The Arkansas native who became the director of the Human Rights Campaign last year says recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions show progress in the push for gay rights but more work needs to be done.
Speaking Monday during a public lecture at the Clinton School of Public Service, Chad Griffin said laws including those that prevent gays from marrying in certain states send a message to young gay people that they are "second-class citizens."
"That's why we have to fight this fight," he said. "We have to change that. A young LGBT person in this country should be able to grow up with the exact same hopes, dreams, aspirations and, yes, challenges as their straight peers. And we've got to ensure that reaches them sooner than later."
Griffin called the high court's moves to strike down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and to allow gay marriage to resume in California "historic" decisions that sent those "two symbols of discrimination ... to the dustbin of history." But, he said, full equality hasn't been reached.
"The arm of justice wasn't felt in places like Arkansas or places like Texas," Griffin said. "Now we've got to work like we've never worked before ... We've got to fight with a great sense of urgency. Because every single day of delay, there's a consequence to the life of that young person."
Griffin, an Arkadelphia native, expressed optimism that opinions are changing, noting that polls show increasing favorability toward gay marriage. Earlier Monday, he spoke at a news conference announcing a bipartisan poll shows a majority of Arkansans under 30 now support gay marriage.
"The politicians better wake up," he said to loud applause at the packed Clinton School. "They better wake up."