Above & Beyond

The 2024 Above & Beyond: Pride

LGBTQ+ leaders fighting for equality across New York.

City & State presents 2024's Above & Beyond: Pride.

City & State presents 2024's Above & Beyond: Pride. Marcus Cooper, Milk Makeup; Joshua Bright

The LGBTQ+ movement has enjoyed a string of successes since the turn of the century, from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country to state-level legislation that bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and more recent changes to protect transgender youths. New York has played a leading role in the movement, most notably as the site of the Stonewall uprising that’s often credited for launching the modern gay rights movement. Today, LGBTQ+ New Yorkers have gained widespread acceptance in society – and growing representation in the halls of power.

Yet in recent years, there has been a backlash against the movement, serving as a reminder that the fight for equality is ongoing. This year, City & State is putting a spotlight on 50 LGBTQ+ leaders who are on the front lines in government, politics and business. This Above & Beyond list, which features more in-depth profiles of these individuals, replaces the Power of Diversity: Pride 100, which will return in 2025.

Amanda Babine

Executive Director, Equality New York
Amanda Babine / Jessica Young

Equality New York prides itself for taking an expansive view of policies affecting LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. The statewide coalition is pushing for everything from the decriminalization of sex work to police reform legislation and anti-trans discrimination bills.

“We understand it doesn’t have to say LGBTQ in the bill for us to support it,” Amanda Babine says. “We know that people are living in multiple identities at once.”

Babine started her career as a social worker in the child welfare sector, but soon realized her interests lie elsewhere. She transitioned to policy work, going on to serve as director of policy and programs at the New York Transgender Advocacy Group. While there, she hosted lobby days and instituted a program that allowed youth to shadow elected officials in Albany.

She brought the knowledge to Equality New York in 2020, steering the formerly volunteer-run organization through the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Equality New York has grown to a staff of seven and built out a program training LGBTQ+ advocates.

She has been proud to build up a diverse team who bring with them a wide range of perspectives on the issues they advocate for. Many of them are transgender, don’t have college degrees, have faced discrimination and have lived experiences facing issues Equality New York advocates on.

“If we’re going to say that we’re decriminalizing sex work and we don’t have anyone who’s ever been a sex worker, there’s a disconnect there,” she says.

Amit Bagga

Principal, Public Progress
Amit Bagga / Brian Romero

Amit Bagga has been able to shape countless policies that have transformed New York City over the years. After two decades of public service, he launched Public Progress this year to deliver change from the outside.

“The firm is really focused on working with governments, both the executive and legislative branches, to ensure that we are achieving both effective policy goals for vulnerable populations,” he says, “as well as working with the nonprofit and private sectors to ensure that community development is advanced collectively.”

Bagga most recently served in the Hochul administration as senior adviser and a deputy secretary for intergovernmental affairs. The former New York City Council candidate also previously helped lead New York City’s 2020 census campaign that funded local nonprofits and took on other efforts to get New Yorkers to fill out their census forms. New York City’s response rate ultimately outperformed expectations, despite shutdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic and threats from the Trump administration.

“It is notable for so many reasons, not just for its outcome, which speaks for itself, but also for what it represents and the possibilities that it represents for how government can actually form deep and meaningful partnerships with communities,” he says.

Today, Bagga works with a diverse array of clients. That includes Battleground New York, a coalition created by labor organizations and various advocacy groups to flip the state’s Republican-held congressional seats, and a Bronx nonprofit helping immigrants who own small businesses.

Caitlin Bargmann

Trainer/Coach, Graham Windham
Caitlin Bargmann / Amy Babcock

Caitlin Bargmann handles training for Graham Windham’s staff, who serve thousands of youth and their families each year. That means Bargmann teaches employees about a wide range of topics, including safety and risk, mindfulness, boundaries and LGBTQ+ issues.

“For me, it’s really about being there for staff that are engaged in such challenging work because workers that are doing this deserve good support,” she says. “They deserve to develop their skills and be in a good environment and feel safe and feel valued.”

She always had an interest in working with children, but initially planned to be a therapist. She ended up working at a nonprofit operating group homes for children dealing with trauma and psychiatric needs. That eventually led her to Graham Windham nearly a decade ago.

In addition to her training responsibilities, Bargmann also serves as a point person for LGBTQ+ policies at the organization to be in line with city rules. That includes “making sure that, big picture, we are an affirming environment for all the individuals in the grand community.”

Some of her proudest moments at work come during her trainings, especially those focused on LGBTQ+ awareness, when the material clicks with someone.

“It stands out when it happens, it’s like, oh, wow, this is exactly like what I’m here for,” she says.

Beyond her work at Graham Windham, Bargmann also serves on the board of directors of the volunteer-run New Jersey Abortion Access Fund.

Jason Barnecut-Kearns

President and CEO, Trillium Health
Jason Barnecut-Kearns / Matt Wittmeyer Photography

Jason Barnecut-Kearns never expected to work in health care. In fact, he had spent 25 years working in finance at the Xerox Corp. When he moved to Rochester from the United Kingdom two decades ago, he sought out volunteer opportunities through the company’s employee resource group.

“I came across Trillium, and that was because I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community,” he says.

Trillium Health was founded as an HIV/AIDS clinic during the 1980s and remains a major health care provider for LGBTQ+ people in Rochester. After supporting Trillium Health’s fundraising efforts, Barnecut-Kearns joined the board of directors, chaired the board’s finance committee and served as its treasurer. So when the organization’s chief financial officer position opened up about six years ago, the CEO at the time asked if he was interested in taking it on. Then, when the CEO decided to retire, Barnecut-Kearns took the mantle.

While transitioning from the corporate world to a health center was a major shift, Barnecut-Kearns says the skills have translated over well.

“Being accountable to our consumers, the individuals that we serve, it’s just similar to being accountable to our investors,” he says.

One major lesson he has learned in the health care world is the importance of adapting quickly, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The crisis prompted Trillium to launch new efforts to increase access to health and pharmacy services.

“One thing that kind of shocked me was we can actually think differently and react quickly,” he says.

Mitch Berlin

Americas Vice Chair of Strategy and Transactions, EY
Mitch Berlin / EY

Mitch Berlin has come a long way since he joined what was then Ernst & Young as a staff auditor, as he now leads EY’s strategy and transactions practice and serves on its board.

“If you asked me in 1993 if I ever thought that I’d be on the U.S. board, I would say you’ve got to be crazy,” he says. “And so I’m proud of myself for doing that.”

Today, Berlin leads the work of thousands of employees from Canada to the southern tip of South America. That practice works on major mergers and acquisition deals and assists clients on finding new revenue streams and other opportunities for growth. Berlin is also proactive in supporting EY’s group for LGBTQ+ employees. As part of that, Berlin helped support a campaign to allow employees to be comfortable self-identifying as LGBTQ+ in the organization.

“When I joined the board, I felt that as the most senior and gay leader in the Americas firm, I had a different obligation to our LGBTQ+ population and I wanted to take on a larger role and see what I can do to advocate for our population,” he says.

One accomplishment Berlin is proud to have created a new annual survey evaluating the well-being of LGBTQ+ people across corporate America.

“It was important to baseline that and then try to update this every year to see, are we making progress or are we going backwards as a country in terms of the psychological safety of our LGBTQ+ employees,” he says.

Rob Byrnes

President, East Midtown Partnership
Rob Byrnes / Andres Otero

Midtown Manhattan has evolved significantly in the past 20 years since Rob Byrnes joined the East Midtown Partnership. New buildings and developments have cropped up, more residents are living in the neighborhood and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.

As head of the area’s business improvement district, Byrnes has been focused on ensuring that the pandemic’s worst economic effects don’t persist. To that end, he has pushed for more people to move into the neighborhood and for more commercial properties to be converted for residential use.

“I would like to find ways to help our property owners bring more people in to meet residents to make up for the drop off in office workers,” he says, though more people have returned to offices as well.

Byrnes also oversees many of the nonprofit’s other programs that keep the neighborhood’s streets clean and conduct security patrols. It also hosts special events throughout the year to attract people to local businesses.

Beyond his work with the East Midtown Partnership, Byrnes is also active with several arts organizations. That includes the Publishing Triangle, which supports LGBTQ+ people in publishing, and The Other Side of Silence, an LGBTQ+ theater company.

“I have moments of pride when I think that, not even 30 years after being in New York City, that I have had not only an impact here in this section of Manhattan, but that I have had an impact in various arts organizations and other nonprofits,” he says.

Tiffany Cabán

New York City Council Member
Tiffany Cabán / Corey Torpie

New York City Council Member Tiffany Cabán has been among the legislative body’s most outspoken elected officials criticizing the city’s criminal justice system. That abolitionist perspective was shaped by seeing her grandfather, a combat veteran who had been abusive but also “patient and kind.”

“This guy was a poor kid, joined the Army, came back with PTSD, self-medicated with alcohol, and where were our systems in place to support him so that he could be healthier and support his family?” she says. “And that’s the lens through which I view everything.”

The former public defender and Queens district attorney candidate says it has been a “huge privilege” to now have a chance to shape New York City’s policies.

“It is like the coolest thing ever,” she says. “Growing up the way that I grew up, I never in a million years would have imagined that this is where I would end up.”

Some of her legislative achievements since winning elected office have been passing her legislation that allows domestic violence survivors to access housing grants and a measure to create a commission to study the needs of older LGBTQ+ adults. She is also proud of her opposition to the Adams administration’s latest proposed budget cuts.

Cabán, who co-chairs the City Council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus, says there’s no separating her queer identity from her work as an elected official.

“The beautiful thing about queer tradition is that queer people have historically showed up for all oppressed people,” she says.

Daniel Chavez

Associate, Kennedys
Daniel Chavez / Kennedys

As a young attorney, Daniel Chavez is thrilled that his work at the global law firm Kennedys requires him to be an independent self-starter.

“I feel a little bit more ownership over the cases that I’m working on now,” he says. “I find that to be a really exciting challenge and will help promote my growth.”

Chavez credits his Catholic upbringing with fueling his interest in public service. He worked at a nonprofit and as a special education teacher after college, but cemented his interest in the legal world while working at the American Bar Association.

“I was watching lawyers do all this work that I really wanted to do on fighting employment discrimination, disparate pay, reproductive rights,” he recalls. “I was able to witness talented lawyers doing their thing.”

Now at Kennedys, Chavez handles insurance-related litigation on behalf of a wide variety of business clients, such as developers and general contractors. In addition to that work, Chavez has experience in civil litigation cases related to discrimination. He’s also proud of the work he did at his previous law firm, which included helping to secure parental rights for same-sex couples with children conceived via surrogacy or artificial insemination.

He’s not sure what lies ahead in his legal career, but for now, he’s focused on diving deep into litigation. In addition to his day-to-day job, Chavez is a member of the board of directors for the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York.

Louis Cholden-Brown

Special Counsel, United Federation of Teachers
Louis Cholden-Brown / Paula Vlodkowsky

Louis Cholden-Brown has had a hand in crafting all kinds of legislation in New York City, dealing with everything from affordable housing to workers’ rights. One early win in his time with the New York City Council was pushing through legislation allowing transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers to change gender markers on their birth certificates.

“That was one of the first or second bills that we got done, so that certainly was a high point early on,” he says.

Cholden-Brown has gotten extensive exposure to city government over the past decade, having worked under then-New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and current City Comptroller Brad Lander. His legislative and legal expertise serves him well now as special counsel for the United Federation of Teachers, supporting about 200,000 educators, nurses and other members. Still, he feels the same energy carrying out his responsibilities at the city’s influential teachers union as he did when he first began his political and policy career.

“I feel the same adrenaline and excitement I felt then despite having been active for what feels like a very long time despite my relative youth,” he says.

Even in his free time, Cholden-Brown keeps busy. He serves as the male Democratic state committee member for Assembly District 75 and as first vice president and political director of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club. He also mentors law students and publishes writing on issues such as consumer justice.

Rose Christ

Co-Chair, New York Practice, Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies
Rose Christ / Cozen O'Connor

Rose Christ’s interest in government and politics was sparked as a young age. Growing up in New Paltz, she saw then-Mayor Jason West officiate same-sex marriages locally before they were legal in the state.

“It really caught my attention, the role that government officials can play in impacting the lives of their constituents, the roles that they can play as advocates for a cause that was really important to me personally,” she says. “And I think it sparked my interest in local government, truly.”

She has spent much of her career at Cozen O’Connor doing government relations work in New York City on behalf of clients ranging from cultural institutions to trade associations and real estate developers. Some notable successes include securing funding for a large-scale art installation made by the Whitney Museum of American Art and increasing support for meal services from the charity God’s Love We Deliver.

One pro bono client she is excited to have worked with is Drag Story Hour NYC, which brings drag artists to schools, libraries and other spaces to read to youth.

Outside of her day-to-day job, she has spent more than a decade at the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC. She currently serves as its vice president and has previously been its president.

“Stonewall has been really effective at transforming itself as a citywide club and to stay relevant and important in today’s conversations,” she says. “And I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done with that organization.”

Sean Ebony Coleman

Founder and Executive Director, Destination Tomorrow
Sean Ebony Coleman / Desmond Picotte

When Sean Ebony Coleman launched Destination Tomorrow, he and three employees were working out of a cubicle at a coworking space in Hunts Point. Today, the South Bronx-based LGBTQ+ center has 89 employees providing education, meals, career development and other forms of support. It also has a location in Atlanta, Georgia, and, as of May, a new site in Washington, D.C.

Coleman says it was important to take the nonprofit’s model in New York to other areas where those same needs exist.

“What it taught me was that that model will work,” Coleman says. “You may have to tweak it just a little bit based on the region you’re in. Maybe the dialect is different, or the policies may be different and the way folks access care, but at the root of it the model works.”

The work is personal for Coleman, as a Black transgender man from Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“I’m in a way creating what I wish was there when I was coming up as a young kid in Brooklyn,” he says.

That perspective fueled Coleman’s decision to found Destination Tomorrow. He had worked at other local organizations, such as the Bronx Community Pride Center, but still saw a gap.

“I didn’t see a lot of Black and brown people represented in this space working out of the South Bronx, and the population being served didn’t match some of the providers,” he says. “The saying is, if it doesn’t exist, perhaps it’s because you need to create it.”

Anthony Crowell

Dean and President, New York Law School
Anthony Crowell / New York Law School

Anthony Crowell has enjoyed a rich career in New York City government. He did some of his most meaningful public service work after the 9/11 attacks, helping families of victims and managing the city’s World Trade Center Death Certificate Program. As counsel to the mayor during the Bloomberg administration, he handled a wide range of city legal issues and initiatives.

That experience deeply informs his work at the New York Law School today.

“I had the privilege of working in an administration that understood the fullness of what municipal government was and how to create an environment where there was a great sense of possibility and innovation,” he says. “And that’s what we’ve tried to create at the law school.”

Cultivating an interest in public service has been a priority throughout Crowell’s 12 years as president and dean of the law school. In recent years, he raised more than $25 million to establish public interest and diversity programs. He says the new programs the law school has created over the years will allow students to have a holistic understanding of the law.

“I think my entire career has been focused on creating ways for government or for the law school that I now lead to create opportunities for people to have broad societal impact,” he says.

In addition to his work at the law school, Crowell also serves on the board of trustees for the Brooklyn Public Library and the board of directors for the Citizens Union Foundation.

Chris Coffey

CEO and Partner, Tusk Strategies
Chris Coffey / Tusk Holdings

One of Chris Coffey’s earliest memories in politics was handing out leaflets for New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s campaign on Election Day in 1989. Coffey’s mother was the then-mayor’s chief of staff, which also allowed him to have birthday parties at Gracie Mansion.

“Lots of folks don’t know exactly what they’re going to do,” he says. “I always knew that I would work in politics, public affairs, government in some form.”

Coffey went on to spend years working under former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg – in City Hall, on the campaign trail and at the mayor’s eponymous company. That experience informs his work today at Tusk Strategies, which has handled lobbying and communications for clients such as Bird and McDonald’s. Coffey has notched numerous victories at Tusk, such as successfully pushing back against ride-hailing regulations for Uber in 2015 or getting legislation passed that legalized fantasy sports through for FanDuel. Coffey also led Andrew Yang’s high-profile mayoral campaign in 2021.

Since becoming the firm’s CEO three years ago, Coffey has been busy expanding Tusk’s endeavors beyond New York. The firm now has an office in Washington, D.C. – which is working with the Biden super PAC – and has opened new practices focused on Latino outreach and cryptocurrency.

What has been satisfying for Coffey has been seeing the outcomes of monthslong strategies pay off for clients, securing major media coverage and gaining legislative momentum.

“It’s one of the more fun and rewarding feelings that you can have,” he says.

Caitlin Conklin

Director of Volunteers and Communications, Ronald McDonald House New York
Caitlin Conklin / Lu Lu Rivera

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 8,000 volunteers came to Ronald McDonald House New York to help families of children with cancer and other serious illnesses. That changed quickly in March 2020, when the Upper East Side location had to completely shut down its volunteer program. Especially because many youth staying with the nonprofit had weakened immune systems, Caitlin Conklin had to find new ways to engage volunteers from afar.

Corporate volunteers were given chances to assist outside the Ronald McDonald House and also worked with families virtually. Conklin also leaned on volunteers to raise funds for the nonprofit, which increased the number of meals it offered families starting in 2020.

“Our volunteers really stepped up and connected us, not only with donors, large corporate sponsorships, but also restaurant partners that could be donors for our meal program,” she recalls.

Conklin is also proud of her work as the organization’s director of communications. After stepping up to take on those responsibilities, she helped create a standalone department focused on communications that hadn’t previously existed within the nonprofit. She now helps oversee everything from donor communications to messaging to families. That work also lines up well with her volunteer-focused responsibilities.

“At the end of the day, our volunteers are our best talking heads out in the community,” she says, “and word of mouth from the volunteers being on the ground and seeing our mission in action each and every day are the best way for us to spread our mission.”

Jon Del Giorno

Founding Member, Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno
Jon Del Giorno / Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno

Jon Del Giorno planned to become a fashion designer while in school, but the AIDS crisis sparked his pivot toward advocacy and politics – which led to a career in government and lobbying that spans decades.

Before joining Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno, he held roles with New York City Council members, the city Board of Estimate and the city Board of Elections. He brings that government know-how to a wide range of clients, including labor unions, nonprofits and corporations.

“The common theme amongst all three categories is that our clients – they don’t have to be union – but they have to be pro-labor, they have to be good to their employees since we were so heavily representing labor unions in the state of New York,” he says.

One of his proudest achievements is garnering support for the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice, an under-construction residence for people with mental illness who would otherwise be incarcerated for committing felonies.

“We’re hoping that, if we’re successful, that we’ll be replicating this,” he says. “It was a long battle, we’ve been representing them (for) almost a dozen years.”

Del Giorno has also been active in securing funding for the first-of-its-kind American LGBTQ+ Museum.

His work with charities extends beyond his work at Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno, as he serves on six nonprofit boards. He is currently the chair of the board of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

Joseph Evall

Retired Partner, Gibson Dunn
Joseph Evall / Gibson Dunn

Joseph Evall has cultivated decades of expertise litigation related to intellectual property and other issues in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. But he hadn’t planned on taking that path until after he pursued a master’s degree in physical chemistry.

“I found that reading about Supreme Court decisions and things like that was more interesting to me than reading chemical articles,” he says.

After working as a general litigator for several years, he got an opportunity to put that scientific knowledge to use. Evall has since worked on a range of matters, including patent and product liability in the pharmaceutical and biotech space. He’s particularly proud of his work successfully representing vaccine manufacturers in lawsuits that alleged childhood vaccines cause autism.

“At the end of the day, you have to understand the scientific issues and you have to understand the experts, but you also have to be able to convince nonscientists,” he says, “so you have to be able to understand how to communicate with them.”

Evall also took pro bono projects such as helping LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers and representing an AIDS activist accused of defamation. Newly retired, he serves on the board of the LGBT Bar Association of New York.

“One of the things that has meant the most to me,” he says, “is when younger lawyers have come up to me and told me that it really made a difference to see an openly out gay person being able to become a partner at a law firm.”

Steven Garibell

Vice President of Community and LGBTQ2+ Business Development, TD Bank
Steven Garibell / Arpi Pap, Pap Studio

Since Steven Garibell assumed his current role at TD Bank about six years ago, he has spent significant time brainstorming how to make banking better for LGBTQ+ people.

To that end, he has spearheaded a number of initiatives: steering business incubator programs for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, helping businesses get certified as LGBTQ-owned, increasing access to capital for business owners.

“The biggest way we see impact is through the success of our business owners,” he says, “watching an entrepreneur that we had worked with, watching them succeed and opening their first brick-and-mortar and then going on and opening their second.”

Garibell’s banking career wasn’t planned, as he initially worked in the retail apparel industry.

“If anyone had asked me when I was in college if I would work for a bank, I would have said ‘no,’” he says.

He fell into the work and ended up loving it, especially helping small-business owners. He held various roles at the bank before getting the opportunity to lead LGBTQ+ business development.

“When I took my role, we had a very general framework for it and I was able to really get in and develop what the role looked like and how to bring in the right partners throughout the bank and throughout the community to help make it successful,” he says.

Garibell volunteers his time to help small businesses as well. He co-chairs the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s committee that certifies businesses as LGBTQ-owned and allows them to access certain contracts.

Ethan Geto

Principal, Geto & de Milly
Ethan Geto / Geto & de Milly

In the early 1970s, Ethan Geto was working as chief of staff to then-Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams when someone from a group called Bronx United Gays came to the office. The visitor asked for Abrams to back a gay rights bill in the New York City Council. Geto struck up a friendship with him and pledged to get Abrams’ support, which he accomplished.

“He was the first major city elected official to go to City Hall and testify in favor of the gay rights bill,” Geto says of his old boss.

Over the next few months, Geto himself came out and became involved in the Gay Activist Alliance, launching his lifetime of activism. He lobbied for New York City’s gay rights bill that was passed in 1986 and served as chief lobbyist for the Empire State Pride Agenda, pushing for the city’s domestic partnership legislation in 1998. Geto also helped found Parents of Gays, now known as PFLAG, in 1973.

More recently, Geto has served as a founding board member of the American LGBTQ+ Museum that will be housed on the Upper West Side. He has played a pivotal role in securing tens of millions of dollars in government funding for its construction.

“The bottom line of that for me was that we’ve never been able to tell our own stories in our own voices in any sort of real central organized way,” he says, “and this is the vehicle to do it.”

Emily Giske

Senior Partner, Bolton-St. Johns
Emily Giske / Sippakorn Ponpayong

Emily Giske played a key role in New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage. It was a hard-fought battle that faced a major setback in 2009, when the state Senate rejected the measure.

Giske helped form Fight Back New York, a political action committee that targeted key elected officials who voted against the bill. The effort ushered in politicians who backed same-sex marriage and set the stage for its legalization in 2011.

“They became champions on our issues and we finally had the votes on the (Democratic) side and, when Governor Cuomo became governor, he made this a priority,” she says. “We got the Republican votes and we were able to get this across the floor.”

Giske has more than two decades of government relations and political experience, having risen the ranks at the top-tier lobbying firm Bolton-St. Johns. The field looks drastically different from when she started out.

“It’s not like now where the lobbying community is much more diverse,” she says. “It was very few women as well, and there were very few lobbyists of color. You weren’t out.”

Giske says making a difference is about staying confident and keeping your cool.

“You have to be open and you have to listen,” she says. “And yeah, people used to call me a hack, you know, they used to be the regulars versus the reformers. And I didn’t care because I look at the bottom line: How am I going to help this generation of LGBT New Yorkers?”

Deborah Glick

Assembly Member
Deborah Glick / State Assembly

When Assembly Member Deborah Glick came into office, she had long been active in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, women’s issues and environmental causes. She had also served as president of the Gay & Lesbian Independent Democrats. That background helped her make history in 1990, when she became the first out LGBTQ+ legislator elected to the state Legislature.

“It was a long time ago, when there were not a lot of successful, out politicians in the country,” she says.

More than three decades later, Glick has succeeded in pushing forward numerous bills for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. That includes the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the Hospital Visitation Bill, which guaranteed domestic partners the same rights as spouses when caring for loved ones in hospitals. Other more recent victories include the signing of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which protects transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers from discrimination, as well as legislation barring conversion therapy for minors.

One of Glick’s proudest accomplishments, however, is sponsoring New York’s Reproductive Health Act, which was signed into law in 2019 and codifies abortion rights in the state.

Glick says listening is key to succeeding in passing bills and effecting change in government.

“People have to listen. People have to be willing to compromise,” she says. “Politics is the art of compromise, and we see how our politics have gone off the rails because people are not willing to hear the other side and meet halfway.”

Jessica González-Rojas

Assembly Member
Jessica González-Rojas / Jose Feliz

Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas’ interest in running for office was stoked in 2018, when she saw a slate of progressive candidates unseat incumbent state senators who had been part of the Independent Democratic Conference.

The next year, the governor signed into law the Reproductive Health Act. The legislation codified abortion protections in the state after being blocked by the state Senate for years. González-Rojas, who had spent her career pushing for reproductive rights, had been advocating for its passage in Albany since 2006.

“It really showed the power of women, women of color, people who care about gender justice and LGBTQ liberation and health justice and economic justice,” she says. “When they step up and run for office and are sitting in those seats of power, the conversation at the table changes.”

Since joining the Assembly in 2021, González-Rojas has been active in pushing forward legislation for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. One bill she sponsored, which was signed into law in 2022, allowed nonbinary and gender-nonconforming individuals to hold party positions that were previously only designated for male and female candidates. She also fought for the creation of the Lorena Borjas Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund, which supports organizations aiding transgender, gender-nonconforming, nonbinary and intersex people.

“I think that’s what it means to be a queer elected (official), to be able to bring the voices and experiences and the solutions of the thousands of queer families that I represent in my district to those halls of power,” she says.

Jasmine Graham

Executive Director, Mid-Hudson Energy Transition
Jasmine Graham / Buck Ennis

Mid-Hudson Energy Transition is a young nonprofit. Launched in 2021, the Kingston-based organization aims to bring renewable energy to low-income homes. Since joining as executive director last year, Jasmine Graham has been hard at work.

“What brings me the most joy out of building this (organization) – besides the impact that we’re having in our local communities, which far supersedes anything else – is really the culture that we’ve been able to build in our organization,” she says. “A place where we all feel like we can be ourselves, where people from different backgrounds can work really well together.”

Graham has spent her entire career promoting green energy. Her first role after college was at Sustainable Westchester, where she managed the state’s first Community Choice Aggregation program that allowed municipalities to purchase renewable electricity in bulk. She then spearheaded energy policy efforts at the local and state level at We Act for Environmental Justice. That led her to serve on New York City’s Local Law 97 Advisory Board, crafting recommendations for cutting emissions in buildings.

“That was a huge opportunity in my career to make sure that energy justice was really being considered in the implementation of this monumental law,” she says.

She then continued her policy work at the Building Decarbonization Coalition. But she embraced a career pivot.

“There was a part of me that missed the very direct and immediate impact of programmatic work,” she says. “So I took on the huge challenge of running a startup nonprofit.”

Janice Grubin

Partner, Barclay Damon
Janice Grubin / Cindy Bell, Focus Studios

Janice Grubin has long led efforts to support LGBTQ+ lawyers at Barclay Damon, playing a key role in the law firm’s LGBTQ+ affinity group and advocating for diversity and inclusion at the firm.

That passion goes beyond her firm, however. Grubin is also active in the LGBT Bar Association of New York, serving as vice president of its board. For about a decade, she has also been part of the association’s committee focused on interviewing vetting potential judicial candidates.

“Judges want to appear before us, even when they’re uncontested they want to appear before us,” she says. “Because we view ourselves as not only informing the electorate, which is to send out a press release of our ratings, but also sensitizing the judges or the candidates to the LGBTQ issues that are of concern to our community.”

At Barclay Damon, Grubin handles restructuring, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights matters on behalf of debtors, creditors, fiduciaries and other clients. She has been at the forefront of complicated legal battles, such as one in which she became the trustee of a complicated bankruptcy involving a chain of 23 Dunkin’ Donuts stores and a bakery. She ultimately sold all the assets, secured 33 settlements and collected a $9 million judgment against a prospective buyer.

Grubin describes her approach to work as no-nonsense and practical.

“My motto is take the high road and work hard, have integrity and surround yourself with talented people, and you’ll do right by the client,” she says.

Anthony Hayes

Founder and President, The Hayes Initiative
Anthony Hayes / Beatrice Moritz

Shortly after Anthony Hayes finished up his work on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign in November 2016, he was inundated with requests to take on communications work for others.

“As you can imagine, I was trying to just, frankly, get back to my apartment and take in what had just happened,” he recalls. “And so the concept of sort of becoming a small-business owner just wasn’t in my head.”

Eventually, someone reached out to him who was interested in securing his services on a campaign to oppose calls to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act.

“I just whimsically answered her and said, ‘Oh, you should hire my firm,’” he says. “And she said, ‘Oh, great. Of course, just send us your contract.’ And I said, ‘No problem.’ And then I Googled contracts and I started the firm.”

The Hayes Initiative has come a long way in the nearly eight years since then, with 10 employees now managing communications and government relations efforts on various campaigns. The firm’s clients include the Ali Forney Center, which helps LGBTQ+ homeless youth, and the New York City Football Club. Recently, his firm helped NYCFC win key support for building a soccer stadium in Queens.

“We really want to be problem-solvers and connectors and bring everyone together,” Hayes says.

Hayes has also previously worked for the Human Rights Campaign, where he advocated for same-sex marriage in New York, and at The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Frances Huang

Advocacy Manager, Chinese-American Planning Council
Frances Huang / Dante Bravo

Frances Huang started out as a health educator for Asian American and Pacific Islander students at the Chinese-American Planning Council. That experience fueled their transition to policy work.

“I saw that a lot of the issues that we’re facing on the ground, they’re tied to more systemic problems,” says Huang, who uses they/them pronouns.

In their former role, they created an advocacy campaign for six high school students to address sex trafficking and help sex workers. Huang went on to join the nonprofit’s policy team, which advocates on behalf of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in New York City and on behalf of their social services staff.

As an advocacy manager, Huang is committed to translating community members’ and staff members’ needs into actionable policy change initiatives. They played a key role in creating the organization's Advocacy Advisory Council, which brings front-line workers deeper into organizing. Huang has also seen attendance and engagement with the Chinese-American Planning Council’s policy work grown significantly over the years.

“Helping to shift that culture of advocacy at CPC is something I’m proud of, because I would have never imagined Advocacy Days and just the culture of advocacy to look like the way it does today,” they say.

In addition to their advocacy, Huang is also a mental health counselor who has previously worked on a team that brought treatment to people who had fallen out of the traditional mental health care system and often dealt with serious mental health conditions.

Barbara Hughes

Executive Director, City Beet Kitchens, Project Renewal
Barbara Hughes / Joshua Bright

Barbara Hughes started out in the restaurant business in New York City in 1971, working her way up to being an executive chef.

“Then the AIDS crisis happened, and it completely changed my life,” she remembers. “And it made me start thinking about the world in a completely different way.”

Hughes began to volunteer at GMHC and then joined ACT UP, the renowned group that fought against AIDS.

“I was so angry that nothing was happening and people were dying,” she says. “It was a place for me to use my anger to try to make change.”

That’s not the only way she has been a champion of vulnerable New Yorkers. She has been with Project Renewal since 1992, using her restaurant experience to launch a culinary job training program for adults who have dealt with homelessness, incarceration and other challenges. Hughes went on to help create the nonprofit’s catering company, City Beet Kitchens. It now employs many graduates of the training program and serves other nonprofits, such as shelter and housing providers. Its profits go back into sustaining the culinary training program.

“We have 14 managers. Twelve of those people have come through the training program and are growing their careers here with us,” she says. “I’m really proud of that.”

She has also long remained active in fighting for people with HIV/AIDS. She is now the board president emeritus of the Treatment Action Group, having previously served on the board for 20 years.

Tim Johnson

Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Center for GME Policy and Services, Greater New York Hospital Association
Tim Johnson / GNYHA

Tim Johnson celebrated his 30th anniversary at the Greater New York Hospital Association this year. During his tenure at the industry organization, which represents 280 hospitals, health systems and other facilities, Johnson has witnessed major changes in the health care policy world. For Johnson, those developments are what makes health care an exciting field.

One change was the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which GNYHA supported, and which has transformed access to health insurance. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic devastated hospitals and health care workers in New York.

During the pandemic, Johnson was focused on helping hospitals manage workforce shortages to keep essential care going.

“These health care workers did an incredible job working to care for their communities,” he says. “They were the real heroes. It was an honor for me to work with them and really support them in the way that I did.”

On top of that work, Johnson also oversees the association’s efforts to improve medical education for medical students and residents. As part of that work, Johnson is helping to develop a curriculum with training on how to support different populations, such as immigrant communities or LGBTQ+ people.

“The thing that really helps me get out of bed in the morning is knowing that the work that I do is really helpful to people,” he says. “Anything I can do to help the hospitals and help them take care of their communities is a step in the right direction.”

Kevin Jones

Associate State Director, Advocacy, AARP New York
Kevin Jones / Chase Mills

What intrigued Kevin Jones about working at AARP New York was the chance to advocate for older adults across a range of policy issues.

“We have the obvious ones that people think about, older adult centers and health and meal programs and things like that that are specifically aimed at older adults,” he says, “but we do a lot of work with transportation, with housing, with social engagement, with broadband access.”

Jones cultivated his interest in policy in college, when he got a job at the Texas Capitol. That led him to work for a member of the Texas House of Representatives and then a trade association in Washington, D.C. After coming to New York City, he joined the lobbying firm Constantinople & Vallone Consulting, where he worked with a wide variety of clients.

“I’m working on discretionary budget asks for a nonprofit one day and then congestion pricing on behalf of a bus company the next day,” he says. “The topics were so varied that it really did make it essential to know the process.”

Jones says that, early on in his political career in Texas, he couldn’t have imagined being an out gay man.

“To go from a place where I was literally terrified that people would find out that I was gay to now having a rainbow AARP New York banner on my office wall – I hope that people that grew up in areas that are more accepting never stop appreciating what that means,” he says.

James Felton Keith

CEO, Inclusion Score
James Felton Keith / Harvey Jackson

James Felton Keith’s career has taken many turns over the years.

He started out as a mechanical engineer before pursuing a master’s degree in economics at Harvard University. That knowledge brought him to financial technology companies and major firms like Hewlett-Packard.

“Around the 2010s, I had a mentor tell me that I should work in government,” Keith says. “I thought it was crazy at first. I was like, 30. I was like, I’m making it here in New York, I can’t leave these jobs to go take a pay cut somewhere – but I took his advice.”

That led him to work for mayors in the Midwest, including the mayor of Detroit, his hometown. During that time, he was also coming out and founded Detroit’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

“My most proud moment was building a chamber of commerce that had staying power,” he says. “It was the first time that I built an institution that I knew would outlast my time at it and, hopefully, me.”

He continued work in the LGBTQ+ community back in New York City, playing a pivotal role in getting support for a new LGBTQ+ center that is under construction in Harlem. That experience also motivated Keith to run for Congress in 2020.

Today, he runs Inclusion Score, a software company he founded that certifies and sets standards around corporate diversity and inclusion.

“Regardless of what headlines you see, it can’t go away because it costs too much to poorly engage a demographic,” he says.

Jacquelyn Kilmer

CEO, Harlem United
Jacquelyn Kilmer / Harlem United

Jacquelyn Kilmer never planned on running a nonprofit. In fact, she worked as a corporate lawyer in Colorado for 25 years. That changed after joining the board of the Colorado Health Network, then known as the Colorado AIDS Project, and doing pro bono work there.

“While practicing law was good for a lot of years, and I did enjoy it, it was definitely not my passion,” she says. “This became my passion.”

This issue was personal for Kilmer, who had seen friends with HIV/AIDS deal with discrimination and insufficient access to care.

“That really started my desire to be part of fighting the epidemic,” she says. “And also because of the connection with the LGBTQ community and seeing – whether it was within health care or had anything to do with HIV and AIDS – discrimination and hate and really wanting to be involved in a more direct way.”

The upstate New York native returned to the state and got connected to Harlem United in 2010. She started as a compliance director because of her legal background, with a contract for six months. She has since spent nearly a decade and a half with the organization.

She has been proud to increase access to its health care services, such as primary care and mental health care.

“One of the things that Harlem United has always been amazing at is being innovative and being flexible and really changing to meet the needs of the communities that we were serving,” Kilmer says.

Julian Kline

President, Kline Public Strategies
Julian Kline / Sheena Kim

Julian Kline is new to running his own consulting firm, having launched Kline Public Strategies in December. Clients turn to him for guidance on lobbying and community relations in New York City and Albany.

His journey to lobbying work was atypical, as he had graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.

“After the recession in 2009, it was really difficult to find work,” he says. “I was putting on different exhibits in the Meatpacking District and I ended up working for the Meatpacking District’s Business Improvement District.”

That experience exposed him to government issues, which then led him to the lobbying firm Bolton-St. Johns. After about a decade there, he became head of policy for Tech:NYC, advocating on behalf of its membership of technology companies in New York City. He continues to represent tech clients at his firm today.

Kline has enjoyed several successes throughout his 12 years in government relations. For example, he helped the New York Immigration Coalition get the Green Light Law passed in Albany, allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. He recently campaigned in support of Empire AI, a new state-level effort to boost artificial intelligence development.

“That will be historic for New York in helping to make sure colleges and universities have the resources available to research and develop technology in artificial intelligence,” he says.

Outside his day-to-day work, Kline serves on the board of the New Pride Agenda, a statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

Ross Levi

Vice President and Executive Director of Tourism, Empire State Development
Ross Levi / Darren McGee, NYS Department of Economic Development

Ross Levi’s job is to make sure that everyone loves New York, but earlier in his career he made sure that New York allowed everyone to love.

The state tourism director made his mark during his tenure with Empire State Pride Agenda, including two years as executive director, where he played a key role in coordinating advocates behind the 2011 legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. 

“It was a thrilling and exciting experience,” Levi remembers.

During his 12 years with Empire State Development, including almost seven years as tourism chief, Levi has been focused on a number of initiatives, including the launch of the I Love NY LGBTQ program, a first-in-the-nation initiative.

Levi says the I Love NY LGBTQ program has not been focused specifically on Pride-related events across the state, but rather in showcasing the state’s tourism options to the community nationally. He also said the I Love NY LGBTQ initiative has worked with New York State Fair officials in a pioneering marketing effort.

In the comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic, Levi says the industry is on the rebound. With domestic tourism back to pre-pandemic levels in New York, Levi is focused on international and business tourism.

Looking back at his involvement in same-sex marriage, Levi notes how far things have come.

“When I started working on this, there was not a single law on the books except for the outdated law outlawing our love,” Levi says. “To be there for the ultimate government recognition of our love was meaningful.”

Chanel Lopez

Deputy Director of LGBTQ+ Affairs, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office
Chanel Lopez / Provided

Chanel Lopez spends her days traveling all across New York, from New York City to Albany to Buffalo. Her schedule is packed with speaking engagements, legislative discussions and conversations with transgender New Yorkers. It’s a role she never expected but is proud to hold.

“This has been one of my biggest accomplishments, one of my biggest achievements, and I feel like I’m not done yet,” she says.

When she first began transitioning more than 20 years ago, Lopez was kicked out of her family’s home and lost her job. She turned to sex work to deal with the financial instability. Eventually, a friend connected her to an LGBTQ+ nonprofit that eventually hired her as a peer educator. She would continue working with other LGBTQ+ organizations, such as the NYC Anti-Violence Project and Bronx Community Pride Center.

Lopez had her first taste of government work in 2019, joining the New York City Commission on Human Rights as its liaison to trans New Yorkers. After Gov. Kathy Hochul took office, Lopez took on her current role.

“I get to sit at tables that other trans folks would never dream of sitting in,” she says.

That means having a hand in the numerous pieces of legislation the Hochul administration signed or implemented aimed at the trans and nonbinary New Yorkers – including the creation of the Lorena Borjas Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund and the passage of a bill that designates New York state as a safe haven for trans youth.

Ken Louie

Deputy Chief Marketing and Brand Officer, MetroPlusHealth
Ken Louie / Melody Cao, MetroPlusHealth

Ken Louie has a deeply personal understanding of MetroPlusHealth, having gained health care access through it while growing up in New York City. That drove his decision two years ago to work for the organization.

“I really thought this is a very unique opportunity to make an impact on New York,” he says.

He had started his career as a social worker at Bellevue Hospital. After realizing it wasn’t a good fit, he pivoted to marketing. He steered major brand changes for financial services and health care companies. Most recently, Louie managed a rebrand for the health services company Optum after its acquisition of DaVita Medical Group.

That experience prepared Louie to guide MetroPlusHealth through its own rebrand.

“We really wanted to spread the word of no-cost or low-cost health care within New York,” he says. “And what we found was that a lot of people knew of MetroPlus, but a lot of people wouldn’t consider us as their insurance provider.”

Under Louie’s direction, the organization underwent a revamp of its website and coined new taglines emphasizing its low-cost health care plans. Now, 1.5 million people visit the website each year. He’s also spearheading efforts to bolster the health care organization’s social media presence in the coming months.

“We found in our research that word of mouth is the No. 1 way people find out about health care,” he says. “But what does word of mouth mean for young people? Word of mouth means social media.”

Kelly L. McNamee

Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig
Kelly L. McNamee / Greenberg Traurig

Kelly L. McNamee brings her legal expertise to very different clients. On the one hand, she represents energy generators and distributors dealing with regulatory issues before the state Public Service Commission. On the other, she works with large media organizations and journalists dealing with defamation and public access cases.

Both responsibilities are enjoyable for McNamee. Learning about the energy industry “inside out” means she can be “a real expert in an area that a lot of people don’t really think about day to day.” And it is exciting to help journalists do their work as well.

“We do a lot of Freedom of Information Law requests, or those types of request equivalents in other states,” she says. “When those are denied for journalists, we do a lot of work to help them fight those denials and attempts to get those overturned, so we get to help them in their actual journalistic news gathering efforts, which is really fun.”

McNamee initially aimed to use her law degree toward LGBTQ+ advocacy, having received a fellowship from Hofstra University aimed at LGBTQ+ law students. She ended up in Big Law, a path she was glad to have taken.

“I realized that even though traditional Big Law work isn’t expressly geared towards LGBT advocacy or civil rights work, the platform that these larger firms have enable you to do a lot of work in that area,” she says.

She has also been proud of her past work successfully representing LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers.

Frankie Miranda

President and CEO, Hispanic Federation
Frankie Miranda / Diosa Pacheco Photography

Ever since Frankie Miranda first joined the Hispanic Federation in 1998, he has been mobilizing the organization to speak up for LGBTQ+ rights. While in a more junior role, Miranda worked with Hispanic Federation leadership to speak up for same-sex marriage while his own partner was deported to Brazil for overstaying his visa. When same-sex marriage was legalized, Miranda and his partner were able to reconnect – and marry – in the United States.

“It is interesting how being able to be out at work and being able to be at a safe place, how that has an incredible impact,” he says, “not only in my life, but also with my colleagues, but also how it has informed the agenda of the organization.”

Miranda continues to speak up for the LGBTQ+ Latino community as president and CEO of the Hispanic Federation, which represents hundreds of Latino-serving nonprofits across the county. In 2022, Miranda launched a program giving more than $1 million total in grants to nonprofits helping LGBTQ+ Latino people.

“We knew that our Latinx, Hispanic-serving organizations are underfunded,” he says. “It is estimated that around 2% to 1% of institutional funding goes to our organizations. When you take that into consideration (for) Latinx LGBTQ organizations, the disparity is even worse.”

Miranda also steered the Hispanic Federation through the COVID-19 pandemic, overseeing emergency relief grants for nonprofits and small businesses across the country. In past roles, he also spearheaded disaster relief projects in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Alan Mucatel

CEO, Rising Ground
Alan Mucatel / J. Scott, Rising Ground

Rising Ground looked like a very different organization when Alan Mucatel first became its chief executive 15 years ago.

“It was an organization that, in many ways, had lost its way,” he says. “Some 80% of its programs and services were in significant corrective action. It was a venerable place, but its reputation was not particularly good.”

Mucatel guided its transformation since then, more than doubling its budget and improving its services over the years. The nonprofit now employs about 2,000 people who run more than 100 youth, health and education programs across New York City and Westchester County. Its growth has continued, having recently absorbed programs run by a now-shuttered youth nonprofit called Sheltering Arms.

“I’m very proud that we’re here,” he says. “It sounds funny, but there were many years when I thought maybe this organization wouldn’t make it.”

Mucatel’s leadership is informed by years of experience in nonprofits. Before coming to Rising Ground, he spent a decade as the executive director of Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey, now known as Pillar Care Continuum. He also previously served as deputy director and development director at the Coalition for the Homeless.

Part of what motivates his work at Rising Ground is his passion for being able to give back to people in his hometown of New York City.

“I’m a native New Yorker,” he says. “And so I feel particularly passionate about being able to contribute to supporting our neighbors who have faced a wide range of challenges.”

Tiffany Jade Munroe

Trans Justice Coordinator, Caribbean Equality Project
Tiffany Jade Munroe / TrinCity Photos

Tiffany Jade Munroe arrived in New York City in 2019 after facing violence and homelessness in Guyana. The Caribbean Equality Project guided her through the process of securing asylum and work authorization. Today, she’s paying it forward and helping other transgender and nonbinary people of Caribbean descent.

That encompasses everything from hosting know your rights workshops to helping people find housing and getting people registered to vote. Munroe is also active in advocacy, pushing for last year’s law designating New York state as a safe haven for trans youth and the 2021 repeal of the “walking while trans” ban.

“In this climate and in society right now, as trans people, we have to make sure that our voices are at the table,” she says. “And if they’re not inviting us to the table, we must show ourselves up by the table.”

She credits her experience at a “Brooklyn Liberation” march for Black trans lives in 2020 with boosting her confidence to speak up. It was her first time out in a crowd as a trans woman.

“I remember feeling so empowered to see everyone show up for the trans community,” she says.

The next day her phone blew up with glowing messages. The New York Times had taken a photo of her holding a rainbow Pride flag and ran it alongside an article about a U.S. Supreme Court decision protecting gay and trans workers.

“I think that gave me some motivation to actually be the activist that I am to this day,” she says.

Charles O’Byrne

Executive Vice President for Policy, Related Companies
Charles O’Byrne / Tyson Reist

Charles O’Byrne is go-to expert for Related Companies’ senior leadership. He primarily handles the real estate developer’s political relationships and government affairs work, but also advises on legal and communications. On top of that, he plays a key role in supporting energyRe, an energy company founded by Related’s principals that aims to replace 16% of New York City’s power supply with renewable energy.

His career path reflects his diverse skill sets. In addition to working as a church chaplain and human rights lawyer, O’Byrne has served as secretary to then-Gov. David Paterson and as his chief of staff while Paterson was in the state Senate.

“I credit my parents, imbuing us with the notion that a job is not a job unless you really feel that you’re a part of a mission,” he says.

He says working at Related provides that meaningfulness for him. He’s proud of the company’s work at Willets Point, constructing a Queens development project that will create 2,500 affordable housing units and a new soccer stadium, as well as its role in transforming Hudson Yards.

“We’ve had an extraordinary opportunity here to add something to the city,” he says.

In addition to his day-to-day work, O’Byrne has been active with various nonprofits. He currently serves as board chair of the Washington Ireland Program, which connects students from Northern Ireland and Ireland, and is the former co-chair of the board of the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York, which helps LGBTQ+ youth.

Julio Peña III & Jacqui Painter

District Leaders, Brooklyn Democratic Party
Julio Peña III & Jacqui Painter / Waterfront Studios

Julio Peña III and Jacqui Painter make up Brooklyn’s first queer district leader duo. And they come with a deep understanding of Assembly District 51.

The two are both Brooklyn natives – Painter was raised in Red Hook and Peña in Sunset Park – and serve on their respective community boards. But they began to work together more frequently in 2020 with mutual aid efforts and other work through the Democratic County Committee. Both became motivated to become district leaders because they thought more could be done to engage residents in the area.

“We did have folks that were in these seats for a long time that didn’t really do any of the community work and weren’t really seen in the community,” Painter says. “So that is something that Julio and I really saw a problem with.”

They’ve prided themselves on making themselves available to the public, running voter registration drives and other events.

“There’s not a weekend that goes by that Jacqui and I aren’t tabling at an event providing voter registration information and materials and making sure that people know about upcoming elections,” Peña says.

When the district leader pair aren’t busy at events, they’re busy at their day jobs at local nonprofits and on community boards. The two also love to make Instagram reels together on being district leaders and voting.

"You should look it up, because we’re hilarious,” Painter says. “We try to bring a little fun and light to things that people don’t understand.”

Lucciano Reberte

Director of Community Engagement, Latino Commission on AIDS
Lucciano Reberte / Latino Commission on AIDS

Lucciano Reberte moved to New York from Argentina in 2010, and soon learned he was HIV positive. That’s when he got involved with Latino Commission on AIDS, first as a volunteer and then as an employee.

“I didn’t even speak English back then,” he says. “I’m still improving. But I had no experience at all in the HIV field. As I was dealing with my diagnosis, I was also learning about HIV.”

He has come a long way in the years since. Reberte now serves as the organization’s director of community engagement, overseeing direct services programs for people with HIV and AIDS and mobilizing Latino gay, bisexual and transgender men at the state and national level.

Working at the Latino Commission on AIDS has opened up even more opportunities for Reberte to advocate for people with HIV and AIDS. He was appointed to the New York City HIV/AIDS Services Administration advisory board late last year. And in 2021, Reberte was the face of a national TV commercial in Spanish about HIV treatment.

“When I received my diagnosis, I saw firsthand all the stigma that is associated with HIV, especially if you’re an LGBTQ individual,” he says. “Being part of this commercial is part of my milestone to eradicate that stigma in our community.”

Reberte maintains close relationships with his family in Argentina, typically visiting them at least once a year. He also volunteers for Asociación Ciclo Positivo, an Argentinian organization advocating for those living with HIV and LGBTQ+ people.

PJ Rivera

Principal, Deloitte
PJ Rivera / Laurie Rush

PJ Rivera’s resume spans the globe. The Rochester native started out in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a first responder following Hurricane Katrina. He also ran a startup for a year, before returning to the public sector.

From there he landed at Deloitte, where he has delved into wide-ranging projects. He advised federal agencies, managed internal research into autonomous vehicles, and had a stint on the company’s projects in the Middle East and Asia. That global experience led him to Marriott International. But he ultimately returned to Deloitte in 2021 to bolster the company’s public sector practice.

“I’ve been really lucky,” he says. “When I think about the amount of countries I’ve worked in, the variety of clients I’ve worked for, it’s been pretty cool and I feel very grateful.”

Now, as a principal, Rivera handles long-term strategies for Deloitte’s public sector portfolio and leads projects in the Department of Justice and New York state.

One thing Rivera is proud of has been his journey with his identity in the workplace.

“I didn’t want to be known as a top gay performer,” he says. “I didn’t want to be known as a top Latino performer. I just wanted to be a top performer. And so for a long time in my career, I just ignored those parts of my life.”

That’s changed over the past decade, as Rivera has sought to be an “open and transparent and vulnerable leader.”

Kelley Robinson

President, Human Rights Campaign
Kelley Robinson / Paul Robinson

At a time when anti-LGBTQ+ political backlash is on the rise, Kelley Robinson is fighting back. Under her direction, the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for the LGBTQ+ community and has been pushing back against legislative attacks. Key to that has been educating and organizing people, especially transgender activists, she says.

“Guess what – this year in state legislative sessions across the county, anti-LGBTQ+ attacks have largely failed,” Robinson says. “Momentum is on our side, and we are going to carry that into November.”

Robinson has spent her career in advocacy, a path she says was shaped by her experience growing up as a Black queer woman on the South Side of Chicago.

“I witnessed the ways the world needed to change,” she says. “The racism, the anti-LGBTQ+ hate can make you feel alone and unsure about what the future will look like. But finding my people, finding the folks who were fighting for justice and equality and liberation inspired me.”

Much of her past work has centered around reproductive rights. Most recently, she led advocacy efforts for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the reproductive rights group’s political arm. That experience now informs her leadership at the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group. She became the first Black queer woman to lead the organization in 2022.

“Beyond just being a hugely historical moment, I get to work alongside talented LGBTQ+ advocates committed to fighting for freedom and justice,” she says.

Alexander Roque

President and Executive Director, Ali Forney Center
Alexander Roque / Nick Garcia, Elevate Prize

Alexander Roque’s personal life story mirrors those of many LGBTQ+ youth that come to the Ali Forney Center that he now leads.

“I grew up at the intersections of family rejection, poverty, mental health issues at home, substance use issues at home, and unstably housed for a big part of my life up until I became an adult and took care of myself,” he says. “And it was an organization like Ali Forney Center that helped me, that really illuminated that path for me.”

LGBTQ+ young adults are twice as likely to face homelessness compared with their non-LGBTQ+ peers. The Ali Forney Center helps 2,000 of those youths each year, offering everything from emergency housing to mental health services and education help.

Throughout Roque’s time as executive director, he has also introduced innovative changes to better support youth. He implemented a residential treatment program that emphasizes that homophobia, transphobia and parental rejection are traumatic events, and he also reduced barriers to access to the nonprofit’s 24-hour drop-in center. The Ali Forney Center trains other organizations in the United States and in 22 other countries to help LGBTQ+ youth in their communities as well.

“What we’re doing with those providers,” he says, “is helping either start new programs or enhance programs so that LGBTQ youth have better care in other parts of the country, in the world, so that they don’t have to flee their hometowns and make it to New York, which is what we see.”

Allen Roskoff

President, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
Allen Roskoff / Zella Jones

Allen Roskoff knows everyone in New York government and politics, and they all know him. After all, he has spent decades as an LGBTQ+ activist and Democratic political player handing out coveted endorsements.

“Unless you’re in a very conservative district, everybody wants our votes and worked for it,” he says.

Since he started his LGBTQ+ activism in 1970, Roskoff has amassed a record of success in effecting change. He shamed the city Taxi and Limousine Commission into ending a regulation that required gay cab drivers to provide letters from a psychiatrist. He slow danced with a man in protest of a rule that banned same-sex couples from dancing at businesses with a cabaret license, and the rule was changed soon after.

“What was key was organizing the community so that politicians became afraid of us,” he says.

Roskoff is comfortable protesting governors one day and taking their calls the next. That’s how he successfully pushed then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to grant leniency to Judith Clark, who served more than 30 years in prison for her role in the 1981 Brink’s robbery. He also fields calls from antagonists, like former President Donald Trump, who rang him during his initial presidential campaign. Roskoff berated him for his stance on same-sex marriage – and just last year nabbed a front row seat at Trump’s civil trial.

“That’s what I do,” he says. “How I get people out of jail. That’s how I get presidential candidates all screwed up in their heads.”

Yaron Schwartz

Director, U.S., Tent Partnership for Refugees
Yaron Schwartz / Erica Westley

The Tent Partnership for Refugees was created in 2016 by the founder and CEO of Chobani Yogurt, Hamdi Ulukaya, with the goal of getting businesses to hire and support refugees. For the past six years, Yaron Schwartz has been leading its efforts to mobilize companies in the United States.

Those efforts have already begun to pay off. At the nonprofit’s first U.S. business summit in 2022, it got dozens of companies to pledge to hire more than 22,000 refugees by the end of 2025. As of March, Schwartz says the companies are more than 70% of the way through fulfilling that collective commitment.

“We continue to really pound the pavement in terms of mobilizing the American business community to economically integrate refugees into the U.S. workforce,” he says.

Schwartz is also proud of an effort he launched to support LGBTQ+ refugees, who often face unique challenges finding jobs. Under his leadership, Tent partnered with the Human Rights Campaign to launch a mentorship program for LGBTQ+ refugees in 2020. LGBTQ+ people and allies at nearly 30 companies have given one-on-one professional guidance to about 800 refugees so far. The organization has gone on to replicate the model elsewhere for other populations, such as Hispanic and Afghan refugees.

“It’s also been really wonderful to see how that program has now inspired other programs as well and is helping other segments of the refugee population,” he says.

Carla Smith

CEO, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center
Carla Smith / Marcus Cooper for Milk Makeup

When Carla Smith first arrived in New York City a quarter century ago, she came to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center “looking for community.” 

The organization has changed significantly since then. As of March, Smith is the nonprofit’s chief executive. In the months since taking over the role, she has been busy getting reacquainted with the organization and learning more about its operations and services.

“I have lots of hopes and dreams and things that I want to try to get off the ground here,” she says.

Smith brings with her extensive experience in social services, having previously held roles at organizations like the NYC City Anti-Violence Project and Housing Works. More recently, she served as the deputy CEO of the Urban Resource Institute, a housing provider for survivors of domestic violence. She hadn’t planned on leaving that role when the center’s CEO position opened up. But she realized she was interested in returning to working directly with the LGBTQ+ community.

“I wanted to come home, and this is what this sort of felt like for me,” she says, “and to have an opportunity to have an impact on people and to know that I’m doing it in a space that’s really affirming.”

As the first person of color to lead the organization, Smith also aims to be “bringing communities of color to a greater degree into the fold” of the center’s work.

Jeffrey Trachtman

Partner, Kramer Levin
Jeffrey Trachtman / Reuben Kleiner

Jeffrey Trachtman was drawn to Kramer Levin early on in his legal career, in part because of its strong reputation for pro bono work. He had always been interested in fighting for civil rights and liberties, attending peace marches as a child and pursuing journalism in college. But he hadn’t planned on spending decades at the law firm.

“And it’s sort of hilarious among my contemporaries, because I was probably the most sanctimonious public interest devotee,” he says.

The Manhattan native has made pro bono work a priority. Apart from his commercial litigation work, Trachtman led the firm’s pro bono committee for 17 years and had a hand in high-profile civil rights cases. That includes filing amicus briefs in significant U.S. Supreme Court cases such as Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage. He also was co-lead counsel on a case that successfully blocked regulations that would’ve hurt LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers and, in the 2000s, on a case that sought to recognize same-sex marriage in New York.

“We lost, but it was the early cases that really moved public opinion,” he says.

While it has been gratifying to have worked on important LGBTQ+ rights cases, Trachtman says it’s been frustrating to see a recent political backlash.

“It’s nine years ago that we won marriage, and it’s nice to think that the world only spins forward as Tony Kushner said in ‘Angels in America,’ but it doesn’t really seem to be fully true.”

Judy Troilo

CEO, The Loft LGBTQ+ Community Center
Judy Troilo / Ryan Hontz

Two crises shaped Judy Troilo’s journey in LGBTQ+ advocacy. The first was the AIDS epidemic, which hit while she was working as vice president of creative services for a major record label.

“I came out during that time early in my career, but I also made friends with a lot of creative people that were in the industry, many of whom were not only living with HIV, but dying from AIDS,” she recalls. That led Troilo to become active in advocacy and rallies while working on albums like “Red Hot + Blue,” which raised funds for the activist group ACT UP.

The second crisis was the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which hit while Troilo was living in downtown Manhattan.

“It really made me think about what life’s about,” she says. “And that’s when I made the decision to move into (nonprofits).”

She now leads an LGBTQ+ organization running more than 40 education, advocacy and other programs across the Lower Hudson Valley. The center also runs special events like Westchester Pride, the county’s official annual Pride celebration that draws thousands of attendees, and the Hudson Valley TransForum, a free annual conference to advise transgender and nonbinary people about their rights.

One upcoming project Troilo is particularly excited to see come to fruition is its 140-unit housing project in White Plains, which will house older LGBTQ+ people and a medical clinic.

“I love creating a safe space for community, offering so many free services,” she says. “That’s important to me.”

Doug Wirth

President and CEO, Amida Care
Doug Wirth / City & State

As an undergraduate student, Doug Wirth studied business as well as theater and modern dance. Seeing the AIDS crisis hit, however, prompted him to make a complete pivot.

“I was watching young men around me die of this mysterious disease. There was no treatment,” he says. “So I changed the direction of my life away from business and entertainment into health care, behavioral health care and social services.”

Wirth has spent most of his time serving people with HIV. He developed HIV treatment, education and prevention programs at the American Psychological Association. He also served as a senior health policy adviser handling HIV policy during the Dinkins and Giuliani administrations and was executive director to the People with AIDS Coalition of New York.

However, he never quite expected to end up somewhere like Amida Care.

“I never planned to lead an insurance company,” he says. “In fact, most of my friends and colleagues thought I was maybe losing it when they found out that I was going to run an insurance company.”

Running Amida Care, however, proved to be a “tremendous opportunity” for Wirth. The organization was founded by HIV providers concerned that existing health plans didn’t understand HIV treatment. Today, it provides more than 9,300 members access to Medicaid benefits and other resources.

“Fundamentally, we want to help people get health care, get the medications that they need to be well, and then get about the business of living their lives,” he says.