Kate Kendell: The lesbian “who could be president”

Name: Kate Kendell, 58

Who She Is: Legal eagle and policy advocate extraordinaire.

Why She Matters: Kendell, who grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, began her career at the American Civil Liberties Union in Utah, where she became the first staff attorney and then legal director, bringing LGBTQ issues to the fore within the noted advocacy organization.

In 1994, she joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights at a time when the movement was facing challenges on multiple fronts, from marriage and trans equality to prison abuse to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to immigration concerns. She quickly rose to executive director of the  San Francisco-based organization.

In 2010, Kendell was named a “woman who could be president” by the League of Women Voters of San Francisco at its annual gala. A few years later, she renounced her membership in the Mormon Church, saying: “It is impossible for me to be a part of a religion that would attack its own members and punish them by denying their children involvement in the church.”

In the midst of all this work, she also somehow managed to maintain a family life as mother to three children alongside her partner Sandy Holmes.

Related: Kate Kendell: ‘I Believe’ California Supremes Will Overturn Prop 8

Besties Winnie and Rea. In the trenches for 20+ years. #thegoodfight

A post shared by Kate Kendell (@katekendell) on

While she stayed mostly behind the scenes and out of the spotlight, it’s hard to overstate Kendell’s contribution to the equality movement, whether through legal wrangling, policy advocacy or leadership ability. She’s spent her life and career in service of LGBTQ people, guiding cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Amid it all, she’s also advocated a sense humility amidst all the anti-gay hostility and unity for the community:

If I could only give one piece of advice to my successor, it would be to live in gratitude and humility. Living in that place of gratitude and humility has helped me get through the hard days. Because there are a lot of hard days — when you lose a case, when someone you’ve represented dies unexpectedly when you hear horror stories about the treatment of queer people. But even on those days, I’ve felt tremendous gratitude that I got to be involved in trying to push for a day when those types of stories would no longer be happening.

Kendell is nearly 20 years younger than the current president, 100 percent kinder, and a hell of a lot more qualified.

Kate Kendell for president 2020!

Pride50Welcome to Queerty’s Pride50. We’re celebrating the members from our community who are responsible for some of the most inspiring and extraordinary moments for LGBTQ people over the last year. See all the honorees