WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, announced its 2021 members of the HRC and HRC Foundation Boards of Directors.
“These exceptional leaders bring a wealth of experience, passion and knowledge to our Boards of Directors, and I am thrilled by the opportunity to work closely with them going forward,” said Human Rights Campaign Interim President Joni Madison. “As we continue to confront the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, this dynamic group of leaders will help us move our work fighting for full LGBTQ+ equality for everyone in our community, in all of our intersectional identities, forward. I am honored by their commitment to our movement.”
“The work of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation is life-saving to the communities we serve, in particular those of who are multiply marginalized. The addition of our new Board members will strengthen our ability to continue our fight against discrimination in all its forms, including racism, transphobia and sexism, biases which continue to hit our community the hardest,” said Human Rights Campaign Foundation Board Chair Jodie Patterson. “I look forward to working together as we continue to fight for full LGBTQ+ equality.”
“The Human Rights Campaign’s political work remains just as important as ever. We are working to pass the Equality Act, fight back against anti-trans legislation in statehouses across the country and ensure LGBTQ+ people continue to be represented at all levels of government,” said Human Rights Campaign Board Chair Morgan Cox. “I welcome our new Board members and look forward to working collaboratively to continue to build HRC’s political power.”
The new Board members, who have all joined over the course of this summer and fall, are listed below. They each serve on one or both of our two boards, the HRC Board of Directors or the HRC Foundation Board of Directors. Many also serve on our local Steering Committees and volunteer in their local communities.
Aaron Walton, He/Him/His, Los Angeles
Recognized as a trailblazer and thought leader, Aaron Walton’s focus on innovation and cultural engagement has transformed traditional marketing and advertising strategies, driving unprecedented results for clients. As the CEO / co-founder of Walton Isaacson (WI), a full-service advertising agency, with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and New York, Aaron’s focus is squarely on identifying unseen opportunities rooted in cultural insights and connections. He is transforming the definition of the agency model by prioritizing diversity of thinking, encouraging disruption, and homing in on strategic solutions that defy tradition.
Aaron’s commitment to valuing differences and building cultural inclusion has helped WI win
recognition as an agency from Advertising Age, Black Enterprise, Inc. magazine, OUT magazine, the Hispanic Public Relations Association, and The Internationalist. ADCOLOR, one of the industry’s most influential diversity change agents, recognized Aaron with an Advocacy Award for his exceptional contributions to the LGBTQ+ community, and Business Equality Magazine named him a Pride Legacy Leader. Additionally, WI was named Southern California’s Minority “Supplier of The Year'' for their work with Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. – Lexus Division for an unprecedented sixth time in eight years.
Brian Michael Smith, He/Him/His, Los Angeles
Brian Michael Smith has already made a name for himself in the world of entertainment. He is perhaps best known for his recurring role on OWN's “Queen Sugar” as well as appearances on NBC's “Chicago P.D.,” HBO's “Girls” and Showtime thriller “Homeland.”
Smith, originally hailing from Michigan, is an LGBTQ+ advocate, coming out as transgender in 2017 after successfully working in the industry for five years. He has volunteered at the Manhattan LGBT+ Center and has served on countless panels across the country.
Smith studied acting at Kent State University. Upon graduation, he began teaching drama and media literacy to teens until he moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting.
Smith currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife.
Christina Hernandez, She/Her/Hers, Austin
Christina Hernandez is Managing Partner of Living In Recovery- an agency that works with an under resourced population providing an inclusive environment for individuals to receive intensive outpatient chemical dependency counseling and psychoeducational programming.
Christina has a Master of Arts in Urban Planning & Development. Her passion for planning has translated into 20 years of leading corporate operations specializing in ethical corporate governance and team leadership theory. Christina has extensive experience in strategic planning, direct annual budgeting and planning processes, and forecasts of organization's financial performance against budget, financial, and operational goals. She serves as primary liaison to legal counsel in addressing legal issues e.g., copyright, antitrust, governing instruments, partnerships, licensing etc.
Christina is a long-time advocate, volunteer, and financial supporter of HRC and its mission. She has served as a Board of Governor and on the Executive Committee as PACE Co-Chair. She has held various roles locally with the HRC- Austin Steering Committee: Volunteer Engagement Co-Chair, PACE Co-Chair, Dinner Co-Chair, SC Co-Chair, and Area Rep. She has continuously attended lobby days on Capitol Hill in Washington DC as well as at the Texas State Legislature seeking support for the Equality Act and other legislation to further full equality for the LGBTQIA+ community.
She supports, through volunteer work and as a donor, various organizations throughout the local community, including Human Rights Campaign- Federal Club Council members, LifeWorks- Legacy Circle Founding Members, Out Youth, Aids Services of Austin, and aGliff (All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival).
Gwen Baba, She/Her/Hers, Los Angeles
Gwen Baba is a general partner in commercial real estate investments, with holdings in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. Gwen joined the board of directors of the Human Rights Campaign in 1996. She retired from the HRC Foundation board in the fall of 2019. Gwen was a two-term board co-chair, held a leadership position with HRC's Capital Campaign, having helped oversee the purchase and renovation of HRC's permanent home in Washington, DC; twice co-chaired the executive search committee; and co-chaired HRC's first-ever strategic planning committee. She has co-chaired various board committees and task forces throughout her terms of service. Gwen joined the Emeritus Council in 2019 and is involved with HRC's Oral History Project. Gwen continues to be active in the HRC Los Angeles Steering Committee through the annual dinner, major donor fundraising, as co-chair of the corporate sponsor committee, and as a mentor to local HRCLA leaders.
Gwen is a longtime resident of Los Angeles and shares her home with her daughter, now a college student in the east. They share a love of theater, all manner of live performances and their Los Feliz neighborhood.
James Costos, He/Him/His, Madrid/LA/New York
James Costos, an American diplomat and former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Spain and Principality of Andorra, serving under President Obama. (September 13, 2013 - January 20, 2017).
He is currently President of Secuoya Studios in Madrid, a Senior Advisor at FC Barcelona and Senior Managing Director in the Global Venture Technology Group at Dentons Law Firm. He also sits on the Board of Directors of PJT Partners, a global advisory investment bank, Grifols S.A., a Spanish based pharmaceutical and healthcare multinational, and Giffords Courage, an advocacy and research organization focused on promoting gun control.
He is a passionate supporter of several humanitarian and cultural organizations, and is a strong advocate for cultural diplomacy. He also enjoys mentoring Fellows at the Obama Foundation and the Schmidt Science Fellows Foundation.
Ambassador Costos splits his time between Los Angeles, California, New York City and Madrid with his partner of 20 years, Michael S. Smith and their three dogs.
Jay Kuo, He/Him/His, New York
Jay Kuo is CEO of The Social Edge, an NYC-based digital publishing and social media company that works with celebrities and influencers to drive engagement and to generate one of the largest traffic footprints on the Internet. Jay is also a Tony-winning producer and the composer of the Broadway musical Allegiance, which tells the story of the Japanese American internment. He received an A.B. from Stanford and his J.D. from the U.C. Berkeley School of Law, where he served as student body president and co-founded the Asian Law Journal.
Jay is an appellate litigator admitted to practice before the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. He has served on the boards of the Northern California ACLU and the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom and has litigated LGBTQ+ civil rights cases including the first West Coast challenge to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
Johnnie Lee, He/Him/His, New Jersey
Dr. Johnnie Lee is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician with experience in pharmacovigilance (Boehringer Ingelheim and Janssen) and medical and scientific affairs (Roche Diagnostics, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, and Johnson & Johnson). He currently serves as Global Medical Affairs Leader for the HIV portfolio within Global Public Health at Johnson & Johnson. He is accountable for the medical strategy to improve access to HIV treatment and prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Lee received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biology, a Master of Public Health Degree, and a Doctor of Medicine Degree from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the Eastern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine. His clinical practice for over 17 years included Internal Medicine, HIV Care, and Public Health.
Dr. Lee enjoys traveling, cooking, the NYC theater and arts scenes, and any excuse to go to the beach. He lives in New Jersey with his husband, Darryl and two small dogs, Madison and Gaston.
Layne Rackley, He/Him/His, San Diego
Layne Rackley is a financial executive with over 35 years’ professional experience in finance, audit and compliance. He is a Certified Public Accountant and is currently Chief Financial Officer for a large real estate sales firm.
Throughout his career Layne has demonstrated strong organizational skills with an aptitude for risk management, process improvement and financial controls. In addition to his current role as a CFO he has worked as an independent Certified Public Accountant, Internal Auditor, and Investigator for the United States government. In 2014 he was named CFO of the Year by the San Diego Business Journal.
Layne has been involved with HRC since 2001. He served on the San Diego Steering Committee from 2013 to 2021 and was a member of HRC’s Board of Governors from 2015 to 2021. He has worked on several HRC national committees including Board Development, Federal Club and Finance.
As a father, Layne knows all children deserve a safe place in society and particularly in schools. He strives to foster inclusivity across all sectors of the LGBTQ+ community and to ensure everyone has a voice and a place at the table.
For a full list of the HRC and HRC Foundation Board of Directors, please visit this link.
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