Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights group, is leaving his post.

The HRC announced on Saturday that Solmonese has informed the board of directors that he will not renew his contract, which expires on March 31, 2012.

“Joe Solmonese is an outstanding leader,” said Anne Fay, who co-chairs the HRC Foundation Board. “While we will miss his extraordinary leadership, we enter this next phase, thanks to Joe, in the best place the organization has ever been. Not only has our community secured historic victories, but our membership is larger and more active than at any time in our history, and our financial health is secure even in these difficult economic times.”

Solmonese came on board in 2005. He was widely criticized in 2007 for his decision to back a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a workplace non-discrimination measure, that excluded gender identity (transgender protections).

The group also achieved major successes under his tenure, including passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and last year's historic repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” The policy is set to expire on September 20.

“Leading HRC has been an inspiring experience and a complete privilege,” Solmonese said. “I could not be more proud of our staff, our volunteer leadership and of the extraordinary progress we've made together as a community.”

Solmonese did not say what he planned to do next.