Equality Michigan, the statewide gay and transgender advocacy and anti-violence organization, is pleased to announce that Denise Brogan-Kator has been appointed to the role of executive director after six months of serving as the interim executive director. Praise for her selection came from around the community and across the state.
“Denise is a skilled leader who will continue to provide strategic direction for the organization,” said Dr. Dennis Jacobs, Equality Michigan board chair. “We are grateful that she is willing to continue serving Michigan’s gay and transgender community in this capacity. Under her leadership, I am confident that we will continue building a strong movement for fairness and equality.”
Equality Michigan is the result of a 2010 merger between the Triangle Foundation and Michigan Equality, two advocacy organizations.
“We need strong leadership to deal with ongoing threats to our liberty and our lives,” said Former Triangle Foundation Executive Director Jeff Montgomery. The appointment of Denise Brogan-Kator as executive director provides stability and credibility to an organization with deep roots and a proven record of accomplishments protecting and promoting the safety and respect of Michigan’s LGBT communities.”
Brogan-Kator brings a mix of extensive business experience and more than fifteen years of activism to her position. A Navy veteran, Brogan-Kator prepared for her business career by earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an M.B.A. From there, her career grew through a series of promotions until she became the vice president of finance with a Florida medical products company. She was terminated from that position because she is transgender.
Brogan-Kator’s activism began in the mid-1990s when she co-founded a national organization that worked to promote transgender equality. While at the University of Michigan Law School, she contributed to a major change in the university’s bylaws to add gender identity and gender expression to its existing non-discrimination protections. After completing her Juris Doctor in 2006, Brogan-Kator and her spouse founded Rainbow Law Center, which assists gay and transgender individuals with the many legal complications that result from unequal protection under Michigan law. She has also served on the boards of the Jim Toy Community Center and the former Triangle Foundation. She was the recipient of the Pride Banquet Committee’s Choice Award for “outstanding contributions to the LGBT community” in 2009.
Brogan-Kator is succeeding former Executive Director Alicia Skillman, who stepped down from the role at the end of 2010 and had this to say of Brogan-Kator’s selection: “Denise is an excellent choice to lead Equality Michigan. She has a great understanding of Michigan’s needs. Denise is a strategist and will be very thoughtful in leading us to equality.”
Colette Seguin Beighley, Director of the LGBT Resource Center at Grand Valley State University, said “Denise is a woman of high integrity who is a passionate fighter for justice. I look forward to continuing the work for equality under her leadership. Congratulations to the board for this selection – it makes Equality Michigan the first statewide LGBT organization in the country with a transgender executive director.”
“I am excited about the opportunity to move equality forward with our talented team, and humbled by the support I’ve received,” said Brogan-Kator in a statement after her appointment. “My focus is to end legal workplace and housing discrimination in Michigan by bringing our antiquated state nondiscrimination law in line with those states that understand that equality for all is central to being competitive. I know what it is like to lose a job after you’ve performed well; I know what it is like to hear homophobic and transphobic slurs; I know what it’s like to nearly lose my children in the legal system; I know what it’s like to feel unsafe walking with my partner – all for no reason other than who I am.”
“I am committed to doing my part to end such ignorance and bias. I sincerely believe that Michigan is better than this and that once the public truly knows us and knows our stories, people will join in our mission to achieve full equality and respect for our community and that all of Michigan will be better for it.”