I have worked with Family Equality for eight years, most recently as the Chief Policy Officer. But this organization’s mission and my personal journey have been intertwined for much longer than that. So, when our board of directors asked me to serve as Family Equality’s Chief Executive Officer on an interim basis while we conduct a national search for our new permanent CEO, I knew that my role in this movement demanded I step up.
I came to Family Equality after having been the Executive Director for Equality Michigan, and previous to that, a lawyer serving the needs of LGBTQ+ clients and their families. Although I had a successful career in business, I decided to go to law school for the sole purpose of advocating for lived and legal equality for LGBTQ+ people and families. I chose to follow that path after enduring years of discrimination in employment and in family court.
All this work has been driven by my own experiences coming out as transgender in 1992. Back then,there were no family resources for trans people, and the law was clearly against us. Much has changed in the decades since, but I’ve never forgotten the horrible feeling I had when my lawyer told me that I might lose all parental rights to my children solely because of my transition. I was also fired, more than once, because of my gender identity. Even for LGB people generally, the situation was bleak. Finding resources and community with other LGBTQ people – especially parents – was difficult, at best.
I felt alone and voiceless.
Family Equality exists, in part, so that no LGBTQ+ parent will have to feel the way I felt. Over the past 40 years, Family Equality has grown from a local support group into a national community-building organization and a visible advocate for LGBTQ+ families – in the legislatures, in the courts, and in public opinion. After my personal experience with bias, I leaped at the chance to work for an organization dedicated to ensuring both legal and lived equality for LGBTQ+ families.
I am extremely proud of the work we have done for our families. In the court ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land, Justice Kennedy drew upon Family Equality’s friend-of-the-court brief to emphasize the negative effects of a marriage ban on our families. After that landmark decision in 2015, we’ve worked hard to push back against those who have continued to attack our ability to form families—combatting attempts to limit access to adoption and foster care, prevent same-sex couples from having both names on their children’s birth certificates, allow medical providers to refuse us service, and more.
We haven’t merely been defensive. Just this year, in my work as Chief Policy Officer, I proudly led the campaign to pass the Child-Parent Security act, which legalized surrogacy in the state of New York and updated New York parentage law to be more inclusive of our families. This is only one example of the groundbreaking legislation that we have helped roll out for our families in states across the country.
In the courts, we continue to fight for equality. We recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S Supreme Court in the Fulton case to demonstrate the real harm that anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care does to both prospective LGBTQ+ parents and children in the child welfare system, particularly youth in foster care who identify as LGBTQ+.
Beyond the policy and legal arenas, we continue to form connections and challenge biased attitudes through our programs, events, and activities—whether it’s bringing community to computer screens in a pandemic or providing training to a variety of entities and businesses (such as schools, doctors, lawyers, adoption clinics, IVF facilities, etc.) who want to learn more about creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ individuals and families.
At every step in our struggle, Family Equality has been there, in no small part because of your unwavering support. But, as a nonprofit dependent upon the generosity of donors like you, we are experiencing a new challenge: how to keep moving forward amidst a pandemic that has severely impacted our funding.
COVID-19 has forced us to cancel both of our major fundraising events this year, our Night at the Pier in New York and our L.A. Impact Awards, as well as our beloved Family Week in Provincetown. As a result, we have cut our budget as much as we can, but we cannot continue this life-changing work without additional funds.
We know that even with a global pandemic, massive job loss, and a recession, our work is no less necessary, and we are determined to keep serving our families. No matter what happens in the upcoming election, we have a tremendous amount of work to do. Now, more than ever, Family Equality needs you and your support.
In the past, many of you have recognized the value of our work and made significant donations to fund it, and we have done some great things as a result. Won’t you make another gift today, to ensure we can build on this incredible legacy and protect our families?