In 2010, Fred Sainz joined the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, as its Vice President of Communications and Marketing. Earlier this year, Sainz' work made headlines when nearly three million Facebook users changed their profile pictures to a modified version of the HRC logo to show support for marriage equality in the days leading up to the Supreme Court hearings on cases affecting the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8.
"Red, which is the color of love, was selected, basically, to represent the fact that what we are looking for is for the Supreme Court to recognize long-term committed and loving relationships of gay people," Sainz said of the new-look logo, which received an estimated nine million views and 60,000 shares in the campaign's first 24 hours. "There's a lot of serious conversation going on and there's an awful lot of important concepts that the Supreme Court justices are discussing. What this logo going viral means is individuals have reduced it to a very straightforward concept. It shows the enthusiasm and the passion."
Inspired by the fact that his work is helping to unite people, both gay and straight, in the spirit of equality, I reached out to Sainz earlier this week to discuss his work with the Human Rights Campaign, how he's making a difference in the LGBTQ community and Alan Downs' book The Velvet Rage.
CL: What are you up to these days?
FS: Today I'm preparing for the mark-up of the immigration reform bill, working with reporters on the one-year anniversary of President Obama's support for marriage equality and getting ready for the Supreme Court decisions on the two marriage cases, DOMA and Prop 8. I'm also taking press calls and answering hundreds of emails.
CL: What role does the HRC play in assisting with issues like immigration reform and the Supreme Court's decisions on the two marriage cases?
FS: The Human Rights Campaign is a partner in the coalition effort aimed at LGBTQ inclusion in the immigration bill and my boss, Chad Griffin, the President of the Human Rights Campaign, was the founding president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the sponsor of the Prop 8 case, so my job is to lead the messaging efforts from the HRC's perspective on these issues.
CL: Speaking of messaging, can you share a bit about the movement back in March that saw millions of people change their profile pictures to a modified version of the HRC logo in support of marriage equality?
FS: First of all, I think the show of support went well beyond just marriage equality. It was a moment when people from all walks of life, not just LGBTQ people or even our straight allies, were looking for a way to show their support for equality. That event allowed everyone to have a role and to show their support. Supreme Court deliberations are so highbrow that I think the genius of the moment was giving people something to do that everyone could accomplish.
CL: How is what you're doing making a difference in the LGBTQ community?
FS: I don't think of it that way. I would like to think that I make a difference, and I certainly believe that the HRC's work is strategic and impactful, but I think things go horribly wrong when you are convinced that you are the difference. I think it's important to be respectful and inclusive of a broad array of perspectives and work plans. We're a social justice movement and it has and will continue to take the efforts of all of us to achieve full and legal equality for every LGBTQ American.
CL: What LGBTQ issue are you most passionate about?
FS: All of them, really, because there's no one issue that solely guarantees us equality. We have to pursue multiple and simultaneous paths to make sure that we get it all. And that's why I love working for a multi-issue advocacy organization like the Human Rights Campaign.
If you nailed me to a wall and said I had to choose one, I would say issues that affect our youth are most important to me. I remember being a scared 13-year-old gay kid with feelings of isolation wondering when the cavalry would arrive and come to my rescue. I'm now that cavalry and it's a responsibility I don't take lightly.
CL: Can you name the one person whose contribution to the LGBTQ community has inspired you most?
FS: I think about Harvey Milk virtually every day. Eight out of every 10 Americans know someone who is LGBTQ. In my opinion, we have come as far as we have because it's virtually impossible to continue to discriminate against us the more you know us, so I see the genius of Harvey's strategy and thinking every day.
CL: If you had to recommend one book, movie or song with an LGBTQ bent, what would your recommendation be?
FS: It bears mentioning, and the author is very upfront about this, that it's a book intended solely for gay men, but I would recommend The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs. It should be required reading for every gay man in America. A friend of mine gave it to me two years ago and it has changed my life. I now understand so many of my actions as a gay man.
CL: What do you hope for the LGBTQ community?
FS: I hope for full and legal equality within my lifetime for all LGBTQ Americans. It's a tremendous privilege to be working on these issues at this point in history and I never forget that we stand on the shoulders of so many amazing people who paved the way for what is now possible.