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Joe Solmonese Leaving HRC in 2012

Joe Solmonese Leaving HRC in 2012


The co-chairs of the Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors and the HRC Foundation Board announced Saturday that HRC President Joe Solmonese will not renew his contract with the organization but will remain at the helm until the end of March 2012.

In a statement, Foundation Board co-chair Anne Fay praised Solmonese's work and said, "While we will miss his extraordinary leadership, we enter this next phase, thanks to Joe, in the best place the organization has ever been. Not only has our community secured historic victories, but our membership is larger and more active than at any time in our history, and our financial health is secure, even in these difficult economic times."

Since being appointed president of Human Rights Campaign in 2005, Solmonese has been a strategic force in LGBT rights advocacy, not only in legislatures, but in the workplace, in schools, religious congregations, and media outlets, steering the organization through two extraordinarily successful election cycles. He is also credited with growing the organization from 750,000 members and supporters to more than 1,000,000.

In 2005 Solmonese launched HRC's Religion and Faith Program, which provides innovative resources for LGBT and faith-based allies who strive to end the use of religion as a weapon of oppression. He also oversaw HRC's Family Project, which helped foster protections for LGBT people, their partners, and their children in the community, at work, in schools, and in health care. In addition, he has counseled corporate leaders across the country to help them achieve smart and fair business practices that positively impact millions of LGBT employees.

Under Solmonese's leadership, HRC also saw the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and numerous administrative changes, including the reversal of the HIV travel ban.

"HRC has never been stronger, and after nearly seven years, this is the right moment for me to move on," Solmonese said Saturday. "As I explore new professional possibilities, I plan on continuing to pour my heart and soul into improving the lives of members of our community -- from battling proposed marriage amendments to creating more equitable workplaces to ensuring the President Obama is reelected for a second term."

Prior to being appointed president of HRC, the Massachusetts native acted as Chief Executive Officer of EMILY's List, where he developed the Political Opportunity Program (POP), which trained progressive, pro-choice female candidates to wage and win campaigns for state and local offices. A longtime political activist, Solmonese has also worked for former Gov. Michael Dukakis and U.S. rep Barney Frank, and in June he was honored with the Hubert Humphrey award for his work on civil rights.

Richard Socarides, former senior White House advisor to President Bill Clinton on gay rights, credits Solmonese for presiding over HRC "during the greatest pro-gay advances in our history" and building a "giant organization," but told that "the challenges for a new leader are clear: HRC remains insular, not open to new approaches or ideas. They are so tied to the established order in Washington that they sometimes seem mostly focused on not rocking the boat. Hopefully that can change."

Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend reports that the transition at the top signals "the beginning of a larger staff shake-up in the HRC," just as the pivotal 2012 election is ramping up. Although HRC has already endorsed President Obama in his reelection effort, the group has played at the forefront of criticism of the records of Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, two antigay Republican candidates for president.

It also has organizers on the ground in North Carolina and formed a political action committee in Minnesota -- two states where marriage bans could be on the ballot in 2012. In Maine, and perhaps Oregon, gay rights activists could put marriage equality on the ballot. And in Maryland, the state's governor has pledged to fight for passage of a marriage equality bill in the same way that Andrew Cuomo of New York led to success, notably calling all of the gay rights organizations together into a coordinated effort.

Previous HRC leaders include Vic Basile, who went on to become counsel to the Obama administration's gay director of personnel management; Tim McFeeley, who later served as political director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Elizabeth Birch, who founded consulting firm Birch & Company in 2004 and in 2007 was named one of 65 LGBT leaders on a national steering committee for the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton; and Cheryl Jacques, who continues the fight for equality as a diversity consultant for major corporations and non-profit organizations.

The HRC said the formation of a search committee would be co-chaired by board members Joni Madison of Hillsborough, N.C., and Dana Perlman of Los Angeles.

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