July 11, 2017 at 10:18 am PDT | by Karen Ocamb
Human Rights Campaign Launches $26 Million Campaign for ‘Grassroots Army’

HRC President Chad Griffin at the LA #ResistMarch with former Prop 8 plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.  (Photos by Karen Ocamb)

History will mark the Summer of 2017 as the beginning of the decline of American prestige and power in the world, after President Donald Trump’s apparent political canoodling with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the former KGB agent who interfered with U.S. elections.

The Human Rights Campaign worked hard to elect Hillary Clinton, expecting her to usher in the final stage of full equality for LGBT citizens in America. Instead, under Trump, there has been a steady erosion and rolling-back of rights  with the potential for even marriage equality being overturned should Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retire while the Senate is still in Republican hands.

And that turned 2017 into the Year of #Resistance.

Chad Griffin addresses ResistMarch on the West Hollywood stage, June 11, 2017. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

In June, HRC participated in a slew of #Resistance marches, including the #ResistMarch in Los Angeles, with HRC President Chad Griffin telling crowds about HRC’s “war room” to fight back.

Now, that #Resistance energy must be harnessed for the critical 2018 mid-term elections and beyond.

On Tuesday, July 11, HRC announced an historic investment of $26 million in HRC Rising,  a new grassroots campaign to “resist the politics of hate, fight anti-LGBTQ legislation, and fuel pro-equality candidates and initiatives.”

“It’s not enough to resist the hateful policies and attacks coming from the Trump-Pence regime — we’ve got to accelerate the pace of progress toward full equality and secure protections for LGBTQ people in states and communities across the country,” says HRC President Chad Griffin. “That’s why we’re going on offense with the largest grassroots expansion in HRC’s 37-year history.

Our grassroots army of over 3 million has proven that, even in the face of unprecedented challenges, we can make incredible progress and defeat the hateful politicians who’ve been emboldened by Donald Trump when we organize and mobilize.  The power and determination of the 10 million LGBTQ voters and our allies across America will only continue to grow stronger in the face of discriminatory attacks on our rights and freedoms.”

Though the Trump administration has rendered the LGBT community virtually invisible on the national stage, LGBT voters were five percent of the electorate in 2012  – a significant percentage to tip any election. Additionally, according to exit polls in 2016,  LGBT voters were the only demographic constituency to increase support for Clinton over former President Barack Obama in 2012, with a record-breaking 78 percent of the vote.

This is a critical reminder as Democrats struggle over how to win elections. In a July 6 op-ed in the New York Times, for instance, longtime strategist Mark Penn advised the party to forego identity politics and run to the moderate middle.

“Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs,” Penn and Andrew Stein wrote. “They saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.”

But LGBT people live in the heartland, too—often at the mercy of legal discrimination based on “religious liberty” bias and at risk for poverty and low wages as a result of having no job protections—a point consistently left out of political discussions about the economy and jobs.

According to a 2015 report by the Center for American Progress,  “LGBT women are among the most at risk of poverty in America. Due to discriminatory laws, America’s 5.1 million LGBT women face lower pay, frequent harassment, compromised access to health care, and heightened violence. Anti-LGBT laws, together with inequitable and outdated policies, mean that LGBT women’s economic security is compromised by reduced incomes and added costs ranging from health care to housing.” 

LGBT women of color, older LGBT women, and LGBT women raising children are particularly vulnerable. Additionally, transgender women “are nearly four times more likely to have annual incomes of $10,000 or less compared to the general population.”

Though HRC Rising is a nationwide initiative, special attention will be paid to the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nevada where HRC has a significant presence. HRC is recruiting at least 20 additional full-time staff to work with more than two dozen initiative-focused existing staff and HRC’s 32 volunteer-led, local steering committees to expand partnerships with state and local organizations and coalition partners—such as the NAACP and Planned Parenthood— to protect and advance equality and build infrastructure for future legislative and electoral battles.

HRC Rising is modeled, in part, on HRC’s Project One America program, which in 2014 turned LGBT attention to the long-neglect South, launching permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, resulting in several cities and towns passing comprehensive, trans-inclusive non-discrimination protections.

Photo by Karen Ocamb

The effort, inspired by Griffin’s personal experience as a lonely gay boy growing up in Hope, Arkansas, has helped HRC turn the corner from the perceived national bully to a collaborative partner.

“As the former leader of Equality North Carolina during the fight against HB2, I know the power of HRC’s collaborative work at the local level,” HRC Communications Director Chris Sgro tells the Los Angeles Blade. “It wasn’t just about the expert policy team. It was about the incredible local HRC volunteers and the local field team we together assembled. HRC worked hand-in-glove with a coalition of state organizations that ultimately defeated anti-LGBTQ Governor Pat McCrory.

“That’s why HRC Rising is so exciting to me,” Sgro continues. “This unprecedented grassroots expansion – the largest in HRC’s history – will help organize and mobilize millions of supporters to advance equality in 2018 and beyond, all across the country. Like the fight against HB2, this campaign will also help build capacity and infrastructure for the long haul – in deep partnership with our most critical allies – community by community.”

To join HRC Rising, go to hrc.im/rising –  or text ‘Rising’ to 30644.

© Copyright Los Angeles Blade, LLC. 2017. All rights reserved.