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Nation’s largest LGBTQ group picks first Black woman as president

The vote to bring on Kelley Robinson comes more than a year after Human Rights Campaign directors fired Alphonso David for his role in advising the staff of former New York governor Andrew Cuomo on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations

Kelley Robinson, the new Human Rights Campaign president. (Human Rights Campaign)

Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, hired Kelley Robinson, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, as its new president Tuesday.

The vote to bring on Robinson came more than a year after the HRC’s directors fired its previous president, Alphonso David, for his role advising the staff of former New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations that eventually led to the governor’s resignation.

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Robinson, a Black woman who identifies as queer, said in an interview this week that she hoped to lead a “broad, intersectional coalition for change” that extends beyond the political sphere to include workplaces, schools and sports leagues.

“I am a community organizer, through and through, and I kind of look at the fight that is in front of me,” she said. “It has become clear that reproductive rights is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ issue in so many ways. They are coming for abortion rights, they are coming for marriage rights, they are coming for privacy.”

In a video made to accompanying her appointment, Robinson said she would prioritize making everyone feel included and heard in the HRC’s work, a continuation of a long-held effort by the organization to move beyond criticism that it focused too much on the interests of White, gay men.

“By standing here today, I am making a promise and commitment to carry this work forward, to ensure that if you have ever not seen yourself in this movement, you know that in this time we are here for you,” she said in the video. “This next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign is about getting to freedom and liberation without any exceptions.”

Robinson, whose first day at the HRC will be Nov. 28, began her career as an organizer for Obama for America in Missouri in 2008, before moving over to work for an affiliate of Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit network of facilities that provide sexual health care, including abortion services.

She served as associate director of youth engagement and national organizing director before becoming the executive director of the group’s political arm in 2019. Planned Parenthood Action Fund ran a $45 million electoral program in 2020.

Robinson is married to Becky George, a senior adviser for movement building at Everytown for Gun Safety. They have a 1-year-old child.

David, the group’s first Black president, was fired for “violation of HRC’s Conflict of Interest policy and the mission,” after a report by the New York attorney general revealed he had advised Cuomo’s team on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations while running the organization.

David, who is now the president of the Global Black Economic Forum, sued the HRC months later, alleging it had a “racist, biased culture” and had fired him because of his race. The HRC’s leadership has denied those claims and is contesting his lawsuit in a New York court.

Joni Madison, the HRC’s interim president who previously served as chief operating officer and chief of staff, is expected to stay at the organization.

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