At the Human Rights Campaign, we have a very simple yet critical mission: the full equality and liberation of LGBTQ+ people everywhere.
That’s why this past month -- following Alphonso David’s inclusion in the New York State Attorney General’s report on the investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo for sexual harassment -- has been so difficult. What makes this even more painful is that so many members of the LGBTQ+ community are survivors of assault and harassment themselves. And I know this has been a particularly hard time for our HRC staff.
The Boards of Directors have completed a board-led investigation which ultimately concluded that Alphonso acted counter to HRC’s values, mission, and policies. As a result, the HRC and HRC Foundation Boards of Directors have terminated Alphonso for violations of his employment contract.
While the Boards engage in a search for HRC’s next President, I was asked by the Board to take on the role of Interim President.
Many of you may know me from my role as Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff at HRC. I have been in this role since 2016 when I left the private sector to help lead the team at HRC. Many of you may also know me from my previous life as a long-time HRC volunteer, where I was particularly focused on developing women’s leadership.
Here are some things you may not know: I was born and raised in North Carolina. I am a minister’s daughter. I knew I was gay at 16. I came out to my family and employer in my early 30’s. I married the love of my life Gina in our backyard on our 20th anniversary, and in October, we will celebrate 27 years together. I believe in service, and in being called to serve. I know what it takes to roll up your sleeves and embrace leadership when people are hurting. And of all the hats I have worn at HRC, Interim President is the one I never expected to be wearing.
But the work is too important for me not to wear it. So many people are counting on us.
The need for HRC never stops and never slows down…
Right now, in Texas, the same extremist lawmakers who are attacking Black and Brown Texans’ right to vote and are attempting to strip Texans of their reproductive rights are seeking to re-introduce legislation targeting trans kids.
Right now, we need the White House to take steps to ease the refugee and asylum process for LGBTQ+ Afghan refugees, who are extraordinarily vulnerable and at-risk under the new Taliban regime.
Right now, we are closer than ever before to making the Equality Act the law of the land, but we know we have an uphill battle to get this legislation through the Senate and onto President Biden’s desk.
Right now, LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. and around the world need us to stay in the fight.
As I look to what comes next, I know the work can and will get done because of our brilliant staff. These are dedicated, dynamic, and passionate people who have been showing up each day and doing the work. You will be hearing more from them in the coming weeks because these are the folks who are the real drivers of change.
And as I look to the challenges ahead, I am beyond grateful to be fighting alongside each and every one of you. You all are not just our grassroots force for good -- you are our visionaries, our steady hands, and our inspiration. We have gone through so much together, and you keep showing up -- because you believe, like I do, in our mission of achieving full equality and liberation for LGBTQ+ people.
As we move forward, I hope you will extend your support and positive energy to our staff and volunteers, especially our volunteer leaders, who are going through so much at this time, but who have not wavered in their commitment to our mission.
We have to keep fighting to advance transgender justice and end the epidemic of violence especially targeting Black and Brown transgender women; we have to keep fighting to elect leaders who believe in equality and to defeat lawmakers who are legislating hate; we have to keep fighting to dismantle white supremacy and patriarchal systems of power, and; we have to show every LGBTQ+ kid out there that they have a future in a country and a world that can love them just as they are.
I am here to dig in, use some elbow grease, and help us get to that future. I am here to help guide our organization through this next chapter. And I am also here to listen. Please do not hesitate to reach out with your thoughts, questions, or your concerns.
Thank you for being in this work with us. We need you, we appreciate you, and, with your help, we will continue to advance LGBTQ+ equality together.
Joni Madison , Interim President , Human Rights Campaign