Press

Paras To Complete Term At NGLTF; Kerry Lobel, Deputy Director, To Take Over Helm

Date: 
September 30, 1996

Melinda Paras, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), has announced she will step down from the helm of the nation's oldest gay and lesbian civil rights group, upon completion of her term, to pursue personal goals.

Paras' two-year term will end Dec. 1, 1996. The NGLTF Board of directors announced that Kerry Lobel, NGLTF Deputy Director, has been named new executive director, effective Dec. 1. As second-in-command of the Task Force and a former chief executive herself, Lobel brings years of grassroots and national expertise and leadership to her new role.

"Melinda has been instrumental in stabilizing the Task Force and in setting a new vision for NGLTF," said Joe Hall and Sue Anderson, NGLTF board co-chairs. "She distinguished herself by reinvigorating the Policy Institute -- the movement's think tank -- stabilizing the organization and its management team, and emphasizing NGLTF's commitment to building a stronger grassroots movement."

Paras, 43, said she and her partner, Barbara Englis, will move back to their home in San Francisco to have children, build a family and pursue other personal and professional goals. Englis is returning to her work on behalf of homeless veterans.

The announcement was made at the NGLTF Board meeting, held in Washington, D.C., Sept. 27-29. Also at the meeting it was announced NGLTF has been awarded almost $400,000 in the recent fiscal period from prestigious foundations, including a $330,000 bequest from the Messenger estate and a grant from the Supreme Court victory on Amendment 2 to the Defense of Marriage Act, from promising new life-prolonging AIDS treatments to attacks on Medicaid -- it has been a profoundly significant time for us. More and more people are coming out and creating change in their communities. It has been an honor for me play a role in that national movement."

During her term Paras directed several important new initiatives. She reinvigorated the NGLTF Policy Institute when she hired noted historian and author Dr. John D'Emilio of the University of North Carolina to direct the research, analysis and publishing arm of NGLTF. Under her direction, the Policy Institute published a series of path-finding activist tools, including "To Have and To Hold: Organizing For Our Right To Marry;" "Power At The Polls: The Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Vote;" "Here to Stay: A Working Paper on Lesbian and Gay Family Issues;" "Beyond the Beltway: The Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Vote;" and the NGLTF Campus Manual.

Under her leadership the Task Force sponsored two ground-breaking Youth Leadership Trainings that attracted some of the brightest g/l/b/t young talent in the nation. NGLTF co-sponsored "All God's Children," the award-winning video by filmmakers Dr. Dee Mosbacher, Frances Reid and Dr. Sylvia Rhue on lesbian and gay in the African-American community.

Paras also brought together a management team that has strengthened the Task Force organizationally, including executive director-designate Kerry Lobel, seasoned lobbyist Helen Gonzales as NGLTF Public Policy director, Mary Farmer as NGLTF Director of Finance and Administration, and Michael Rogers as Director of Development.

Identifying the need for stronger grassroots organizations and networking, Paras worked to build partnerships with local gay and lesbian groups through NGLTF's Cooperating Organizing program and Creating Change conference. NGLTF now has more than 120 groups in its Cooperating Organization program, and hundreds more represented in its "activist alert" network. At the 1995 Creating Change conference, Paras convened a gathering of state gay and lesbian groups to strategize around better coordination between national and local groups. The meeting of state groups will be repeated at this year's Creating Change conference, Nov. 6-10 in Alexandria, VA. More than 2,000 grassroots activists are expected to attend the conference.

Paras often joined in on battles around health care reform, in particular attempts to weaken Medicaid/Medicare and the disastrous impact that would have on people with AIDS and HIV. In a letter to President Clinton upon the signing of the Health Care Coverage Act, Paras said the bill was an "important step in protecting the health care of all Americans, including people with AIDS." Paras was invited to the White House for the signing of the bill.

Paras directed NGLTF to launch a massive "Undo 2" visibility and organizing campaign around the Supreme Court case on Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2. Vigils, protests and, ultimately, celebrations were held in dozens of communities around the nation.

Most recently, Paras spearheaded NGLTF's coalition efforts as part of L/G/B/T VOICES '96 at the GOP Convention in San Diego. Under the banner, "Stop the Scapegoating -- Immigrants, Poor People, People of Color, Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/ Transgender: Equality and Justice for All!", NGLTF sponsored a protest against Patrick Buchanan and the Radical Right's domination of the GOP. Later, she briefed gay delegates at the Democratic Convention.

Paras personally intervened in recent anti-gay violence cases, including the murders of two lesbians in Medford, OR, by meeting with Department of Justice officials and urging Attorney General Janet Reno to fully investigate suspected hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

In addition, Paras lent her voice to other progressive campaigns for justice, including opposition against the dismantling of welfare and attacks on immigrants and the poor.

Kerry Lobel, 43, was former lead organizer of the Women's Project in Little Rock, Ark., from 1985 through 1994. While there, she focused on bias violence, women and AIDS, women in prison and domestic violence. Lobel was responsible for fundraising and financial planning for the organization. She has served as an organizational consultant to some 200 groups around the country to help them clarify purposes and goals and strengthen internal operations. Prior to moving to Arkansas, Lobel was executive director of the Southern California Coalition on Battered Women from 1979 to 1984.

She is editor of "Naming the Violence: Speaking Out About Lesbian Battering (Seal Press, 1986); co-author of "Lesbian Teens in Abusive Relationships" in "Dating Violence: Young Women in Danger"(Seal Press, 1990); and co-author of "HIV, AIDS, and Reproductive Health: A Peer Trainer's Manual" (1992). She was chair of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (1988, 1989); is a board member of the National Network on Women in Prison; and was a board member of the Ryan White Center, a service agency for people with AIDS in Arkansas.

"I'm excited to be leading NGLTF through our 25th anniversary and into the next millennium," said Lobel. "I believe our movement is on the threshold of profoundly changing how this society treats gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. I commit myself to furthering our struggle to end discrimination and intolerance, and to building a nation that extends compassion, fairness and equality to all its citizens."

"Kerry has a terrific combination of politics and organizational skills," said NGLTF Board co-chairs Anderson and Hall. "She's an effective administrator, a political organizer, a superb fundraiser and a true leader. She brings a wealth of experience with an activist vision and a commitment to building a true grassroots movement." The board co-chairs said they will work with Paras and Lobel to ensure a smooth transition.

In other developments at the board meeting it was announced that Joe Hall has been named co-chair of the board. Hall is executive director of the Nebraska AIDS Project in Omaha. He succeeds Chris Collins of San Francisco, who served as co-chair for three years and will remain on the board.

Also, NGLTF and the NGLTF Policy Institute received almost $425,000 in grants and bequests since the last board meeting in April. This includes a major bequest of $330,000 from the Messenger estate for gay and lesbian journalism scholarships. Other gifts are from the IBM Corporation; Out: A Fund for Gay and Lesbian Liberation at the Funding Exchange; Astraea National Lesbian Action Foundation for the NGLTF Creating Change Conference; Gillmour Foundation; Bills Foundation; Van Amerigen Foundation for the NGLTF Youth Leadership Institute; Paul Rapoport Foundation; and the Ms. Foundation. The Board said NGLTF will end the year with a balanced budget of $2.3 million.

NGLTF, founded in 1973, organizes, lobbies, advocates and educates for the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. It has a staff of 21 and 35,000 members. (Photos available upon request. Contact Elise Jimenez, 202-332-6483, ext. 3305)

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by 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.