Excitement builds for LGBT Leaders 2015

The International LGBT Leadership Conference is the world’s largest meeting place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elected officials, appointed officials, and advocates from around the world. The conference has been going strong for 31 years, and Jaan Williams, Victory’s Director of Domestic Programs, has been planning it for the past three years. Williams took the time to talk about last year’s conference and outlined why you should be excited about LGBT Leaders 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada from November 19 to 21.

"The conference is three days of skills building, relationship building, connections, thinking about how to be really excellent public servants, no matter what field people are coming from,” says Williams. This past year, at the 30th annual LGBT Leaders conference in Washington, D.C., there were people in attendance from 40 different countries, including the United States. “About 30 percent of the attendees were elected or appointed officials, which is incredible,” he says.

LGBT Leaders has a history of bringing together LGBT public officials and other thought leaders from all over the world. From panels to networking events, the conference allows attendees to connect and strategize. “We recognize that people not only need to get into office, but they need to do a good job when they get there so they can stay in office and be effective legislators,” says Williams.

Each year, the conference has a unique selection of panels and speakers that cover a wide range of topics. “Last year, one of my favorites panels was led by Houston Mayor Annise Parker about women parliamentarians from around the world,” says Williams. “It was a conversation about both what it takes to be a parliamentarian and a good legislator, but also what it means to be a woman in all of these different countries, and an LGBT woman advocating on behalf of the community.”

In Washington, a panel on international issues featured Claire Byarugaba, an activist from Uganda. “The panel shed light on the work that she was doing in Uganda,” says Williams. "She was a dynamic speaker."  

This year’s conference is not one to miss. Victory’s organizers are in the process planning programming, and they hope to have some big name speakers attend—last year’s opening reception in Washington included a speech from out lesbian Senator Tammy Baldwin.  

What else awaits you in November? “The conference is made for anybody who cares about LGBT politics or advocacy, elected officials. It's really an excellent place to build connections and find out what's happening at the city level, at the state level, and at places around the country and outside of the U.S. as well,” says Williams. “We cover everything from planning infrastructure, to LGBT homelessness, to how to do good fundraising for your campaigns. And it's really that kind of marriage of all of those skills that makes the Victory conference unique.”  

The 31st International LGBT Leadership Conference will be held November 19-21 in Las Vegas, N.V. The early bird registration rate ends on July 31st, so register now to save almost 50%.  

Victory alums make waves from Penn. to N.C.

Daye Pope begins work as trans-rights organizer at Equality PA

Daye Pope has been busy since her Victory Congressional Internship in the Office of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the spring of 2014.

As someone who grew up in a working-class family in small town Iowa, “interning in the nation's capital never seemed like a possibility,” says Pope.

Following her congressional internship, Pope built on her experiences to make waves as an organizer outside of Washington. She has organized in various formal and informal roles for several years, most recently as a field organizer with the Iowa Democratic Party during the 2014 midterm election cycle.

“I love working with others to find solutions to common problems, and there's no better way to do that than through grassroots organizing,” says Pope. This year, when she heard that Equality Pennsylvania was starting a transgender organizing program, she “jumped at the chance” to bring her energy to the position.

Although Pope is just beginning her work as Equality Pennsylvania’s transgender rights organizer, she has already developed a statewide Transgender Listening Tour, where she will travel across the state to discuss what issues are most affecting transgender Pennsylvanians.

“I think it is so important for the often marginalized voices of the transgender community to be heard and for change to be lead by the perspectives of everyday transgender people,” says Pope.

This week, Pope spoke to Philadelphia Gay News about the wide range of issues she is hoping to tackle as the new transgender rights organizer at Equality Pennsylvania. In the article, Pope named some of the pressing issues that have been highlighted by transgender Pennsylvanians on her statewide listening tour—they include employment discrimination, the need for a comprehensive safe schools law, and access to competent and inclusive healthcare.

“It was an amazing opportunity, to work with my own community and apply my political organizing skills to a really important struggle here in Pennsylvania,” Pope told Philadelphia Gay News.

Allison Turner begins Campus Pride fellowship

Allison Turner, a former Victory Congressional Intern, has taken on an exciting new role as she continues her work organizing for LGBTQ rights. In May, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor’s of Arts in both Journalism and Mass Communication and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Following her graduation, Turner began a fellowship at Campus Pride, the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. Allison joins fall 2014 VCI Romeo Jackson, who serves on Campus Pride’s Board of Directors.

Last summer, Turner’s press internship in Office of Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA) coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, and Turner was able to attend with her office, in addition to drafting statements on her representative’s behalf for these events.

“I was honored to write statements on the representative's behalf on these events, which allowed me to reflect on the social justice work that has been done over the past 50 years, and the important need to continue this work,” says Turner.

The civil rights commemoration in Congress connected with one of Victory’s program enrichment seminars, which taught the summer’s Congressional Interns about LGBTQ activists, including Bayard Rustin, the black gay organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.

“Being able to make these connections continued my journey of becoming more and more intersectional,” says Turner. She has continued her work to build an inclusive LGBTQ movement through her work as a fellow with Campus Pride. “Working with Campus Pride has been an amazing experience,” says Turner.

This past week, she was busy at her fellowship organizing Campus Pride’s Camp Pride, a week-long camp in Charlotte, North Carolina that gives campus student and faculty leaders the tools they need to continue making their campuses more LGBTQ-friendly. “I was so excited to use both the press and leadership development skills I learned through VCI to assist in making this year's camp great!” says Turner.

Landmark LGBT non-discrimination bill introduced in Congress

LGBT and allied members of Congress today introduced the Equality Act, which would expand federal legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), an openly gay member of Congress, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are the lead sponsors of the bill. The bill has a wide range of Democratic cosponsors in both the House and the Senate, including all of the openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual co-chairs of the LGBT Equality Caucus: Rep. Cicilline, Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. Mark Takano, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. 

"Every day, millions of LGBT Americans face the danger of real discrimination and sometimes even violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Cicilline wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter to other legislators. "In most states, a same-sex couple can get married on Saturday, post pictures on Facebook on Sunday, and then risk being fired from their job or kicked out of their apartment on Monday." 

The bill would explicitly ban LGBT discrimination in all areas of civil rights law, including credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service and public accommodations.  

Unlike the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, an employment non-discrimination standalone bill that has repeatedly failed to pass in multiple sessions of Congress, the Equality Act would amend existing civil rights laws including Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Jury Selection and Service Act. 

In short, the Equality Act would guarantee that LGBT Americans cannot be fired, evicted, or denied service on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Although passage in this Congress is said to be unlikely, the Equality Act sets an aggressive new standard for LGBT non-discrimination efforts at the federal level. 

Kansas City Victory Leadership Summit to train LGBT leaders this Oct.

Earlier this month, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s anti-LGBT executive order made it clear that although the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, there is a lot of work left to do to support LGBT people across the country. States like Kansas are enacting policies that give businesses the license to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, showing that LGBT representation in government is more vital than ever. As LGBT people in the Kansas City region continue to fight for their rights, the Victory Institute is excited to announce the first Victory Leadership Summit will be held there this October.

The Kansas City Victory Leadership Summit will help trainees develop the skills needed to take next steps in public service. This day-long intensive training for LGBT leaders in Kansas City and the surrounding areas will be open to LGBT individuals who want to learn to make a difference in their communities through public service.

For more than two decades, Victory has trained thousands of LGBT leaders, including Kansas City Councilwoman-elect Jolie Justus. This free summit is designed for established and emerging LGBT leaders in Kansas and Missouri who are looking to take their skills to the next level.

Tailored specifically to the political climate faced by LGBT community leaders in the Midwest, trainees will engage on a range of topics, including:

  • Political campaigns and running for office
  • Messaging and organizing
  • Serving on boards and commissions
  • Obtaining public service appointments on the local, state, and federal level

The training will include the opportunity to learn how to become more involved in public service from local elected and appointed officials, Victory’s experts on appointed positions and running for public office, and organizations working for LGBT equality in Kansas and Missouri.

Apply today for the chance to join us at our Kansas City training Saturday, October 10th here.

Victory endorses lesbian candidate for mayor of Palm Springs

Palm Springs, Calif., could get its first woman and first lesbian mayor. The Victory Fund today announced that it has endorsed city council member Ginny Foat in the upcoming race.

Foat has served on the Palm Springs City Council since 2003. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Mizell Senior Center and is a Founding Co-Chair of the Palm Springs Gay & Lesbian Center. She is the past president/co-chair of the Uptown Business Association and the L.A. County Commission on HIV/AIDs, and former president of the California chapter of NOW.

The Victory Fund made a total of eight endorsements this week for races across America. In Ohio, JT Neuffer is vying for a spot on Lakewood City Council, and would be that body’s only out official. Em Westerlund is also poised to make history in her campaign for a spot on Duluth’s City Council. If elected, she would be the first elected official nationwide to publicly identify as genderqueer.

July Victory Fund Endorsees:
Ginny Foat – Mayor, Palm Springs, California
JT Neuffer – City Council Ward 3, Lakewood, Ohio
Em Westerlund – City Council District 3, Duluth, Minnesota

Incumbent officials receiving Victory’s endorsement in July are:
Mark Kleinschmidt – Mayor, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (incumbent)
John McCrostie – House of Representatives – District 16, Idaho (incumbent)
Alex Morse – Mayor, Holyoke, Massachusetts (incumbent)
Jeremy Moss – House of Representatives – District 35, Michigan (incumbent)
Denise Simmons – City Council, Cambridge, Massachusetts (incumbent)

GOP Congressman stiffs his party over gay candidates

Politico reported today that Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) told his colleagues in a recent hearing that he refuses to contribute to a GOP campaign committee because it has supported openly gay candidates.

The National Republican Campaign Committee, which works to elect Republican candidates to the U.S. House of Representatives, is in part financed by dues paid by sitting members of Congress. But Garrett complained the organization has actively recruited gay candidates such as Richard Tisei, a former Massachusetts state senator who ran unsuccessfully for the 6th Congressional District in 2012 and 2014.

From Politico’s report:

Some lawmakers grew noticeably angry, pointing out that the NRCC does not get involved in primaries, nor does it care about the sexual orientation of candidates. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a member of leadership who led the NRCC’s candidate recruitment during the 2014 election cycle, said that Richard Tisei, a gay Republican whom the NRCC supported, was “equally homosexual” when Garrett donated directly to him in 2012, according to a source present.

House Speaker John Boehner made clear in 2013 that he believes the party should support gay nominees. Boehner was responding to earlier remarks made by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), who objected to the NRCC funding openly gay candidates.

Victory Institute names Kristopher Sharp as Congressional Fellow

The Victory Institute has chosen Kristopher Sharp as the 2015-2016 Victory Congressional Fellow, a program supported by the David Bohnett Foundation since 2013. This competitive fellowship brings one outstanding LGBT young professional to Washington to serve for a year on the staff of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, supporting its co-chairs and executive director.

Sharp will also take part in an educational and leadership development programs to learn about the legislative process and careers in policy-making. Sharp graduated in May from the University of Houston with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.

Prior to being selected as a Victory Congressional Fellow, Sharp won a Victory Congressional Internship, a competitive leadership program that brings outstanding LGBT students to Washington, D.C., for a semester working for members of Congress. As an intern in the Office of Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sharp’s personal experience with harassment on his campus, in which his medical records were printed on flyers and distributed throughout campus and online, inspired Senator Murray to introduce the 2014 Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act. “To see this incident come full circle, knowing how tragic a time this was for me, and to now see it used for something good—it’s hard for me to articulate just how special this was to me,” said Sharp.

Sharp has continued to draw attention to the issue of homelessness and foster youth, testifying before the state legislature in Texas about his experiences and sharing his story in The New York Times and The Huffington Post.

As a result of his tireless advocacy for youth in the foster system, Sharp was recently honored as one of the inaugural 40 of the Forty, a list of 40 LGBTQ youth who have experienced homelessness and/or housing instability. In this role, he is working to organize constituencies and mobilize communities to end LGBTQ youth homelessness, most recently as a recipient of the 2015 True Fellowship at the True Colors Fund.

“The Victory Congressional Fellowship is crucial to building and supporting a network of LGBT leaders in Congress,” said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund and Institute, “Supporting young leaders like Kristopher ensures that all LGBT people have a seat at the table, and I look forward to what he will accomplish during his fellowship.”

“Our goal in partnering with the Victory Institute is to groom the next generation of LGBT leaders. We are proud to support Kristopher Sharp in his development as an influential leader who can change his community and our world,” said Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation.

Click here for more information about the Victory Congressional Fellowship.

Out mayoral candidate is top fundraiser in Charleston, S.C.

Victory Fund-endorsed candidate Ginny Deerin has continued to receive strong community support in the Charleston, S.C., mayor’s race. Deerin’s second quarter fundraising was the strongest showing among the seven candidates currently in the race. At nearly $260,000, Deerin’s quarterly total edged out her opponents and put her in a close second for overall campaign fundraising.

These totals illustrate the momentum that Deerin’s candidacy has generated within Charleston. In a statement, Deerin said she was “excited about the broad support and enthusiasm that is fueling our campaign.”

If elected, Deerin would be the highest-ranked openly LGBT official in South Carolina, and one of the most prominent openly bisexual elected officials in the nation.

Victory president commemorates 50th anniversary of LGBT rights protest

Philadelphia’s Independence Hall was the backdrop for a ceremony July 4 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of one of the United States’ first LGBT rights demonstrations. Attendees honored the forty advocates who gathered in front of Independence Hall on July 4, 1965, for the first of what would become known as “annual reminders.”

Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings organized the original annual reminders, in which the organizers picketed with signs saying “Equal treatment before the law,” and “Equality for homosexuals,” along with other slogans.

Speakers at the event, including the lead plaintiff in the recent Supreme Court marriage case, James Obergefell, celebrated the progress over the past fifty years, and urged advocates to keep fighting.

LGBT movement leaders, including Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund and Institute, spoke about the remaining work still needed to protect all LGBT people in the wake of the marriage decision. She highlighted that dozens of states lack LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections for housing and employment.

"In too many communities, you can still get married on Sunday and then fired on Monday. Marriage equality was a critical milestone but not the final destination," said Moodie-Mills, according to the Associated Press.

Retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson noted the vital nature of multi-issue coalitions in the LGBT movement. “Our struggle for LGBT equality must merge with other social justice movements,” said Robinson. “Black lives matter. Immigrant Dreamers lives matter. People living in wheelchairs and in poverty matter. We who are LGBT are black, are immigrants, are disabled and are poor.”

Activists at the event remembered history and reaffirmed their commitment to secure the rights of all LGBT people. "If history has taught us anything, it's that no community's rights are one and done with a simple piece of legislation. Equality is not set in stone," Moodie-Mills said.

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.”


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