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Community Profile: HRC is needed more than ever, local activists say

SAN DIEGO – As a local branch of the nation's largest LGBT civil-rights organization, HRC San Diego is a diverse congregation of volunteers who dedicate their time to amplify the presence of Human Rights Campaign and drive change in our community.

They are a force for positive action – working toward a society wherein LGBT Americans are able to secure equality and find a welcoming embrace at home and in the community.

Josh Tucker and Geri Rochino says they have the privilege of serving as Steering Committee co-chairs for HRC San Diego.

Josh originally began donating to HRC through the United Way while on active duty in the Marine Corps. Having came out while serving, and consequently separating from his girlfriend when feelings for other men had surfaced, Josh was immediately drawn to mission of HRC, finding in the organization many of fundamental values of fairness and equality that attracted him to the military. Today he still embraces these qualities as the core pillars in his life.

Geri joined HRC in 2008, fueled by the devastation of the passing of the discriminatory Proposition 8, which declared that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. That very day, she reached out to HRC to get more involved with the Steering Committee, making a conscious decision to stand up for what she believed in, for her family and for her community.

Read more about Josh and Geri in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News Q&A below.

What are your duties as Steering Committee co-chair?

Josh: The Steering Committee co-chairs at the time of my involvement were Joel Trambley and Lisa Mata. Joel and I spent a lot of time together playing softball and had become quite close. He introduced me to HRC locally. You see, HRC is a grassroots organization. With 33 Steering Committees across the country, HRC relies on local leadership to spread its message, gather support, and organize. Needing a Federal Club Co-Chair (The HRC Federal Club is an extraordinary group of leaders who support the Human Rights Campaign with a membership pledge of $100 per month or higher to fund HRC’s important advocacy work), and an earnest desire to grow the presence and following of HRC here in San Diego, Joel asked me to join the local leadership, become a Federal Club Member, and be the Federal Club Co-Chair. I needed to be part of the action and jumped at this opportunity.

Geri: As co-chairs we are responsible for the health and productivity of our committee. We ensure gender diversity as well as sexual and race diversity is represented on our committee. Our role is to be local leaders and serve as the faces of HRC in our community as well as the driving force of HRC’s mission locally. As a direct link between local volunteers and HRC Staff, we stay informed of HRC’s initiatives and policies. We also serve are Area Representatives to ensure the longevity of our Steering Committee is maintained. We are accountable for fundraising goals and programmatic work plans, provide fiduciary oversight, and create and sustain an inclusive environment on the Steering Committee and in our work.

How is HRC essential to the community as a whole?

Geri: We are one of the only organizations working to equalize the LGBT rights across the nation, and most recently across borders. In communities like San Diego, HRC isn’t the beacon of hope that it is Charlotte, or Atlanta, or Houston; it’s something more. In the states where our LGBT brothers and sisters don’t have the same rights as we do here in California, HRC provides them a platform to rise on. Here in California, by working with HRC, we are giving the gift of hope to our friends in the states that discriminate against them by providing them with the financial, social, and moral support that they need to keep fighting-to keep changing hearts. For example, Josh is from Idaho, and his LGBT friends back home live in a completely different world than he and his boyfriend here in California. HRC, however, takes all of the manpower we have here in California, in Washington, in New York, in all these very progressive states and sends that hope to the states that are still fighting for their jobs, their respect, and their way of life. HRC is needed more than ever, and every email we receive, and every phone call from friends in states that aren’t LGBT supportive, such as in Idaho where Josh is from, makes us fight harder and with more zeal. Without HRC the road to full equality would be longer and our community would be even more fractured.

Any upcoming events the community should know about?

Josh: We are so excited to announce the following events:

  • Dine with HRC San Diego as we support The LGBT Center by Dining Out for Life on April 24 at D Bar in Hillcrest.
  • ”Her HRC” on May 4 at Gossip Grill. This is an amazing women’s event. Silent Auction, VIP Guests from Kiss Her I’m Famous, and a live Date Auction with some of Hillcrest’s most eligible bachelorettes!
  • Memorial Day T Dance on the Bay presented by Michael Mack on May 25.
  • Our third annual Gala Dinner at the US Grant on August 16. Save the Date!

In your opinion, what is the highlight of the HRC?

Josh: We have the privilege of volunteering with the most amazing people we’ve ever met. Our Steering Committee members give countless hours a week bringing people together from all walks of life for the same cause: to advance the fundamental fairness and equality of all. We have created a new culture at HRC, one that thrives on the abilities of everyone and making volunteering fun. Part of being part of this highlight definitely includes being at the helm of an award winning team and recognizing the achievements of our incredible volunteer committee members. This year, HRC San Diego swept the Equality Awards at HRC’s Equality Convention in March. Having only ever received 3 awards, we nearly tripled that this year!

What are your satisfactions and dissatisfactions about the local LGBT community?

Josh: This is a tough one. HRC’s President Chad Griffin once said “There should never be any competition when it comes to other LGBT organizations, only potential partners.” Geri and I truly believe this and are working on it. Often, though, we find a little push back from other organizations because we belong to such a large organization. Or… other organizations see us as a big checkbook or are going to take their members donations from them. HRC is still relatively new to San Diego and we are still making a name for ourselves locally. San Diego has an amazing Center, the Imperial Court, a fabulous Pride organization, and countless other organizations. Don’t get me wrong: this is wonderful. The San Diego LGBT community is well represented and strongly resourced. Sometimes, though, we lose sight of the LGBT community outside America’s Finest City. We forget that 2.5 hours to the east our LGBT friends and loved ones live under a different set of rules. Our local organizations are so important for our local community, and most of our members belong to them, donate to them, and volunteer with them, but they support HRC because of our national goals. We’ve got it great here in San Diego but our brothers and sisters in the rest of the country are counting on us to help them advance equality in their neighborhoods.