Freedom for All Americans (FFAA), the group dedicated to ensuring nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, and its Education Fund have announced the names of those who will lead their boards of directors as the organization prepares for an onslaught of anti-LGBT legislation this upcoming year.
The names of the board members include a mix of leaders with backgrounds in transgender rights, electoral politics, LGBT advocacy, law, and experience in the fight for marriage equality. The new board for FFAA includes Kylar Broadus, an attorney and the founder and chair of the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC); Courtney Cuff, president and CEO of the Gill Foundation; Masen Davis, the former executive director of Transgender Law Center and co-director of Global Action for Trans* Equality; LGBT immigrant rights advocate Matt Foreman; Andy Marra, communications director of the Arcus Foundation; Mona Pittenger, a Florida-based LGBT activist and philanthropist who has served on the national boards of Lambda Legal and the National Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund; Anne Stanback, the director of strategic partnerships for the Equality Federation, and Steve Rudner, the chair of Equality Texas and a parent of a gay child.
The members of the Freedom for All Americans Education Fund include Pittenger, Stanback, Tyler Deaton, a pubic affairs consultant and president of Allegiance Strategies, Steph Perkins, the executive director of PROMO, Missouri’s LGBT rights organization, and Adam Press, a Los Angeles-based investor and philanthropist.
With Republicans in control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government — not to mention President-elect Donald Trump’s often shifting positions on LGBT issues — Freedom for All Americans is among several LGBT advocacy groups that are watching closely to see whether the new political landscape will provide fertile ground for anti-LGBT legislation in Congress. The organization is also troubled by the words and actions of some conservative state legislatures, who appear intent to push through legislation in 2017 that would seek to limit LGBT peoples’s rights.
“A Trump-Pence presidency could threaten many of the steps we have already made,” Broadus said in a statement. “We must make the case for why our protections are urgently needed in order to come close to attaining the support and understanding from the rest of the country that we need to live our lives freely and fully in all 50 states.”
But Broadus also noted that the organization will try to engage the Trump administration as much as possible and highlight the personal stories of how certain policies will impact LGBT Americans. As part of that effort, Freedom for All Americans will be launching a national social media campaign to shine a spotlight on those stories and personalize the issue.
The organization will also be partnering with various state-level equality organizations to push either proactive legislation expanding LGBT equality or defending the community against laws that are detrimental to the community. For instance, in New Hampshire, Freedom for All Americans, which is a founding partner of Freedom New Hampshire, will be lobbying lawmakers to support a bill extending permanent legal protections to transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. In other states like Florida, Missouri, and Iowa, where discriminatory pieces of legislation are being pushed, Freedom for All Americans intends to rely on its relationships with the business community to make the economic case against passing laws like North Carolina’s controversial anti-LGBT HB 2 law.
“Part of the success of Freedom for All Americans will be its steadfast support of state organizations who are fighting this battle,” says Rudner. “The battle is different in each of our states. The on-the-ground strategy has to be directed at a state level. The two most important things that FFAA is doing, and will continue to do, is to educate the public about who are the members of the LGBT community, and that they are being discriminated against so unfairly, and provide all of the support to the state-level fights in each of the states that we can.”
As an example, Rudner says that one state where Freedom for All Americans will be providing support and educational resources is his home state of Texas, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has tried to prioritize the passage of an HB 2-style law that would restrict transgender people from using restroom or changing facilities other than those designated for their biological sex at birth. Patrick has dismissed warnings of economic consequences, such as those that befell North Carolina this year, as scaremongering, saying he doesn’t believe there will be a negative impact on Texas if such a bill passes.
However, a study commissioned by the Texas Association of Business has found that the Lone Star State could lose up to 185,000 jobs and nearly $8.5 billion in GDP if an HB 2-style law were to pass. The effect of such a bill could be particularly devastating for cities like San Antonio, which are heavily dependent on tourism dollars.
“As usual, the lieutenant governor could not be more wrong,” Rudner says. “There’s an entity called Texas Competes. Texas Competes is a list of businesses either based in Texas or that have significant operations in Texas, all of whom have signed a pledge that says that in order for the Texas economy to thrive, it has to be open and welcoming to the LGBT community.
“There are 1200 businesses on there including 40 Fortune 500 companies, all of whom are sending the lieutenant governor a message, which, so far, he’s electing not to hear,” he adds. “But the business community, including the Texas Association of Business — the most conservative business lobby in the state — is unanimous in saying this would crater our economy.”