The Human Rights Campaign has hired civil rights lawyer Alphonso David as its seventh president.
According to the Advocate, he is the first person of color to lead the organization in its nearly 40-year history. He will assume the role in August, replacing Chad Griffin, who served as president of the organization since 2012.
“If we want to win full equality, that’s going to require us to come together, to dig deep, to be resilient, to embrace our differences, to tenaciously defend the most vulnerable among us, to fight with every ounce of determination we have,” he said in a video announcement released by HRC. “I promise you this, I will fight for each and every one of us. All I ask is that you join me, that you join the Human Rights Campaign in our fight for true equality. In unity, we will fight back and we will win.”
With annual revenue of around $45.6 million, the Human Rights Campaign is the largest and most powerful LGBTQ advocacy group in the United States. However, it’s been accused of prioritizing the needs and concerns of gay white men over the rest of its constituency.
Time notes that David’s hiring serves as an acknowledgment that HRC has a lot of work to do in regards to bolstering its multicultural competency, which will hopefully serve as the impetus for much-needed wholesale changes:
David will assume the role in an era of heightened consciousness of inequality within the LGBTQ community. The Human Rights Campaign has long been criticized as a bastion for white gay men of means who pay lip service to other corners of the movement. The selection of David signals that the board of the organization recognizes it has much work to do to make good on its pledge to advocate for all members of an often-disparate coalition at a moment when transgender individuals’ battles are gaining prominence, if not support.
“Alphonso has devoted his career to expanding the civil rights of LGBTQ people across New York State and the nation,” HRC Foundation Board Chair Deb Taft said in a press release. “At a time when LGBTQ people, women, people of color, immigrants and refugees, and so many others are being confronted with daily attacks on our most basic rights, Alphonso is the fierce, compassionate, and strategic leader HRC and our broader movement for equality needs.”
Griffin took to Twitter to congratulate his successor, tweeting, “Alphonso David is a brilliant strategist, leader and civil rights lawyer, a fierce and compassionate advocate for LGBTQ equality—and he’s someone I’ve truly admired for years.”
A graduate of the University of Maryland and Temple University School of Law, David was integral in attaining marriage equality in New York in 2011, prohibiting conversion therapy on minors and a number of other noteworthy civil rights victories for the LGBTQ community. Most recently, he served as the first openly gay counsel to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“I believe that together, we can harness the strength that’s inherent in our differences, to stand together in the face of fear and division. And that’s exactly what the Human Rights Campaign was built for,” he said.