Rea Carey named executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
Longtime activist, strategist and leader to head up one of nation’s
leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations
WASHINGTON, June 24 — Rea Carey, longtime leader and activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement, has been appointed executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
The Task Force was the first national LGBT rights organization and remains the community’s uncompromising, progressive voice committed to building grassroots political power through advocacy, training, organizing and cutting-edge research and analysis.
“We were searching for someone who is both visionary and practical, has an understanding of our movement’s history and can take advantage of new opportunities that lie ahead,” said Alan Acosta, board co-chair. “There are very few people who have the right combination of voice, skills, passion, fearlessness and relationships in and outside the movement to take the Task Force to the next level. We’ve found that person in Rea Carey.”
Mark Sexton, board co-chair, said, “For 35 years, the Task Force has been the organization that says the hard things, does the hard work and pushes the envelope in strategic ways. We are confident that Rea is the right leader for the Task Force as we work toward our vision of a society that welcomes, respects and honors each and every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person.”
Carey said she was honored and energized by the opportunity to lead the Task Force at a crucial time in the struggle for LGBT equality.
“I believe our movement is on the cusp of taking the gains of the last 40 years and translating them into permanent and society-changing advances,” Carey said. “The last two years alone have shown astonishing progress in nondiscrimination laws and relationship recognition in the states. And yet, we have a long way to go in tackling other challenges such as economic and healthcare hardships faced by LGBT people, appropriate care for the growing number of LGBT seniors and helping progressive people of faith assert their belief in the humanity of LGBT people. And certainly, we as a movement will fail in the long run if we do not attend to the systemic barriers to our becoming a more racially diverse and dynamic force for change.”
The appointment was announced by the Task Force board following a four-month national search to replace Matt Foreman, who left the organization in April for a senior position at the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.
Carey, who had served as deputy executive director to Foreman for four years, was appointed acting executive director following Foreman’s departure. Initially, she asked not to be considered for the permanent position, preferring to remain as deputy executive director. The board, however, asked her to reconsider in light of her exceptional performance as acting executive director.
“Rea proved to be an extremely strong and charismatic leader in the interim position,” said Paula Redd Zeman, board member and co-chair of the search committee. “We have been impressed by her steady hand, her strategic mindset and her ability to make and carry out the tough decisions required in leading a national organization. Ultimately, the search committee decided that there’s no place like home — Rea was the superstar that we had been seeking. The search committee approached Rea a second time and asked her to serve the organization and the LGBT community at this critical juncture. This time, she said yes.”
With Foreman and Carey at the helm, the Task Force became an organization with more than 50 staff and a $10 million budget. Under their leadership, the Task Force focused the work of the Policy Institute think tank to produce analysis that is even more useful to activists on the ground; served as the movement’s progressive voice on Capitol Hill; helped a record number of states pass LGBT-positive legislation; and established the Academy for Leadership and Action to provide more cohesive and strategic leadership and skills development to activists nationwide.
Carey has worked extensively in HIV/AIDS prevention and in the LGBT community and has a longstanding relationship with the Task Force. In addition to her four years as deputy executive director, she has also served as a senior strategist overseeing the strategic planning process. In the 1990s, she was active in community organizing through ACT UP and OUT direct action groups, Lesbian Services of Whitman-Walker Clinic and as a co-founder of Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence. Carey was the founding executive director of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, an LGBT youth leadership organization. She holds a master’s degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and her expertise includes management, fundraising, strategic planning, staff and board development, capacity building, coalition work, leadership training and program development. (A complete bio appears at the end of this release.) For the last five months, Carey has overseen the leadership transition as Matt Foreman moved on to the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and she has served as the acting executive director since mid-April.
Carey’s appointment won immediate praise from a broad spectrum of leaders:
“Rea is an extraordinary leader, a brilliant thinker and passionately committed to complete equality for our people. Her appointment as the new executive director is not only wonderful for the Task Force and its future, but for the entire movement.” — Matt Foreman, Program Director, Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
“Rea’s appointment is a smart choice for the Task Force. I’ve worked with Rea over many years and she has the vision, the management and fundraising skills and the ability to play well with others necessary for such an important role in our movement.” — Lorri L. Jean, Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and Former Task Force Executive Director
“Rea’s values are solid and her commitment to ensuring that our whole community moves forward together — including people who are transgender, young, old, and people of color — is unwavering. Rea gets it.” — Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality
“The Task Force is spot-on with Rea’s appointment. Her career has shown her to be a committed collaborator and coalition builder. Her leadership in establishing the Academy for Leadership and Action is a critical step in ensuring our future success as we work together to build a more diverse, more dynamic movement.” — Clarence Patton, Pipeline Project, an initiative to increase diversity within LGBT organizations
“Rea Carey’s strong commitment to building an inclusive movement for LGBT equality in every state will make her a great leader of the Task Force, and we congratulate her on her new role as executive director. At Equality Federation, we look forward to our continued partnership with Rea and the Task Force as we work together to make equality a reality in every state in this country.” — Toni Broaddus, Executive Director, Equality Federation
“Rea Carey is an outstanding strategic leader in the movement for full equality and an unwavering voice for progress and change. Rea understands how all the parts fit together — the bully pulpit, public education, on-the-ground organizing, public policy, politics and cutting-edge analysis. I have no doubt she will make good choices for the Task Force and will contribute greatly to our movement’s quest for equality.” — Patrick Guerriero, Executive Director, Gill Action Fund
Rea Carey Biography
Rea Carey is the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Carey has had a longstanding relationship with the Task Force as a colleague, consultant and supporter. She was one of the lead trainers in the Task Force’s successful Youth Leadership Institutes in the late-1990s. From 2002 through 2003, she worked as a consultant to help the organization develop its strategic plan, which involved in-depth discussions with staff, board and stakeholders. From September 2003 through January 2004, she served as the Task Force’s senior strategist, charged with shaping its response to the nationwide marriage equality struggle. She joined the staff full time in February 2004 as the deputy executive director and served as its acting executive director from April 2008 through June 2008.
In her role as deputy executive director, she was the driving force behind the creation of the Public Policy & Government Affairs department and the Movement Building department. She also orchestrated the focusing of the organization’s resources behind a few key goals, including the creation of the Academy for Leadership and Action; re-envisioning of the annual National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change; winning marriage in Massachusetts and California; fighting for a gender identity-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act; and increasing the amount of government funds for the LGBT community.
She has 19 years of experience in nonprofit start-up, development, program oversight and management including through her own consulting firm. Her expertise includes major donor and foundation fundraising, strategic planning, staff and board development, capacity building, coalition work, leadership training and program development. She has worked extensively in HIV/AIDS prevention and in the LGBT community as one of the co-founders of Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence and the founding executive director of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition. In 1999, the Advocate named Carey one of its “Best and Brightest” for individual contributions to the LGBT rights movement.
Carey served on the board of directors for Sapientis, which advances the social and economic development of Puerto Rico by developing leaders who improve public education. She has also served as an advisor to major donors and foundations and has served on the advisory boards for such wide-ranging publications as Teen People magazine and the Georgetown University Journal of Gender and the Law. She earned her master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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