11. Daniel Dromm, Carlos Menchaca, & Jimmy Van Bramer
New York City Council Members
Because of term limits, this will be the final year in office for all four members of the New York City Council’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus. While Council Speaker Corey Johnson is the frontrunner in the city comptroller race, the other three caucus members are heading in different directions.
New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens is set to leave the limelight after using his post to press the New York City Police Department on overspending, and its aggressive handling of protesters during the 2020 George Floyd protests. He sponsored and helped pass the city’s intersex education bill, which includes money for public outreach to discourage unnecessary medical treatments for intersex individuals. Dromm has also sponsored legislation to ban the use of solitary confinement in New York City jails.
Having withdrawn a previous bid for Queens borough president on account of his mother’s failing health, New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer is once again a contender for the post. Facing now-incumbent Borough President Donovan Richards and former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley in the June Democratic primary, Van Bramer has focused his progressive bid on housing and transportation — areas of focus he says were made especially salient by COVID-19.
Meanwhile, New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn mounted a short-lived campaign for mayor, dropping out in March. Menchaca, a Mexican American who last year helped block a proposed Industry City rezoning, was one of the council’s more progressive members. However, after exiting the mayoral race, Menchaca endorsed the relatively moderate Andrew Yang, one of the frontrunners in the contest.
12. Jabari Brisport
Over a decade ago, Jabari Brisport joined the push to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. He later embraced the Black Lives Matter movement and, as a schoolteacher, became active in New York City’s teachers union. After a New York City Council campaign fell short in 2017, he was elected to the state Senate last year, becoming the first openly gay Black man to serve in the state Legislature. He’s also one of a handful of socialist members pulling the Democratic Party to the left in Albany.
13. Darren Walker
President, Ford Foundation
Since becoming the Ford Foundation’s first openly gay leader in 2013, Darren Walker has administered the organization’s $14 billion endowment – with yearly grants around $500 million – keeping an eye toward racial justice and inequality. Since taking the helm, each Ford Foundation grant must have fighting inequality “in all its forms” as its mission. In an interview with Time, Walker said it is the responsibility of philanthropists to fund frontline protests such as those that occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
14. Valerie Berlin
Principal and Co-Founder, BerlinRosen
Known for advising Democrats, political consultant Valerie Berlin’s influence has grown considerably in the past year, when her firm saw a 20% increase in its client base. Besides expanding into other areas of practice like labor, real estate and technology, her company advised 170 political campaigns in 22 states this last election cycle. BerlinRosen also supported racial-justice organizations like Color of Change during last summer’s protests over the death of George Floyd.
15. Sally Susman
Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Pfizer
Sally Susman has been a leading public voice on the coronavirus, handling communications and public affairs for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, whose mRNA vaccine has been taken by millions globally. Susman was at the forefront of the company’s rebranding this past year, in which Pfizer signaled an emphasis on science. An advocate for LGBTQ rights and political fundraising, she has helped raise money for Democratic candidates including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.
16. Cecilia Gentili
Principal Consultant and Founder, Transgender Equity Consulting
Cecilia Gentili has made decriminalizing sex work in New York a signature goal. She won a major battle this year when the state repealed its “walking while trans” ban, an anti-loitering statute LGBTQ advocates said was used to harass transgender individuals. Gentili is also the project managing consultant for The New Pride Agenda, and the founder of Decrim NY, which aims to decriminalize and destigmatize sex workers.
17. Marti Allen-Cummings, Amit Bagga, Erik Bottcher, Tiffany Cabán, Crystal Hudson, Chi Ossé, Josue Pierre, Alfonso Quiroz, Lynn Schulman
New York City Council candidates
See story here.
18. Glennda Testone & Rahul Tripathi
Executive Director; Board Member, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
Glennda Testone has helped New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center weather a difficult year; without in-person fundraising, the organization suffered a $5 million loss in funding. The Center has nonetheless continued its social services and advocacy work, recently helping to raise awareness about employment discrimination against LGBTQ people, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act last year. Rahul Tripathi, the chief financial officer and chief operating officer at The Brearley School, was elected president of The Center's board of directors in January.
19. Christine Quinn
President and CEO, Win
Former New York City Council Speaker and once mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn has pivoted to an impactful career in the nonprofit sector as head of homeless advocacy group Win. Over the COVID-19 pandemic, her organization has focused its efforts on women’s and family homelessness. While refraining from running for mayor this cycle, she told amNew York that she would use her political clout to ensure that “unlike Bill de Blasio, the next mayor actually makes good on their promises to homeless families.”
20. Roberta Kaplan
Founding Partner, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP
Known for helping to usher in same-sex marriage nationwide with her successful lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act, Roberta Kaplan’s practice has garnered headlines of late with several high-profile lawsuits against former President Donald Trump. Thisincludes one alleging defamation against E. Jean Carroll, who has accused the former president of rape. She also helped sue the organizers of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
21. Carmelyn Malalis & Chanel Lopez
Commissioner; Transgender Communities Liaison, New York City Commission on Human Rights
Carmelyn Malalis has served as chair and commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights (which enforces the City’s civil rights laws) since 2014 after a decade of advocacy for employee rights in the workplace. Chanel Lopez serves as a liaison to the trans community for the commission, and works to address employment discrimination and harassment against transgender New Yorkers.
22. Melissa Sklarz
District Leader, Assembly District 30, Part B
Melissa Sklarz made history last year, becoming one of the first two openly trans Democratic district leaders in New York City when she was elected to represent northern Woodside in Queens. A longtime activist for transgender rights, she was among the community leaders who called for the successful repeal of New York’s “walking while trans” ban. She’s also a government relations strategist at SAGE, which caters to LGBTQ elders., Formerly, she co-chaired the Empire State Pride Agenda and led the Stonewall Democrats of New York City.
23. Émilia Decaudin
District Leader, Assembly District 37, Part A
Along with Melissa Sklarz, Émilia Decaudin made history last year by being elected one of New York City’s first two openly transgender Democratic district leaders, representing a portion of Sunnyside. She has been an open critic of Gov. Andrew Cuomo: She was among a cadre of Democratic leaders calling on the state party to censure him after he was accused of sexual assault – a measure that ultimately failed. “The state party is controlled by the governor,” she lamented to Politico after the vote.
24. Stuart Appelbaum
President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
Representing 100,000 workers from among the coronavirus pandemic’s most devastated economic sectors, Stuart Appelbaum was behind this year’s high-profile unionization attempt by Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama. Appelbaum described the effort (which failed after fierce opposition from the company) as a win. “In a region generally seen as unfriendly to unions, workers have left an indelible mark, and their campaign may be cited as the moment labor unions in America changed the future of work,” he wrote in Newsweek.
25. William Floyd
Director, U.S. State and Local Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google
As Google’s New York City Office expands – before the pandemic, the tech giant added 1.7 million square feet of office space to its West Side location – William Floyd’s team of 12 helps maintain warm relationships with politicos at City Hall and in Albany. After a nine-year stint working for various New York City government agencies, Floyd turned to the private sector, working for Verizon and the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
26. Emily Giske
Partner, Bolton-St. Johns
Not only is Emily Giske a partner at one of the state's top lobbying firms, Bolton-St. Johns, she is also vice chair of the state Democratic Party and a member of the Democratic National Committee. She has worked extensively on LGBTQ rights in New York, helping to overturn the state’s ban on paid surrogacy, which LGBTQ advocates say discriminated against same-sex couples. She also lobbied to bring same-sex marriage to the state in 2011.
27. Bruce Richman
Founding Executive Director, Prevention Access Campaign
With the “Undetectable = Untransmittable” slogan, Bruce Richman has helped fight the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS by educating the public about the efficacy of treatment that makes HIV-positive people with undetectable virus levels unable to transmit the virus. Even amid the economic turmoil brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Richman has hired new staffers in the last year, helping to propel his organization’s message across the globe.
28. Ana Oliveira
President and CEO, The New York Women’s Foundation
Since taking helm of the New York Women's Foundation in 2006, Ana Oliveira has increased its grantmaking from $1.7 million to $9 million. Oliveira, who is also the former CEO of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, pledged $1 million to help women, transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary New Yorkers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Her foundation also partnered with other organizations to survey New York City mayoral candidates on how they would address challenges facing women.
29. David Rich
Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, Communications and Public Policy, Greater New York Hospital Association
Representing more than 160 hospitals and health care systems in New York, the Greater New York Hospital Association is one of the most powerful interest groups in the state, with close ties to the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A veteran of the Mario Cuomo administration who came on at GNYHA in 1993, David Rich is responsible for all of the group’s legislative advocacy and has been busy representing hospitals’ interests in Albany during the coronavirus pandemic.
30. James Krellenstein
Executive Director and Co-Founder, PrEP4All
An HIV and coronavirus activist, James Krellenstein is co-founder of PrEP4All and its COVID-19 Working Group, a collaboration with experts and other activists that has issued reports on vaccine access and the broader response to the virus. Krellenstein has criticized the CDC for failing to adequately track uptake of PrEP and advocated for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to waive their patents. He has also been active in the radical HIV/AIDS advocacy group ACT UP.
31. Alphonso David
President, Human Rights Campaign
Since leaving his post as counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to run the LGBTQ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David has built on the backing of its 3 million-plus members to fight the anti-trans bills popping up in Republican state legislatures across the country. “But with seven in 10 voters supporting equality and one in six youth and young adults identifying as L.G.B.T.Q.,” David wrote recently in The New York Times, “they will also learn this is a losing approach.”
32. Ethan Geto
Principal, Geto & de Milly
Inspired by his parents’ commitment to public service, Ethan Geto has been working on political campaigns since his teens. Founded in 1980, his firm Geto & de Milly advises social services and real estate entities, and recently helped push post-pandemic projects in New York City. This includes the Brooklyn Gowanus rezoning, and a South Street Seaport redevelopment plan. Geto, who previously held a number of city, state and federal government roles and worked on numerous campaigns, has long provided pro bono services to a long list of LGBTQ organizations.
33. Chris Coffey
Head of New York Practice, Tusk Strategies
As a leader of one of New York’s most powerful consulting firms, Chris Coffey signed on as co-campaign manager of Andrew Yang’s New York City mayoral run, for which his firm actively recruited Yang after his loss in the presidential primary. Coffey has previously advised other major New York politicos – like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson – and has represented clients including Uber and New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets.
34. Kevin Jennings
CEO, Lambda Legal
As head of the nation’s oldest and largest LGBTQ legal advocacy group, Kevin Jennings has pushed for passage of the Equality Act, which would cement nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing, employment and public accommodations. Jennings, who helped create the first school-based Gay-Straight Alliance club in 1988, is also the founder of GLSEN, which works to combat anti-LGBTQ bullying. "We are not in a state in which LGBTQ people can rest on our laurels,” he told USA Today last year.
35. Thomas Chernick
Director, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, New York
As director of the New York chapter of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Thomas “TJ” Chernick helps empower LGBTQ-owned businesses locally while coordinating with the organization’s national office in Washington, D.C. As an advocate of LGBTQ rights abroad, Chernick has helped coordinate international gender projects in Iraq with the International Human Rights Law Institute. His organization scored a recent victory when New York City agreed to recognize LGBT businesses in an effort to boost their share of government contracting.
36. Rashad Robinson
President, Color of Change
With more than 7 million members behind him, Rashad Robinson uses his clout as president of progressive racial justice organization Color of Change to change government and corporate policies. “Budgets are moral documents,” he told Yahoo News in May. “They say more about what we care about than anything we may say in a speech about racial justice.” The group’s political action committee funds progressive district attorney candidates – like Alvin Bragg in Manhattan – who pledge to reform racist sentencing guidelines.
37. Jon Del Giorno
Founding Member, Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno LLC
A top lobbyist with deep ties to Staten Island, Jon Del Giorno is well-known for representing labor organizations, including the Teamsters Local 831, the New York City Coalition of Operating Engineers, and the Office and Professional Employees International Union. His firm was behind Christine Quinn and Melissa Mark-Viverito's successful bids for New York City Council speaker. He has served on the boards of the Stonewall Community Development Corporation, the Jim Owles Democrat Club and on the CUNY LGBTQI Student Leadership Program Advisory Council.
38. Alan van Capelle
President and CEO, Educational Alliance
Since 2014, Alan van Capelle has helmed the Educational Alliance, whose Lower Manhattan services include preschool, summer camps and after-school programs. Under his leadership, the Educational Alliance has helped provide relief for those affected by the pandemic. This includes distributing take-home meals and cash assistance, conducting outreach to older adults and reopening early childhood programs. As a longtime LGBTQ rights activist, he previously led the Empire State Pride Agenda.
39. Charles John O’Byrne
Executive Vice President for Policy, Related Companies
A former Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, Charles O'Byrne’s career advising politicians includes working on the 2004 presidential campaign of Howard Dean, for whom O’Byrne worked as a speechwriter. He also became a longtime adviser to David Paterson, serving as his chief of staff in the state Senate and ultimately as the influential secretary to the governor. In his current role for the powerhouse real estate development firm Related, O’Byrne advises clients on government affairs at the federal, state and local levels.
40. Brian Ellner
Executive Vice President, Growth & Marketing, New York, BCW
Brian Ellner is responsible for growth and marketing for the New York market of the global public relations giant BCW. He led BCW’s pro bono efforts advising Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s communications team on its response to the coronavirus. Ellner’s LGBTQ advocacy includes helping legalize same-sex marriage in New York in 2011, and advising similar campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. He’s now advocating for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and the federal Equality Act.
41. Teddy Goff
After Teddy Goff helped Barack Obama win a second term in the White House in 2012 as the campaign’s digital director, he and two fellow veterans of that effort launched Precision, a consulting firm catering to political, nonprofit and private-sector clients. The Manhattanite has worked with the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations on LGBTQ advocacy. He also sits on the board of Run for Something, which assists young progressives seeking elected office.
42. Jawanza Williams
Director of Organizing, VOCAL-NY
Jawanza Williams, the director of organizing for the progressive grassroots advocacy group Voices of Community Activists and Leaders New York, fought for a decade to legalize recreational marijuana in New York state. Thanks to the advocacy of activists like Williams, the bill, which finally passed this spring, sets aside 40% of the tax revenue from marijuana sales for communities affected by the war on drugs, which has disproportionately targeted people of color. His group was also among those that camped out at City Hall to demand a $1 billion cut to New York City Police Department funding.
43. Jon Stryker
Board President and Founder, Arcus Foundation
Billionaire heir Jon Stryker is known for his philanthropic and advocacy work in support of LGBTQ social justice and ape conservation. He has donated more than $500 million of his $4.3 billion net worth to his Arcus Foundation. Earlier this year, he made a $15 million contribution to fund the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, and helped endow a chair for queer studies at Spelman College.
44. Matthew McMorrow
Statewide Director of LGBTQ Affairs, Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
A former top adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on LGBTQ investments and event planning, Matthew McMorrow left the mayor’s office last year to join the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A longtime activist, McMorrow was director of government affairs at the Empire State Pride Agenda, which helped bring same-sex marriage to New York, a role in which he pushed for transgender protections.
45. Cynthia Nixon
Actor and Activist
Since losing her bid to unseat Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018, the award-winning actor Cynthia Nixon has seen Albany embrace many of her progressive policies. She’s also remained politically active, speaking out on LGBTQ issues and endorsing candidates for elected office. She has been harshly critical of the governor as multiple women have accused him of sexual misconduct. “If you look at the way he’s treated women, if you look at the way he’s treated members of the legislature, he is a terrifying, abusive presence," Nixon told NY1.
46. Michael Adams
As head of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders, the largest organization advocating for the growing population of LGBTQ seniors, Michael Adams has been active during the coronavirus pandemic, which he said has made economic insecurity among LGBTQ seniors much worse. Amid the pandemic, the organization has focused on the housing crisis among this demographic, partnering with AARP New York to bring attention to the long-term effects of discrimination on LGBTQ seniors.
47. Sasha Neha Ahuja
Co-Campaign Manager, Andrew Yang for Mayor
A progressive firebrand and activist, Sasha Neha Ahuja signed on to the New York City mayoral campaign of Andrew Yang earlier this year. She has been an advocate for a decade and half, working with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Planned Parenthood, the Street Vendor Project and Girls for Gender Equity – and designing the Young Women’s Initiative while serving as the deputy director for policy under then-New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
48. Andrew Kirtzman
President, Kirtzman Strategies
After a long career in journalism and a short stint in New York City government, Andrew Kirtzman founded his own boutique communications firm Kirtzman Strategies, which advises politicians and health care institutions, among other clients. The former “Inside City Hall” host on NY1 has stayed in the public eye as a political commentator on CNN and MSNBC, frequently criticizing the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
49. Sarah Kate Ellis
President and CEO, GLAAD
Sarah Kate Ellis, who became CEO of media watchdog GLAAD in 2014, has spoken out forcefully in recent months against the more than 100 anti-trans bills cropping up in Republican legislatures. GLAAD deemed this summer the “Summer of Equality” to advocate for passage of the federal Equality Act, which would expand nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Before her life as an LGBTQ-rights advocate, she helped make “Real Simple” one of Time Inc.'s top magazine brands.
50. Ashe McGovern
Executive Director of the NYC Unity Project and Senior LGBTQ Policy Adviser, Office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
Launched by New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, in 2017, the NYC Unity Project provides health care and job training for at-risk LGBTQ youth as well as an outreach and awareness campaign. Under Ashe McGovern's leadership, the organization launched a $2.6 million work development project for LGBTQ youth this summer. “This program is historic in its distinction as the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the nation,” McGovern said at the project’s kickoff in April.
Correction: An earlier version of this post included outdated details of Brian Ellner's work at BCW.
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