to be a new beginning in our movement, where HRC can truly take the lead, through an all inclusive model, unlike any we have yet seen in our movement.
I have no doubt Chad Griffin, the brilliant political strategist, and the man from small town America, can indeed deliver the goods.
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