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Paula Ettelbrick passes away; groups issue statements on the loss
From news releases, posted Oct. 7, 2011

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( New York, October 7, 2011 ) - Paula Ettelbrick, former Legal Director at Lambda Legal and lifelong activist for LGBT equality and social justice, died today, after a long battle with cancer. Ettelbrick was the first staff attorney at Lambda Legal in 1986 and served as its Legal Director from 1988 to 1993.

Kevin Cathcart, Lambda Legal's Executive Director, issued the following statement:

"We mourn the loss of one of the pioneers of our movement for equality under the law and a woman who never stopped fighting for social justice. When Paula Ettelbrick came to Lambda Legal twenty-five years ago to fight for the rights of gay men and lesbians, it took not only vision and a passion for justice - it also took courage to stand up in court and in the public eye during that earlier time in our history. Paula was fearless.

"She was among a generation of lawyers, feminists and activists that helped to shape our movement. At Lambda Legal, she fought for the rights of lesbian and gay parents and lesbian and gay students, and helped to shape the strategy that eventually overturned sodomy laws. She continued working for LGBT equality and social justice, serving in many leadership positions after she left Lambda Legal.

"Our thoughts and condolences are with her family and loved ones. We have lost a leader, colleague and friend. We will honor her memory by continuing to work for equality."

GMHC Mourns the Loss of Paula L. Ettelbrick, Prominent Activist and Community Leader

This morning, Paula L. Ettelbrick died of causes related to cancer. For more than a quarter of century, she was a tenacious fighter for the rights of LGBT people. Many of us at GMHC had the honor of partnering with her when she worked at the Empire State Pride Agenda, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and more recently when was the Executive Director of the Stonewall Community Foundation. Not only was she concerned about human rights in the United States, she advocated globally for the rights of LGBT people, particularly those impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

As an example of her staunch advocacy, when the Bush Administration's President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief ( PEPFAR ) had a lack of funding allocated for prevention programs targeting gay men and women, she stated in 2006: "The U.S. government is doing nothing to ensure that any attention is being paid to the spread of the epidemic among men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women, particularly in Africa. This negligence could sabotage the entire HIV prevention effort overseas."

Beautiful, articulate, smart and hard-hitting, Paula was a force to be reckoned with. We will miss her fierceness, eloquence and graciousness. We send our tender thoughts to all the members of her family, chosen and biological, as well as all those who have been touched by Paula's life and work.

Stonewall Community Foundation Remembers, Paula Louise Ettelbrick


Paula Ettelbrick, a pioneering LGBTQ rights crusader and immediate past Executive Director of the Stonewall Community Foundation, died this morning, Friday, October 7, 2011 surrounded by friends and family after a heroic battle with ovarian cancer.

As a lifelong advocate for LGBTQ people across the globe, Paula will always be remembered for her leadership roles at Lambda Legal, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the Stonewall Community Foundation.

Paula, Stonewall's first female Executive Director, launched Out In Front New York, a comprehensive training initiative for LGBTQ non-profit leaders and board members, and laid the groundwork for the Foundation's newest giving circle, Stonewall Professional Alliance, a program which combines monthly giving with community service. Paula championed expanding programming and reaffirming the role of the Stonewall Community Foundation as a thought leader for New York City's LGBTQ community. In the words of Matthew Ryan, Stonewall Community Foundation President of the Board of Directors, "Paula Ettlebrick has been a champion for our community for decades. Stonewall benefitted tremendously over the past year from her historic perspective and her unique talent in bringing people together. Both the Stonewall membership and the New York City LGBTQ organizations that Stonewall supports offer our deepest condolences to her family and friends."

Paula spent her life working to address the critical issues facing the LGBTQ community. From 1986 through 1993, Paula was an early staff attorney and Legal Director at Lambda Legal. Paula's leadership in working to reform family policy law led to significant strides for LGBTQ families across the country and helped make Lambda Legal the nation's leading LGBTQ legal advocacy group. After Lambda Legal, Paula held positions at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Empire State Pride Agenda and the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force. At the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Paula served as Executive Director from 2003 to 2009 and challenged human rights abuses and discrimination worldwide. Paula taught courses on the law and sexuality at Barnard, Columbia Law School, the University of Michigan Law School, New York University School of Law and Wayne State University. As a professor and widely cited author, Paula's significant contribution to feminist and queer academia promises to continue inspiring students for generations to come.

In late August, Paula announced she'd be stepping down from her post as Executive Director at Stonewall due to her ongoing battle with cancer. In the words of Interim Executive Director, Richard Burns, "There are countless LGBTQ citizens around the world whose lives are better today because of Paula. Paula was a passionate and powerful advocate for all LGBTQ New Yorkers and a true friend. At Stonewall, we're grateful for all she did for the foundation and we'll miss her greatly."

A memorial service will be announced at a later date.

About Stonewall Community Foundation:

Stonewall Community Foundation is the public charity for New York City's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer ( LGBTQ ) community. Since 1990, the Foundation has invested more than $15 million in over 450 organizations via our donor advised funds and annual grant making. The Foundation inspires social change through strategic initiatives designed to engage the community, empower our leaders and invest in grassroots LGBTQ organizations across the five boroughs.

HRC Mourns the Loss of Paula Ettelbrick

WASHINGTON — Today the Human Rights Campaign mourns the loss of Paula Ettelbrick, a longtime leader in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) movement, who died today after a long battle with cancer. Ettelbrick dedicated a lifetime to LGBT equality and other progressive causes, serving in senior-level positions at many of our community's most prestigious advocacy organizations, including Lambda Legal, Empire State Pride Agenda, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and, most recently, Stonewall Community Foundation.

"Paula was a pioneering lawyer and dedicated leader in our movement," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "We mourn the loss of a tremendous force in the LGBT community and honor her unrivaled commitment to the full equality of all people. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends."

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force mourns the passing of LGBT rights leader Paula L. Ettelbrick

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force mourns the passing of Paula L. Ettelbrick, a lifelong activist for LGBT rights and former Task Force family policy director, who died today of cancer. The Task Force honors and remembers Paula's significant contributions to our movement.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

"I will truly miss Paula — her sass, her smarts and her smile. She was supportive of me and of other women in leadership positions. In fact, upon becoming the executive director of the Task Force, I received a note card from her along with a contribution to the Task Force in honor of women's leadership, telling me the story of how when she had become an executive director, another woman executive director had done the same for her. I have continued this tradition by sending a note to some new women executive directors, telling Paula's story and writing a check to their organization. I know the tradition and her story will continue on."

Statement by Sue Hyde, Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change

"Paula Ettelbrick brought many gifts and skills to our movement as a litigator and legal scholar, as an organizational leader, and as a U.S.-based activist with a deep grasp of conditions on the ground for LGBT people in countries outside our own. But Paula's story is incomplete without calling forward her inspiring and visionary work as a community organizer par excellence. She led the first campaign to increase our visibility in the U.S. census, when to do so was regarded as quixotic. She was in the forefront of the movement to grow and strengthen state-level LGBT organizing when statewide organizations were embryonic. Paula brought to life more than 350 actions in states across the country because she believed that our equality must be secured in our state capitols. With fierce determination, grace and bold curiosity, she allowed us to feel and flex our grassroots strength and power. She had faith in us and we in her."

More about Paula Ettelbrick and the Task Force

Paula punctuated her life with groundbreaking organizing that paved the way for the forceful advocacy projects that followed. Paula served as the Task Force's director of family policy from 1999-2001. While in this post, she launched the first-ever public education campaign to encourage same-sex couples to self-report on the 2000 U.S. census. Working with the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies, she delivered a simple message, "Our families exist and must be counted."

During spring 2000, Paula launched a nationwide advertising and education campaign that reached 18 million newspaper readers and resulted in a 314 percent increase in the "unmarried partner" household tally from 1990, the first year that same-sex partner households could report. The 2000 census showed that same-sex couples lived in 99.3 percent of all counties in the United States; with a total of 601,209 households reporting.

As Paula noted at the time, "These statistics document better than ever before the existence of same-sex families. However they only tell part of the story. Imagine how high the numbers would be if single gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were counted."

Paula was a co-founder and the first co-chair of the Federation of Statewide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Political Organizations, the forerunner to the Equality Federation.

At a founding meeting in summer 1997, Paula said, "We have known for many years that the real battles facing our communities would be fought in state houses across the country. It is essential that we create an organizing structure that helps us to strategize as a national network of lesbians and gay men in order to support each other, share resources, and fight our common enemy of homophobia."

In March 1999, she took the fight against homophobia to state capitols during Equality Begins at Home, a grassroots mobilization that organized more than 350 events in one week's time.

Equality Begins at Home was a project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that Paula coordinated and oversaw. Equality Begins at Home granted $5000 to each statewide LGBT political organization to support activities in each of the 50 states during an unprecedented wave of anti-LGBT legislative, media and ballot initiative attacks. Said Paula: "We are throwing down the gauntlet and demanding that state officials resist the right wing's efforts to deny us our basic rights as citizens."

As a litigator and an organizer, she recognized immediately that the historic 1999 decision by the Vermont Supreme Court outlawing fundamental discrimination against same-sex couples who sought to marry was both unique and flawed. "By stopping short of fully recognizing the freedom to marry, the court has opened the door to complete equality, but has not constitutionally guaranteed it." She astutely predicted that the Vermont decision would provoke a backlash by extremists in states across the country.

Paula blessed and bestowed many LGBT organizations with her dazzling vision of freedom and equality, including Lambda Legal, Empire State Pride Agenda, National Center for Lesbian Rights, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and most recently, the Stonewall Community Foundation in New York City. At the Task Force, we will always honor and remember her as a wise and caring colleague and friend.

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