A Gay Voice in American Labor’s Top Ranks
The president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a post he has held since 1998, Stuart Appelbaum is one of the most influential out gay people in the American labor movement.
Chartered in 1937 as an affiliate of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the RWDSU, with more than 60,000 members, has a long tradition of progressive action on behalf of social justice. Its officials marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement and made the union the first — in 1968 — to negotiate King’s birthday as a paid holiday. The union has also fought on behalf of LGBT and immigrant rights and — out of its battle to ensure that living wages were paid on all jobs involved in the redevelopment of the Bronx’s Kingsbridge Armory — became a major force behind New York City’s 2012 Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, requiring a living wage whenever significant public dollars are spent to support private development projects.
In addition to his stature as a labor leader, Appelbaum has assumed significant roles, as well, in the LGBT community, the American Jewish community, and within the Democratic Party. He has served as a board member at the Empire State Pride Agenda since 2008.
Following his 1998 election to head the RWDSU, Appelbaum has been reelected every four years. He also currently serves as an executive vice president of the 1.3 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. At the UFCW International, Appelbaum is the director of the Legislative and Political Affairs Department.
Within the national AFL-CIO, Appelbaum is a vice president as well as a member of its Executive Council. He currently serves as a vice president of the New York State AFL-CIO and the New York City Central Labor Council. Appelbaum also serves as president of the Jewish Labor Committee.
Appelbaum serves by appointment from Governor Andrew Cuomo on the Regional Economic Development Committee for New York City, where he also sits on the Executive Committee.
Appelbaum is a member of the Democratic National Committee, and serves on its Executive and Resolution Committees. He is also the vice chair of the DNC Labor Council.
Appelbaum was elected as a delegate to the past five Democratic National Conventions. In 2008, he was an Obama elector from New York State as a member of the Electoral College.
Appelbaum graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University, where he was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and he graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. A member of the bar of the State of Connecticut, Appelbaum resides in Manhattan.
Delivering Health Care Sensitive to LGBT New Yorkers’ Needs
Throughout her career, Sarah Bender has focused on bringing LGBT cultural competency to large organizations that have broad missions of serving diverse constituencies.
Bender graduated from Denison University in Ohio, and earned her master’s degree in sustainable development at the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, just outside Boston. She is a certified specialist in gender and development and has devoted her academic and professional pursuits to the intersections of gender and sexuality within the context of health, human rights, and public policy arenas. While at Brandeis, Bender taught courses that explored these issues.
In the Peace Corps, while on assignment in Jordan, she was founder and coordinator of the LGBT training curriculum and support services for volunteers and staff. Working on LGBT issues within the Peace Corps’ settings around the globe is a daunting task, requiring a nuanced balancing of the rights and dignity of agency staff, the specific needs of LGBT people in the local community, and broader issues that may constrain the visibility and acceptance of an LGBT-supportive culture.
Bender has now brought her expertise to New York City Health + Hospital/ Metropolitan in contributing to the development of its only LGBT health system and helping, as well, to manage La Clinica del Barrio.
The work Bender is doing at NYC Health + Hospital/ Metropolitan is part of the great challenge ahead for the LGBT community, in translating legal gains and greater cultural visibility into “lived equality” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender New Yorkers in all their interactions with the wider community. Getting it right in a health care setting, which can often involve life or death choices, could not be more important.
Nurturing Community, Visibility in Brooklyn
Deborah Brennan joined the board of directors of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center in 2014, and within a year became its board chair.
Under Brennan’s leadership, the Center has grown its core programs, which serve youth, elders, transgender and gender non-conforming Brooklynites, and the bisexual community. Participation in health and wellness, support, social, and cultural programs have grown by 60 percent, and Brennan has dedicated her efforts to bringing on board a new executive director, Floyd Rumohr, and establishing a permanent home for the Center.
The Center’s mission going forward has now been laid out in “2020 Vision: A Conceptual Framework for Brooklyn’s Twenty-First Century LGBT+ Center,” which envisions a robust menu of programs serving New York’s most populous borough. The group’s annual Leadership Awards and Gala — which last year honored Iranian-American filmmaker Desiree Akhavan (“Appropriate Behavior”) and Hudson Taylor, a former University of Maryland wrestler who as a straight man learned about the homophobia and transphobia that can pervade sport and so founded Athlete Ally — will be held June 9 at 26Bridge in DUMBO.
Brennan won recognition as a “Phenomenal Woman” by the WBLS “Morning Show” for her dedication and work in empowering women, youth, and the LGBT community.
In her professional life, Brennan is a principal at the Williams Capital Group, a New York based broker dealer, where her primary responsibilities are in sales and trading in the fixed income markets, focused specifically on investment vehicles such as corporate, municipal, agency, and other government bonds. She serves an extensive client base of large and mid-size institutional money managers, hedge funds, bank trust and securities lending departments, and insurance companies. Her clients manage portfolios ranging from $5 billion to more than $500 billion, and she is responsible for keeping them apprised of market conditions and trends that could affect their performance.
Prior to joining the Williams Capital Group, Brennan was a vice president in the money market and fixed income sales division at the Barclays Group, where she had responsibility for bank clients in the Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast. At Barclays, she focused on establishing relationships with clients with a minimum of $500 million of assets under management. The investment vehicles she brought to those clients included corporate commercial paper, government treasury bills, notes, and bonds, and asset-backed securities. Brennan also worked as a Japanese yen trader on the foreign exchange trading floor while at Barclays.
Brennan is also the owner and CEO of an event planning business, which provides full service coordination for all types of special occasion events.
Brennan received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Long Island University.
Advocate, Innovator at 30 Rock
Andrew Brewer first arrived at Midtown’s iconic 30 Rock more than three decades ago — as an NBC page. Today, he is the television network’s vice president of program content.
During those years, even as he became an advocate for LGBT rights and inclusion in his private life, he also took on a pivotal role on the same fronts at NBC.
When Brewer first joined OUT@NBCUniversal — the company’s LGBT employee group where he has long been a leader — the group fielded a mere 15 members in the annual Fifth Avenue LGBT Pride March. In 2015, more than 500 NBC employees, including on-air talent, joined the massive last-Sunday-in-June Manhattan event.
Growing the group’s influence has been an important part of Brewer’s advocacy at the network. As a result of his efforts, on-air NBC talent from Jimmy Fallon to the hosts of “The Today Show” have worn purple in honor of Spirit Day, the annual GLAAD initiative to rally support for LGBT youth and opposition to bullying.
The most visible sign of OUT@NBCUniversal’s influence in the company was surely the decision last year by the organizers of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Fifth Avenue to allow the group to be the first identifiably LGBT contingent to march in the event’s 250-plus year history. That win, which is being followed, in turn, by greater openness to LGBT participation in the parade this March 17, resulted from years of work on the part of Brewer, other NBC executives, and the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Department.
During his tenure at NBC, Brewer also helped create and produce the network’s “The More You Know” public service announcements that over several decades have stressed inclusion and diversity and earned both Emmy and Peabody Awards for excellence.
Outside of his work, Brewer created and helped lead SoulforceNYC, part of a nationwide effort to mobilize LGBT people, particularly youth, to fight back against the anti-gay rhetoric of the Christian right. He worked with youth who planned Equality Rides, in which they traveled by bus to Christian colleges to push for dialogue but also to encourage resistance to school policies punishing or stigmatizing LGBT students.
Over the years, Brewer has thrown his efforts into volunteer work and support for a large number of other local LGBT organizations, as well.
With a master’s degree from New York University, Brewer lives in the East Village with his dog Cade. We were disappointed to learn that he would not arrive at the March 3 dinner with Jimmy Fallon and “Saturday Night Life” tickets for everyone, but are still very pleased to be honoring him.
Anthony M. Brown :
A Commitment to LGBT Families
In his career as an attorney, Anthony M. Brown has been committed to helping build and protect LGBT families, and his personal activism and his own family are exemplars of that mission.
An associate with the law firm of Albert W. Chianese & Associates, Brown heads up its Family and Estates Law division, which serves unmarried LGBT individuals, LGBT couples, and families, with offices in Manhattan and on Long Island.
Brown is executive director of the non-profit Wedding Party, where he has served on the board since its founding in 1999. The group’s goal is to educate the public about marriage and its importance in the lives of all citizens, and it has advanced that agenda through outreach programs and strategic media placement.
In addition to his longtime leadership on marriage equality, Brown has been active in a variety of venues in encouraging and assisting gay and lesbian couples in creating their families. TimeForFamilies.com is a web platform he created to provide those looking to build families with vital information and tools. Brown is also the board chair of Men Having Babies, a non-profit organization created to assist gay men looking to create families through surrogacy — providing both educational tools and information about obtaining financial assistance. He provides legal consultation, as well, to Family By Design, a co-parenting information and matching website.
Brown’s legal career began when he interned at Lambda Legal during the summer of 2002. There, he helped to prepare briefing for the landmark Lawrence v. Texas challenge to the nation’s remaining sodomy laws. His research at Lambda was quoted specifically by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in her concurring opinion when Lambda prevailed before the Supreme Court the following June.
Brown has served as a law guardian at the Children’s Law Center, representing the legal needs of children in Brooklyn Family Court.
A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, while there Brown served as research assistant to Nan Hunter, the founder of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Gay and Lesbian Project.
Brown’s professional affiliations also demonstrate his commitment to the welfare of LGBT families. He is a member of the Family Law Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Bar Association, the LGBT Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, the New York County Lawyers Association, and the American Bar Association’s committee for assisted reproductive technology.
Nicholas, who is Brown and husband Gary Spino’s son, was born through surrogacy, and the family’s adventures through that process were chronicled in a 2010 Soledad O’Brien documentary on CNN, “Gay In America: Gary + Tony Have a Baby.”
Championing Workplace Diversity, Unlocking Its Value
Jennifer Brown is both a passionate advocate and a social entrepreneur who dedicates her consulting practice to guiding corporate and non-profit leaders to create healthier workplace cultures that will resonate with the new and future talent who can grow an organization’s mission and success.
Having focused on training and development in corporate human resources departments at companies including Tommy Hilfiger, Brown founded Jennifer Brown Consulting in 2006. Since then, she and her team have coached and facilitated hundreds of leaders worldwide on critical issues of strategy, leadership, and integrity.
With master’s degrees in both organizational development and vocal performance, Brown focuses on identifying emerging workplace trends and building more enlightened organizations through her client work and outreach.
In an interview several years ago with Gay City News, Brown emphasized that corporations increasingly understand the value of workplace diversity in increasing productivity and attracting and retaining a skilled workforce — and said it is vital that LGBT employees are willing to bring their whole selves to their workplace and their career.
“I am my own product,” she said, “So I keep myself as healthy as possible and the healthiest place for me to be is to be identified with our movement. It has really enhanced my authenticity, my risk-taking abilities, all the competencies that I believe LGBT people have in spades, because we have to have that, because we go through a lot.”
Then pointing to research from the University of Southern California that showed that gay men lead organizations differently than straight men, she added, “I think gay people have a lot to teach others about leadership.”
Brown’s work, which in addition to her consulting assignments has included pro-bono assistance to Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, the Women’s Presidents Organization, and the social entrepreneurship engine Starting Bloc, has strengthened her insights into the organizational benefits of all types of workplace diversity. Her current areas of expertise include catalyzing diversity to drive innovation and business results, developing employee resource (ERGs) and affinity groups, enhancing leadership skills for global, generationally diverse, and technology-connected workplace environments, and advancing the alignment of corporate strategy with individual, team, and societal values.
In a wide array of media mentions — from the Wall Street Journal to Crain’s, Forbes, Sirius Radio, and Fox News — Brown’s thought leadership on diversity and inclusion, the changing demographics of the workforce, women’s career dynamics, and the LGBT work landscape have all garnered significant attention.
Brown has been recognized for excellence among women- and LGBT-owned businesses by the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Stonewall Community Foundation, and the New York City Comptroller’s Office.
Anthony Cirone & Chris Taylor
Lending Smarts & a Whole Lot of Heart to Good, Old-Fashioned Chocolate
Anthony Cirone and Chris Taylor, as long time West Village residents, often stopped into Li-Lac Chocolates, which first opened on Christopher Street in 1923 and later moved to Eighth Avenue at Jane Street. As Cirone remembers it, his first visit was in the early 1990s to buy a chocolate Easter bunny. Taylor said he and Cirone “loved the chocolates so much, we asked for the recipes — but ended up buying the entire company.”
That fateful moment came in 2011, and Li-Lac now has four retail locations — in addition to the Eighth Avenue store, there is a store in the Grand Central Market and new ones on Bleecker Street, between Sullivan and Thompson, and in Chelsea Market. Li-Lac also has a new 10,000 square-foot chocolate factory in Brooklyn’s Industry City, one where the public is invited to come view the process of magic being made.
In addition to the company’s expanded retail presence in Manhattan and its state-of-the-art factory in Brooklyn, Cirone and Taylor have also made major strides in expanding the company’s Internet sales and its corporate gifting business.
And, just as it always had as a longtime West Village business, Li-Lac enjoys deep ties to the gay community and its many public celebrations and galas.
Cirone earned his bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University in California and received an MBA from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business. A classically-trained branding specialist who spent most of his early career building fast-moving, blue-chip consumer brands including Dove, Wisk, Suave, Vaseline, Caress, and Bath & Body Works, he also served as board president for the non-profit Commercial Closet Association and was a founding member of the GLAAD Advertising Media Program, both of which pressed for positive and inclusive images of LGBT life in the advertising industry.
Taylor spend two decades as a Wall Street analyst, focused on emerging markets and energy, after graduating from the University of Georgia and earning an MBA from Georgia State. In his most recent financial industry position, he was responsible for high-yield energy research at FBR Capital Markets, and he previously worked as well at Wells Fargo, ING Barings, and Deutsche Bank.
Recalling advice he and Cirone received from the company’s prior owner, Taylor said, “Martha Bond told us the reason Li-Lac survived when so many other traditional chocolate companies went out of business is because her and her brother’s philosophy always was ‘go to the community before the community comes to you’. That made a lot of sense to us, so we continued her spirit of community involvement… She also made it very clear to us that if we changed the recipes, we would be in trouble, so that’s something we haven’t changed either.”
A Committed Labor Voice for the LGBTQ Community
Valentin Colon, known as Val by many of his friends and associates, has been a part of the labor movement from more than 35 years.
Today, he is the president of the New York Public Library Guild Local 1930, which is part of District Council 37, American Federation State County Municipal Employees. AFSCME is one of affiliated unions of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
Local 1930 was formed in 1968, and traces its origins to the ferment created by the civil rights, anti-war, and women’s movements of that day. The local represents librarians, information and technical assistants, clerical staff, and other job titles. Local 1930 was founded on the principles that “libraries are the backbone of democracy and unions are the vehicle we use to defend our economic rights.”
For the past three decades, Colon’s involvement in the labor movement and his activism in the LGBTQ community have gone hand in hand.
Asked to describe his gay activism, Colon termed himself “a low key player,” but emphasized that he is “committed to participate in any way” he can.
His efforts on behalf of the community began when he became a team leader at the New York Public Library for the annual AIDS Walk New York, an effort he undertook for more than 15 years. He has also, over the years, gotten involved in volunteer efforts on behalf of a wide array of groups — including Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the Empire State Pride Agenda.
Colon has also been an active player on LGBTQ issues within the labor movement itself. A leader with Pride at Work, which is a constituency group within the AFL-CIO, he is currently working to strengthen the newly organized New York Metro/ Long Island chapter.
Within District Council 37, he is active with the Lesbian And Gay Issues Committee, where he currently serves as chair.
In giving his time and efforts to the LGBTQ community, Colon is mindful of what he has gotten in return. First and foremost, that’s how he met his partner of 23 years, Peter Sapienza. He’s also gotten to know what he described as “many other wonderful people,” as well.
In his life, Colon sees a symmetry to all of this: the love and respect he has for Sapienza are every bit as strong as the hopes and dreams he holds for continuing to contribute to the LGBTQ community’s struggle for full equality.
LGBT Advocacy Pioneer, Good Government Leader
The executive director of Citizens Union since 2004, Dick Dadey leads the independent, nonpartisan citywide good government organization that since 1897 has pursued a mission of making democracy work for all New Yorkers.
In his nearly 12 years at the helm of Citizens Union — which has a legislative arm, a policy and educational affiliate, and an online watchdog publication — Dadey has been credited with reinvigorating the group’s focus, raising its profile, and winning notable achievements in the areas of state redistricting reform, state ethics reform, greater public oversight of police misconduct, city campaign finance reform, local lobbying reform, and election reform.
Dadey’s career in public life began with early leadership roles in the LGBT community. From 1991 through 1997, he served as the founding executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the first group to bring together the political resources of the community on a statewide scope. At a time when many elected officials hesitated to align themselves too closely with the community’s agenda and its endorsement, Dadey built ESPA into one of the state’s best known political advocacy groups.
In 1997, the Pride Agenda played a leadership role in New York City adopting what was then one of the nation’s most comprehensive domestic partnership programs, while advancing gay rights in other municipalities and counties statewide. When Governor Mario Cuomo’s defeat in his 1994 reelection campaign threatened to undo state employee nondiscrimination protections won under his administration, Dadey mobilized ESPA to force the new administration to withdraw its original plans to roll back those advances.
Dadey arrived at the Pride Agenda after serving as the first development director at the Human Rights Campaign in Washington. Raising money in the LGBT community in the 1980s was not the practiced art that it is today, and Dadey’s role at HRC involved considerable nationwide travel establishing the first roots of a coast-to-coast fundraising network of dinners that continue to this day.
During his career, Dadey has also served as executive director of two parks-related organizations — City Parks Alliance, a national organization that works to strengthen urban parks across the US — and New Yorkers for Parks, a citywide advocacy group for parks serving neighborhoods across the five boroughs. Among numerous posts on nonprofit boards over the past 30 years, Dadey currently serves on the board of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.
A native of Syracuse, New York, Dadey graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies and lives in Brooklyn Heights.
Crafting Holistic Approaches to LGBT Health & Welfare
Carrie Davis joined New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in 1998 and today is the chief programs & policy officer, overseeing the Center’s human services programming for LGBT youth, adults, and families as well as its policy and education services. The programs she oversees each year provide more than 9,000 LGBT people with community-based services to foster healthy growth and development through supportive interventions, advocacy, outreach, education, and capacity-building.
Davis works collaboratively with both city and state agencies and courts as well as private enterprise to develop policies and best practices to better address the needs of LGBT people. She is nationally recognized as an expert and advocate for the health and welfare needs of transgender people.
Last spring, Davis became the first transgender honoree in the history of the New York State Senate’s Women of Distinction Awards. In comments to Gay City News, she picked up on that historic first.
“The Senate honors women who have worked to improve their communities and to help people,” she said. “I would like to convey the message that I am not covered in the same way and protected in the same way as the other women being honored. And to comment that it is time to move forward.”
Davis currently serves on the New York City HIV Health & Human Services Planning Council, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Advisory Board on Gender Marker Change — which recently achieved reform in the way transgender New Yorkers can have their birth certificates amended — and the Police Department LGBT Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the New York State AIDS Institute’s Ending the Epidemic Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People Advisory Group.
Davis devotes considerable energy to heath issues generally and HIV specifically, but in recent comments to Gay City News she noted that too often discussion of transgender concerns focuses too narrowly on health — both the medical aspects of transitioning and the high incidence of HIV among transgender women.
“We rarely talk about poverty,” she said, pointing out that transgender Americans, particularly transgender women of color, are among the poorest people in the nation. “We rarely talk about the link of HIV to poverty and so we talk about solutions that don’t authentically address the underlying problems.”
She continued, “The time is right for an employment project for transgender people.”
Carrie is a graduate of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art, where she graduated first in her class with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1983, and Hunter College, where she earned her Master of Social Work degree with honors in 2003. From 2007 through 2014, Davis was an adjunct lecturer at Hunter’s School of Social Work.
Breaking Down Barriers as an HIV-Positive Gay Man
Thomas K. Duane, when he was first elected to the New York City Council in 1991 after working for years as a tenants’ rights activist, became the first openly HIV-positive gay man elected to office in New York State.
During seven years on the Council and in 14 years in the State Senate, where he also served as that body’s first out gay man, Duane quickly established a reputation as a leading progressive voice — not only on LGBT issues, but also on tenants’ rights and affordable housing, on women’s right to choose and other health issues as well as on behalf of sexual abuse survivors, and in support of sound environmental policies.
During his years in the Senate, he took the leading role on every significant piece of legislation related to the advancement of LGBT rights — including the 2000 hate crimes law, the 2010 anti-bullying Dignity for All Students Act, and the 2011 Marriage Equality Act.
Duane played a key role in pressing the Legislature to enact a gay rights law, decades after lobbying on that score began in Albany in 1971. When prospects for achieving that goal became a reality in 2002, he pressed his colleagues to include gender identity and expression as protected classes, so that transgender New Yorkers would enjoy the same protections as their lesbian, gay, and bisexual peers. His criticism of a sexual orientation-only approach was not enough to overcome that the legislation’s shortcomings, but, coming from a leading elected official, it marked a significant milestone in signaling that leaving out the transgender community would no longer be an acceptable political path for the gay and lesbian community in New York to pursue. In the years since, Republican recalcitrance has blocked the Legislature from correcting that omission but after years of frustrated advocacy on the issue targeting the Republican Senate, Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in this past fall to ensure that the state’s Human Rights Law is interpreted to include anti-transgender discrimination under provisions barring sex discrimination.
A leader on AIDS issues, Duane was also ahead of his time there. During his last half-dozen years in the Senate he lobbied hard for a rental cap so that people living with AIDS who are eligible for government financial assistance will pay no more than 30 percent of their income on rent each month, something that is now law.
Duane, raised in Queens, has lived in Chelsea since 1976. In 2013, after retiring from the State Senate, he established Tom Duane Strategies, Inc., a firm dedicated to working with organizations that improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.
Expanding the National Advertising Market for LGBT Media
Todd Evans is president and CEO of Rivendell Media, which is the nation’s leading LGBT media placement firm.
Founded in 1979, Rivendell represents 96 percent of all gay, lesbian, and HIV/ AIDS publications in the US and Canada. That’s a total of more than 200 newspapers, magazines, entertainment guides, and digital products. The company works directly for the LGBT media, representing them to national advertising buyers, thereby leveraging the strength of the overall gay press universe.
Evans had worked at Rivendell for years when he became CEO in 1994. For well over two decades, he has been a part of every major LGBT media campaign and, since the federal Food and Drug Administration allowed them, every Direct-to-Consumer campaign in the HIV/ AIDS market, as well.
Every year since Evans took over Rivendell, the company has published the Gay Press Report, which compiles all advertising activity and spending in the LGBT press for the year, regardless of whether that spending was represented by Rivendell or not. Those reports are available on the company’s website at rivendellmedia.com.
Evans is quoted extensively in the business press’ reporting on gay media. A story this past September in the Philadelphia Inquirer estimated the annual spending power of the nation’s lesbian and gay community at $884 billion, and reported that LGBT households make 10 percent more shopping trips per year and spend seven percent more than non-LGBT households. Asked to assess business’ skill in reaching the gay market, Evans told the newspaper, “It’s all about dollars. But while companies may also want to support equal rights, the best ones know how to leverage both.”
Still, even in 2015, Evans told a Florida business publication, in terms of targeted marketing to the LGBT community “most of the largest efforts come from, and have some, champion at the corporate level.”
That may be disappointing, though it also suggests future upside for the gay media, with Evans observing, “While the business case for pursuing the LGBT market is quite clear for many sectors of the economy, it still lags as an opportunity for most.”
Evans, who is a political science graduate of Villanova University, outside Philadelphia, is also a partner of Q Syndicate, the leading content provider for gay media. He publishes Press Pass Q, the industry newsletter for gay and lesbian press professionals.
Evans lives with his husband in Mountainside, New Jersey, where Rivendell is headquartered
In Activism and Film Work, A Champion of Human Dignity
Community activist and filmmaker Brendan Fay has been a visible leader for more than a quarter-century on campaigns for immigration reform, civil marriage, AIDS awareness, “inclusive” parades, policing reform, and human rights. Born in Ireland, Fay holds a master’s degree from St. John’s University and taught for five years in New York Catholic high schools.
Fay’s activism first came to wide public attention when he marched with the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization under the sponsorship of Mayor David Dinkins in the 1991 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. His visibility in that event — which drew angry, even violent rebukes from many who gathered to watch the parade, and prompted its organizers to firmly slam the door for the future — led to his firing from the school where he taught.
Though Fay remained active with ILGO for a time protesting the parade’s exclusionary policy, his activism also broadened. In 1994, he founded the Irish LGBT cultural group Lavender and Green Alliance — Muintir Aerach na hEireann. Two years later, working with others, he formed Irish AIDS Outreach to break the silence around the epidemic in the Irish community.
After years of exclusion from Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Fay, in 1999, launched the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside, Queens, which since then has each year provided an inclusive environment for celebrating Irish pride.
The parade issue comes full circle this year, as for the first time the Lavender and Green Alliance is being welcomed into the Fifth Avenue Parade.
Fay became involved in grassroots marriage equality organizing in 1996, as well. In 2003, he and friend and fellow activist Jesus Lebron co-founded the Civil Marriage Trail Project, bringing couples — including Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer — across borders so they could marry legally. Fay and his spouse, pediatric oncologist Tom Moulton, were among the first bi-national couples to legally marry in Canada in July 2003.
As a filmmaker, Fay produced the “Silence to Speech” documentary series on being Irish and LGBT in America, and he was the co-producer of “Saint of 9/11” (2006) and the director of “Remembering Mychal” (2016), both documentaries about Father Mychal Judge, the gay FDNY Franciscan chaplain who died in the World Trade Center tragedy on 9/11. He was also associate producer of the award winning “Edie and Thea — A Very Long Engagement.” “Taking a Chance on God,” Fay’s film about the late John McNeill, a pioneering gay priest who died last year, has been translated into Polish, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. The film screened in international festivals including Rio, Warsaw, Durban, Belfast, Buenos Aires, Florence, and London and will be distributed in May 2016.
Communicating the Passion Behind God’s Love We Deliver
Emmett Findley, who studied history in college, began his career teaching English to French children Avignon in southeastern France.
When he arrived in New York, he went to work for God’s Love We Deliver, where he spent two years working with the group’s passionate volunteers — who number more than 8.000 a year.
God’s Love was founded in 1985, with one woman delivering food on her bicycle to a man who was dying of AIDS. In its early years, the group was a vital lifeline to many people living with AIDS, some of whom had very few other sources of support and companionship in their lives.
Today, God’s Love We Deliver cooks 5,500 meals each weekday, delivering them to clients living with a variety of life-altering illnesses in all five boroughs as well as Westchester and Nassau Counties, and Newark and Hudson County, New Jersey.
The group’s services are free of charge to clients, their children, and the senior caregivers of its senior clients. God’s Love has never had a waiting list. Illness and hunger create a critical crisis, in the view of the group, and clients receive their first meal within 48 hours of contacting God’s Love, or even sooner.
With the perspective that food is medicine, God’s Love We Deliver employs registered dietitians who individually tailor meals to each client's specific medical requirements.
Findley now works in God’s Love’s Communications Department. There, he facilitates communication between the agency and its diverse client, volunteer, and funder bases. Findley plans, coordinates and executes the agency’s social media strategy, acts as spokesperson for the group, writes direct mail and online communications, and executes PR and marketing strategies.
It is always his goal to find different ways — sometimes in 140 characters or less — to ensure that New Yorkers and the world beyond know the mission and achievements of God’s Love We Deliver.
Demanding Justice for Low-Income LGBTQ New Yorkers
Kimberly Forte’s career as a dedicated social justice attorney began when she was part of the inaugural class of Americorps volunteers after her graduation from the University of Florida. At Americorps, she recognized her commitment to the rights of children and decided to attend law school at SUNY Buffalo. After earning her JD, she moved to New York City and ultimately joined the Legal Aid Society, the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit legal services group dedicated to ensuring quality representation for low-income members of society.
Forte now serves as the supervising attorney for the Legal Aid Society’s Society’s LGBT Law and Policy Initiative. Her primary mission there is to build the organization’s cultural competency in representing LGBTQ clients and expand the Society’s litigation, public policy, and legislative efforts on behalf of low-income LGBTQ New Yorkers. Her work focuses on civil litigation, juvenile rights, and criminal defense.
Two cases on which she currently serves as lead counsel are emblematic of the LGBT Law and Policy Initiative’s mission. In a federal lawsuit filed in the Brooklyn-based Eastern District of New York, Forte is litigating CW v City of New York, a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of the city’s almost 4,000 runaway and homeless youth, seeking to establish their right for youth-specific shelter and services. Though New Yorkers have a constitutional right to shelter, young people are not eligible for adult shelters, which in any event are dangerous, particularly for LGBT youth. Though New York, particularly under Mayor Bill de Blasio, is increasing its funding for youth beds, the need remains great while regulations often drive youth back onto the streets after time limits expire. Legal Aid aims to buttress the push for more housing opportunities by winning a clear judicial mandate on the city.
In Cruz v Zucker, a class action lawsuit filed in the Manhattan-based Eastern District, Legal Aid is representing transgender Medicaid recipients who have been denied medically necessary health care. Health disparities, often created by economic disadvantages, continue to impose significant burdens on the transgender community, despite the nation’s increased focus on guaranteeing everyone access to care.
In her work, Forte partners with many of the city’s queer justice organizations. A 15-year-plus veteran at the Legal AID Society, she has also worked in its juvenile rights practice, representing youth in Family Court. As part of that practice’s Law Reform Unit, she investigated and filed impact litigation cases and comments on proposed legislation and policies affecting youth in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.
Forte shares her life with her spouse Tina, their twins, Kyle and Luca, and their beloved dog, Rufus.
A Mission Chosen By Injustice
Bianey Garcia’s leadership mantra is “I didn't choose to be an activist, injustice pushed me.”
The LGBT Justice Project organizer at Make the Road New York, Garcia came to the United States at age 15 to escape the transphobia she had experienced in her homeland, Mexico.
By the age of 19, she was attending transgender support groups and began working with community leaders to educate her peers on STD prevention.
After a discriminatory experience she and other community members had with police, Garcia became involved with Make the Road New York, with the aim of combating discrimination but also building leadership within the LGBT community and educating its members about their rights.
Make the Road works to build the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services.
Garcia’s own personal story — both in Mexico and here in New York — informs her work and empowers her to make connections with others in the community she serves.
Garcia, who was honored by the New York City Council at its June 2014 Pride Celebration, has frequently been quoted in news reports, often addressing the violence aimed at the LGBT community, particularly the recent wave of attacks on transgender women.
A story from El Diario last summer reporting on the 10th annual Bushwick Pride March quoted Garcia saying, “The city of New York has been a sanctuary for the LGBT community, and we raise our fist to keep it that way. In our neighborhoods, there is no room for transphobia or for horrendous attacks motivated by hate.”
After a brutal attack on a transgender woman in Jackson Heights late last year, Garcia told Metro New York, “One of the problems is trans women are extremely hesitant to go to police if there are any crimes out of fear of being revictimized.” She added, “We're transgender, and we’re a part of Jackson Heights. We deserve the same respect and social equality that everyone is entitled to.”
Speaking about the same crime, Garcia told Gay City News, “Let’s not forget the 22 trans sisters slaughtered this year, 17 of whom were African-American.”
From an Early Age, a Leader Among Youth
From the time Fred Ginyard started high school, it was clear he would emerge as an activist and leader among young people. Born and raised in North Philadelphia by his mother, Karen Kee, Ginyard joined Youth United for Change during his freshman year at Edison High School. That group taught him the skills to be an organizer and an agent of social change.
Ginyard’s first organizing effort focused on getting a new ventilation system installed in the school. Alongside other members of YUC, Fred tested air quality and demanded the new system from the Philadelphia school district. Edison’s chapter of Youth United for Change won that fight, getting the school system to spend $1 million on a new ventilation system.
One of Ginyard’s most significant campaign victories came when YUC helped stop Edison Inc., a for-profit company, from privatizing their school. In support of that campaign, 5,000 students walked out of school, one of the largest walkouts in the history of Philadelphia’s school system.
At 19, Ginyard joined the staff of Youth United for Change as an organizer. In that role, his efforts ranged from working with youth at Olney High School — on campaigns that included the creation of Small Schools at Olney High School — to working with YUC’s citywide chapter to press for reform of the Philadelphia school system’s discipline policies that had helped create a school-to-prison pipeline for city youth.
After nine years on Youth United for Change’s staff, Ginyard moved to New York and joined the staff of FIERCE as its national program coordinator. In that role, Ginyard worked to complete FIERCE’s report “Moving Up, Fighting Back: Creating a Path to LGBTQ Youth Liberation,” a field scan of challenges facing LGBTQ youth from across the country. He also worked to put together a Northeast and Midwest Regional Convening to forge a model for building a national LGBTQ youth of color-led network and a model creating a national agenda by and for LGBTQ youth of color. Ginyard’s success on these efforts led to his promotion to director of organizing at FIERCE.
Ginyard is now spearheading FIERCE’s new campaign “Quality of Life Bow Down,” which aims to dismantle New York City’s quality of life laws. From FIERCE’s perspective, these laws are part of the NYPD’s broken windows enforcement approach that has too often harassed and pushed out queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming youth of color from communities they have historically considered safe spaces.
Going forward, Ginyard will continue building relationships to support LGBTQ youth of color in holding city, state, and federal agencies and officials accountable so that New York’s young people can lead their lives in freedom and safety.
Creating Policy to Move the Agenda
Ross D. Levi, the vice president for marketing initiatives at Empire State Development, helps coordinate the state’s iconic I LOVE NEW YORK tourism program, with a particular emphasis on specialized marketing events and campaigns. After joining Empire State Development in 2012, Levi played an instrumental role in creating the I LOVE NEW YORK LGBT initiative, which he oversees.
Levi arrived at Empire State Development after more than 12 years in top leadership posts at the Empire State Pride Agenda and Foundation, the final two as executive director. During his tenure as ED, New York became the sixth state in the nation to grant its gay and lesbian residents marriage equality, thereby doubling the number of Americans able to marry their partners of the same sex.
Prior to assuming the top post at ESPA, Levi spent a decade creating the organization’s educational programs, developing its policy and legislative priorities and public positions, and overseeing its lobbying efforts. He was engaged in the passage of every state law the Pride Agenda succeed in enacting — including, in addition to marriage equality in 2011, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in 2002, the Hate Crimes Act of 2000, and the Dignity for All Students Act in 2010. During Levi’s tenure at the Pride Agenda, New York also prohibited discrimination in state employment on the basis of gender identity and expression and allocated more than $50 million to fund LGBT health and human services above and beyond monies put into the fight against HIV/ AIDS.
Before joining the Pride Agenda, Ross worked as legislative director for New York State Senator Nellie Santiago of Brooklyn.
Levi is a 1997 graduate of Brooklyn Law School. During his time as a law student, he interned with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, and Judge David Trager of the Eastern District of New York.
Ross received his undergraduate degree in communications from Boston University where he graduated cum laude. An adjunct professor in the University of Albany’s Women’s Studies Department, Levi is the author of “The Celluloid Courtroom: A History of Legal Cinema,” and he co-authored original plays that have been produced at the WAMC Performing Arts Center in Albany and Franklin Plaza in Troy. In younger days, he DJed at New York City night clubs, including Roxy, Limelight, Tunnel, and Club USA.
Levi has served on the boards of directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union Capital Region Chapter, the Equality Federation, and the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Council, and was on the transition teams of both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Levi lives in rural Stephentown with his spouse, Paul, and their dogs and cats.
Glenn D. Magpantay:
Leader at the Intersection of Queer & Asian American Communities
As executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), Glenn D. Magpantay oversees the federation of Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations. An independent non-profit group, NQAPIA works to build the capacity of LGBT Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations at the local level, by invigorating grassroots organizing and developing leadership. The group is also at the forefront of the battle against homophobia, racism, and anti-immigrant bias.
An attorney, Magpantay has worked in the LGBT rights and equality movement for more than 25 years. In his previous position at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, he was the Democracy Program director focused on civil rights litigation.
In teaching Race & the Law at Brooklyn Law School and Asian American Civil Rights at Hunter College/ CUNY, Magpantay strives to inspire new legal minds and future advocates.
Along with his professional endeavors, Magpantay has a long history as an activist and community builder. He was a speaker at the 1994 National March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. In 2000, he organized the first ever LGBT-focused testimony at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders.
Magpantay is a former co-chair of the Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of New York, and in 2004, Instinct Magazine, in its Power Issue, named him one of the year’s “25 Leading Men.”
Magpantay earned his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and as a proud beneficiary of affirmative action he graduated cum laude from Boston’s New England School of Law.
When his appointment to lead NQAPIA was announced in February 2015, Magpantay said, “I could not be more proud and more excited. NQAPIA — as a federation of many local LGBT AAPI organizations — provides a new model of movement-building work for the LGBT community, an intersectional analysis on racial justice and the LGBT rights agenda, and a more diverse face of the leaders of our communities.”
He also added a cautionary note.
“At the same time, we must be vigilant,” Magpantay said. “The community’s recent victory on immigration executive action must be preserved and expanded — we must avail ourselves of the new rights and continue to fight for those who were left out. Many local LGBT AAPI groups are still struggling to blend social activities with social change work and to be more inclusive of people of transgender experiences. And as AAPIs, we must commit ourselves to the larger movement for racial justice and always be in solidarity with all communities of color.”
Pioneer in Pushing Marriage onto New York’s Agenda
Cathy Marino-Thomas and her wife, Sheila, are proud Moms to their daughter, Jacqueline, who is now 16 years. The couple, who have been together for 23 years, had a Union Ceremony in 1995 and later registered as domestic partners in New York. In 2004, Cathy and Sheila married in Massachusetts.
Marino-Thomas began working an activist on the issue of marriage equality in 1998, before it was front and center on the agenda of many leading professional LGBT rights groups. She served as the executive director of the grassroots Marriage Equality New York from 2005 through 2008, and was the group’s board president for six years.
In 2011, as New York adopted marriage equality, MENY merged with Marriage Equality USA, and Marino-Thomas served as the co-president of that group’s board for three years, until she retired from any formal MEUA role in 2014.
During that entire period, it was rare to show up for any kind of grassroots marriage equality event — whether the annual Wedding March over the Brooklyn Bridge, the LGBT Pride Parade down Fifth Avenue, or lobbying day in Albany — without seeing Marino-Thomas out front in the action.
And that was true not only in New York. Throughout the battle for equal marriage rights, Marino-Thomas spoke all over the country, in person and on television, always patiently but passionately explaining how the rights, privileges, and obligations that protect families are only possible through access to the right to civil marriage. She proved tireless in drawing on the story of her own life and her own family to help the wider public understand what the issue of marriage equality was really all about.
The fight for equal marriage rights was not the first cause that drew Marino-Thomas to activism. She spent many years in the Buddy Program at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, during which she volunteered her time visiting countless people affected by HIV/ AIDS — and assisting them with daily chores, helping them advocate on their own behalf, and tracking down the information they needed to live as full and healthy a life as they could.
Asked what motivated her dedication to the cause of marriage equality, Marino-Thomas explained that it all came from her love of her wife, Sheila, and their commitment to make the best possible life for daughter Jacqueline.
Marino-Thomas has the word “retired” over and over again in talking about having stepped back from her work with MEUSA, but it’s hard to imagine we won’t continue seeing her everywhere as the LGBT community continues it journey toward true equality across America.