New Leaders at Human Rights Campaign Bring State Political Muscle to Fight for Equality

by HRC Staff

'Our focus reaches far beyond Washington and extends to every community of every single American, where equality starts or stalls,' said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. 'Marty and Samantha bring critical expertise in state-level politics that's essential in securing rights and protections state by state where many of our battles are won or lost.'

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign announced the hiring of Samantha Smoot as the organization's new political director and Marty Rouse as the new field director. With significant experience in state-level and national politics, Rouse and Smoot reflect HRC President Joe Solmonese's priority of fighting for equality with sustained effort in state capitals as well as the nation's capital.

"Our focus reaches far beyond Washington and extends to every community of every single American, where equality starts or stalls," said Solmonese. "Marty and Samantha bring critical expertise in state-level politics that's essential in securing rights and protections state by state, where many of our battles are won or lost."

Solmonese added, "Leading a team of field and political staff, Sam and Marty will extend our reach and provide even smarter and stronger resources to our state allies on the ground. Both have a record of accomplishment and political savvy that's necessary to move the equality agenda in Congress and statehouses."

Samantha Smoot is a seasoned political leader. Most recently, she designed and managed a project training women in Lebanon to run for Parliament while at the National Democratic Institute. From 1998 to 2004, Smoot was the president of the Texas Freedom Network, leading a 22,000-member organization defending religious freedom and individual liberties. She also worked with Solmonese as a member of the EMILY's List political staff, doing liaison work with House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates. Her experience also includes time with several campaigns and leading the Washington office of U.S. Rep. Ken Bentsen, D-Texas, as administrative assistant.

"The national discussion over gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues is about the lives of real Americans who are part of almost every workplace, house of worship, neighborhood and family in this country," said Smoot. "Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender concerns are America's concerns because equality and fairness are America's agenda. We are going to take that message to our elected leaders at every level of government until every family in this country has the same protections."

"Sam has been fighting the forces opposed to fairness and equality on the state level for many years," said America Votes President Cecile Richards, who has worked with Smoot for several years. "She knows first-hand how the far right's political machine works - and how progressive coalitions can defeat it. She will bring tremendous political and leadership skills to the Human Rights Campaign."

"I look forward to Log Cabin's continued collaboration with HRC's new political and field team," said Patrick Guerrero, president of the Log Cabin Republicans. "As we work to add more Republicans to our winning coalition in Congress and state capitals, HRC is a valued partner."

At the height of the marriage battle in Massachusetts, Marty Rouse joined MassEquality as campaign director and led the defeat this year of an anti-marriage constitutional amendment in the state. Rouse also worked to advance Vermont civil unions and has been a community organizer since the early 1980s. In political campaigns, Rouse has served as the New York City field director for President Bill Clinton's first primary campaign and was Vermont state director for the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1996. He also served in the Clinton administration, both at the Departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development.

"We can and will achieve victories in town halls, statehouses and in the halls of Congress," said Rouse. "Our potential lies in harnessing the amazing energy and passion of the millions of Americans who yearn for fairness."

"I congratulate HRC for bringing Marty's professionalism to the national stage. HRC has chosen an outstanding organizer. For close to 10 years, I have seen Marty's political organizing skills first-hand in Vermont. Today, there are dozens more fair-minded legislators in Vermont because of Marty's personal commitment to fairness, his tremendous work ethic and his unmatched political savvy," said Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former governor of Vermont.

"We are sorry to see Marty go but glad to know that his considerable talents will now be put to use nationally assisting HRC in its work," said Elyse Cherry, the president of MassEquality's board. "Marty has served as MassEquality's campaign director since January of 2004 and has been instrumental in the enormous success we have had in protecting equal marriage in the commonwealth. He has been both shrewd political tactician and elegant ambassador for our cause. As a central architect of our electoral strategy, Marty knew how to focus resources and message. He also knew how to solidify support in the community, so that we would have the funds necessary to do our work. We are more prepared for what lies ahead because of Marty's leadership since 2004," added Cherry.

"As we've been proud to do since the fight for marriage fairness started in Massachusetts, the Human Rights Campaign will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with MassEquality," added Solmonese. "The group is a model for achieving victory at the state level."

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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