Equality Federation’s Incredible 20-Year History
In 1997, a few LGBTQ movement leaders, including our current executive director, Rebecca Isaacs, came together at the Highlander Center in Tennessee. Sitting in a circle of rocking chairs in the room where Rosa Parks was trained in civil disobedience, they envisioned coming together as a state-based movement to form the “Federation of Statewide LGBT Political Organizations.” From that loose network, an organization grew.
In 2004, facing a wave of anti-LGBTQ state constitutional amendments, state leaders decided a larger investment in building a state-based movement was necessary. Since then, we’ve been doing more to support state advocates every year. From providing cutting-edge advocacy technology, to building state leaders at New Executive Director Boot Camp, to fostering strong regional cohorts in the South and Midwest, Equality Federation became a powerful force in the national equality movement and state organizations continued to grow and win.
Rebecca Isaacs, our executive director, returned to the federation in 2011, and has continued expanding our work. Under her guidance, our investment in state work has deepened. We’ve focused our advocacy on helping advance comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in the 31 states that lack them, defeating a wave of negative legislation such as bathroom bans and religious exemptions, and advancing policies to address issues that disparately affect the LGBTQ community, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, juvenile justice, and HIV.
We build leadership in the states with intensive training and support for executive directors, field staff, boards, and others working to win equality. The Equality Federation Leadership Conference, our signature event for the last 20 years, has become a premier gathering of movement leaders.
Our work has contributed to the unprecedented progress of our movement. In 2012, state groups and their partners won marriage at the ballot for the first time in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, paving the way for the landmark Supreme Court ruling. Transgender rights have risen to new prominence with protections against discrimination, advances in coverage for transgender health care, and changes making it easier to update gender markers on identity documents. While we’ve faced hundreds of legislative attacks on LGBTQ people in the last two years, we’ve partnered with our members to defeat all but a handful of bad bills. Twenty years after that gathering in Tennessee, we’ve come a long way, but our work is far from over. The greatest opportunities and some of our greatest challenges in our journey to equality and justice for LGBTQ people are still in the states, and Equality Federation will be there continuing to fight in the years to come.
Latest posts by Rebecca Isaacs (see all)
- Businesses Serving the Public Should be Open to All - December 8, 2017
- 20 Years Strong! - October 25, 2017
- These Stories Need Heard: Conversion “Therapy,” HIV Stigma, & Thriving While Trans - August 10, 2017