For 22 years, Kate Kendell led the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Kate stepped down from this role at the end of 2018. From August 2019 to May 2021 Kate was the Interim Chief Legal Officer at the Southern Poverty Law Center. In June 2021 Kate became the first-ever Chief of Staff at The California Endowment.
Growing up Mormon in Utah, Kate learned about the complexities of religion and politics from an early age. After receiving her J.D. from the University of Utah College of Law in 1988 and a few years practicing corporate law, she pursued her real love—civil rights advocacy—and became the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. There she directly litigated many high-profile cases focusing on all aspects of civil liberties, including reproductive rights, prisoners’ rights, free speech, the rights of LGBTQ people, and the intersection of church and state. In 1994 she joined NCLR as legal director, and was named executive director two years later.
Under her leadership, NCLR’s programs, budget, and impact grew exponentially, and the issues facing the LGBTQ community—the safety of LGBTQ youth, violence facing transgender women of color, draconian immigration policy, criminal justice reform and the freedom to marry—have taken center stage in our nation’s discussion of civil rights and justice for the LGBTQ community. Kate is a nationally recognized spokesperson and has an active voice in major media. Kate’s most rewarding responsibilities include fostering alliances and building inclusive cultures on the community and organizational levels and advocating from an intersectional perspective in pursuit of racial and social justice and an end to oppressive structures.