Chad Griffin Hub




HRC President Chad Griffin Apologizes To The Transgender Community: READ

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Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, formally apologized to members of the transgender community last Friday at this year’s Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta. The HRC has long-since dealt with widespread criticism of its seeming willingness to put trans-advocacy on the back burner in favor of issues affecting cisgender members of the queer community.

In 2007, the HRC publicly endorsed an early version of the Employee Non Discrimination Act that did not provide protections for individuals facing gender-based discrimination. At that time the HRC defended its decision arguing that by removing protections for trans individuals initially, ENDA would be easier to pass and subsequently update to bring transgender people into the fold.

“I am sorry for the times you have been underrepresented or unrepresented by this organization. What happens to trans people is absolutely central to the LGBT struggle,” Griffin intoned. “And as the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, HRC has a responsibility to do that struggle justice, or else we are failing at our fundamental mission.”

Griffin went on to assert that a fully inclusive version of ENDA was far from being all that the HRC could do to show its renewed support for the trans community. Acknowledging many of the socio-infrastructural challenges the trans community faces, Griffin expressed the HRC’s desire to pursue substantive legislative change meant specifically to benefit trans individuals.

In rooms like this one, for years, you have been making the case that we’ve got to change society at a fundamental level by lifting up more trans people, your lives, and your stories.

You’re right. And if there’s one thing we’ve all learned in this movement, it’s that once Americans come to really know us, it starts to become impossible to discriminate against us. And at our best, HRC offers an unmatched communications and public affairs platform to amplify LGBT stories across the country.

Read a transcript of Chad Griffin's apology to the transgender community AFTER THE JUMP...

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HRC's Chad Griffin Says Congress Must Narrow ENDA's Religious Exemption and Pass Full LGBT Civil Rights Bill

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Wednesday called on Congress to narrow the religious exemption in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act one day after several other top LGBT rights groups including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the ACLU pulled their support of the bill.

GriffinHRC had come under criticism for standing by the bill. Said Griffin in today's statement, posted at Buzzfeed:

The Human Rights Campaign supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for a very simple reason. It will guarantee millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all 50 states explicit, reliable protections from discrimination in the workplace. We call on our allies in Congress to improve this bill’s overly broad religious exemption. A strong ENDA is worth fighting for because we cannot ignore the urgent need of countless LGBT people who do not have the luxury of waiting for these protections.

...We cannot and will not ignore the imperative of this moment. As long as this Congress is in session, we will fight for ENDA — with a narrowed religious exemption — because these workplace protections will change millions of lives for the better. But this movement has a responsibility to also chart a course for the future.

Griffin also stated the need for a full LGBT civil rights bill:

But regardless of whether or not ENDA passes in this session of Congress, it is time for the LGBT movement to throw its weight behind a fully comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill. A bill that, at long last, would bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in all core civil rights categories — including housing, public accommodations, credit, education and, if ENDA fails to pass, in employment. This is a visionary idea that Congresswoman Bella Abzug brought to Congress in 1974. Its time has come.


Andrew Sullivan Faces Off With Prop 8 Plaintiffs, 'Case Against 8' Filmmakers: VIDEO

Andrew

The HBO documentary The Case Against 8, which chronicles the legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8, debuted on television earlier this week and also made an appearance last weekend at the Provincetown International Film Festival. Blogger and activist Andrew Sullivan sat down with two of the Prop. 8 plaintiffs, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, along with filmmakers Ryan White and Ben Cotner (our Jacob Combs interviewed them here) for a panel discussing the film. Sullivan challenged the panel, taking issue with what he saw as “propaganda.”

Particularly, Sullivan was concerned with how the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) along with its co-founder, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, were portrayed, calling the film “a PR campaign for AFER, for Chad Griffin” and “a PR campaign for this case and against anyone else’s.”

Out Magazine reports:

From the first moments of the discussion, the room was thick with tension. It’s easy to understand the anxiety given Sullivan’s first-out-of-the-gate lambasting of Jo Becker, the journalist also embedded in the legal proceedings, who wrote the book Forcing the Spring. Sullivan (and many other journalists with an historical eye for the fight for marriage equality) excoriated Becker, AFER, and now-HRC president Griffin for attempting to sideline the 30 years of equality struggles, calling Griffin a “Rosa Parks” figure, and essentially suggesting that the fight for marriage equality began and ended with AFER’s case. It was immediately apparent that Sullivan viewed this film in much the same manner that he viewed the Becker book...

What was described as a discussion with filmmakers ultimately ended up being quite one-sided. Sullivan said, “The unfairness is that the people who were involved in [United States v. Windsor, the case in which SCOTUS determined that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional] that worked to achieve the real result, barely even exist in this movie,” said Sullivan, “that the entire other groups who’ve been planning and working on this for 25 years are depicted in thus movie as ornery obstacles to the vision of Chad Griffin.”

As the air grew rancorous, one of the plaintiffs from Hollingsworth v. Perry, Sandra Stier, commented, 

"One of the things that saddened me is within our movement there is huge disagreement over whose story is more valid, whose story should get more attention, who tried harder, who’s been a bigger contributor,” she continued while Sullivan shook his head in disagreement. “I would just like to say to all of you is that Sandy and I set out to make a contribution to the degree we were able to make one." 

Sullivan also took to his blog to discuss the film, noting that in his view, The Case Against 8 is,

“a movie not about a civil rights moment, he argues, but about “the values of show business and mass marketing.” And when you’re marketing something, you show no wrinkles or flaws. You carefully stage every single thing to advance the product.”

You can watch the full discussion between Sullivan and the Case Against 8 filmmakers and Prop 8 plaintiffs, AFTER THE JUMP…

Continue reading "Andrew Sullivan Faces Off With Prop 8 Plaintiffs, 'Case Against 8' Filmmakers: VIDEO" »


Lessons from the Jo Becker Gay Marriage Book, Part 1: Driving Rosa Parks

BY LISA KEEN

Now that the great public gnashing of teeth has subsided over New York Times reporter Jo Becker’s history of the Proposition 8 litigation, Forcing the Spring, there’s an opportunity to chew on some of the book’s useful disclosures.

Parks_griffinFor all the consternation it has caused, Becker’s trespass in portraying American Foundation for Equal Rights founder Chad Griffin as the Rosa Parks in the fight for marriage equality is not much worse than all the many times newspapers, magazines, and even knowledgeable people in the LGBT community have casually pronounced Stonewall as the start of the gay civil rights movement and rioting drag queens as the pioneers. The movement started decades earlier, and its pioneers were people who pushed back against discrimination in many different ways.

It also appears that Becker’s idea for dubbing Griffin, now president of the Human Rights Campaign, as a Rosa Parks type hero came from a National Archives development official. On page 381 of Forcing the Spring, Becker recounts how Jesika Jennings was showing Griffin and the plaintiffs around the Archives’ “Courting Freedom” exhibit. According to the Archives website, the exhibit “explores the evolution of American civil liberties with highlights from the evidence and judgments in important court cases, including documentation from the police report on the arrest of Rosa Parks.” While showing the group through that room, wrote Becker, Jennings told the plaintiffs that she was honored to show them around and that their own records “will be here in twenty to twenty-five years.”

“It’s like having the opportunity to give Rosa Parks a tour of the Declaration and the Constitution,” Jennings said, according to Becker. And Jennings, who now works elsewhere, confirmed the Rosa Parks quote as “quite accurate.”

SmithIt’s also worth noting that much-respected gay legal activist Paul Smith (right) called the Proposition 8 litigation “hugely significant,” according to a quote on page 387. Smith is the attorney who successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down sodomy laws in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case. He was also, according to what Olson told Becker, the first co-counsel Olson sought to work with on the Prop 8 case, but Smith turned him down. According to Becker’s account, which she said she got from an interview with Smith, Smith had “entertained the idea of bringing a federal challenge to same-sex marriage bans” in the wake of his 2003 victory in Lawrence. He had just joined the board of Lambda Legal when Olson approached him about filing such a challenge in 2009. But Smith declined, telling Olson that he decided against filing a challenge to the marriage bans “after talking to a number of former Supreme Court clerks.” The clerks had convinced Smith that it would not be easy to win Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote to strike down state laws banning marriage for same-sex couples.

SullivanBecker said Olson “considered” asking another respected openly gay attorney for his co-counsel: Kathleen Sullivan. Sullivan had been co-counsel on one of LGBT legal history’s biggest losses: Bowers v. Hardwick. That 1986 decision at the Supreme Court, upholding the right of states to prohibit private sexual relations between people of the same sex, was used to the detriment of gays for years, by courts far and wide on a range of issues –from employment, military, adoption, and custody of one’s own biological child. It essentially labeled all gays as law-breakers and, in some states, as felons. And the hostility and disregard for gay people in the language of the Hardwick decision affected public discourse for years to come.

Olson never asked Sullivan, concluding that, because her name was mentioned in the press as a potential nominee for President Obama to name to the Supreme Court, it wasn’t a good idea.

“If she joined the [Olson] team and then was nominated and confirmed,” wrote Becker of Olson’s thinking, “she would have to recuse herself in the event the case reached the Supreme Court, which would make the odds of winning much steeper.” (Left unsaid was what working on the Prop 8 legal team might have done to Sullivan’s chances of being nominated.)

Becker also famously paints a dramatic scene in which two well-respected legal activists from Lambda Legal and two of their allies from the ACLU storm out of a meeting early on with Griffin, several of his associates, and attorney Ted Boutrous from the Olson team. Becker wasn’t at that meeting, which took place on May 14, 2009. It was a meeting at which Griffin and his team were reportedly trying to seek support for their lawsuit from the LGBT legal establishment groups.

This was eight days before Olson’s team filed the lawsuit and arguably not the best time to make a sincere solicitation of input from lawyers who have been in the trenches representing the LGBT community’s legal rights for decades. It may have felt a little like, “Rosa Parks, we’re taking over this bus and driving all the way to the Supreme Court!” LGBT legal activists knew they were heading to the Supreme Court over marriage equality eventually, but they had been working meticulously on building the correct vehicle for the journey to maximize their chances for victory and avoid another Hardwick setback.

According to Becker’s account of the meeting where the AFER-Olson lawsuit was unveiled to LGBT legal groups, Hollywood producer Rob Reiner, who hosted the meeting at his home and was helping raise the money to fund the litigation, gave the four invited attorneys a synopsis of the plan, and Olson colleague Boutrous noted, “Someone is going to bring a federal marriage lawsuit and you won’t find a better advocate than Ted Olson.”

Next week: The big blow-up revisited: When Hollywood met the LGBT movement’s hired guns.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Wednesday Speed Read: South Carolina, Gay Books, Maura Healey, Carl DeMaio, Barney Frank, Chad Griffin

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

CoursonS.C. BUDGET CUTS GET SECOND LOOK:

A South Carolina senate subcommittee recommended a budget that leaves out the House-passed cuts to public colleges using gay books. The chair of the subcommittee, Senator John Courson, told Associated Press he thinks books “should be up to the presidents of the institution and the board of trustees which the General Assembly elects.” The decision by Courson, a Republican, bucks the Republican-led House plan to cut $70,000 from the budgets of two state universities because they used gay positive books in their curricula. According to an Associated Press report Sunday, the Senate Finance Committee could begin debating the budget this week.

AN ENDORSEMENT RUSH:

HealeyOpenly lesbian Massachusetts attorney general candidate Maura Healey racked up a string of endorsements recently from women’s PACS: EMILY’s List, Women’s Campaign Fund, Feminist Majority, and Barbara Lee. The Women’s Campaign Fund named Healey one of their 40 “Game Changers,” for whom they promise to raise $40,000. Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal called Healey a “trailblazer for women’s rights, civil rights, and human rights.” Emily’s List has endorsed Healey, as well as her former boss Martha Coakley for governor. Healey needs the support: As of April 17, Healey had $363,644 in her campaign coffers compared to her Democratic primary opponent’s $602,400.

CARL DEMAIO ON LGBT INTOLERANCE:

DemaioRealClearPolitics.com quoted openly gay Republican U.S. House candidate Carl DeMaio about how he’s been received by opposite ends of the political spectrum: "I've found more tolerance, acceptance and inclusion from social conservative groups who have to reconcile that I'm a Republican who happens to be gay...versus the intolerance the LGBT leaders see me as a gay man who happens to be a Republican."

FRANK’S BURNING MEMORIES:

A just previewed documentary about the life of former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank includes a story about Frank receiving a letter from one of his former roommates at Harvard in which the roommate told Frank he was gay and had a crush on Frank. According to the Boston Globe, Frank was not openly gay at the time and feared that being so would hurt his political career. He burned the letter and gave the roommate no indication he was gay, too.

GRIFFIN ECHOES ‘ONE CHAPTER’:

GriffinNew York Times reporter Jo Becker has defended criticism of her book about “inside the fight for marriage equality” (Forcing the Spring) by saying it’s about “one chapter” of that decades-long battle. Her chapter is the Proposition 8 litigation organized by Chad Griffin and his American Foundation for Equal Rights, which included lead attorney Ted Olson. Griffin was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe talk show Tuesday morning and was immediately tackled with a question about all the criticism Becker’s received for focusing her book squarely on Griffin as a sort of “Rosa Parks” for marriage equality. Griffin has issued statements vigorously acknowledging that he is not the lone hero of the marriage equality movement. He did so again on Morning Joe. Interestingly, his questioner was an old comrade from AFER –Nicole Wallace. Wallace served as a spokesperson for AFER when Griffin was in charge and she’s also worked for the Human Rights Campaign, which Griffin leads now. “What was so interesting to me,” said Wallace, talking to Griffin, “was to see how raw nerves were within the movement –that there were activists who were so offended by the attention paid to what I think a lot of people on the outside thought was a very important chapter.”

Watch the Morning Joe segment, AFTER THE JUMP...

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

Continue reading "Wednesday Speed Read: South Carolina, Gay Books, Maura Healey, Carl DeMaio, Barney Frank, Chad Griffin" »


Narrative in New Jo Becker Book on Fight for Marriage Equality Called 'Absurd', 'Distorted', 'Deceptive'

Fts_becker

BY LISA KEEN

To say there’s been a flurry of discussion around the release of a new book Tuesday on the legal case that challenged California’s Proposition 8 would be an understatement. The book, Forcing the Spring, by New York Times writer Jo Becker, has been thoroughly pilloried by many plugged-in LGBT activists and journalists this week, both publicly and privately.

Griffin_olsonWhile a few have attempted to cut Becker some slack for documenting some behind-the-scenes litigation and political strategies, most fault her for an approach that seems hell-bent on making Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and conservative icon attorney Ted Olson into the white horse heroes of an upcoming Hollywood docu-drama about How the Marriage Equality Movement was Won.

Hollywood movies do have a tendency to skew the historical record for audiences that have not been paying attention to the real world events; and, if it does come to the silver screen, Forcing the Spring will carry an impressive credential --that it was based on a book by a “Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist” (even though she co-authored the entry that won).

The intense negative reaction from the LGBT community to Becker’s book indicates the prospect that the marriage equality movement’s real history will be lost is very troubling to many LGBT people who have watched and been part of that movement. It did not begin with the Griffin-Olson lawsuit in 2009, but with individual couples as early as the 1970s and with veteran civil rights legal activists beginning in Hawaii in the 1990s.

SullivanConservative gay commentator Andrew Sullivan led the assault on Becker’s book this week. In his April 16 blog entry for his The Dish, Sullivan berates Becker for suggesting Griffin is on par with legendary black civil rights activist Rosa Parks. He dismissed the book as riddled with “jaw-dropping distortion,” such as Becker ‘s claim that the marriage equality movement “for years had largely languished in obscurity.”

Sullivan’s assault was joined quickly by an impressive string of critiques: writer-activist Dan Savage (“a bulls--t ‘history’ of the movement for marriage equality”), former New York Times columnist Frank Rich (“For a journalist to claim that marriage equality revolution began in 2008 is as absurd as saying civil rights struggle began with Obama.”), and White House strategist Jim Messina.

Becker offered a defense against the criticism, explaining to politico.com that she hadn’t tried to write a definitive history of the marriage equality movement or the “gay rights” movement.

“Many people have contributed to the success the movement has experienced. I have the [utmost] respect for all the people who contributed to that success,” wrote Becker. “My book was not meant to be a beginning-to-end-history of the movement. It’s about a particular group of people at an extraordinary moment in time, and I hope that people will be moved by their stories.”

Unfortunately, her intro to the book and the slick public relations material sent out to promote that book proclaim otherwise.

On page 1 of the book, she writes that the marriage equality “revolution... begins with a handsome, bespectacled thirty-five-year-old political consultant named Chad Griffin….” Her own summary of the book calls it is “the definitive account of the fight to win the rights of marriage and full citizenship for all….” And the Penguin Press release that accompanies review copies of the book calls it, “A deeply insightful and riveting account of a national civil rights struggle….” It quotes such celebrity legal commentators as Jeff Toobin as saying the book is “a superb, behind-the-scenes account of the legal battle to bring marriage equality to the nation.” The NAACP’s former president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, calls it “the definitive account of one of the great civil rights struggles of our times.”

This is the kind of hype that accompanies many books. It’s how publishers, in a very competitive environment, woo attention and favorable comments from reviewers, television talk shows, and other vehicles in a position to stoke book sales.

But critics of Forcing the Spring take issue with the book beyond the exaggeration of its marketing campaign.

D_blackForcing the Spring just doesn’t get it right,” writes BuzzFeed legal reporter Chris Geidner. He notes that Becker quotes Hollywood screenwriter Dustin Lance Black as being rebuffed by an audience of potential LGBT major donors to the litigation organized by Griffin’s American Foundation for Equal Rights. Becker also reports that the donor meeting’s organizer, Tim Gill, “denounced Black outright.” Geidner provides a link to a video of the closed-door meeting about which Becker was writing that shows Black’s speech was interrupted with applause five times, and won a standing ovation from at least a few in the audience. And Geidner says Gill’s alleged denouncement of Black was “more of a nuanced defense of ‘gradualism’” strategy for winning marriage equality.

Hollywood movies require conflict and struggle, and it may be that the book –whose inside cover touts it as a “gripping behind-the-scenes narrative with the lightning pace of the greatest legal thrillers”-- fell prey to the need to dramatize some hurdles for her heroes to overcome. A more journalistic approach might have conveyed the mixed reaction of Black’s audience and contrasted that with Black’s personal interpretation of how he was received.

It also would have been helpful for Becker to have talked in some depth with LGBT legal activists who have been working on the marriage equality movement for many years.

A number of LGBT legal activists have pointed out significant factual errors in Becker’s account as reported by the press thus far (none had received a copy of the book in advance) and expressed astonishment at her cavalier pronouncement that the marriage equality movement had been “languishing” in “obscurity” before Griffin and Olson came along.

Becker wrote that LGBT legal activists planned to win marriage equality in 30 states before filing a federal lawsuit.

“Lambda Legal did not have a strategy of getting to 30 states with marriage equality (or any particular number for that matter) before we would consider bringing a federal case,” said Lambda Legal’s Jon Davidson.    

KaplanBecker’s portrayal of Roberta Kaplan (right), attorney to Edith Windsor in the Supreme Court case that struck down the key provision of DOMA, as an “outsider” to the establishment legal activists was also widely disputed.

“Robbie was not an outsider,” said GLAD spokeswoman Carisa Cunningham. “She had worked for the ACLU for years, just as she did on Edie’s case. She also worked with Lambda on the New York marriage case, Hernandez.”

Becker was not hired by the movement to write its history. If she and her book promoters had just been a little more careful to pitch the book as a behind-the-scenes picture of the Proposition 8 litigation, the hue and cry might not be so harsh as it is.

The drama achieved by portraying the marriage equality movement pre-Griffin-Olson as “languishing” and “obscurity” extracts a price from Becker’s credentials. For LGBT people, the Baehr v. Miike trial in Honolulu and its subsequent legal victories --and even its political defeats, including passage by the U.S. Congress of the Defense of Marriage Act-- warrant neither of those dismissive assessments. There ensued an intense political war over marriage equality on state ballots around the country beginning in 1998, and, while supporters of same-sex marriage lost those battles, they came back with a steady, methodically planned and executed series of legal challenges that won civil unions in Vermont in the late 1990s and marriage equality in Massachusetts in 2003.

And just a month before Griffin and Olson first joined that battle with the filing of the Proposition 8 lawsuit, Lambda Legal won a unanimous victory in Iowa. The decades of cultural and legal combat opened up the country to a conversation that became both personal and national and moved public opinion. The Proposition 8 case was definitely part of that effort and, near the last paragraph of her book, Becker tempers her assessment of the Griffin-Olson effort as having brought the dream of equality “within reach.”

The Proposition 8 litigation enabled same-sex couples in California to be married, and other political activists and lawsuits have won marriage equality in more than a dozen other states. The legal team of Olson and David Boies is back at work with a case in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and other legal teams have similarly situated cases in other federal appeals courts. Each is hoping to win marriage equality for all states. Almost certainly, one of them will succeed. But the credit will belong to the many, not the few.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


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