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    Talking ‘Bout a Revolution…

    By Kate Kendell, Esq.

    (Editor’s Note: For this Pride 2019 edition of the San Francisco Bay Times, we are honored to introduce Kate Kendell, Esq., as a new columnist. A nationally recognized leader in the fight for LGBTQ rights, Kendell served as the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) for over two decades. She and her team during that time successfully worked to change numerous discriminatory laws and to create new laws and policies protecting the LGBTQ community.

    Kendell’s early background would not have predicted such an outcome, given that she grew up as a Latter-day Saint in then very conservative Utah. She attended the University of Utah College of Law and received her J.D. in 1988. After practicing corporate law for a few years, she pursued her true passion—civil rights advocacy—thereby changing her life’s course.

    She became the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. In this role she directly litigated many high-profile cases focusing on all aspects of civil liberties, including reproductive rights, prisoners’ rights, free speech, the rights of LGBTQ people and the intersection of church and state. The honed skills benefited her time at NCLR that included litigation, public policy advocacy, public education and more.

    She could rest on her already impressive laurels, but she is hard at work yet again, this time as Campaign Manager for the organization Take Back the Court. Kendell and her team are now striving to restore voting rights, to ensure reproductive freedom, to protect workers, to halt our climate emergency and to save democracy itself. We look forward to, along with you, following these efforts and to learning more about her work and views through this new column.)

    When I left my position as Executive Director at NCLR at the end of 2018 after 22 years in that role, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was such a big change, but also one that I fully embraced. I’ve said before that it was the “job of a lifetime,” and the sentiment holds true.

     

    But I’ve got a lot of life left. As I spend June both celebrating and reflecting, I close in on four months in my current role as Campaign Manager for Take Back the Court. It’s clear to me that our collective work to win full liberation for LGBTQ folks and ensure that our nation centers justice and empowers the most vulnerable faces fierce headwinds.

    From my vantage point at Take Back the Court, democracy is on life support: dirty tricks, stealing SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the United States), illegitimate confirmation of Kavanaugh, voting rights, gerrymandering. We are on the verge of not living in a representative democracy. We will be ruled by folks in power who can’t win elections unless they cheat. So, we must reform court structure if we are to save democracy.

    For the first time in a century, there is a national conversation about structural reform of SCOTUS. Eleven of the 20+ candidates seeking the Democratic nomination are in favor of some sort of court reform. Democracy is broken and that is intentional. But we can yet both save democracy and perhaps spark a broader revolution.

    Revolutions are borne out of struggle, frustration and even desperation. We feel all three every day under this shockingly evil and incompetent administration. But it is through our fury over the daily assaults on human dignity and decency that the seeds of a revolution are being sown.

    Our community knows something about revolution.

    Fifty years ago, at the Stonewall Bar in the West Village of New York City, patrons for years had endured abuse and assault by those in power. The seeds of a revolution had taken root and the uprising of queer, trans, drag queens and the city’s outcasts exploded. It wasn’t the first such riot—our own Compton’s Cafeteria holds that distinction—but Stonewall is legendary, less for the riots it sparked than for the revolution it ushered in.

    So here we are now, 50 years post Stonewall. The seeds of a coming revolution are taking root. You see it in record numbers of young people voting, in Women’s Marches across the nation and globe, in mid-term elections that swept a host of bad-ass women into Congress and in LGBTQ folks in every community and neighborhood and culture, rising up to say “enough.”

    We need a revolution. But more than us, the most vulnerable need a revolution. The most targeted need a revolution. The most terrified need a revolution. We were born for this moment. We have muscle memory for this moment. It won’t be a riot at a queer bar. But we are taking our country back from the corrupt and cruel. We’ve had enough and we are fighting back.

    For 22 years, Kate Kendell, Esq., led the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy and public education. Kendell stepped down from this role at the end of 2018 and is now serving as Campaign Manager for Take Back the Court ( https://www.takebackthecourt.today/ ), an organization committed to structural reform of the U.S. Supreme Court.