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Amid claims that she was fired, HRC has announced that its president for less than a year, Cheryl Jacques, is stepping down.
“Cheryl has achieved a great deal as HRC president,” said Gwen Baba, a co-chair of HRC’s board of directors via a press release posted on their official website. “We will miss her professionalism, but we understand her desire to move on to other challenges.”
But despite the fact that the release indicates Jacques had resigned, according to PlanetOut, HRC, through a spokesman, did not deny that Jacques had been let go. The official release does state that Jacques cited “a difference in management philosophy” as her reason for resigning.
Jacques, a former state senator from Massachusetts, came on board in January, replacing Elizabeth Birch, who led HRC for eight years. During her brief tenure, Jacques saw the agency through a period of continued growth. The operating budget for 2004 was a record $30 million, and membership peaked at over 600,000.
“My priorities were to defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment, expand the organization’s membership and fundraising capacity, increase our diversity and maintain a strong voice in the media,” Jacques said in the statement.
A notch in her belt was surely the defeat of the FMA in Congress. But some say the election results – including the passage of anti-equal marriage amendments in 11 states – was a detractor. In August, HRC paid for an 18-wheeler to circle the Republican National Convention in New York with the agency’s logo and the message, “George Bush: You’re fired!” Ultimately, of course, he wasn’t, and some say the convention stunt was not smart.
“I do think it was a mistake to turn HRC into a branch of the Kerry campaign,” said political commentator Andrew Sullivan to Metro Weekly, a gay and lesbian magazine in Washington. “The ‘George Bush: You’re Fired’ slogan was foolish in so far as it now makes any relationship with the administration and the congressional leadership all but impossible.”
Locally, HRC insiders greeted the news of Jacques’ departure with calm resignation.
“I have complete faith in the board of directors of HRC,” said Gary Baglio, who chaired this year’s HRC Michigan dinner event, which Jacques attended to present at $350,000 check to the Coalition of a Fair Michigan. “She seemed very personable, very genuine and I’m sure if this is an amicable decision it’s one for the best and the betterment of the organization as a whole.”
Michelle Brown, a resident of Detroit and member of HRC’s board of governors, agreed.
“I work in the non-profit world and sometimes – just like life in general – everything’s right but it doesn’t fit,” she said. “And at that point, everyone has to step back, look at the bigger picture and make the right decision, and I think that’s what happened.”
Brown said she wishes Jacques only the best.
“I liked Cheryl and I think she did a fine job in fighting the federal marriage amendment. She brought a lot of great ideals and I’m sure many of them will be incorporated as HRC moves forward.”
Jacques has not announced any future plans. Meanwhile, the co-chairs of HRC’s board of directors, Michael Berman and Hilary Rosen, who is Birch’s life partner, will lead the organization through its transition and begin the search for Jacques’ replacement.
“HRC has a very deep bench of experienced and talented senior staff who are already working on new strategies in the fight for equality,” said Berman.