News (USA)

Human Rights Campaign “amicably resolves” former leader’s lawsuit accusing it of racism

Former HRC President Alphonso David on MSNBC
Former HRC President Alphonso David on MSNBC

The LGBTQ+ rights organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has reached a confidential settlement with its former president Alphonso David. David had accused HRC of underpaying, belittling, and firing him for being Black, alleging that the organization was “rife” with racial discrimination.

In a joint statement issued mid-March, HRC and David said they had “amicably resolve[d]” David’s lawsuit adding, “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. 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.”

In June 2019, David became the first person of color ever to lead the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.

However, in August 2021, David was accused of helping cover up the alleged sexual misconduct of then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) while serving as Cuomo’s aide. The accusation was one of several in a report released by New York Attorney General Letitia James. James said David worked to discredit a woman who accused Cuomo of misconduct. David denied the accusations.

David then publicly said that a 30-day independent investigation conducted by Sidney Austin LLP had cleared David of any wrongdoing but that HRC board refused to publicly release the resulting report. HRC’s board said that David’s claims about the internal investigation and report were untrue.

Behind the scenes, some of HRC’s board chairs, HRC’s internal staff, and other outside groups and individuals who had previously worked with HRC wanted David to resign regardless. David said that two HRC chairs in particular, Jordie Patterson and Morgan Cox, requested that David resign to not be a distraction from the organization’s work. David refused. Then, in September 2021, HRC fired David for allegedly violating his contract with the organization.

Shortly after being fired, David issued a statement saying in part that HRC should “expect a legal challenge.” David subsequently told MSNBC that, because of his race, HRC treated him differently than past leaders who had faced controversies. David said he kept “well-documented notes” of conversations he had with HRC board members who had made discriminatory statements.

In February 2022, David sued HRC for racial discrimination, saying the organization had underpaid him and then terminated him because he is Black. He said a board member and a senior HRC executive told him to stop mentioning racism in public comments because “white gay men” who donate to the organization don’t want to hear it.

His lawsuit “sought damages for the firing and the loss of compensation and benefits stemming from his termination and asked to be reinstated,” Metro Weekly reported. Since his firing, David has become the president and chief executive officer of the Global Black Economic Forum. 

Founded in 1980, HRC has long faced criticism for its lack of inclusion of people of color and transgender people. The organization had seven leaders before David, and all of them were white and cis, and only two were women. HRC’s current president is a Black woman named Kelley Robinson.

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