March 15, 2018
Contact: Lauren Gray, NCLR Communications Director
lgray@nclrights.org / 215-983-3099


After 22 Years, Kate Kendell to Step Down as National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director
Kendell says, “I feel enormous gratitude to have been a part of the NCLR legacy and part of the history of the fight—still on-going—for justice for all LGBTQ people.”

SAN FRANCISCO—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) announced that after more than 22 years, Kate Kendell will be stepping down from her role as executive director at the end of this year. NCLR was the first lesbian-led national legal organization and has been fighting for equality for the full LGBTQ community for more than 40 years. Under Kendell’s leadership, NCLR has been central to the fight for LGBTQ equality, including marriage equality, protections for LGBTQ families and youth, and the ongoing fight to stop Trump’s transgender military ban.

In 2008, NCLR won the California marriage equality case and was later part of the team of attorneys to secure national marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. NCLR’s 2017 U.S. Supreme Court victory in Pavan v. Smith will ensure states cannot chip away at marriage equality protections for married same-sex parents. And together with GLAD, last year NCLR was first to file a federal lawsuit challenging Trump’s transgender military ban in August 2017 and secure a nationwide preliminary injunction stopping the ban from moving forward while the case is heard in court.

During Kendell’s tenure, NCLR’s budget has grown from $500,000 to more than $5 million, the number of staff members has increased by 5x, and NCLR now has both West Coast and East Coast offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Statement from Kate Kendell:

“My time at NCLR has widened my vistas and laid open my heart. I am honored to have held this position and privileged to have experienced the countless moments of joy and awe that have forever changed our lives as LGBTQ individuals. I’ve been at the center of enormous NCLR victories, four at the U.S. Supreme Court, including the freedom to marry, a fight that seemed impossible to many when I became executive director 22 years ago.

I feel enormous gratitude to have been a part of the NCLR legacy and part of the history of the fight—still on-going—for justice for all LGBTQ people.

And under an administration committed to rolling back our rights, jeopardizing the lives of LGBTQ immigrants, failing to protect our youth, and committed to denying critical access to health care, NCLR has never been more important.

I am confident that a new generation of NCLR leadership, hand-in-hand with our dedicated staff, will chart a bold, fierce future for our community.”

Statement from NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter:

“Working with a leader of such fierce intellect and unfailing compassion has been the greatest privilege of my professional life. I speak for all NCLR’s staff in saying that we are more dedicated than ever to fulfilling Kate’s vision of a world in which no one is left behind.”

Statement from NCLR Founder, the Honorable Donna Hitchens:

“Kate Kendell’s charisma, passion and vision have resulted in NCLR becoming one of the most creative and effective advocacy organizations in this country. Every LGBTQ person has benefitted because of her incredible leadership.”

Statement from Board Co-Chair Lisa Cisneros

“I fell in love with NCLR nearly 12 years ago. I was an intern, covering the Help Desk as attorneys drove an incredible docket of cases that ranged from marriage equality to asylum cases. Kate’s passion and energy made her a formidable force for change in and outside of the LGBTQ movement, and we are all better off for it. I am honored to call her a mentor and a friend. As leader of NCLR, she inspires her team to reach new heights and has helped push the movement for LGBTQ equality further than many believed possible.”

Statement from Board Co-Chair Therese Lee:

“Kate brought LGBTQ issues to the forefront of the national conversation at a time when few others had the courage to do so, and anti-marriage equality sentiment was sweeping the country. She has cemented her place and NCLR’s place in the history of California and in the nation. I am proud to have worked alongside Kate to nurture this organization, fight for equality for our most vulnerable community members, and help people realize the transformative power of justice.”


The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org