Change is coming.
It’s coming to the fight for LGBTQ+ equality.
It’s coming to the Human Rights Campaign.
And it is coming at a pivotal moment, as we face both unprecedented threats to undo hard-fought civil rights victories and a generational opportunity to rise to these challenges and create real, sustainable change. This moment calls for a changemaker at the helm of the Human Rights Campaign.
That changemaker is Kelley Robinson (she/her), whose history-making tenure at HRC officially began on Nov. 28.
Robinson is a widely respected leader in the progressive movement and is the inspirational, innovative leader who will galvanize our organization and our movement to meet this moment and the future we are fighting for. Robinson is HRC’s ninth president and the first Black, queer woman to lead the organization.
“I firmly believe that we are entering the next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign at a pivotal moment and with a powerful mandate,” said Robinson. “This next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign is about getting to equality and liberation for all. Period, and without exception.”
Without exception means every single member of the LGBTQ+ community will be free and liberated, and without anybody being left behind.
“If these last years have taught us anything, it’s that playing small doesn’t serve us. Being incremental doesn’t serve us. And we don’t get anywhere by leaving anyone behind,” said Robinson. “So we are going deep on our commitment to trans justice. We are going deeper on our commitment to racial justice. This next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, we are going to be building political power to win today and rebuild our democracy tomorrow.”
Robinson comes to HRC after serving as the executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, where she led the organization and its 18 million supporters in its efforts to ensure all people have access to healthcare as a human right. Robinson created strategic programs that expanded outreach to new communities, significantly growing membership and engagement, resulting in an increase in the number of supporters from 6.5 million in 2012 to over 18 million today, with an emphasis on young people and people of color.
An effective fundraiser, Robinson helped to quadruple the annual budget resulting in a $50 million dollar electoral program in 2020, the largest electoral program in PPAF’s history — which played a game-changing role in driving impact and wins in state, local and federal campaigns as well as electoral advocacy efforts.
Robinson also previously served as PPAF’s national organizing director and associate director of youth engagement. Her roots are in organizing — she started her career in advocacy as an organizer, first with Obama for America in Missouri in 2008, where she registered more than 30% of young people attending local colleges to vote, and mobilized tens of thousands of others to engage with the campaign.
Many people talk about the potential for young people to make transformational change — but Robinson has actually driven that change in her work with the Obama campaign and in the fight for reproductive rights. She built a movement of young people — the most diverse our nation has ever seen — in communities and college campuses to advocate for issues that matter to them.
Robinson has spent the entirety of her life learning from the lessons from those who came before her and drawing on hope and optimism to push through adversity. She spent her summers in Muscatine, Iowa, where her ancestors were the first free Black family. Her ancestors dreamed of a reality that they never had the opportunity to experience. This legacy taught Robinson that anything is possible, even in the midst of a crisis.
And we are most certainly in a crisis, Robinson said.
“Whether you care about voting rights or trans kids in schools or abortion access, no matter what the issue is, we are all experiencing an acute crisis right now. Specifically the LGBTQ+ community,” said Robinson. “But the real facts of the matter are that even though this moment is dark and it’s hard, there is immeasurable opportunity in front of us for what’s possible for our people. Because with crisis, there’s always this moment of reckoning that comes. And with reckoning, there’s an opportunity for transformation in ways we’ve never seen, felt or experienced before.”
Our crisis is exacerbated by our extremist opponents who will stop at nothing to strip us of our hard-fought rights and do everything in their power to prevent us from future gains. From Justice Clarence Thomas to Tucker Carlson to Marjorie Taylor Greene — they are not only trying to come for the last 50 years, but the last 400, Robinson said.
And they are viciously attacking the LGBTQ+ community — from criminalizing medically necessary gender-affirming care for trans youth, to banning discussion about LGBTQ+ people in schools, and even prohibiting trans youth from playing sports with their peers.
“They’re saying they don’t think that we’re free and equal. They don’t think that we should have control over our bodies. They don’t think that we are full participants in this democracy,” said Robinson. “But I know somebody came here today to show them how wrong they are. Because we are one Supreme Court decision away from losing so many of our hard-fought-for rights. But the other side of that is we are just one election away from being closer to freedom than we’ve ever been before. Here at the Human Rights Campaign, we’re doing everything that we can, every day that we can, to win. Because we know that it’s too important not to.”
And we will do it all with joy, Robinson said.
“This next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign is going to be about joy. We are gonna build a world where every LGBTQ+ person can be healthy, safe, celebrated and, yes, joyful in every area of our lives. Let’s do it together.”