On his way to the airport to return to Los Angeles from DC, the incoming president of the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, spoke with Metro Weekly about today's news.
"To me, this is the grandest, most exciting opportunity of my life," Griffin says when asked about why he would leave California to return to D.C. -- and to an organization like HRC that often is the target of activists' attacks. "I think this particular time is right for me and for the organization."
He will take the helm of the organization, he tells Metro Weekly, on June 12.
Griffin says that every part of his experience led him to this day, explaining that he went from "growing up as a kid in Arkansas, not knowing that I knew a single gay person ... to a career in politics and policy ... then, this little thing happened a few years ago called Prop 8."
Noting the passage of Proposition 8 on Election Day in 2008, as well as the passage of an adoption ban in his home state of Arkansas, he says that he was "depressed for a day."
"The next night, I was driving home from a meeting ... I see all these people gathered in the middle of the street ... and there was this candlelight vigil."
He got out of his car and saw hundreds and then thousands of people, including people speaking from the makeshift stage, and he says, "I left what was happening at the stage, and went into the middle of the crowd, and I didn't know anyone. ... Living in L.A. for as long as I had, I thought I knew every gay person."
But, Griffin says, he looked around that night and saw so many new faces of all races and ages, including many young ones, "I called a close friend of mine ... and I said, 'The world has changed.'"
He notes, "Momentum is on our side, but that kid that I used to be, there are thousands if not millions of them out there, in Arkansas and [elsewhere]. In many ways, on that night I found my voice."
Of the place that HRC plays in the national LGBT movement, he says, "The impact that you can have in this country and in all 50 states is something that is not comparable to anything else."
Calling it "the grandest privilege that I've ever had," Griffin tells Metro Weekly, "The impact that I can have with HRC is something that I'm looking forward to diving into head first."
Asked whether his role as the head of a marriage-based organization like the American Foundation for Equal Rights has been will signify too much attention attention being placed on marriage at HRC at the expense of things like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act going forward, Griffin says, "I'm gonna go, every single time, back to that young kid. Every decision."
Noting that "it's not any one thing that impacts the life of a gay person," he says, "I don't think anyone who knows me would say anything other than that I'm committed to full equality."
Adding that while it's true that marriage -- specifically the fight against Proposition 8 -- has been his focus for the past couple of years, he says, "We have to fight the battle on all fronts, whether it's school bullying, an inclusive ENDA or a whole host of other things, political or otherwise, that impact the lives of a gay person."
Griffin has about 100 days to draw up his battle plans before he takes the helm on June 12.
[Photo: American Foundation for Equal Rights board president and incoming Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, right, with Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of Milk and AFER board member, at the signing of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act on Dec. 22, 2010. (Photo by Chris Geidner.)]