Mitchell Rivard: From Victory Congressional Intern to congressional LGBT staff leader

Mitchell Rivard has come a long way since summer 2011, which he spent as a press intern in House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office in the inaugural class of the Victory Congressional Internship. He’s currently serving as the president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association and is the deputy chief of staff for Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI).

As a first generation college student, Rivard credits the Victory Fund with supporting his career path in D.C. After he completed his Victory Congressional Internship, Rivard received help through Victory’s Presidential Appointments Project to get his first job in Washington - working for the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of Justice.

“From financial support during my internship, to career training, to helping me write my resume, Victory has offered me so many opportunities that I will be forever grateful for,” says Rivard.

In November 2012, after Rivard worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for a year, a newly-elected Member of Congress, Dan Kildee, called Rivard to ask him to be his communications director. Kildee represents Rivard’s hometown, Bay City, Mich. In January 2015, Rivard was promoted to become Kildee’s deputy chief of staff.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that only four years after my first internship experience on Capitol Hill would I be back here in such a role for my local Congressman. Doing so is a really unique opportunity, and that’s the reason that I took the job in the first place,” says Rivard. “Going into work every day knowing that you are working on behalf of the people back home – your friends, family, former classmates – is an extraordinary opportunity, and one that I don’t take lightly.”

This February, Rivard was also unanimously elected to serve a one-year term as the president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association (CSA), a non-partisan organization with over 150 members that is dedicated to advancing the career interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people working in the U.S. Congress.

Rivard’s goals as president of the LGBT CSA are ambitious, and his accomplishments are already notable. He’s especially proud of the organization’s efforts earlier this year to expand workplace protections for LGBT Congressional staff. “It is still perfectly legal on Capitol Hill to be fired due to your sexual orientation or gender identity,” he says, noting there is no federal law that protects LGBT people from employment discrimination.

The LGBT CSA worked “hand-in-hand with many Members of Congress to update and expand their own workplace policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes,” he says. “Alongside the LGBT Equality Caucus, we helped to change many office policies – not for all Members, but the work goes on. We hope that the House will soon also include sexual orientation and gender identity enumerations in their office policy templates distributed to all member offices.”

Additionally, Rivard has expanded the range of programming offered to interns on Capitol Hill and worked to expand both the diversity and the size of the LGBT CSA’s membership. Along with another Victory Congressional Internship alum and congressional staffer, Yesenia Chavez, the LGBT CSA is working to expand its partnership with organizations, including the Victory Fund & Institute. “Right now, our organization has more membership, more resources, and more partnerships with other LGBT organizations like Victory than ever before in our decades-long history,” says Rivard. “That’s exciting and we’re certainly going to continue building on those successes.”

Rivard also ran on a platform of increasing diversity within the organization, which he defines as “expanding our outreach efforts to include more women, more people of color, and more Republicans.” Aisha Moodie-Mills, the first African-American and woman president of the Victory Fund, recently spoke at one of the LGBT CSA’s monthly luncheons.

Rivard’s biggest takeaway from his time as a Victory Congressional Intern has continued to shape his approach. “Never underestimate the value of a mentor. I’ve had absolutely amazing mentors since my internship who, with their advice, guidance and wisdom through the years have helped me get where I am today. You never know who you are going to stay in touch or reconnect with – for instance, my boss during my first Capitol Hill internship is now one of my closest friends,” he says.

“My guiding principles have been to treat others with respect and be willing to lend a hand to help someone else in need. Be willing to reach back and help another young person at the start of their career – if you’re successful, someone certainly reached back to help you at some point in time. They’ll certainly thank you for the help – and then who knows, they may just reach back to help someone else out too.”

Biskupski wins Victory endorsement in Salt Lake City mayor’s race

Salt Lake City, Utah, could be the next major U.S. city to elect an openly-LGBT mayor. The Victory Fund today announced that it has endorsed Jackie Biskupski’s mayoral campaign.   

Biskupski, an out lesbian, is a mom, veteran of the Utah legislature, and member of Sheriff Winder’s leadership team. She is seeking the highest office in Salt Lake City after over a decade of representing Salt Lake City’s 30th District. As Mayor, Biskupski has pledged to prioritize public input into transportation decisions, build up Salt Lake City’s robust economy, and improve the city’s air quality by creating affordable housing for families and increased employment opportunities along public transit lines.

For the mayoral candidate, advocating for equality is a central tenet of her platform. She noted that women and people of color do not earn equal pay for equal work, and that LGBT people and women still face discrimination. "It is time for this city to have a mayor who can speak to these issues in the first person," said Biskupski during her campaign announcement.

"Because Salt Lake City has taken significant strides toward equality for the LGBT community, it is easy for some to become complacent and believe the struggle for equality is over," she said. "We are still far short of victory."

The Victory Fund made a total of nine endorsements this week for races across America. Three of this month’s candidates—Billy Maddalon and incumbents Al Austin and LaWana Mayfield—are all vying for different spots on the Charlotte, N.C., City Council. Patrick Davis, who is running for a seat on Albuquerque’s City Council, would be that body’s only out official.

Patrick Davis – City Council District 6, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Amos Goodman – County Legislature District 2, Suffolk County, New York

Lane Lewis – City Council At-Large Position 1, Houston, Texas

Billy Maddalon – City Council At-Large, Charlotte, North Carolina

Michael Maddux – City Council District 4, Seattle, Washington

Other candidates receiving Victory’s endorsement in June are:

Al Austin - City Council District 2, Charlotte, North Carolina (incumbent)

Jon Hoadley - Michigan House of Representatives, District 60 (2016 race) (incumbent)

LaWana Mayfield - City Council District 3, Charlotte, North Carolina (incumbent)

Victory lauds Supreme Court's landmark marriage ruling

Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund and Institute, issued the following statement today regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges:

“LGBT Americans have won the freedom to marry the person they love no matter where they live. This is a historic day, and this victory belongs to every openly LGBT American who came out, broke down barriers and changed the hearts of our families, friends and co-workers. Being honest and open about who we are and who we love is the key to winning the freedoms we still lack in so many places in America. Tomorrow we go back to work to ensure LGBT people enjoy the same ability to work, live, love and care for their families in every state in America. Victory’s role in that fight is to develop, train and help elect the openly LGBT leaders who are on the front lines in these battles, and whose powerful examples inspire us every day.

We congratulate Jim Obergefell and all of the plaintiffs whose simple desire for dignity and respect the Court today recognized. We also congratulate the many LGBT legal and advocacy groups whose hard work over decades brought us to this moment.”

Welcome to DC - Summer Victory Congressional Interns Arrive!

This month, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute welcomed the 2015 class of Victory Congressional Interns to Washington, D.C. This competitive program places LGBT college students in a semester long internship with an LGBT or LGBT-friendly member of Congress in their Washington, D.C. office. The eight individuals were selected from a pool of over 100 applicants. 

“Victory congratulates this year’s class of exceptional young LGBT leaders,” said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund and Institute. “The Victory Congressional Internship is a crucial part of the Victory Institute’s mission - to build and support a network of LGBT leaders. I look forward to the role that these eight young people will play in expanding LGBT representation.”

Cat Cojocaru - University of Missouri

Office of the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative 

Cat Cojocaru is a senior at the University of Missouri, studying public relations in the Missouri School of Journalism and pursuing a second degree in political science. On campus, Cat is the alumnae relations chair of the Eta Chi chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, the public relations chair of Greek Allies, and a member of the Proud Tigers Mentorship Program. Cat also works at the MU Terrorism and Disaster Center as an undergraduate fellow.

Samantha Hubbard - Towson University

Office of Representative Norma Torres

Sam Hubbard is a senior at Towson University, where she studies Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Political Science. Sam serves on the National Coordinating Committee for United We Dream and is a NASPA Undergraduate Fellow. Previously, Sam worked on grassroots campaigns for various state and local organizations, including Equality Maryland and Environment Maryland. On campus, Sam has served as Director of Diversity Outreach for student government and as a Resident Assistant.

Jasper Katz - Bard College

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs - Office of Senator Tammy Baldwin

Jasper Katz is a senior at Bard College, where they study Politics. On campus, they are a Peer Counselor, a member of Bard's Multicultural Diversity Committee and Peer Review Board, and co-head of the Queer Student Association. Jasper has also worked as field organizer on the YES Chattanooga Campaign and with Mainers United, and as a political intern for Progressive Majority Washington.

Yanelis Martinez - State University of New York at Albany

Office of Representative Raúl Grijalva

Yanelis Martinez is a junior at the State University of New York at Albany, where she studies Political Science, Latin America & Caribbean Studies, and LGBT* Studies. On campus, Yanelis serves as the Associate Director for the Student Association’s Gender and Sexuality Concerns Department and as a staff assistant in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She is also the President for Shades of Unified Liberation, the queer person of color organization on campus and the founder and Vice President of the student group Unity Amongst Cultures.

Kory Masen - California State University, Chico

Office of Representative Alan Lowenthal

Kory Masen is a senior at California State University, Chico where he is studying Sociology, Multicultural and Gender Studies with an Option in Women’s Studies. On campus, Kory serves as the Executive Vice President of the Associated Students and is the former Vice President of Facilities and Services. He has interned at the AS Gender and Sexuality Equity Center, where he was instrumental in the creation of a new transgender program, and was part of the National Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

Morgan McLaughlin - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Office of Representative Lois Frankel

Morgan McLaughlin is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is studying Political Science and Public Policy. On campus, Morgan is the LGBTQ Project Leader for student government and a program assistant at UNC’s LGBTQ Center. She also works as the Director of Trainings for Rethink: Psychiatric Illness. Next year, Morgan will serve as the Social Chair for Sexuality and Gender Alliance, the foremost LGBTQ organization on campus.

Angela Tang - Whitman College

Office of Senator Patty Murray

Angela Tang is a junior at Whitman College where she studies Economics and Politics. On campus, she works as a council member on the Whitman Inclusion Diversity Equity Council, as a Resident Assistant, and as the Executive Director for the annual Power & Privilege Symposium. Angela recently completed a grassroots organizing fellowship with the Washington Bus and has also interned with the Intercultural Center of Whitman College, serving as GLBTQ Co-President.

Von Dickens Ulsa - University of Hawaii at Manoa

Office of Senator Mazie Hirono

Von Dickens Ulsa is a junior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he studies American Studies, English, and History and is minoring in Filipino. On campus, Von serves as a peer mentor through the GEAR UP Hawaii Undergraduate Initiative and is the Editor-in-Chief of Kalayaan Literary Circle. He is a Chancellor Scholar and an Inouye Legacy Scholar, selected for promoting research ethics in museum studies. Previously, Von has worked at the Honolulu Academy of Art and the New York Historical Society. 

Kansas City elects first LGBT city council member

Jolie Justus, a former Missouri state senator, last night became the first openly LGBT candidate to win election to the Kansas City Council.

The Victory Fund, which backed her campaign, hailed the results as a sign of progress in the Midwest. "We're thrilled for Jolie and for Kansas City," said Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. "This is a big victory for the LGBT community in the Kansas City region, because Jolie will be a powerful voice for them and all her constituents as a member of the city council."

Justus won with more than 76 percent of the vote in an election year that saw more women and more people of color running for and winning council seats.

Candidate & Campaign training heads to San Antonio

Victory Empowerment Fellow Robert Salcido, a San Antonio field organizer for Equality Texas, spoke to Out in San Antonio about his experience at our Candidate & Campaign training. “It was intense,” Salcido said. “I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering running for office or being involved in a campaign.”

This spring, Salcido participated in the training as part of the first class of the Victory Empowerment Fellowship, which supports LGBT leaders of color and transgender leaders who seek to expand their campaign skills and policymaking power and be part of a strong cohort of movement leaders from around the country. (Find out more about the fellowship and sign up for alerts about next year’s application here.

For more than two decades, Victory has trained thousands of LGBT people who wanted to make a difference in their own communities as public officials. Robert Salcido is not the only Texan alum of our Candidate & Campaign Trainings; graduates of the program include Houston Mayor Annise Parker, former City Councilwoman Elena Guajardo, and Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the first Latina lesbian sheriff elected in the United States.

“[My victory] began with the expert Candidate & Campaign Training I received through the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, which provided the guidance, skills and support I needed to run for a seat that no Democrat had won in more than 25 years – and no woman had ever won,” said Valdez.

Alumni of Victory’s training programs, including Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), are among America’s most high-profile openly LGBT leaders

This July, Victory’s Candidate & Campaign Training will brave the hot Texas sun and return to the Lone Star State. Up to 40 LGBT people will gather in San Antonio for three days of intensive training on how to build an effective political campaign and position themselves as future candidates or campaign staffers. They’ll leave with an understanding of campaign basics, from fundraising to field work, and messaging to mail programs. They’ll hear the inspirational stories of LGBT elected officials who are currently serving, and meet the leadership of state and national LGBT organizations who can help them with future political campaigns.

We have a limited number of spaces left, so apply today for the chance to join us at our San Antonio training in July here.

Chicago City Council members form first-ever LGBT caucus

On Wednesday, a group of Chicago aldermen, including Tom Tunney, the city’s first openly gay member of the City Council, formed the body’s first-ever LGBT caucus. The five out aldermen — including James Cappleman, Deb Mell, and newly-elected aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and Raymond Lopez — hope to lobby together to address the LGBT community’s concerns.

In an interview with DNAinfo Chicago, Tunney remembered times throughout his twelve years on the Council when other aldermen would say, “It’s a gay issue, go talk to Tunney.”

Through the LGBT Caucus, the five aldermen plan to work together to address a broad range of issues that disproportionately affect LGBT communities, including police profiling of transgender people, HIV/AIDS funding, and LGBT youth homelessness. The Caucus also plans to lobby for an LGBTQ-inclusive Chicago Public Schools curriculum.

"LGBT issues touch all communities, whether it's bullying, access to health care, AIDS, homeless youth or transgender issues," Lopez said. "It's crucial that we have a forum to discuss these important issues and a mechanism to speak with a unified voice."

Indiana mayor comes out as gay

Underscoring the importance of visibility, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg came out as gay in an essay published Tuesday by the South Bend Tribune. Buttigieg wrote that it took him “years of struggle and growth” before he could acknowledge “the simple fact that I am gay.”

The first-term Democratic mayor was elected at the age of 30, which made him the youngest U.S. mayor of a city with a population of over 100,000. He is now also the only openly LGBT mayor in Indiana, and is seeking reelection this year.

Buttigieg is a Navy veteran who served active military duty in Afghanistan. He returned to South Bend on Saturday after an annual two-week obligation to the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Last year, the Washington Post called the 33-year-old, “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of,” in a profile that noted he was also named one of GovFresh’s two “mayors of the year” in 2013 due to his work as a “public servant innovator.”

"Being more open about it could do some good," Buttigieg wrote about his decision to come out. "For a local student struggling with her sexuality, it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that her community will always have a place for her. And for a conservative resident from a different generation, whose unease with social change is partly rooted in the impression that he doesn’t know anyone gay, perhaps a familiar face can be a reminder that we’re all in this together as a community."

The South Bend native’s essay highlights the importance of having openly LGBT public officials.

“Out public officials are essential to ensure that the concerns of LGBT people are represented at all levels of government,” said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund and Institute, “We applaud Pete Buttigieg for his decision to come out, and we will continue to work hard to elect and support LGBT leaders like Buttigieg in all corners of America.”   

Gay lawmaker’s repeal of Florida gay adoption ban becomes law

The Victory Fund and Institute today congratulated Florida State Rep. David Richardson for his role in protecting gay adoption rights.

Richardson, Florida’s first openly gay state lawmaker, introduced the amendment that removed the statewide ban. The amendment was attached to House Bill 7013, which provides incentives to increase the Florida adoption rate.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on Thursday, repealing the almost four-decade adoption ban on lesbian and gay parents.

“This is a momentous day and an important advance for civil rights,” said Richardson in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel. “It’s also great news for children who will be adopted into loving homes.”

Gay Florida residents have been able to adopt since 2010 when a state appeals court ruling stopped enforcement of the ban, but Richardson’s amendment formally removed the 1977 ban from Florida statutes. It will take effect on July 1.

The importance of electing openly LGBT lawmakers is clear today in Florida. "Who would have guessed I would be the one here to repeal a law that so personally affected me?" Richardson said.

“This is an important victory for LGBT Floridians, and we’re proud that the effort was spearheaded by the only openly LGBT lawmaker in Tallahassee,” said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund and Institute. “Out officials like David Richardson are on the front lines of these legislative battles across the country, and we will work hard to support them and increase their numbers, especially in places like Florida where the LGBT community enjoys few legal protections.”

Trans appointee makes history in Pa.

The Victory Fund and Institute today congratulated Dr. Rachel Levine on her confirmation as Pennsylvania's Physician General. On Tuesday, the unanimous state senate confirmation vote made Dr. Levine the first transgender person in Pennsylvania appointed to a Governor’s cabinet, as well as one of the highest-ranking transgender public officials in the U.S.

“Dr. Levine’s career of service in the field of medicine has been exemplary, and we are proud that she has accomplished all this as an out transgender woman," said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund & Institute. "The entire Victory family offers our congratulations as she takes on this important new role."

Dr. Levine has been recognized statewide for her excellence in the fields of pediatrics and psychology. She has worked as a physician at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center since 1996, where she serves as the liaison for LGBT Affairs for the Penn State Hershey Office of Diversity.

"I think [being trans] has helped me in terms of the LGBT community in terms of understanding what all the issues are," said Levine in an interview with The Patriot-News. "And I think I've been able to serve as a mentor and role model to LGBT individuals at the medical center as well as in the community."

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