Geoff Kors, former executive director of Equality California, joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights Aug. 28 to serve as a legislative strategist for the national LGBT legal advocacy organization.
NCLR, founded 35 years ago to help lesbians keep their kids after a divorce, is a major player on the national legal scene, with Kate Kendell as executive director and famed trans attorney Shannon Minter serving as legal director. But unbeknownst to many, NCLR has for years worked quietly to help state and local organizations draft legislation to battle discrimination in their communities. Unfortunately, there is often a gap between drafting legislation and getting it passed. Kors—who worked with legislators and coalition partners to enact 71 pieces of pro-LGBT legislation during his nine-year tenure at EQCA—was brought on to fill that gap.
“We help people draft legislation, doing legal research, providing legal memos, providing policy memos,” Minter told Frontiers during a phone interview. “But what we have not been able to do to the level we would like—and this is where Geoff comes in and really adds a whole new dimension to this work—is helping with the nuts and bolts of getting a law or policy passed or implemented.
“It just seems like it’s a perfect match, because Geoff’s experience and skill set on that set of issues is so deep. It would be hard to think of any other leader in the country that has more experience doing those very things.
“I firmly believe that the state and local groups are the backbone of our movement. That is where the rubber meets the road, and that’s where real, meaningful, lasting change happens—community by community, state by state.”
“I’m really excited to be joining the NCLR team. I’ve worked with NCLR over the past decade, and they’ve been doing this work even longer than that,” Kors told Frontiers. “So often state and local groups have to reinvent the wheel, and I think one of the things we’re looking to do—whether it’s a non-discrimination bill, a parenting bill, whatever it may be—to be able to take draft legislation and come up with draft statements from allies and experts in the field, and draft emails and action alerts that we can give to a state or local group so they can focus their attention on the day-to-day lobbying on the ground ... In addition to be available to consult on strategy, we can brainstorm issues that come up.
“Having worked with state and local groups starting in the late 1980s, I know a lot of the people who are doing the work, and [I] have seen a lot of the issues that come up over and over again. So to the extent that NCLR can be helpful in brainstorming with those groups and thinking ahead to what the issues might be so they so they can be addressed before they arrive, I think that can be very beneficial. For instance, so many groups are focused on the elections right now—but some also have legal packages for the next session. And NCLR helps them do that work so they can focus their resources where they need to right now.”
“This is great news. Geoff is not just smart and strategic, he’s fearless and innovative and unconstrained by conventional wisdom. He’s exactly what we need at this historic tipping point moment when so much is possible,” Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith told Frontiers. “In Florida, there are more than two dozen communities around the state where local ordinance battles are beginning or are fully underway. We will benefit from having Geoff’s sharp political insights as part of those efforts.”
“This is a big deal, and it's a welcome one. As a former critic of Geoff's on some things, I welcome him back. Geoff gets credit in my book for building EQCA from nothing. That's hard to do. I can say that as someone who is building another organization, albeit with some of the best talent in the country at my side,” Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs told Frontiers.
“Kate and Shannon and company have done and do amazing work. They are easy partners, always accessible and always ready to make complex cases part of the daily lexicon for any who ask. We have collaborated regularly, and expect to continue to do so, at prop8trialtracker.com and in many other ways. Each of us has our role in the movement. Courage’s is as a multi-issue, progressive, online organization that moves fast, communicates effectively and never shrinks from a fight. We're not a policy shop, though. California can use a dose of policy leadership in LGBT land, and the collaboration with the Equality Federation is great. Geoff, Kate and Shannon together can help all of us. The Courage family welcomes Geoff back to the movement.”