Politics

As LGBT Rights Move Forward, Human Rights Campaign Focuses On States Left Behind

Brad Clark is leaving Colorado’s LGBT rights group to help the national organization with advancing its issues in states where they are lagging. “[M]y married friends in Iowa can literally get on a plane and, when they land in another state, their family is no longer recognized,” Clark says.

Courtesy of Brad Clark

WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of the Supreme Court wins on marriage issues this June, the Human Rights Campaign is bringing a successful state advocate to D.C. to help the organization narrow the gap between states that have made significant progress on LGBT issues and those that have thus far been left behind.

Saying it’s time for him “to take on a new challenge,” Brad Clark is leaving his role as the executive director at One Colorado — the state’s LGBT rights group — to join HRC next month as its director of programmatic development. Prior to joining One Colorado in May 2010, Clark was the campaign director at One Iowa.

“At my core, I’m still from what many people would describe as a flyover state. We’ve made huge advancements in both Iowa and then in Colorado. I have that small-town experience, and I think that’s a really important voice in moving things forward,” Clark told BuzzFeed Thursday.

“The other thing is I’m really a firm believer that we need to build authentic relationships with various people across the board, including Republicans, Libertarians, and people of faith.”

The hire is one of HRC President Chad Griffin’s few high-profile hires since taking the helm of the largest LGBT rights group last June and Griffin’s first high-profile hire from outside of D.C. Clark will report to Ana Ma, a former Obama administration Labor Department official who became HRC’s chief operating officer and chief of staff this month.

“Brad has the experience and expertise to ensure our work is touching LGBT people in every corner of this country,” Griffin said of Clark’s hire in a statement.

Talking about his decision to move to D.C. at the end of the month and start at HRC on Oct. 7, Clark said, “It’s just really incredible to me that my married friends in Iowa can literally get on a plane and, when they land in another state, their family is no longer recognized.” He explains his role at HRC as one “helping bridge that divide in figuring new and coordinating strategies that already exist in helping bridge that divide between the two Americas.”

Asked if his new role is an attempt to continue an organizational focus on marriage to the exclusion of other, non-marriage work, Clark said, “No, absolutely not. I grew up in a small town in Iowa. I really know the feeling, how folks feel growing up in a rural or small community and the need to really address everything, from school safety to employment discrimination. We have a patchwork of protections throughout our country on various issues that are impacting our community.”

In discussing his hire, HRC officials pointed to Colorado’s civil unions and anti-bullying laws, as well as transgender protections in health care, as among Clark’s successes in the state.

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Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Geidner covers the Supreme Court and also reports extensively on LGBT legal issues around the country. Geidner won the 2014 National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact this reporter at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com
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