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Biography

Organizational History

HRCF/HRC Leaders:

Steve Endean, HRC founder and Treasurer (1980-1983)

Executive Director Vic Basile (1983-1989)

Executive Director Tim McFeeley (1989-1995)

Executive Director Elizabeth Birch (1995-2004)

President Cheryl Jacques (2004)

Interim Director Hilary Rosen (2004)

President Joe Solmonese (2005-present)

Foundation

The Human Rights Campaign Fund (HRCF) was founded by Stephen Endean in 1980 as the United States' first gay and lesbian political action committee (PAC). Like other PACs, it started raising and contributing money to the campaigns of candidates likely to advance the group's interests. In its case, the mission was to advocate for gay and lesbian civil rights "by supporting and educating candidates for federal elective office." 1

The organization was created partly in response to the successes of anti-gay groups, including the Moral Majority and the National Conservative Political Action Committee. In July 1980, HRCF registered with the Federal Election Commission and in November 1980, HRCF made its first campaign contribution to Jim Weaver, D-Ore., who defeated his Moral Majority-supported opponent. HRCF aggressively pursued "the goal of basic human rights through modern political methods" and wanted to help "bring the gay movement into the mainstream of the American political process." 2

Distinctly bipartisan from its beginning, an early brochure explained, "The Campaign Fund's mission is simple: to provide financial support on behalf of the gay and lesbian community to candidates of both parties, Republicans and Democrats, who pledge their support of gay civil rights legislation." 3 In its early years, HRCF got the support of famous activists and cultural celebrities, including Tennessee Williams, Joan Baez, Cesar Chavez, and Gloria Steinem.

The organization was officially incorporated in the District of Columbia as a non-profit political committee on April 14, 1982. The incorporators of the organization were Steve Endean, Gilberto Gerald, and Farley Peterson. The initial Board of Directors at the time of incorporation were Virginia Apuzzo, Jerry Berg, John Campbell, Dallas Coors, Steve Endean, Gilberto Gerals, Ethan Geto, Rev. Elder Jerri Ann Harvey, Jim Hormel, Paul Kuntzler, Bettie Naylor, Lois Galgay Reckitt, Jerry Weeler, and Kerry Woodward. 4

In September 1982, HRCF held its first large fund raising dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, featuring former Vice President Walter Mondale. Throughout its history, HRC annual dinners have been a staple of the organization's fundraising apparatus.

As a result of effective fundraising techniques, during the November 1982 election cycle HRCF managed to raise nearly $600,000 and contributed $140,000 to 119 congressional candidates, 81% of whom won their races. 5 Following the 1982 election, HRCF became the 17th largest independent political action committee in the United States. 6 In 1987, they raised more than $1,360,000. 7 In 2005, donors contributed a record $35.9 million. 8

Gay Rights National Lobby

In November 1985, HRCF merged with the Gay Rights National Lobby. The Gay Rights National Lobby (GRNL) had been incorporated in the District of Columbia on August 15th, 1976. According to the articles of incorporation, GRNL was created for "the purpose of lobbying, at the Federal government level, for civil rights and other Federal legislation pertinent to gay people." 9 The original incorporators of the organization were Roy Birchard, R. Adam DeBaugh, Franklin E. Kameny, Paul J. Kuntzler, and Richard G. Maulsby.

At its inception, GRNL's founders expressed their intention to focus on areas of concern for the gay and lesbian community "including, but not limited to, public and private employment, housing, the use of public accommodations, licensure, immigration and naturalization, taxation, the Armed Services, and the criminal code." 10

In 1978, after moving to Washington, D.C. from Minnesota, Steve Endean became the executive director of GRNL. During its nine year history, GRNL focused on several legislative issues on the federal level, lobbying for the passage of a lesbian/gay civil rights bill, increased AIDS funding, and the revision of immigration laws to remove provisions discriminating against gay and lesbian immigrants.

In 1982, GRNL became one of the first gay and lesbian organizations to be admitted to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a "broad coalition of religious, labor, women's, and minority groups working on civil rights at the federal level." 11 In 1982, after extensive negotiations between GRNL and officials from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), delegates at the AFSCME convention approved an endorsement of gay civil rights legislation at all levels of government. 12

In 1983, conflicts with other activists, including the Advocate publisher David B. Goodstein, led to Endean's resignation from both HRC and the Gay Rights National Lobby.

In 1985, after accumulating a large financial debt, GRNL merged with the Human Rights Campaign Fund to ensure the survival of GRNL's mission and maximize the effectiveness of both organizations. 13

Think Tank: Right to Privacy Foundation

The Right to Privacy Foundation (RPF) was incorporated on July 14th, 1981, and its first President was Steve Endean, who had also served as first president of GRNL. The organization was incorporated by Steve Endean, Franklin Kameny, and Rev. Lawrence Uhrig. Endean, Uhrig, and Kameny also served as the organization's first Board of Directors. In April 1983, RPF's Board of Directors included Rev. Don Eastman, Doug Elwood, Stephen Endean, Meryl Friedman, Nath Rockhill and Tony Silvestre.

According to the articles of incorporation, the purpose of RPF was to "engage in research, sponsor research and publish educational materials concerning the public policy implications of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." 14

In a press release from GRNL announcing the creation of the organization, the author describes the importance of RPF's mission, asserting that "there is no single organization devoted solely to providing the unique educational research service required to effectively address the public policy questions surrounding national legislation of concern to lesbians and gay men." 15

Though RPF's history was brief, the organization conducted extensive research on anti-discrimination in employment, the federal Gay Civil Rights Bill, and HIV/AIDS discrimination. The organization essentially functioned as a think-tank, analogous to large conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Free Congress Foundation, the bipartisan Brookings Institution, and the progressive People for the American Way.

Records of the Right to Privacy Foundation from 1981 to 1989 are part of the Human Rights Campaign Records. In some ways, the RPF was a predecessor to the Human Rights Campaign's educational endeavors.

Educational Units of the HRC: Human Rights and Health Fund/The Triangle Institute (TTI)/Human Rights Campaign Foundation

In October 1986, HRCF expanded its organizational activities with the creation of the Human Rights and Health Fund, a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization that supports the work of HRC through research, educational efforts and outreach. This branch of HRCF was "formed for the charitable and educational purposes of conducting research and educating the public on the social, economic, and health issues gay men and lesbians." 16 In March 1988, HRHF officially changed its name to The Triangle Institute (TTI).

During its early years, HRHF/TTI was engaged in several major projects. The electoral research project (ERP), was one of the organization's first projects. According to one information packet distributed by the organization, the ERP's objective was to "explore the impact of gay rights and AIDS related issues on voting behavior and candidates for elective office."

Another major project of HRHF/TTI was the MEDPAC project, focused on reliable information dissemination related to the AIDS crisis. According to a Board of Director's report from May 1988, "MEDPAC is a press packet which provides up-to-the-minute, authoritative, and comprehensive coverage of medical aspects of the AIDS crisis. Its distribution is to medical, legislative, service provider, funding, and other personnel who need such information but may not have ready access to it." 17

HRHF/TTI also advocated for and facilitated the creation of academic and professional gay and lesbian caucus networks. In 1993, when the National Coming Out Day Project (NCOD) merged with the HRCF, NCOD became part of TTI.

In 1995, TTI became the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. In 2006, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation was engaged in several projects related to research, public education and programming. These projects included the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Outreach Program, the Family Project, the Workplace Project, the National Coming Out Project, the Religion and Faith Program, and the HRC Research Institute. 18

While some analysts have observed that "there is a frustrating division in the progressive world between organizations that do grassroots or community organizing and those that do analysis and policy development," 19 HRC has focused substantial attention in both directions. In 1995, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force also took this step and formalized its research activities by forming the NGLTF Policy Institute, a separate, non-profit organization to serve as a national information clearinghouse and resource center dedicated to educating and organizing around lesbian and gay men's issues. People for the American Way, formed in 1980, is another example of a large progressive organization tackling both political and research functions.

Fairness Fund/Speak Out

In January 1988, HRCF further increased the scope of its organizational activities with the acquisition of Steve Endean's Fairness Fund (FF). Endean had created the Fairness Fund (FF) in December 1986 to provide letters and mailgrams on behalf of concerned individuals to political leaders with the intention of influencing federal legislation relevant to the gay and lesbian community. When the Fairness Fund merged with HRCF, its name changed to Speak Out. When Steve Endean returned in 1988, the HRCF created a Field Division for grassroots organizing.

Speak Out, like the Fairness Fund before it, generated mailgrams and letters to members of congress in high volume at pivotal moments in the legislative process. According to the agreement reached between HRCF and FF in 1988, HRCF asserted that their legislative agenda would be "substantially enhanced by the ability to generate, in a rapid and effective way, a 'public outcry' when necessary." 20

The method of grassroots political lobbying through sponsored mailgrams and letters was first developed by the women's movement during the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) campaign and became an effective means of political lobbying throughout the Fairness Fund's and Speak Out's history. 21

1989 Organizational Change

In 1989, HRCF was reorganized into two distinct entities, a political membership organization known as the Human Rights Campaign Fund and a political action committee known as HRCF-PAC. In the same year, the Board of Directors approved the lesbian program of HRCF in an attempt to further develop HRCF's representation of lesbian issues and lesbian constituency. 22

1990 Legislative Successes

In 1990, several significant pieces of legislation from HRCF's political agenda were approved by the federal government. The Americans with Disabilities Act, which included a provision preventing discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status, CARE-Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act, and the Federal Hate Crime Statistics Act were all important pieces of legislation that were made possible, in part, by the efforts of HRCF. At the invitation of President George H.W. Bush, HRCF representatives attended the signing ceremony of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act. 23

Presidential Politics

In 1992, HRCF supported its first presidential candidate, governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton. During the election, HRCF contributed $3 million dollars to Clinton's campaign.

1995 Organizational Change

In 1995, under the guidance of Executive Director Elizabeth Birch, HRCF underwent several significant changes. The name of the organization was officially changed from the Human Rights Campaign Fund to the Human Rights Campaign and the Triangle Institute became the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. In addition, HRC adopted its current logo, a new positioning statement, and a new vision statement. 24

New Building in 2003

HRC purchased and renovated the building at 1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W., in Washington, DC for its national headquarters. It dedicated the new space on National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2003.

2005 Organizational Change

In 2005, the Executive Director's position was redefined as a President. The Communications Department became the Communications and Marketing Division, the Education Department became the Public Education and Outreach Division, and both Divisions came under the Vice President for Programs.

HRC in 2007

In January 2007, HRC described its mission as:

"...by inspiring and engaging all Americans, ... to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all." 25

Contributing to the campaigns of candidates who will support GLBT civil rights is still a focal point of HRC's work. In addition, "HRC works to secure equal rights for GLBT individuals and families at the federal and state levels by lobbying elected officials, mobilizing grassroots supporters, educating Americans, ...and partnering with other GLBT organizations." 26 HRC concentrates on creating effective education and outreach programs. Major issues include equal rights and benefits in the workplace and ensuring families are treated equally under the law.

In 2007, "the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, envisions an America where GLBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community. HRC has close to 600,000 members - all committed to making this vision of equality a reality." 27

Footnotes:

1. "HRC Bylaws Original, Amended, Restated." Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 34, f. 18. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

2. Draft time line in 20th Anniversary Files, Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 34. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

3. Brochure, "Human Rights Campaign Fund: An Introduction," Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 30, f. 37. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

4. HRCF Articles of Incorporation, 1982. Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 33, f. 1. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

5. The Campaign Fund Report, Vol. 2, no. 1, p. 1 reports that HRCF raised nearly $600,000 in its first full year of operation and contributed to 119 Congressional candidates in 36 states, with an 81% win rate. Other documents in the Education Department's files about HRC's history report that contributions were made to 118 candidates, and of the total money raised, $140,000 was given to the candidates. A draft timeline references p. 489 of Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney's Out for Good, Simon & Schuster, 1999.

6. 20th Anniversary Files. Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 34. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

7. HRCF "Fact Sheet," 5/26/1988, in 20th Anniversary Files. Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 34. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

8. HRC Annual Report 2005, p. 40. Available at the HRC website at: http://www.hrc.org/about_us/7036.htm

9. GRNL Certificate of Incorporation. Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 5, f. 1. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

10. Ibid.

11. Capitol Hill: The Newsletter of the Gay Rights National Lobby, vol. 4, no. 3 (1982).

12. Ibid.

13. GRNL Articles of Dissolution. Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 5, f. 4. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

14. RPF Articles of Incorporation. Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 39, f. 1. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

15. Ibid.

16. HRHF Articles of Incorporation. Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 40, f. 40. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

17. HRHF Board of Directors report, May 14, 1988. Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 78, f. 12. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

18. "HRC: What We Do," HRC Web site, August 17, 2006. Information that was provided in 2006 on HRC's website at this address: http://www.hrc.org/Content/NavigationMenu/About_HRC/What_We_Do_HRC.htm. In 2008, it was changed and moved to: http://www.hrc.org/about_us/what_we_do.asp

19. Kallick, David Dyssegaard, "Progressive Think Tanks: What Exists, What's Missing?" Report for the Program on Governance and Public Policy, Open Society Institute, January 2002, p. 4. http://www.soros.org/initiatives/gov/articles_publications/publications/progressive_20020115/progressive_thinktanks.pdf.

20. FF and HRCF Merger Documents. 1988. Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 18, f. 2. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

21. Ibid.

22. Job Description for Lesbian Program Director. Dec. 1990, Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 18, f. 69. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

23. "HRC: A historical Snapshot," HRC Web site, August 17, 2006. Information was provided in 2006 on HRC's website at this address: http://www.hrc.org/Content/NavigationMenu/About_HRC/HistoricalSnapshot.htm. In 2008, this information was moved to this location: http://www.hrc.org/about_us/2514.htm

24. August 31, 1995 memo in 20th Anniversary Files, Human Rights Campaign Records, #7712, Box 34. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

25. "About the Human Rights Campaign," HRC Web site, January 8, 2007. Information was provided in 2007 on HRC's website at this address: http://hrc.org/Template.cfm?Section=About_HRC. In 2008, it was changed and moved to: http://www.hrc.org/about_us/who_we_are.asp

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.