A coalition of more than 200 national organizations, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) was founded in 1950 by A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Arnold Aronson. Boasting that it has “coordinated national lobbying efforts on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957,” LCCHR uses legislative advocacy to push for “progressive change” that will create “a more open and just society.” The coalition also has an education and research arm known as the Leadership Conference Education Fund, which was established in 1969 and regularly issues reports “designed to build the public understanding that is essential for our nation to continue its journey toward social and economic justice.”
To view a list of many LCCHR organizations (with links to their respective profiles), click here.
In 1997, LCCHR was one of more than 100 leftist organizations that co-sponsored and launched the so-called “Progressive Challenge,” in an effort to unite their activities and talking points under a “multi-issue progressive agenda.”
Characterizing the United States as a nation rife with all manner of social injustice, LCCHR focuses its attention on a number of key issues, including the following:
* Criminal Justice: According to LCCHR, America’s “criminal laws, while facially neutral, are enforced in a manner that is massively and pervasively biased” against nonwhite minorities. In March 2011 the coalition published a report that called for “a national consensus against racial profiling in all its forms,” not only “in the street-level context in which it originally arose,” but also “in the newer context[s] of counterterrorism and … immigration.”
* Education: “Discriminatory barriers … unfairly limit or deny educational access based on factors like race, national origin, sex, or disability.”
* Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights: Calling not only for “positive steps to end discrimination,” these LCCHR initiatives advocate compensatory action “to create new opportunities that were previously denied qualified minorities and women.”
* Hate Crimes: Asserting that crimes committed against individuals “because of their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation” remain a festering and horrifying problem in the United States,” LCCHR led the campaign to pass the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. “Of particular concern,” said an LCCHR report that same year, was a rise in hate crimes targeting Hispanics, a trend that “correlates closely with the increasingly heated debate over Comprehensive Immigration Reform and an escalation in the level of anti-immigrant vitriol on radio, television, and the Internet.”
* Health Care: On the premise that “health care is a basic human right,” LCCHR contends that “all Americans should have access to high quality, comprehensive, and affordable health care” funded by the federal government. In 2009, the coalition successfully lobbied for an extension and expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It also supported the national health-care reform bill that became law in 2010.
* Fair Housing: Claiming that “shelter is a basic human need” and “homeownership is a basic key to financial viability,” LCCHR supported the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which contributed heavily to the housing and foreclosure crisis of 2008. Rather than blame CRA for that crisis, however, the coalition condemned the banking industry’s “predatory lending” vis à vis “minority communities” which “are bearing a disproportionate share of the [foreclosure] burden.”
* Immigration: “Regardless of status, immigrants have always played a central role in the life and growth of our nation. Immigrants contribute $10 billion a year to this country’s economic growth. Unfortunately, in the wake of [the] September 11 terrorist attacks, immigrants in the United States have increasingly been targets of discrimination and suspicion.”
* Religion: According to LCCHR, “Since our nation’s inception, individuals from various religious denominations have too often suffered discrimination simply because of their religious beliefs.” In 2009, LCCHR publicly supported a Sikh Coalition campaign demanding that the U.S. Army drop its policy prohibiting turbans, uncut hair, and beards—religious practices that are mandated by the Sikh faith. In March 2011, LCCHR condemned New York congressman Peter King’s House Committee on Homeland Security hearings which examined the radicalization of Muslims in the United States. Those hearings, LCCHR warned, would “inevitably stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.”
* Voting Rights: LCCHR laments that “many Americans are effectively denied their right to vote” by laws that require people to present a photo ID at polling places. In LCCHR’s calculus, such laws create “unnecessary obstacles for people less likely to have such IDs, including seniors, people with disabilities, students, people of color, and people on fixed income.” The coalition also asserts that the residents of Washington, DC should be able to elect a voting member of the House of Representatives and two U.S. Senators.
* Women: Claiming, falsely, that “there continues to be a wage gap between women and men, with women earning approximately $0.80 for every $1.00 that men earn,” LCCHR helped lead the campaign to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Moreover, the coalition notes that “women face unique kinds of discrimination based on gender, such as sexual harassment and job discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.”
* Judicial and Government Appointments: In 1983, LCCHR led the successful campaign to keep President Reagan’s judicial nominee, Robert Bork, off of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2009, the coalition actively supported the the confirmation of Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. That same year, LCCHR also played a key role in securing the confirmation of Eric Holder “as the first black U.S. attorney general.”
* Indigenous Peoples: “Native Americans … suffer from many of the same social and economic problems as other victims of long-term bias and discrimination—including … disproportionately high rates of poverty, infant mortality, unemployment, and low high-school completion rates.
* Labor Unions: In September 2009, LCCHR published a report condemning the “ruthless” campaigns to deny “the right of American workers to form, join, or assist labor organizations.” In March 2011, the coalition announced its plan to honor AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka at its upcoming Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award Dinner.
* LGBT Issues: “There is currently no federal law protecting individuals from job discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. This means that at any time, someone can be discriminated against, fired or not hired simply because he/she is or is perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.”
* Census: “During the last two censuses [2000 and 2010], the Census Bureau missed counting millions of people—mostly minorities and low-income people. Undercounting certain populations may reduce federal funding … as well as fair representation in Congress.”
LCCHR’s president and CEO is Wade Henderson, who previously served as Washington Bureau director of the NAACP and associate director of the ACLU‘s national office in Washington. The coalition’s executive vice president and COO is Karen McGill Lawson, a former education monitor for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.