The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Human Rights Campaign settles racial bias lawsuit with former leader

Alphonso David, seen in 2020. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post)
2 min

The nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group has “amiably” reached a confidential settlement with its former president, Alphonso David, who accused the group of racial bias after he was fired in 2021, the two parties said in a statement Wednesday.

The announcement of the settlement, which included no details of the terms, brings to a close a challenging period for the Human Rights Campaign, which was thrown into turmoil after disclosures about David’s role in helping advisers to Andrew M. Cuomo (D), then the New York governor, respond to allegations that he had sexually harassed a subordinate. Cuomo ultimately resigned after a probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) office found that he harassed 11 women.

David was dismissed from the HRC after James revealed that he had helped seek signatories for a letter that sought to undermine the credibility of Cuomo’s first sexual harassment accuser, Lindsey Boylan. The revelations led to an uprising among some low-level HRC staff, who suggested David’s resignation during an internal meeting.

David responded months after his dismissal with a lawsuit alleging a “racist, biased culture” at the HRC, and claiming that he had been fired “because he is Black.” The HRC denied those claims, saying in court filings that the reasons for his firing were legitimate. The group said that a White board member had been dismissed during his tenure for making “several comments believed to be inappropriate.”

“HRC and Mr. David share the mission of advancing human rights for all LGBTQ+ people and realizing a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all,” the two parties said in their statement. “Mr. David and HRC agree it is in their mutual best interests, and the interests of the communities that they serve, to put this matter behind them.”

David and HRC declined requests for further comment.

A person close to David, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the confidential settlement, said that the former president of the organization “seems extremely pleased” by the “positive conclusion.” David now works as the president and CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum.

The HRC named a new president, Kelley Robinson — the first Black woman to hold the post — in September.