Human Rights Campaign announces new executive director

Kelley-Robinson-1
The Human Rights Campaign’s incoming executive director Kelley Robinson.
Human Rights Campaign

A queer Black reproductive rights advocate will lead the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF) into its future, making history for the United States’ largest LGBTQ organization.

HRC announced Kelley Robinson as the incoming executive director in a September 20 news release.

On November 28, Robinson will officially step into the role, becoming the ninth president and first queer Black woman to lead HRC and HRCF. She succeeds interim executive director Joni Madison, who replaced HRC’s first Black president, Alphonso David.

Madison, who previously served as HRC’s chief operating officer and chief of staff, is expected to assume a new role at the organization, reported the Washington Post.

David was unanimously fired by both organizations’ boards, except for two abstentions, for a “violation of HRC’s Conflict of Interest policy and the mission,” a year ago. A report allegedly surfaced naming him aiding former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office in its defense against sexual harassment allegations in 2021. David was a former lawyer for Cuomo. He was no longer employed by the office in 2021. Disgraced, but defiant, Cuomo resigned from office last year.

David sued HRC earlier this year claiming his termination was racially motivated. The Washington Post reported HRC denies the claims and is contesting the lawsuit in a New York court. David is now president of the Global Black Economic Forum.

Robinson joins a growing club of Black queer women leading national LGBTQ organizations, along with Kierra Johnson at the National LGBTQ Task Force in Washington, DC, and Imani Rupert-Gordon at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco.

In her new role, Robinson will be responsible for leading HRC and its more than three million members and supporters to fulfill the organization’s mission to realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

In a video message, Robinson expressed her excitement to lead HRC, connecting with the organization’s members and the LGBTQ community about her vision of inclusion for the organization.

“I am so excited to bring all the lessons of the reproductive rights movement and carry the mission and purpose of the fight for LGBTQ+ liberation because they are one in the same fight,” Robinson said.

She further noted HRC’s longtime criticism of being an organization for cisgender gay white men.

“I am committed to creating a movement where all of us can be seen. Together we have all the power that we need and together we will get to a world where we are free and liberated without exception [and] without anyone left behind,” she said. “That’s the task for the next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign.”

HRC board chairs Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson expressed excitement about Robinson taking the helm of the organization.

“These past months have reminded us why equality and liberation work is so important, and we believe Kelley Robinson is the exact person to help us lead the fight for all LGBTQ+ people around the world,” they said in a joint statement. Robinson, they added, is “widely respected for her work and leadership creating diverse winning coalitions, building political power with a focus on underserved and the most marginalized communities, and creating programs that change culture.”

Robinson, whose family was the first free Black family in Muscatine, Iowa after the end of slavery, is acutely aware of the shoulders she stands on. She has been involved in the fight for equality for more than 15 years.

Robinson, a new mother to a 1-year-old child, is married to Becky George, a senior adviser for movement building at Everytown for Gun Safety, according to the Washington Post.

Robinson comes to HRC as a longtime executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF). PPAF is an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a community-based reproductive health care provider, including providing abortion services.

She started her community organizing career working for former President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign in Missouri. In 2009, she led grassroots organizing for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa and Eastern Nebraska. She cultivated and trained a network of young activists, leaders, and organizers across the country in 2010 as a national field manager for Unite for Gender Equity (URGE) and as the national organizing director for PPFA in 2015.

Praise

Recognized as a “Shero of the LGBTQ+ Community” in Washington, DC for her work supporting young people of color and LGBTQ+ youth, Robinson received praise for her leadership. Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of PPFA and PPAF, said she was “thrilled” for Robinson and her heart was “exploding with pride and awe.”

“So many of our rights and freedoms are under unprecedented attack, meaning the fight for reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights and so much more have never been more intertwined,” McGill Johnson said in the release. She said she looks forward to continuing to work with Robinson in her new role at HRC in “this pivotal moment” to “bring our collective power to the fight to protect and expand our freedoms.”

Looking ahead

Addressing the LGBTQ community, Robinson acknowledged the dark and tumultuous era in the country, with the attacks on everything from abortion rights to transgender teens to voting rights.

She also reminded people of the wins, including taking back the House of Representatives and White House, flipping two Senate seats in Georgia, and elevating Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black Supreme Court justice, to the highest court in the nation.

“We are all experiencing an acute crisis right now, specifically the LGBTQ+ community,” she said in the video. “That’s the moment that we are in.”

“Even though this moment is dark,” Robinson continued there is “immeasurable opportunity in front of us” stating out of crisis comes a “moment of reckoning.”

“With reckoning, there’s an opportunity for transformation in ways that we’ve never seen, felt, or experienced before,” she said. “I believe that we can make big generational change happen right now and I believe that we can do it together.

She added: “By standing here today, I am making a promise and commitment to carry this work forward, to ensure that if you have ever not seen yourself in this movement, you know that in this time we are here for you. This next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign is about getting to freedom and liberation without any exceptions.”

More from Around NYC