NCLR Taps Imani Rupert-Gordon as Executive Director

Imani Rupert-Gordon joins the National Center for Lesbian Rights as executive director after leading Affinity Community Services, an LGBTQ social justice group in Chicago.
DAVID SHEPHERD/ COURTESY OF NCLR

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) has appointed Imani Rupert-Gordon, an out queer leader in Chicago’s LGBTQ community, to serve as the organization’s executive director.

Rupert-Gordon will take over at the San Francisco-based organization on March 16 of next year from interim executive director Cindy L. Myers, who has served in that capacity since last year when Kate Kendell stepped down following a 22-year stint atop the organization.

Rupert-Gordon is leaving her post as the executive director of Affinity Community Services, a social justice organization dedicated to Black LGBTQ women and youth in the Chicago metro area, after more than three years there. Before that, she spent two-plus years as the director of the Broadway Youth Center — also in Chicago — where she worked with queer youth experiencing homelessness. She had previously spent eight years at the University of California in Santa Cruz as a lecturer, and in that role she developed programming and focused on helping students take on issues of social justice through science fiction, gaming, and fantasy.

Rupert-Gordon holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

While NCLR advocates for LGBTQ rights through public policy advocacy and education, the organization is best known for its successful legal work. Rupert-Gordon, who is not an attorney, instead brings broad experience spanning the areas of social work, higher education, and nonprofit management. Her body of work will likely give NCLR an opportunity to heighten its focus on issues of race and inequality facing the community.

“I’m thrilled to join the team at NCLR and to help expand their incredible work,” Rupert-Gordon said in a written statement. “As we continue the fight for legal protections to achieve LGBTQ equality, I’m excited to be part of creating a more inclusive LGBTQ movement that centers on racial, economic, and political justice. There has never been a more important time for NCLR’s approach to advancing LGBTQ equality and liberation, and I am grateful to be a part of the team as we meet this challenge.”

Rupert-Gordon is taking over NCLR at a time when the Trump administration seeks new ways to chip away at queer rights and the Supreme Court weighs a series of cases that could determine whether sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes under the law.

NCLR’s legal director, Shannon Minter, praised Rupert-Gordon in a written statement, saying the organization “could not ask for a stronger leader to take the helm at this critical moment in our movement’s history.”

“I have known and admired Imani for many years,” Minter said. “I am thrilled to have this chance to work directly with such a brilliant and compassionate advocate who understands the complexity of the issues facing LGBTQ people and the need for creative and sophisticated new strategies to address them.”

Under her stewardship, Kendell helped NCLR expand during an era when the organization played a role in litigating LGBTQ parenting and same-sex marriage cases, as well as mounting legal resistance to the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members. NCLR, founded in 1977 as the Lesbian Rights Project, has also scored key victories in the cases pertaining to discrimination in areas including employment, healthcare, immigrant rights, and sports.

Kendell did not shy away from offering effusive praise for her successor.

“I would be hard pressed to name a better choice for assuring the ongoing success and deepening the impact of NCLR than Imani,” Kendell said in a written statement. “I cannot wait to witness and support Imani’s leadership of our beloved NCLR. She is, quite literally, perfect for the job.”

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