Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Human Rights Campaign selects its first Black, queer female leader

Kelley Robinson, the former executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, will serve as the organization’s first permanent president in more than a year.
Human Rights Campaign staff and volunteers attend a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court on Thursday, June 17, 2021 in Washington following the Fulton decision. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for The Human Rights Campaign)

Story at a glance


  • Kelley Robinson will lead the Human Rights Campaign as the organization’s first Black, queer female president, the group said Tuesday.

  • Robinson has been executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund since 2019. She began her career as an organizer for former President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign in Missouri.

  • Robinson is the Human Rights Campaign’s first permanent leader in more than a year. Alphonso David, the group’s former president, was removed from his post last September for advising the office of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has tapped Kelley Robinson, the former executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, as the next president of the national LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. Robinson will be the first Black, queer woman to lead the group.

“This is a pivotal moment in our movement for equality for LGBTQ+ people,” Robinson said Tuesday in a news release announcing her appointment. “We, particularly our trans and BIPOC communities, are quite literally in the fight for our lives and facing unprecedented threats that seek to destroy us.”

“We are just one Supreme Court decision away from losing fundamental freedoms including the freedom to marry, voting rights, and privacy,” Robinson said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision to roll back federal abortion protections in June and an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas that suggests the Court should revisit landmark rulings including Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S.

The HRC this summer has championed the House-passed Respect for Marriage Act, organizing petitions that urge undecided senators to back the measure that would enshrine marriage equality in federal law and mobilizing businesses including IBM and Starbucks to help get the legislation passed.


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Robinson on Tuesday thanked the LGBTQ+ advocates that came before her for being “willing to disrupt” and make sure that LGBTQ+ voices are not silenced.

“By standing here today, I am making a promise and commitment to carry this work forward to ensure that if you’ve ever not seen yourself in this movement, you know that in this time we are here for you,” Robinson said in a video message posted to HRC’s Twitter account. 

“I’m here for every trans kid that’s been kicked out of a sports program; I’m here for every person that has been attacked or criminalized just for being who they are in their full expression of their gender identity; I’m here for every person that lives at the intersection of our world,” Robinson said. “Maybe you are queer and Black like me. Maybe you are differently abled; maybe you live in a rural area. I’m here for all of us in this next chapter of HRC.”

Robinson is the organization’s first permanent leader in more than a year, with the group’s former Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer Joni Madison filling in as its interim president since last September.

Former HRC President Alphonso David — the organization’s first Black president — was removed from his position last year after it was discovered he had advised the office of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal.

Robinson, who is set to take her post on Nov. 28, began her career as a community organizer for former President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign in Missouri, where she attended college. The Iowa native has spent more than a decade on the front lines of the progressive movement as an organizer for Planned Parenthood and Unite for Gender Equity (URGE).

“Kelley is widely respected for her work and leadership creating diverse winning coalitions, building political power with a focus on underserved and the most marginalized communities, and creating programs that change culture,” HRC Board Chairs Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson said Tuesday in a joint statement.

“These past months have reminded us why equality and liberation work is so important and we believe Kelley Robinson is the exact person to help us lead the fight for all LGBTQ+ people around the world.”