The head of the largest queer-rights organization in the nation, the Human Rights Commission, Joe Solmonese announced that he will not be renewing his contract with the organization in March 2012. He will remain at the helm of HRC until his contract expires on March 31, 2012.
“Joe Solmonese is an outstanding leader,” Anne Fay, who co-chairs the Foundation Board of Directors, said in press release. “While we will miss his extraordinary leadership, we enter this next phase, thanks to Joe, in the best place the organization has ever been. Not only has our community secured historic victories, but our membership is larger and more active than at any time in our history, and our financial health is secure even in these difficult economic times.”
Solmonese headed the organization through tumultuous and exciting times for queer rights. He helped lobby for the repeal of the anti-gay, “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the armed forces and saw the legalization of gay marriage in New York, one of the nation’s most populous states. He was also the lead point, in many cases, in the Prop. 8 battle in California.
“Leading HRC has been an inspiring experience and a complete privilege,” said Solmonese in a press release. “I could not be more proud of our staff, our volunteer leadership and of the extraordinary progress we’ve made together as a community.”
When he took over HRC’s top seat, it had approximately 750,000 members. That number has grown to more than one million.
“HRC has never been stronger and after nearly seven years this is the right moment for me to move on,” said Solmonese. “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 re-elected for a second term.”
The four volunteer co-chairs of the organization will search for a replacement for Solmonese.
Solmonese, and HRC, have been lightning rods for controversy, including from the queer community who argue that it is an establishment group that too often ignores the plights of trans and bisexual citizens. One queer activist and blogger who manages the blog, Pam’s House Blend, has been calling for his resignation and a shakeup in HRC for some time now.
“With the perception of the HRC leadership as the province of wealthy white gay men living in gay-friendly environs, there are several questions HRC — including its board — will face,” she wrote on her blog about the resignation of Solmonese.
Solmonese was recently in Utah for the kick-off celebration of On the Road to Equality, a nationwide bus tour and awareness event.