You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Human Rights Campaign President on Midterms, Trump and Power of LGBTQ Voting

The Human Rights Campaign targeted dozens of races in the midterms, helping land some historic wins, but it’s not hard to guess what will be on the agenda for 2020: defeating Donald Trump.

“There is a clear message,” says Chad Griffin, the president of the LGBTQ advocacy organization. “It’s not only attack us at your own peril. If you attack us, we are going to invest, we are going to organize, we are going to defeat you in the next election.”

Griffin, 45, has led HRC for almost seven years, while it has greatly increased its political spending as a way of organizing the LGBTQ community into a potent voting bloc.

He’s pleased with many of the results of the midterms, which saw the election of the first openly gay man as governor, Jared Polis, in Colorado; the first gay Native American lawmaker in Congress, Sharice Davids, in Kansas; and the reelection of Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator, in Wisconsin.

With an emphatic speaking style and disciplined focus, Griffin, a native of Hope, Ark., has drawn on his experience in the Clinton White House, and as political and philanthropic adviser to Rob Reiner, and then as the leader of an effort to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, in the federal courts.

Griffin thinks that gains in the midterms have put the “emergency brake” on the more egregious aspects of the Trump era. He recently chatted about what lies ahead in 2020, and what he would have to say to LGBTQ individuals who still support Trump.

You’ve talked about the bright spots. What was most disappointing to you about the midterm results?

CHAD GRIFFIN Any time there is an election, it would always be nice to win everything. While that was not the case, we won most of the races around the country that we prioritized. We really prioritized the LGBTQ voting bloc, and the exit polls [showed our] current numbers are 6% of the electorate. That is a really big story. [Eighty-three percent of LGBTQ voters supported Democrats, compared with 77% in 2016.]

If you take those exit poll numbers and overlay them on [some of] these key races, in many cases that will have been the difference.

HRC endorsed Stacey Abrams in her race for governor of Georgia. Yet Brian Kemp is leading. He’s pledged to sign religious freedom legislation that would permit discrimination. Then what happens?

CG We saw what happened when some in the state legislature tried that last time in Georgia [in 2016]. Leaders from across industries, including the entertainment industry, stood up and made clear that they would send the state no more business. I would expect that any state legislature or governor that attempts to move forward legislation that specifically targets and attacks LGBTQ people and our rights will face the same consequences.

What do you say to LGBTQ individuals who continue to support Trump?

CG I can’t understand them and frankly don’t have much to say to them. … Donald Trump got fewer of the LGBTQ votes than any of his predecessors in 2016, despite the many lies he told during the campaign of how he would stand up and be there for the LGBTQ community. He got significantly
fewer votes than Mitt Romney did in the previous presidential election, and I would expect that given all of the attacks that Trump and [Vice President Mike] Pence have launched against our community, you will see in 2020 an even further shrinking of those numbers.

What did you think when Caitlyn Jenner renounced her support of Trump?

CG She tried hard to work with Donald Trump and ultimately realized who he is. What Caitlyn made clear is she has given up on changing his mind.

When you took the HRC job in 2012, is this where you expected the LGBTQ community to be in 2018?

CG We have come a long ways. Yes it is a dark moment in history in terms of who occupies the White House. But I really do believe that if you look a few years down the road, we will see this as one of the great awakenings of our democracy where LGBTQ people, women and people of color rose up, spoke out, voted in historic numbers and ran for office in historic numbers.

If you look at the battles of 2012, it would have been hard to predict many of the battles of 2018. But there’s one thing that is consistent. LGBTQ people are fighters. We are resilient. We have seen our ability to fight back and our political power continue to grow. More and more politicians are realizing it, and more and more politicians are standing up and winning elections. More and more [of those who] are against us are facing defeat because of it.

More Politics

  • tammy brook

    FYI Brand Group Launches Social Impact Division

    FYI Brand Group, the music and fashion brand marketing and public relations firm founded by Tammy Brook, is launching a social impact division dedicated to campaigns centered around creating a call to action for social good. Organizations that have signed on to work with FYI include the American Cancer Society and Black Lives Matter; the [...]

  • Lauren Ash44th Annual Gracie Awards, Show,

    Politics and New Abortion Ban Laws Dominate 2019 Gracie Awards

    Female empowerment was in the air Tuesday night as showrunners, writers and performers gathered at the 44th annual Gracie Awards to celebrate women breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings within the entertainment industry. Sandra Oh, Patricia Arquette, Rachel Maddow and Connie Britton were among the honorees at the ceremony, which took place at the Beverly [...]

  • Jeff Daniels MSNBC

    Jeff Daniels Says 'It's the End of Democracy' if Trump Gets Re-Elected

    Jeff Daniels took a swipe at President Donald Trump and the GOP during an appearance on MSNBC on Monday. Daniels spoke with Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC about his role as Atticus Finch in the Broadway production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a story about racial politics and discrimination in 1930s Alabama, and spent the segment [...]

  • James Marsden attends the 2019 MOCA

    New Abortion Ban Laws Take Center Stage at MOCA Gala

    Forty years ago in Los Angeles, the decision to invest millions in a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art — not to mention its formerly desolate downtown location, where the vibe was more apocalyptic than artsy — was a risky proposition. But now that the city’s cultural heart has shifted south of Hollywood, it seems [...]

  • Spectators watch the 2019 Eurovision Song

    U.S. Music Industry Delegation Convenes in Tel Aviv for Eurovision

    This past weekend, squeezed between a string of Eurovision Song Contest parties, Tel Aviv’s posh Norman hotel played host to an intimate, invite-only dinner of music industry delegates from the United States. The rooftop-set event was designed as a highlight on the itinerary of the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) weeklong trip to Israel. CCFP, [...]

  • Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment,

    Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment, Imprisonment for Trump, Says Maybe Al Pacino Should Lead Instead

    Robert De Niro honored Al Pacino, his longtime friend and four-time collaborator (with Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film “The Irishman” marking their latest pairing), at the American Icon Awards, and then called for a different type of tribute for President Donald Trump — “impeachment and imprisonment.” “You didn’t think you were going to completely get away without [...]

  • CEO of T-Mobile John Legere (L)

    FCC Chairman Backs T-Mobile, Sprint Merger With New Conditions

    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gave a thumbs-up to T-Mobile and Sprint’s proposed $26 billion merger, after the companies committed to enhanced 5G buildout commitments and agreed to spin off Sprint’s Boost Mobile. T-Mobile and Sprint first announced their plans to merge in April 2018, looking to combine forces to take on industry leaders AT&T and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content