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05/15/2010

**UPDATED, 4/22: Passing Lady Liberty's torch: ESPA looks beyond (38-24)

by Jeremy Hooper

Ellner-HooperAlan Van Capelle cut an impressive figure at New York's Empire State Pride Agenda, even without a successful marriage vote to close out his tenure. Now Brian Ellner (pic., at left, with yours truly) will give the top ESPA spot the old college try:

Brian Ellner, who serves as Mr. Klein’s senior counselor for community affairs, is expected to be approved next week by the Pride Agenda’s board of directors, according to someone with direct knowledge of the board’s plans who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Gay Rights Group to Choose a New Leader [NYT]

Of course here in NY, we gays have learned that things that are expected to be approved have a way of going another direction. So we won't fully believe Ellner's selection until we get the official release.

**SEE ALSO: Ellner's 2005 campaign spot, which caught national attention:

***

*****UPDATE, 5/22: Well, it turns out that Ellner didn't happen after all:

An aide to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who was on the verge of becoming the executive director of New York State’s leading gay rights organization, abruptly withdrew his name from consideration on Friday amid fierce resistance from advocates, some of whom objected to his ties to the mayor.

It was the latest sign of tumult among New York’s gay rights leaders, who are still reeling from the defeat last year of their signature goal: the legalization of same-sex marriage.

After Outcry, Bloomberg Aide Halts Bid to Lead Gay Rights Group [NYT]

**Let's try this again:

Ross Levi Named Executive Director of
Empire State Pride Agenda,
New York’s Statewide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Advocacy
Organization

Pledges to Win the Fight for Marriage Equality, Transgender Rights and Safe
Schools for LGBT Youth:
“We are at a pivotal moment. The majority of New Yorkers support our issues …
Government needs to catch up to where the people already are. This is our
opportunity and mandate.”

New York City, New York, May 22, 2010—Ross D. Levi, Esq., was today unanimously
named by the Board of the Empire State Pride Agenda as the Executive Director.
The Pride Agenda is the largest statewide organization working to achieve
equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) New
Yorkers. Levi has been with the Pride Agenda for more than 10 years based in the
Albany office and has been a part of every statewide legislative victory ever
achieved by the organization. In the role of Director of Public Policy &
Education since 2006, Levi has been responsible for developing the policy
priorities and public positions of the Pride Agenda.

Levi will oversee the Pride Agenda, Inc.'s legislative and political activities,
as well as the education and community organizing work of the Empire State Pride
Agenda Foundation. The Pride Agenda is New York’s largest statewide LGBT civil
rights organization, with an almost $4 million budget and 25 full-time staff. He
will be replacing Executive Director Alan van Capelle who left in February to
become Deputy Comptroller for External Affairs with New York City Comptroller
John Liu. Levi will assume his new role at the Pride Agenda in June.

In accepting the appointment, Ross Levi pledged to win the fight for equality in
New York State: "We are at a pivotal moment. The majority of New Yorkers
support our issues: marriage equality, banning discrimination against
transgender New Yorkers, and making sure schools are safe from bias and
harassment for all students. Government needs to catch up to where the people
already are. This is our opportunity and mandate. A broad and powerful coalition
working together—LGBT and straight, upstate and downstate, Republican and
Democrat, people of faith, business leaders, organized labor, people of
color—this is how equality and justice will be achieved. I believe no
organization is better suited to help build and galvanize the movement for LGBT
equality and justice than the Empire State Pride Agenda.”

Pride Agenda Board of Directors Co-Chairs Frank Selvaggi and Mitch Karsch made
the announcement on behalf of the Pride Agenda Board. Frank Selvaggi said:
“During our search, Ross was identified as the strongest candidate for the
position because of his long history of service to the organization, vast
knowledge of state government and strong connection the statewide LGBT
community. The Board feels strongly that Ross is the right leader for us. He has
brought and will continue to bring to the Pride Agenda the energy and political
skills we need to win equality." Mitch Karsch said: “The organizing and
education the LGBT community has done around our issues has us positioned to
win. We look forward to Ross continuing to build on that record to pass
marriage equality legislation, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and
the Dignity for All Students Act.”

Prior to serving as Director of Public Policy & Education, Levi was the Pride
Agenda’s Legislative Counsel from 2000 to 2003 and Director of Public Policy and
Governmental Affairs from 2004 to 2006. During his time at the Pride Agenda he
has been actively involved with the passage of dozens of laws, ordinances,
regulations and Executive Orders on the state and local level affecting New
York’s LGBT community, including statewide measures like: the Sexual Orientation
Non-Discrimination Act; the Hate Crimes Act of 2000; making the state’s 9/11
relief inclusive of same-sex couples; guaranteeing domestic partners hospital
visitation, legal authority over a loved one’s bodily remains, access to Family
Court and medical decision making authority; prohibiting discrimination on the
basis of gender identity and expression in state employment; and securing over
$50 million of funding for LGBT health and human services.

Before joining the Pride Agenda, Levi was Legislative Director for New York
State Senator Nellie Santiago of Brooklyn. He began his work in state government
in 1997 with a New York State Senate Fellowship. He also served as a legal
intern with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Office of Manhattan
Borough President Ruth Messinger, Judge David Trager of the Eastern District of
New York and the Civil Rights Committee of the Association of the Bar of the
City of New York.

Levi has served on the Board of Directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union
Capital Region Chapter, and is currently on their Advisory Committee. He was
Co-Counsel to and a member of the Board of Directors of the Capital District Gay
and Lesbian Community Council (CDGLCC) in Albany, and has been awarded their
Council Leadership Award and Harvey Milk Award. The Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic
Club has also recognized him for his service to the Capital District’s LGBT
community. He was also a longtime member of Heritage of Pride. He currently
serves on the Board of Directors of the Equality Federation, the national
alliance of state-based LGBT advocacy organizations, on its Executive Committee
as Secretary and as Chair of its Governance Committee.

Levi graduated from Brooklyn Law School and Boston University. He lives in rural
Stephentown, NY with his partner.

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