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Ringing In 40 Years of the National Center for Lesbian Rights


More than 1,000 people gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts this past weekend, where participants reflected on the organization’s legacy of advancing the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families.

Through litigation, policy advocacy and public education, Executive Director Kate Kendell highlighted some of the organization’s greatest accomplishments, including taking on what seemed like unwinnable fights – like securing same-sex parent adoptions and winning marriage equality. She was also resolute in looking to the future as we grapple with the reality of today’s political climate. To bring true justice and freedom to the LGBTQ community, NCLR will continue to step up to the enormity of challenges it faces – including immigration, health care, housing, parenting, incarceration, sports and barriers faced by transgender youth – without letting up or standing down.

The Levi Strauss Foundation was an event sponsor, and has supported NCLR through our Pioneers in Justice initiative since 2010. The organization’s work also aligns with our own values of empathy, originality, integrity and courage. Throughout our history, we’ve been compelled to take a stand on the important issues of our time. We’ve been an advocate and an ally for our society’s marginalized groups — including the LGBT community — even when it wasn’t the easiest, or most popular, course.

As the keynote speaker at the gala that also featured the likes of Award-Winning Political Humorist Kate Clinton and tennis legend Martina Navratilova, Kate shared her personal journey that led her to the NCLR.

Having grown up in Utah, Kate received her law degree from the University of Utah College of Law in 1988. She was later appointed the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. In this capacity, she litigated a host of landmark cases focusing on all aspects of civil liberties – including reproductive rights, prisoners’ rights, church-state issues, free speech and the rights of LGBTQ people. In 1994, she accepted the position as Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and relocated to San Francisco. Two years later, Kate was named as NCLR’s Executive Director.

Kate’s favorite quote is one by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which perfectly captured the spirit of the evening and the NCLR’s 40th anniversary: “Do not follow where the path my lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”