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 and since February 2019 has served as Campaign Manager for Take Back the Court, an organization committed to structural reform of the U.S. Supreme Court. She accepted the role of Interim Legal Director and Senior Advisor at the Southern Poverty Law Center in August 2019.
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 LGBT 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 LGBT community-from homophobia in sports to immigration policy- have taken center stage in our nation’s discussion of civil rights and justice. Kate is a nationally recognized spokesperson for LGBT rights and has an active voice in major media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Advocate, NPR, CNN, and many others. Despite the national success of NCLR under her tenure, her most rewarding responsibilities still include fostering alliances on the community and organizational levels, and advocating from a grass-roots perspective on issues concerning social justice.