By Ace Portis
When I joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) as its Major Gifts Officer in February, I felt like I finally found my home—an organization that not only embraces every part of me as a Black lesbian, but also is devoted to protecting every member of the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Not leaving anyone behind in its pursuit of equality and justice is engrained into all aspects of its work, which has transformed the nation’s legal and political landscape over the last 37 years through its impact litigation, legislation, and public policy.
NCLR is committed to doing the right thing, and, in my opinion, getting it right by touching the lives of so many people. The organization truly understands intersectionality, the connection between race, identity, and poverty—often tackling those issues head on.
NCLR started in 1977 on feminist principles, first focusing on helping lesbians with parenting issues and soon expanding in working with the entire LGBT community. Under Executive Director Kate Kendell, who has been with the organization since 1994, NCLR has grown into a national LGBT organization that works across more than two-dozen issue areas, from immigration to poverty, family law to reproductive justice. Anyone who has ever heard Kate talk about the organization’s commitment to LGBT equality walks away with the same feelings I do each time I hear her: “Wow.”
In fact, the entire staff is devoted, working countless hours, to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. Immigration Project Director Noemi Calonje is a great example. She has singlehandedly saved the lives of dozens and dozens of people over the years by helping them escape persecution in their home countries simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Sports Project Director Helen Carroll is another NCLR hero, who works directly with LGBT athletes—younger and older—to create a level, and equal, playing field.
Many people have voiced questions of what the LGBT movement will look like post-marriage. NCLR, while co-counsel in nine marriage equality cases, including the Utah case that could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, has long been working on issues that speak to the totality of LGBT people and their families, including marriage. The Youth Project is working to curtail the incidence of LGBTQ youth in state institutions with a particular focus on youth of color. The #BornPerfect campaign is working to eliminate the heinous practice of conversion therapy on minors. These are just a few of the numerous public education campaigns, advocacy efforts, public policy initiatives, and cases that NCLR takes on each day.
My colleagues are some of the most competent, passionate, and hardworking people I have encountered. Raising money to ensure they get to do their work and for our steadfast donors to be proud to call NCLR their organizational home is truly a dream. Needless to say, I truly feel like this is where I belong. It brings me joy to know that there is an organization out there that is getting it done for every part of me.
Ace Portis is the Major Gifts Officer at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In her role, she is in direct contact with and oversees both the Major Gifts program and as our ever-growing Planned Giving programs.