Victory announces new President and CEO

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute on Thursday announced that Aisha C. Moodie-Mills will be the group's next President and CEO.

Moodie-Mills comes to Victory from the Center for American Progress, where she served as a senior fellow and director of the FIRE Initiative that explores the intersections of race, class, and sexuality. She has worked as a political advisor, private-sector liaison, and fundraiser to more than 50 members of Congress, including six senators and the Congressional Black Caucus. Before joining American Progress, she was the president of Synergy Strategy Group, a boutique fundraising and political consulting firm where she raised millions of dollars for candidates and advocacy organizations.

Moodie-Mills also made headlines as a key strategist and spokesperson for the campaign to bring marriage equality to the District of Columbia, where she and her wife Danielle were among the first same-sex couples to receive a marriage license.

Her work and publications have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Atlantic, Black Enterprise, The Washington Post, Essence, Politico, Ebony, The Huffington Post, and Uptown Magazine, and she also appears regularly as a political commentator on MSNBC.

“We believe that Aisha is exactly the person Victory needs to usher in an innovative and holistic approach to creating a pipeline for exceptional LGBT leadership and public officials," said Kim Hoover, chair of the Victory Fund board. "To us, Aisha represents the future of the LGBT movement. We are at a pivotal moment and in order to continue our momentum we need the insight and energy that Aisha brings to the job."

Mike Holloman, chair of the Victory Institute board, concurred, adding, “Her ideas for building a strong and visible network of LGBT leaders in public life aligns perfectly with Victory’s mission, but her vision to greatly amplify the impact of those leaders is what really captured the board’s attention.”

“Aisha’s enthusiasm for the vast potential of the LGBT movement is infectious,” said Michael Grover, who chairs the new One Victory board. “She understands how important LGBT leaders will be in expanding equality to every corner of our country. We are thrilled she will lead Victory into its next chapter.”

Reaction from Political and Advocacy Leaders

“The Center for American Progress is proud that one of our own has been chosen to lead Victory. Aisha Moodie-Mills has been an integral part of our intersectional work on the LGBT Research and Communications team as a Senior Fellow and Director of the FIRE Initiative. To ensure that all LGBT Americans have a seat at the table we need to diversify our pipeline of leadership and Aisha is just the person to usher in this new chapter for Victory and the movement.”
--Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, Counselor to Center for American Progress Action Fund

“As the first woman ever to serve as its President and CEO, Aisha Moodie-Mills is the right person at the right time to lead the Victory Fund’s efforts electing LGBT leaders to public office. In 2012, the Victory Fund partnered with EMILY’s List to help Tammy Baldwin make history. As we look forward to 2016 and beyond, we’re proud to continue standing with Aisha and the Victory Fund as we work together to elect more pro-choice, Democratic women like Senator Baldwin.”
--Stephanie Schriock, President, EMILY’s List

"As we head into the 2016 cycle and beyond, the Victory Fund has a critical role to play in ensuring that the number of LGBT elected officials not only grows, but is also increasingly reflective of the entire community. There is no better or more creative champion of that cause than Aisha Moodie-Mills, and HRC is eager to work with her and the Victory Fund as we tackle big new challenges in the post-marriage world. Aisha’s spot-on political experience and obvious passion make her a great choice to lead the Victory Fund at a pivotal moment, and we look forward to working with her.”
--Chad Griffin, President, Human Rights Campaign

“In Aisha Moodie-Mills, the Victory Fund has selected a smart and strategic next generation leader, who will not only serve the organization well, but also the larger movement for LGBT equality and representation. Aisha has spent her career fighting to ensure all of us are heard, counted, and represented in our democracy. Her unique experience in media, politics and electoral campaigning -- combined with her extensive advocacy work -- makes her an inspired choice to lead the Victory Fund into a very bright future.”
--Rashad Robinson, Executive Director, Color of Change

"The Victory Fund has made an exciting and powerful choice in Aisha Moodie-Mills as it's next President and CEO. The strategic thinking, accessibility and vibrance she brings to her leadership will serve our movement and the country well. She's got politics in her bones and as the first Black woman to head the Victory Fund, I believe she will inspire a broad range of LGBTQ people to run for elected office and lead this country. I look forward to working with her."
--Rea Carey, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

“The National Black Justice Coalition is overjoyed that one of our own community members has been elevated to lead the important work of the Victory Fund. Aisha Moodie-Mills will be a phenomenal addition to one of our nation’s premier LGBT organizations, working to ensure broader representation of LGBT people in elected office. As a black lesbian, Aisha will bring new hope to women, African Americans and other people of color who seek greater opportunities within the LGBT community with her vast talents and dynamic leadership style. NBJC looks forward to continuing to partner with the Victory Fund as Mrs. Moodie-Mills takes the helm as their new president and chief executive officer.”
--Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director & CEO, National Black Justice Coalition

"Aisha is a tireless leader whose experience and wisdom will catapult the Victory Fund into its next critical phases. As a veteran of national politics and a savvy media spokesperson for the LGBT movement for over a decade, I have no doubt Aisha will electrify the organization and continue its legacy as a key player in moving LGBT equality forward."
--Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO

Victory Fund announces March 2015 endorsements

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund announced on Tuesday its slate of endorsed candidates for March 2015, with six candidates from New England, the Midwest, and the West earning its support.

Three of this month's endorsed candidates are vying for state and municipal offices in Colorado, with the other half competing for the mayor's office of Hartford, Conn. and seats on the city councils of Columbus, Ohio and San Jose, Calif.

Shannon Hardin was appointed to the City Council of Columbus, Ohio in October of 2014, and is running for his first full term this fall. A former aide to the mayor, Hardin has worked in Columbus for years both as an LGBT liaison and a member of several gang violence prevention programs.

Leslie Herod was endorsed for a seat in Colorado's House of Representatives. Herod has worked in Colorado government for several years, including as a senior policy advisor to Gov. Bill Ritter.

Tim Orozco was endorsed in a special election for San Jose City Council. Tim has a long history of involvement in California's LGBT political landscape, including as campaign manager for Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.

Pedro Segarra was endorsed as an incumbent for mayor of Hartford, Conn. He is seeking a second term after winning election in 2011.

Robin Kniech was endorsed as an incumbent for Denver City Council. In her first term she focused on issues like affordable housing, child protection and government transparency.

Debra Johnson was endorsed as an incumbent for Denver City Clerk and Recorder. She made news last year over her decision to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in Denver.

Annual Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade welcomes LGBT groups

Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday included the participation of LGBT groups for the first time in its 114-years history. LGBT rights group Boston Pride and OutVets, an organization for gay veterans, joined the annual march and ended a two-decade ban against the participation of LGBT groups in the celebration.

“South Boston is more diverse than it’s ever been and our inclusion is a testament to change in the neighborhood,” said Sylvain Bruno, president of Boston Pride.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who did not attend the parade last year due to the exclusion of LGBT groups, also marched on Sunday and became the first mayor to participate in 20 years.

Boston’s mayors have opted out of the parade since 1995, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of organizers to ban LGBT participants.

“I am thrilled that the St. Patrick’s Day parade is inclusive this year, and the addition of Boston Pride to the list of participants reflects the values of the South Boston neighborhood,” said Walsh, in a statement. “With this year’s parade, Boston is putting years of controversy behind us.”

Richardson's pro-gay adoption amendment advances in Fla. House

The Florida House of Representatives on Tuesday approved by voice vote an amendment striking discriminatory language from a law that prohibited gay Florida residents from adopting children in the state.

Introduced on Monday by Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, who is openly gay, the amendment follows an appeals court's ruling against the state's ban five years ago. In proposing the amendment, Richardson sought to eliminate the possibility that a future district court ruling could reverse the decision.

“All people who want to adopt should be judged the same way, with the best interests of children foremost,” Richardson said in a statement. “My amendment ensures that all suitable adoptive parents are able to offer loving homes and the support of a permanent family. I’m glad to have worked with my colleagues in the House to make this change.”

The amendment was attached to House Bill 7013, which seeks to increase the state's adoption rate. Richardson, a Democrat, collaborated extensively with the House's Republican leadership to ensure his amendment would pass. Following House passage, the bill will then be sent to the Senate, where supporters expect it to be approved.

Obama invokes LGBT movement in Selma speech

President Barack Obama on Saturday repeatedly referenced the LGBT rights movement during his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama.

Speaking to a crowd of about 40,000 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where marchers were attacked by state troopers in 1965, President Obama honored the protesters' role in advancing equality for all Americans. “[B]ecause of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors," Obama said. "Their endeavors gave the entire South a chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but transcending the past.”

Obama went on to call LGBT advocates "warriors of justice” whose work has brought the United States closer to its ideal of equality.

“We are the gay Americans whose blood ran on the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge,” referring to early gay rights protests in the 1960s and 1970s.

President Obama concluded his speech by stating that the efforts of activists are still ongoing and an integral part of the nation’s history.

“Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we’re getting closer,” Obama said. “Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer. Our job is easier because somebody already got us through that first smile. Somebody already got just over that bridge.”

Healey launches marriage equality amicus brief campaign

Just weeks after assuming office as America’s first LGBT attorney general, Massachusetts's Maura Healey is ready to help take marriage equality nationwide.

Healey is rallying Massachusetts residents and anyone else to share their stories about the importance of marriage equality and the challenges facing those who live in states that don't recognize same-sex marriage. These testimonials will be combined into an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality as it prepares to address the topic this spring.

“Now for a long time here in Massachusetts, same-sex couples have had marriage equality and we’ve seen how much that has benefited those couples, their children, across the state," Healey said in a video announcing the campaign. "We want your voices to be heard in the Supreme Court."

Anyone interested in submitting their story or video can share their stories through her official Facebook page or via Twitter by tweeting to @MassAGO with the hashtag #MA4Equality.

Healey earned the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund's endorsement in early 2014, months before defeating an establishment-favored candidate in the Democratic primary for attorney general. She won the November general election decisively and took office in January 2015.

Openly gay man named Defense Secretary's chief of staff

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute on Wednesday congratulated Eric Fanning on being named as the chief of staff to newly confirmed Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

“Eric’s career of service to his country and the U.S. military has been exemplary, and we are proud that he has accomplished all this as an out gay man," said Denis Dison, interim executive director at the Victory Fund and Institute. "The entire Victory family offers our congratulations as he takes on this important new role."

Fanning previously served as the undersecretary for the Air Force, where he was the highest-ranking LGBT person in the Department of Defense.

“[Fanning] has had a terrific tenure in the Air Force,” said Rebecca Grant, a former Air Force official, in DefenseNews. “He’s really been able to operate across the full range, including being involved in the difficult budget meetings in the Pentagon.”

A former member of the Victory Fund board of directors, Fanning has served in the Navy, the House Armed Services Committee, the Defense Department, and the White House under President Bill Clinton.

Oregon's Brown to become America's first openly bisexual governor

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown will become America's first openly bisexual governor on Wednesday, February 18, ascending to the office following the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Because Oregon has no lieutenant governor, the incumbent secretary of state is next in line for the governor's office should that position become vacant. She is the second openly LGBT governor in American history after New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, who resigned three months after coming out as gay.

"Kate Brown will make history as the first openly bisexual American to become governor, and that makes us and the entire LGBT community extremely proud," said Victory Fund Interim Executive Director Denis Dison. "More importantly for Oregonians, she's a dedicated, passionate and impressive public servant who's ready for this challenge. We believe in Kate Brown and her ability to lead Oregon through this difficult moment."

Brown was first elected secretary of state in 2008 and reelected in 2012, earning the Victory Fund's endorsement in both campaigns. Upon assuming office in 2009 she became the first openly bisexual statewide elected official in American history. She has presided over several LGBT milestones in Oregon, including the arrival of marriage equality in May of 2014. Most recently, she spoke to participants at the Victory Institute's Candidate & Campaign Training in Portland last June.

Obama hopeful Supreme Court will end "patchwork" of LGBT equality

President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed hope that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of nationwide marriage equality during its current term, putting an end to the "patchwork" of marriage recognition across the country.

“My sense is that the Supreme Court is about to make a shift, one that I welcome, which is to recognize – having hit a critical mass of states that have recognized same-sex marriage – it doesn’t make sense for us to now have this patchwork system,” Obama told BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith during an interview released Tuesday evening. “It’s time to recognize that under the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution, same-sex couples should have the same rights as anybody else.”

The remarks came amid a firestorm of controversy in Alabama, which began Monday when the Supreme Court refused to stay a federal court ruling striking down Alabama’s ban on marriage equality.

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore defied the Supreme Court’s direction by ordering probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. His move drew comparisons to George Wallace, the former governor who was determined to keep Alabama schools from desegregating in the 1960s.

In the BuzzFeed interview, Obama said the comparison to Wallace is not a “perfect analogy”, but said Moore will similarly need to accept the federal decision. “When federal law is in conflict with state law, federal law wins out,” he said.

Ten Questions for Kathy Webb

Last week a committee of the Arkanasas State Senate advanced Senate Bill 202, a bill that would deny cities the right to pass their own LGBT non-discrimination ordinances. Victory spoke with Little Rock City Director Kathy Webb, who previously served in the state legislature, about the bill and what it means for LGBT Arkansans.

Where were you when you heard that SB 202 cleared the Senate committee?
I had been at the Capitol but had left before the vote, knowing what the outcome would be.

How did you react when you heard?
The outcome was a foregone conclusion, so while it's always disheartening, it was expected. And I'm always ready to take the next step in the fight.

What do you feel is the most damaging consequence of SB 202?
Members of the LGBT community can continue to be fired, evicted, etc with no protections. And municipalities are prohibited from passing ordinances to protect people.  There will be unintended consequences for others not currently protected by the state's civil rights code.

How will SB 202 impact Little Rock, where you serve as City Director?
Little Rock will be prohibited from passing any ordinance to extend protections to the LGBT community. Unfortunately, we will continue to see LGBT citizens fired and evicted just because of who they are, regardless of job performance or ability to pay for housing. It will be harmful to economic growth, because companies like to see diverse, welcoming communities.

As an LGBT Arkansan, this issue is obviously personal to you. Do you think LGBT officials have an obligation to speak out about legislation like this?
I do think LGBT elected officials have a responsibility for speaking out. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot them in Arkansas! It makes a difference.

Tell us about your efforts to make Arkansas a more welcoming place for the LGBT community.
I tried to be a role model for our community while serving in the state legislature. While it's always best to ask others if one were successful at that, I was chosen to be the first woman in state history to co-chair Joint Budget, and I was names the most effective member of the House in 2012. Based on what my colleagues said to me and about me on day one and towards the end of the 6 years, I believe I was a pretty good representative of our community. I was also able to work with my colleagues to kill two anti-LGBT bills while in the House and to pass an anti-bullying bill that included sexual orientation and gender identity.

What do you make of the rise of bills like SB 202 in state legislatures across the country?
The proliferation of these types of bills is due in part to the election of so many far-right Christian evangelical candidates. In Arkansas, candidates ran against President Obama for offices from the U.S. Senate to local offices.

Have you spoken to any of your colleagues about SB 202, and if so, what have you heard from them?
I spoke to many former colleagues last week, and will continue to. With some, it makes a huge difference and can change their votes (even encouraging them to "walk"). Unfortunately, with others, it doesn't matter. I can only hope that by knowing me and other members of our community, and by sharing my own stories, it will make a difference in the years to come.

What can (or should) the public do in response to SB 202 and bills like it?
The public should be outraged, for lots of reasons - it's just plain hate legislation, it's counter to local control that is so popular, it's bad for business, and it prevents municipalities from extending protections to other groups as well. Allies have to stand up and speak out.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about SB 202?
There's a lot of irony that I could oversee a multi billion dollar budget, introduce and vote on bills, but can't be protected from being fired simply because I'm a lesbian! I expect there to be court challenges to SB 202 and a waste of taxpayer dollars fighting the challenge.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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