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HRC Names First Civil Rights Lawyer, First POC President

Alphonso David

The Human Rights Campaign has named Alphonso David as president, making him the first civil rights lawyer and the first person of color to lead the organization in its nearly 40-year history.

David — who will begin his tenure with HRC in August, succeeding Chad Griffin — has most recently served as counsel to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; he was the first openly gay person to hold that position. Before that, he was deputy secretary and counsel for civil rights in the state.

In these positions, he played an integral role in securing marriage equality in New York in 2011, banning the abusive practice of so-called conversion therapy on minors, establishing nondiscrimination protections for transgender New Yorkers, expanding Medicaid coverage to cover transition-related care, making it easier to amend gender markers on birth certificates, and enacting policies and regulations to support people living with HIV and drive new diagnoses to an all-time low statewide.

He has also helped lead efforts to expand access to reproductive health care, restore voting rights to New Yorkers, advance workplace protections for disadvantaged communities, and require access to free translation services in essential state services. Prior to his work for New York State, David was a staff attorney at Lambda Legal.

He is a graduate of the University of Maryland and Temple University School of Law. He has worked as an adjunct professor of law at Fordham University Law School and at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

“I believe that together, we can harness the strength that’s inherent in our differences, to stand together in the face of fear and division. And that’s exactly what the Human Rights Campaign was built for,” David said in a video released today by HRC, in which he details his story of escaping violence in Liberia, where he was born, only to be treated as “other” as a Black gay man in the U.S.

“If we want to win full equality, that’s going to require us to come together, to dig deep, to be resilient, to embrace our differences, to tenaciously defend the most vulnerable among us, to fight with every ounce of determination we have. I promise you this, I will fight for each and every one of us. All I ask is that you join me, that you join the Human Rights Campaign in our fight for true equality. In unity, we will fight back and we will win.”

“Alphonso has devoted his career to expanding the civil rights of LGBTQ people across New York State and the nation,” HRC Foundation Board Chair Deb Taft said in a press release. “At a time when LGBTQ people, women, people of color, immigrants and refugees, and so many others are being confronted with daily attacks on our most basic rights, Alphonso is the fierce, compassionate, and strategic leader HRC and our broader movement for equality needs.”

“As we approach the Human Rights Campaign’s 40th year and the most important election cycle of our lives in 2020, HRC has never been stronger or better positioned to lead,” added HRC Board Chair John Ruffier. “When it comes to maximizing the electoral power of millions of LGBTQ voters and our allies, or to defending the fundamental rights of our community, or to protecting the most vulnerable among us, I know that Alphonso will ensure that HRC continues to lead the way.”

Griffin last year announced his intention to leave HRC, where he has held the position of president since 2012. He has not announced his next move.

Watch David’s video below.

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