The HRC Story

Our Victories

Supreme Court Decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry and Windsor v. U.S.

Under the leadership of President Chad Griffin, the Human Rights Campaign worked to elevate the national conversation around marriage equality in the leadup to the Supreme Court decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry, challenging California’s Prop 8 that banned marriage for gay and lesbian couples, and Windsor v. U.S., challenging the federal government’s ban on recognizing legally married gay couples. As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in these cases, a modified red version of HRC's iconic logo went viral on social media, harnessing the passion that supporters of equality felt about the issue. When the rulings were handed down, and marriage equality was returned to California and section 3 of DOMA was overturned, HRC worked tirelessly to educate the public about what these rulings meant for LGBT couples and families in California and across the U.S.

Marriage in the States

Momentum is building for marriage equality – and the Human Rights Campaign is at the forefront of these state battles. In 2006, when Massachusetts was the only state to recognize equal marriage rights, HRC and its allies helped beat back anti-marriage amendments in New Hampshire and Iowa – and continued on-the-ground efforts through November to help win fair-minded majorities in both states' legislatures. This helped lay the groundwork for marriage equality in these states in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

HRC led the effort to enact marriage equality in the District of Columbia. It committed two full-time staff members who, working with coalition members, identified hundreds of supporters to testify before the DC Council; co-hosted a rally on the eve of the Council's vote; and hosted three of the first weddings at HRC headquarters. Additionally, the Religion and Faith program helped organize and sustain DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality, one of the key players in the fight.

In the fight for marriage equality in New York, HRC led the largest field campaign ever in support of state LGBT rights legislation. An unprecedented 30 full-time field organizers were employed by HRC across the state and they generated over 150,000 constituent contacts to targeted legislators. To reflect the deep and diverse support for marriage equality, HRC also created "New Yorkers for Marriage Equality," a video campaign that eventually featured more than 40 iconic New Yorkers.

In partnership with the Courage Campaign, HRC launched NOM Exposed in 2010 – holding the National Organization for Marriage accountable for the misinformation and hate spread in its effort to thwart equality.

Today, HRC remains at the forefront of the marriage equality fight. In 2012, HRC campaigned tirelessly alongside state and local partners to secure passage of marriage equality in Maine, Maryland and Washington state, to defeat a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Minnesota, and to help successfully defend marriage rights in New Hampshire.  In the first three weeks of May 2013, HRC's extensive on-the-ground support helped usher in marriage equality in Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota. Investments and on-the-ground work in New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii helped lead to marriage equality in those states as well. HRC and allies continue to work toward full marriage equality across the country.

U.S. Senate Passes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

In November 2013, the U.S. Senate voted 64 to 32 to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for the first time in the legislation’s two-decade history. All Senate Democrats joined 10 Senate Republicans to approve the bill. HRC invested $2 million in a 12-week campaign that resulted in the successful vote. This victory was years in the making. For two decades, HRC’s deep bench of policy experts and advocates have walked the halls of Congress engaging with lawmakers in both parties about the importance of ENDA. HRC staff, and our dedicated members and supporters, have held hundreds of face-to-face meetings with legislators and their staffs. In the making, we’ve amassed a powerful arsenal of evidence – a robust and compelling body of work – for why common-sense workplace protections are neccessary.

Presidential Endorsement

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton earned the Human Rights Campaign Fund's first presidential endorsement in 1992. After his election, HRCF's executive director took part in the first-ever meeting between LGBT leaders and a sitting president.

In 2008, HRC endorsed Barack Obama for president and worked tirelessly across the country to elect him - from raising money online to rallying volunteers in key states. One year later, President Obama was the keynote speaker at HRC's 13th Annual National Dinner. HRC again endorsed Obama for re-election, mobilizing thousands of volunteers, steering committee members, and HRC staff around the country to successfully re-elect the most supportive president in LGBT American history. 

Defeat of the Federal Marriage Amendment

Twice – in 2004 and 2006 – HRC led the successful fight against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have banned marriage equality. The massive field and lobbying effort in 2004, coupled with a $1 million TV, print and online advertising campaign, effectively communicated the message that the FMA was discriminatory and unnecessary, and would undermine the U.S. Constitution. HRC led the way again in 2006, in a campaign that culminated in the delivery of nearly 250,000 postcards to Capitol Hill offices just ahead of a second congressional defeat of the FMA.

Hate Crimes

After 11 years of advocacy work by HRC and countless other groups and individuals, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law in 2009. The law gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

After 17 years of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, during which the military discharged more than 14,000 brave LGBT service members, the law has finally been repealed. HRC's nationwide strategy helped lead to the historic congressional votes that sent DADT to the dustbin of history. HRC's efforts included:

  • "Voices of Honor" National Tour: 50 cites, in partnership with Servicemembers United (SU), culminating in DC with Veterans Lobby Day where hundreds of veterans lobbied Congress.
  • 625,000 emails generated from constituents urging repeal.
  • 50,000 pro-repeal handwritten cards & letters to Congress.
  • 1,000 grassroots lobby visits in Congress and in-district.
  • 20,000 veterans mobilized for public events and local media.

HIV Travel Ban Ends

The U.S. prohibition on HIV-positive people entering the country for travel or immigration purposes was finally reversed in 2009. HRC had been a lead organization lobbying on Capitol Hill for the statutory repeal and working to ensure that Department of Health and Human Services' regulations were changed. In July 2009, when the proposed regulation lifting the ban was open for public comment, more than 19,000 HRC members and supporters submitted statements in favor of ending the discriminatory policy.

Election Heavyweights

The success of HRC's electoral efforts has earned widespread recognition. Its Political Action Committee is among the National Journal's top-rated progressive PACs, as more than 90 percent of its endorsees win their elections. This success dates back to its first major electoral effort in 1982, when HRCF donated $140,000 to 118 congressional candidates. Eighty-one percent of those candidates went on to win.

In 2008, HRC engaged in the largest electoral campaign in the history of the organization - called Year to Win, an aggressive $7 million election effort to mobilize and motivate millions of LGBT and allied voters - and helped to elect more than 200 pro-equality congressional candidates. More than a year before the election, HRC co-hosted the first-ever televised presidential forum devoted to LGBT issues. Six of the leading Democratic presidential candidates participated.

In 2012, the most recent presidential election, HRC engaged in the largest electoral campaign in the history of the organization. Along with our energized supporters, HRC raised or contributed more than $20 million to re-elect President Obama and to win marriage equality in all three states where marriage was on the ballot, to defeat a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Minnesota, and to elect a Congress that includes both the most openly LGB individuals and also the most straight allies ever. Electoral victories included sending Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to the U.S. Senate, making her the first openly gay Senator in U.S. history.

Standing Up Against Transgender Discrimination

HRC had a strong presence in the first-ever congressional hearing that focused exclusively on transgender Americans and workplace discrimination. Former HRC President Joe Solmonese and Business Council members Meghan Stabler and Diego Sanchez provided testimony. The hearing was an effort to educate federal lawmakers on transgender issues and lay the groundwork for congressional action to ban arbitrary discrimination.

Since 2009, HRC’s annual Corporate Equality Index has held employers accountable for how well they protect employees from discrimination based on gender identity or expression. In addition to publicly rating companies’ protection policies for transgender employees, HRC works to support employers striving to fully insure transgender employees. In an effort to specifically to address the gap between the current product offerings and accepted medical practice, in June 2011 HRC launched an “Insurance Equality Task Force,” which engages in direct advocacy with the insurance industry. 

Municipal Equality Index

The Municipal Equality Index examines the laws, policies, and services of municipalities and rates them on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBT people who live and work there.

As legal rights for LGBT people shift drastically when crossing state borders, the MEI provides a revealing snapshot of LGBT equality from municipalities of varying sizes from every state in the country. The 2014 MEI rated a total of 353 cities from every state in the nation, an increase of more than 60 cities that were rated in 2013. A total of 38 cities earned perfect 100-point scores, even with the more demanding criteria from one year ago that includes transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage. The average city score was 59 points, and half of the cities researched scored over 61 points. Eleven percent scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 80 points; 25 percent scored under 44 points; and just four percent scored fewer than 10 points.

Progress throughout 2014 was particularly noteworthy on transgender equality, and it is clear to see that cities across the nation are stepping up to ensure that all people are treated equally in all aspects of their lives.

Promoting Diversity in the Movement

HRC is only LGBT national partner organization to join the Ya Es Hora campaign, a national non-partisan citizenship and voter registration program. HRC has mobilized more than 2,500 volunteers for 60 citizenship workshops in 20 communities, including Las Vegas and San Diego. As a result of this partnership, many Latino leaders and organizations pledged to support LGBT issues.

Each year, HRC hosts Equality Leaders for the 21st Century: Women's Learning Retreat, which brings dozens of women from around country together to encourage and train them to serve as visionary and courageous social change leaders. Likewise, the men's track of the program is designed to help gay, bisexual and transgender men find their own voice and their own power, and inspire and provide them with the tools to be effective leaders in the 21st century

The LGBT Mentorship program is another annual effort - this one nurtures and promotes promising religious scholars and theologians interested in LGBT studies. By bringing scholarly networks and mentorship opportunities to the next generation of LGBTQ and allied scholars, this project helps a new generation of scholars of religion and theologians promote and develop how LGBT issues and religion are discussed in seminaries and schools of religion. And, by extension, they will help recast the conversation about LGBT and religion in our congregations and communities.

Hundreds of people have attended Gender Identity and Our Faith Communities education and advocacy workshops in cities from Virginia to California. The program, based on the contributions of transgender people, their families and clergy, draws on a wide array of personal experiences, religious and cultural analysis, and diverse faith journeys, to empower people of faith with the knowledge and skills necessary to transform communities and congregations into welcoming environments.

HRC's newest pastoral resource, the bilingual A La Familia: A Conversation About Our Families, the Bible, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, released in partnership with coalition groups, will generate and support conversations among Latino/a Protestant and Catholics about family, the Bible, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and what God calls us to be to one another.

Advocating for All Families

President Barack Obama signed a historic memorandum in 2010 that protects the visitation and healthcare decision-making rights of LGBT people. All hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid must now respect the rights of all patients to designate visitors and must respect all patients' advance directives. HRC worked with White House and Department of Health and Human Services staff in support of the memorandum. In addition, the HRC Foundation worked for years to encourage hospitals and other healthcare providers to adopt pro-LGBT policies.

The All Children-All Families initiative seeks to enhance LGBT cultural competence among child welfare professionals and educate LGBT people about opportunities to become foster or adoptive parents to waiting children. As of January 2013, 67 agencies across the country are participating in ACAF, 30 of which have been designated as “Leaders in Supporting and Serving LGBT Families,” having met each of ACAF’s 10 benchmarks of LGBT competence.

Corporate Equality Index

Since its inception, the Corporate Equality Index has helped lead a sea-change in workplaces across the country. When HRC first began the CEI in 2002, 89 companies voluntarily provided their employment policies for LGBT employees and they were rated on seven basic criteria. Just 13 companies received a score of 100 percent.

The 2014 CEI saw 304 businesses, spanning nearly every industry and major geographic area of the U.S., ranked as top scorers. It marked the first time in history that over 60 percent of the Fortune 500 companies included both sexual orientation and gender identity protections. In 2015 a record 366 businesses earned the CEI’s top score of 100 percent. Gender identity is now part of non-discrimination policies at 66 percent of Fortune 500 companies, compared to a staggering three percent in 2002, and 89 percent of Fortune 500 companies have incorporated sexual orientation into their non-discrimination policies. Additionally, more than 290 major employers have adopted supportive inclusion guidelines for transgender workers who are transitioning.

A strong majority of businesses are ensuring that wherever they do business, here and abroad, LGBT people enjoy the same workplace protections. In addition, businesses are aligning their corporate values of LGBT inclusion with their supplier standards, funders and within the community at large.

Historic Defense of Marriage Act Hearing

The issue of repealing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act had its first hearing in Congress in 2011, nearly 15 years after its enactment. Former HRC President Joe Solmonese testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. "In 1996, DOMA was just hypothetical discrimination because every state excluded same-sex couples from marriage," said Solmonese. "Today we see it in much more concrete terms – as tangible, heart-wrenching, real-life discrimination." It was the first time that an HRC president had testified in front of Congress since 1996.

Protecting Our Youth

Protecting students from bullying is among HRC's priorities. The HRC Foundation's Welcoming Schools program addresses family diversity, gender stereotyping, bullying and name calling in schools. It is a resource for elementary schools, educators and parents.

Over the past few years, HRC has stepped up its anti-bullying efforts. In 2010, the organization led the campaign to oust bigoted Arkansas school board member Clint McCance. In 2011, HRC launched its Call it Out campaign, which aims to "call out" homophobia and transphobia and to promote respect and civil discourse.

In 2012, HRC released a groundbreaking study of LGBT-identified young people. With more than 10,000 respondents ages 13-17, “Growing Up LGBT in America” is the largest known survey of LGBT teens and shows how critical the work of achieving equality is for future generations. It provides a stark picture of the difficulties they face. The report is the first in a series of efforts to analyze the landscape for LGBT youth. A follow-up publication, the National Coming Out Day report, explores the coming out experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth—to whom they come out, in what settings, obstacles they experience, and the ways in which coming out may be related to their personal well–being, sense of safety, and their connections to family, school and community.

HRC held its second annual Time to THRIVE conference in 2015, a national event that promotes safety, inclusion and well-being for LGBTQ youth. The conference brings together a broad audience of youth-serving professionals, including K-12 educators, mental health providers, pediatricians, religious leaders, recreational athletic coaches, and more, with the goal of creating a thriving LGBTQ youth population. In two years, the conference has included inspiring speakers such as Chelsea Clinton, Betty DeGeneres, Michael Sam, Jazz Jennings, Judy Shepard, and Ellen Page, who bravely announced for the first time her decision to live openly and authentically.

State Equality Index

As marriage equality continues to make historic progress across the country, a stark reality has been brought to light: millions of LGBT Americans, including those who can legally marry, are left without reliable workplace protections. HRC’s inaugural State Equality Index is a comprehensive state-by-state report that provides a review of statewide laws and policies that affect LGBT people and their families. The SEI rates all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., in six areas and assigns the states to one of four distinct categories.

Formerly known as Equality from State from 2004-13, the 2014 SEI reveals that although same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states and Washington, D.C., more than 111 million people - 35 percent of Americans - live in marriage states that lack explicit, fully-inclusive statewide workplace protections for LGBT people. Additionally, more than 206 million people – 65 percent of Americans – live in states that have no explicit statewide workplace protections for LGBT people.

The SEI did point to a few signs of encouragement, particularly when it concerns LGBT youth, and health and safety. While 2014 was a year of rapid legal developments in marriage equality, HRC continues to work toward state and nationwide non-discrimination laws and policies for all LGBT people.

Leading Through Innovation

HRC is a leading non-profit organization in terms of technological innovation. Always continuing its efforts to stay at the forefront of digital marketing, HRC actively utilizes social media networks as an essential form of communication and engagement. HRC’s Facebook page has more than two million fans, its Twitter base has grown with more than 485,000 followers, and its Instagram platform has more than 69,000 followers and counting. With the implementation of Snapchat in 2014, HRC can now connect with countless members and supporters through a range of social media networks.

Prior to and throughout the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi Russia, HRC launched an iconic viral campaign called #LoveConquersHate that saw numerous people from around the world stand in solidarity with LGBT Russians by posting photos of themselves in HRC’s Russian-language Love Conquers Hate shirt. Cutting-edge applications – the Buying for Equality app for iPhone and Android, updated in 2014 to include location services, as well as the Picture Equality app for iPhone and Android – connect users with tools to become more supportive of the LGBT community. Other projects include the Congressional Scorecard search tool, which provides information on the voting records and legislation co-sponsorships of members of Congress; interactive maps of state laws and policies, where readers can readily learn about LGBT-related legislation on a state-by-state level; and much more.

Healthcare Equality Index

The Healthcare Equality Index was developed to meet an urgent need for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans: the need for equitable, knowledgeable, sensitive and welcoming healthcare, free from discrimination.

The 2014 HEI found that 50 percent of LGB patients surveyed have experienced some type of discrimination in healthcare, while 70 percent of transgender or gender non-conforming patients surveyed have experienced discrimination in healthcare. However, significant changes were made from 2013 to 2014 – out of the 1,504 healthcare facilities evaluated, almost one third of them met all of the core criteria for LGBT patient-centered care. Of the more than 500 healthcare facilities that voluntarily completed the survey, more than 96 percent reported fully inclusive LGBT patient and employment non-discrimination and equal visitation policies.

The HRC Foundation utilizes the HEI to encourage healthcare providers to adopt best practices for LGBT employees, patients and their families, as well as provide trainings and best practices. By significantly increasing awareness of how hospitals and healthcare facilities are treating LGBT patients and employees across the country, LGBT people and their families are better equipped when it comes time to choosing a healthcare provider that is best suited for their needs.

Expanding Equality in the South

In the spring of 2014 HRC unveiled Project One America, a comprehensive campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. The first of its kind campaign exclusively works for LGBT equality in Mississippi, Arkansas and Arkansas and focuses on making progress on three fronts – changing hearts and minds, advancing enduring legal protections and building more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace. Since the implementation of Project One America, Alabama became the 37th state, plus Washington, D.C., with marriage equality.

In the fall of 2014, HRC launched a new public education and engagement campaign in Mississippi called All God’s Children. With faith at the center of the effort, the campaign was built around four consecutive weeks of television ads and was amplified by robust direct mail, phone banking operations, telephone town halls, billboards, online advertising and door-to-door conversations. All God’s Children exclusively aimed to strengthen the foundation of public support for LGBT Mississippians, aid in the passage of pro-equality legislation and bolster efforts to win marriage equality for the state’s gay and lesbian couples.