2019 Trailblazer Awardee Kate Kendell

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Kate Kendell led the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) as executive director from 1996-2018. NCLR is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of LGBT
people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

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—took center stage in our nation’s discussion of civil rights and justice. Kate became a nationally recognized spokesperson for LGBT rights as well as being 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 included fostering alliances on the community and organizational levels, and advocating from a grass-roots perspective on issues concerning social justice.

Kate is currently the campaign manager for Pack The Courts and also serves as co-chair of OutWOMEN, Out Leadership’s talent accelerator engaging and celebrating LGBT+ women in business. Kate and her spouse, Sandy Holmes, live in San Francisco with their son Julian, and daughter Ariana. Their family also includes Kate’s daughter Emily and her wife Heather and two particularly beautiful grandkids.