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Lambda Legal announces new executive director
From press releases
2016-05-02

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Rachel B. Tiven has been hired as the new CEO of Lambda Legal, the nation's oldest legal organization fighting for equality on behalf of LGBT people and those living with HIV. Tiven is currently executive director of the Immigrant Justice Corps.

"Rachel's track record of strengthening and growing mission-driven organizations into national forces for legal, political, and social change made her the clear choice to lead Lambda Legal going forward," said Tracey Wallace and Stephen Winters, co-chairs, Lambda Legal Board of Directors. "The list of victories yet to be won is long, and requires a leader who can ensure equality and dignity for our community, our families and all our loved ones. We're confident Rachel is the leader to take us forward."

Tiven will succeed Kevin Cathcart, who led Lambda Legal as its executive director for 24 years. Under his leadership, the organization grew exponentially and won numerous civil rights victories in courtrooms and communities around the country. Lambda Legal was the architect of overturning the sodomy laws that criminalized LGBT lives; led the fight for inclusion in institutions from the military to the Boy Scouts; and sought to protect people with HIV/AIDS from being fired, evicted and denied equal healthcare. Under Cathcart's leadership, Lambda Legal also has won groundbreaking victories for the rights of transgender people, and the organization played a central role in last year's victory in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples nationwide.

"I saw Rachel's strategic, tireless leadership first-hand when she built Immigration Equality into a force for LGBT immigrants and asylum-seekers," said Cathcart. "She is a fierce fighter for our community, and an experienced legal and political strategist who gets results. I look forward to working with her during this transition."

Former Chicagoan Karen Dixon, who had been co-chair of the Lambda Legal national board, led the search team for Lambda's new CEO. Chicagoans Roderick Hawkins and board co-chair Stephen Winters were also on the search committee.

Tiven, a graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe College and Columbia Law School, joins Lambda Legal with a strong history of civil rights leadership. She was the executive director of Immigration Equality for eight years, during which time it won many victories for LGBT and HIV+ immigrants. For the past two years, she has led Immigrant Justice Corps, the nation's first fellowship devoted to representing immigrants.

"The work ahead is thrilling and it is necessary," said Tiven. "It is our job to end discrimination everywhere in America, wherever it happens; to protect our partners and our children throughout their lives; and to fight for every member of our community. I am so honored to join the talented team of lawyers, advocates, staff, and supporters who make up the Lambda Legal family."

"It's been my great honor to lead this incredible organization for the past 24 years," Cathcart told supporters in an email. "And now it is an equally great honor to pass the torch to my successor … . There is more work to be done—and Rachel is exactly the person to lead that work. Last summer's Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality was one of the greatest legal victories we've seen yet, but if there's one message I can leave with you it is this: The fight is not over. We are already seeing a major backlash against LGBT people with discriminatory legislation passing in statehouses around the country, and there is violence and discrimination directed at members of our community every day."

The Justice Corps' website states that under Tiven's leadership, Immigration Equality built a $17 million pro bono program, quintupled client services to aid more than 5,000 people annually. Before becoming a lawyer she worked at Bloomberg Business News and Lambda Legal. As a lawyer, she represented immigrant clients at the Legal Aid Society of New York and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Barbara S. Jones in the Southern District of New York. She is a recipient of Columbia's Public Interest Law Foundation award.



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