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September 9, 2011

Joe Solmonese to leave Human Rights Campaign

Washington, D.C.--After seven years in the top position at the Human Rights Campaign, president Joe Solmonese will step down early next year.

Solmonese came to the organization in March 2005, after former president Cheryl Jacques stepped down the year before. At the time, Hilary Rosen was named interim director by the board of directors during the search that led to Solmonese’s hiring.

At the time, HRC was entrenched in the fight against a federal constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. Since then, Solmonese and HRC have, along with other LGBT organizations, racked up a number of political victories, from the passage of LGBT-inclusive hate crime legislation to the repeal of the military’s gay ban.

Solmonese will serve out the remainder of his contract, which expires March 31. The committee tasked with the search for his successor will be led by North Carolina’s Joni Madison and Californian Dana Perlman.

Pam Spaulding of the Pam’s House Blend blog said that the board of directors has selected a replacement for Solmonese, who she identified as a paid consultant with the organization.

However, Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner said that four sources “familiar with the situation describe that portion of the report as inaccurate--with one saying the process is just beginning and will not be rapid.”

Geidner also pointed out that the selection of Solmonese was a long process, and carried out very much in the public eye, with regular reports coming out from HRC on the search.

The consultant was identified by Geidner as Cathy Woolard, the lesbian former Atlanta City Council president who worked for HRC for seven years. Sources would not confirm what her involvement with HRC will be during the transition and search for a new executive director.

“From the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ to the recent passage of marriage equality in New York, Joe has made sure that HRC is an effective and strategic force for positive change,” said Tim Downing, a Cleveland attorney who co-chairs the HRC board of directors. “Over the course of his tenure, he’s set the tone for delivering real reform that matters in peoples’ everyday lives.”

Solmonese’s tenure has seen a 33 percent increase in the organization’s membership rolls, along with an increase in a number of its programs and efforts, including the public education programs and grassroots efforts, like the state campaign to pass same-sex marriage in New York.

“Leading HRC has been an inspiring experience and a complete privilege,” Solmonese said. “I could not be more proud of our staff, our volunteer leadership and of the extraordinary progress we’ve made together as a community.”

“HRC has never been stronger and after nearly seven years, this is the right moment for me to move on,” he continued. “As I explore new professional possibilities, I plan on continuing to pour my heart and soul into improving the lives of members of our community - from battling proposed marriage amendments to creating more equitable workplaces to ensuring that President Obama is reelected for a second term.”










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