Big shoes to fill: Equality NC executive director Ian Palmquist to step down July 1

I’m happy for Ian and Brad, but we are losing one of the strongest, most battle-ready and effective advocates for equality in North Carolina. Having watched Ian work so hard and with such success in this state, he leaves shoes that are hard to fill, particularly as the state faces a marriage amendment battle. As QNotes reports:

Ian Palmquist has served as Equality North Carolina executive director for for five years, though he has been employed by the group for more than a decade. During his time with the organization, Equality North Carolina has grown to become one of the most influential state-based LGBT advocacy and lobbying groups across the nation.

Named qnotes‘ 2009 Person of the Year, Palmquist has guided Equality North Carolina through several policy and legislative successes. In 2009, the state became the first in the Southeast to pass a fully LGBT-inclusive statue protecting all public school students from bullying and harassment. Equality North Carolina has been able to hold an anti-gay constitutional amendment at bay for seven years, though LGBT citizens face a heightened threat from GOP legislators this session. Additionally, hospital visitation rules, AIDS drug funding and other policy initiatives were a success during Palmquist’s tenure as executive director.

Ian’s personal note (the video is a recent one I did with him after a town hall re: the marriage amendment battle):

Serving the LGBT community and our allies here in my home state of North Carolina has been the greatest honor of my life, so it is with mixed emotions that I share this news. I have informed our Board of Directors that I will be stepping down after more than eleven years at Equality North Carolina, the last five as Executive Director.

Now, my partner, Brad Oaks, and I will be moving to Boston, where I will be pursuing a Mid-Career Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. My last day in the office will be Friday, July 1. I leave with an overwhelming feeling of pride in what we have built together, confidence in the future of this organization, and gratitude for the tireless effort that our board, staff, and supporters like you have given.

Our Victories

Thanks to your hard work and support, we’ve accomplished so much together.

The greatest moment, for me, was on June 23, 2009, when the North Carolina House gave final approval to the School Violence Prevention Act. That moment, when Speaker Joe Hackney cast the deciding vote in favor of landmark anti-bullying protections, was the culmination of three years of work on the bill and decades of advocacy and organizing by Equality NC and our predecessors. For the first time, the legislature said that treating people differently based on their sexual orientation and gender identity is unacceptable.

Just a few of our other achievements together include:

  • Winning passage of the Healthy Youth Act, to provide comprehensive, medically accurate sex education.
  • Winning hospital visitation protections that became a national model and expanding hospital non-discrimination protections to include gender identity.
  • Strengthening the state’s HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs by securing major funding increases for critical needs.
  • Through Equality NC PAC, supporting the election of our first openly lesbian senator, Julia Boseman, and our first openly gay representative, Marcus Brandon.
  • Fending off the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment for the past seven years (and counting!)

Our Movement

Those victories and the ones we’re still working toward don’t come easily. It take a strong organization with active and engaged supporters. Having first come to Equality NC in 1999 as part-time administrative support–the second of two staff members–it has been inspiring to see how our community has stepped up and enabled us to grow beyond anything I could have envisioned then.

We now boast over 25,000 supporters, 16,000 online activists, 1200 donors, 600 volunteers, 24 active board members, and a phenomenal team of five employees, two lobbyists, and several contract organizers. Today, Equality NC is a force to be reckoned with and we’ve earned a national reputation as one of the strongest statewide LGBT advocacy groups.

Our Future

We have achieved much and built much together. Yet, LGBT North Carolinians are still denied full equality and we still face attacks on basic rights in the state legislature. There remains work to do.

Fortunately, Equality North Carolina is stronger than ever. I know that our talented, experienced staff and dedicated board members will take the organization and our movement for full equality to new heights in the coming months and years.

This year, our fight to defeat the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment in the legislature will continue unabated. I truly believe we can retain our proud status as the only Southern state without this kind of bigotry in our constitution.

The Board of Directors has already put into motion the first steps to begin the search for your new executive director and I will be working closely with the board to ensure a smooth transition. They will be in touch in the next few days to share more information.

I will miss working at Equality NC, but I will continue to be a part of the organization as a monthly donor and dedicated supporter. Like you, I will be proud to be one of the thousands of people across this state and this nation who believe we can build a state of equality in North Carolina.

With gratitude,

Ian Palmquist

Executive Director

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