Founded in 1980, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) “strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ people and realize a world … where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of society.” With more than 3 million members and supporters nationwide, it is the largest and most influential LGBTQ lobbying group in the United States, supporting political candidates and legislation that will advance the LGBTQ agenda. Historically, HRC has most vigorously championed the legalization of gay marriage, the expansion of “hate crime” laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories; the abrogation of the U.S. Military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy; and the passage of HIV/AIDS-related legislation. For details about HRC’s efforts regarding these and other issues, click here.
Originally known (until 1995) as the Human Rights Campaign Fund, HRC in its earliest days focused chiefly on contributing money to LGBTQ-friendly politicians. In 1982, for instance, the organization donated $140,000 to 118 congressional candidates. HRC’s first presidential endorsement came in 1992, when it backed Bill Clinton’s successful run for the White House.
In 2004, when the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) was drafted to define “marriage” solely as a union between one man and one woman, HRC, arguing that the bill would undermine the U.S. Constitution, was instrumental in persuading Congress – via lobbying efforts and a $1 million advertising campaign – to vote against it. Two years later, HRC again led the way in successfully lobbying Congress to reject the FMA.
Though nominally a nonpartisan organization, HRC has many close ties to the Democratic Party, particularly to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Elizabeth Birch (the Human Rights Campaign’s former executive director), John Isa, Adrian Matanza, Jill Stauffer, David A.C. Turley, and Tony Wagner were among the key HRC figures who worked on Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid.
After Senator Barack Obama received the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, HRC endorsed his campaign and “worked tirelessly across the country to elect him – from raising money online to rallying volunteers in key states.” One year later, Obama was the keynote speaker at HRC’s 13th Annual National Dinner. And in 2012, HRC again endorsed Obama for re-election, calling him “the most supportive president in LGBTQ American history.” HRC co-founder Terry Bean alone donated more than $500,000 in support of Obama and other Democratic office seekers during that election cycle. As columnist Michelle Malkin reports: “[Bean] was rewarded with an exclusive Air Force One ride with Obama. The president also gave [him] a special shout-out at an opulent fundraiser in Portland, where Bean’s family had established a longstanding political and corporate fiefdom. Bean gleefully rubbed elbows with first lady Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton — and made sure everyone on his Flickr photo-sharing site knew it.”
HRC has long been a vocal critic of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage. In 2012, HRC posted NOM’s confidential 2008 tax returns – including the names of donors – on its website.
In June 2015, Buzzfeed News reported that an HRC-commissioned internal review of its own leadership culture had discovered numerous systemic shortcomings in the organization’s treatment of heterosexuals. Said Buzzfeed: “Staff at the Human Rights Campaign last fall described the working environment at the nation’s largest LGBT rights group as ‘judgmental,’ ‘exclusionary,’ ‘sexist,’ and ‘homogenous’” – the latter of which meant “gay, white, [and] male.”
HRC strongly objects to the fact that Title IX – a statute which protects people from sex-based discrimination in education programs or extracurricular activities that receive Federal financial assistance – exempts some religious colleges from regulations that, in secular schools, forbid discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a December 2015 report titled “Hidden Discrimination: Title IX Religious Exemptions Putting LGBT Students at Risk,” HRC requested that the Department of Education (DOE) publicly list the names of every U.S. religious college that had been granted such a waiver. When the DOE eventually agreed to publish such a list, HRC derisively characterized it as “a list of educational institutions who have received an exemption from federal civil rights law in order to discriminate against LGBT students.”
Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, writes that HRC “views any attempt by Christian colleges to live out their Christian ethics as inherently discriminatory because most Christian colleges … dare to uphold the 2,000-year-old teaching that homosexuality is sinful and that gender is biologically determined, not socially constructed.” Moreover, Walker asserts that by seeking to deprive such colleges of tax-exempt status and federal grants, HRC “wishes for these schools to revise their Christian doctrine or, in the long run, be shut down because of crippling financial difficulties.”
When Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin in March 2017 signed Senate Bill 17 – which was designed to prevent school officials from regulating the “doctrines,” “principles,” and membership criteria of student organizations – HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow complained that the bill would enable student groups to discriminate against LGBT students “under the guise of religion.”
For additional information on HRC, click here.
Further Readings: HRC website sections titled “Mission Statement,” “About Us,” “Our Victories,” “Corporate Partners,” and “Celebrity Supporters“; Keywiki.org; “Nothing on Terry Bean,” (by Michelle Malkin, 12-3-2014); “Clinton Opens Door to Gay Activists” (Washington Post, 3-5-2007); “Internal Report: Major Diversity, Organizational Problems At Human Rights Campaign” (Buzzfeed, 6-3-2015); “Hidden Discrimination: Title IX Religious Exemptions Putting LGBT Students at Risk” (by HRC, 2015); “Dept. of Education Publishes Institutions Receiving Right To Discriminate Against LGBT Students” (by HRC, 4-29-2016).