“We are going to get our country back.”
Chad Griffin is the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ rights organization in the country. And he said this with the urgency and hopefulness of a leader on the front lines of the resistance to the Trump administration. “This is a dark and dangerous moment for the country and for the world,” Griffin told me during the latest episode of “Cape Up,” “but we can actually do something about it.”
Human Rights Campaign is engaged in this year’s midterm elections, as it has in previous elections. But Griffin says this time is different. “We’ve never been engaged as early. We’ve never endorsed as many candidates as we’ve endorsed this time,” he said, noting the unprecedented number of staff and organizers working on key congressional races across the country. “This is the single largest grass-roots expansion in the history of our movement.”
Griffin has been involved in the LGBTQ rights movement for years. In 2009, he was a co-founder and president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. That organization’s mission was to challenge California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage. Griffin put together the bipartisan legal team of conservative Ted Olson and liberal David Boies that went all the way to the Supreme Court to get the ballot initiative overturned in 2013. Two years later, in United States v. Windsor, the court ruled that same-sex marriage was protected under the Constitution.
As head of Human Rights Campaign since 2012, Griffin travels constantly around the country. This gives him keen insight into the mood of the country. Despite these trying times, he’s plenty hopeful.
“I have never seen in my career the kind of grassroots energy and activism like we see today,” Griffin said. “I really do believe if you fast forward two years, four years, five years, we will look back at this moment and see it as one of the great awakenings of our democracy.” He went on to say, “Marginalized communities all across this country are turning out in massive numbers for a host of reasons, but at the forefront of that is who Donald Trump is, and what Donald Trump is doing to our communities. . . . I have never seen more coordination and more collaboration across social justice movements to stand up to fight back and to turn resistance . . . I find that word a bit too passive. But really turning the corner from resistance to action.”
But didn’t President Trump say he was going to be the greatest friend of the LGBTQ community ever? Griffin didn’t buy it for one second because of who Trump chose as his vice president. “Mike Pence has been at the forefront of attacks on our community for his entire life,” Griffin explained. “He is a man who has built his career attacking and undermining the rights of LGBTQ people. That’s who Donald Trump chose as his number two. And, quite frankly, that’s who’s playing the role of shadow president today.”
Listen to the podcast to hear Griffin detail why he believes Pence “is the most powerful vice president certainly in modern history.” Keep this in mind: Our conversation happened on the same day as the anonymous op-ed appeared in the New York Times. I hadn’t learned of its existence until after we had finished recording. In retrospect, what Griffin has to say has made me reassess who the op-ed’s unnamed author might be.
“There are direct lines from appointees in departments and agencies across this administration that are former Mike Pence employees, former Mike Pence staff, whether it’s policy staff or political staff,” said Griffin. “There’s no question that Mike Pence has been laying the groundwork to be president of the United States.”
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