Left to right, Rea Carrey and Kierra Johnson (Photo Credit: National LGBTQ Task Force)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After serving the National LGBTQ Task Force for 17 years, 12 of them as executive director, Rea Casey has tendered her resignation and will step down as the organization’s leader, effective at the end of January 2021.

In a letter she shared with supporters, she said, “It has been a remarkable ride. Just to be alive during a time of such progress over the last few decades has been astounding, and to serve the LGBTQ community, to work towards freedom, justice, equality and equity in my capacity as the longest-serving executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force has been the joy and honor of a lifetime.” She added, “When I came out as a lesbian at 16 years old in the ‘80s in Denver, Colorado, I never could have imagined that I would be able to work at an organization like the Task Force and to serve and help make progress for our community.”

The organization stated that Carey was one of the “most respected leaders in the LGBTQ movement.” Through her leadership, “she has advanced a vision of freedom for LGBTQ people and their families that is broad, inclusive and progressive and has grown the organization in depth, influence and reach.”

During Carey’s tenure, the Task Force said that she led the organization to conduct its work through a racial, economic, gender and social justice lens, and has served as a progressive voice in the LGBTQ community and an LGBTQ voice on progressive issues. She has emphasized and led organizational collaboration across the LGBTQ movement and with non-LGBTQ civil rights, women’s, racial justice and other progressive partner organizations. “Her approach to leadership has delivered results as diverse as LGBTQ inclusion in broader legislation; passage of an LGBTQ-inclusive federal hate crimes prevention law; defeating multiple state anti-LGBT ballot measures; fighting discrimination against transgender people; winning marriage equality; successfully securing scores of changes in federal agency policies to attend to the needs of the LGBTQ community; centering immigration, voting rights, and access to abortion and reproductive justice as LGBTQ issues; and, serving as the watchdog on the Trump Administration’s attacks on LGBTQ people and their families.”

When Carey took on the mantle as executive director, she set out some goals that she wanted to achieve with support from the community and other activist groups. Among them were progress for LGBTQ individuals and their families (such as securing the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; winning the marriage equality fight; including the lives of those who are LGBTQ in the conversation and legislation about immigration, reproductive justice, voting rights and healthcare; and changed hundreds of policies at the federal level that have made life better for LGBTQ people and their families). Additionally, Carey wanted to structure the work of the task force to account for the wholeness of lives and experiences; provide stability and sustainability; and evolve it into a majority people-of-color staffed organization, among other initiatives.

Carey also shared, “Together, we have helped restore voting rights for millions of previously incarcerated people in Florida; we have conducted the largest-ever Queer the Census outreach campaign to make sure LGBTQ people and our families are counted; and we have trained countless grassroots activists to make progress on the local level.”

Stepping up to assume the executive director’s position is Kierra Johnson who has served as deputy executive director since 2018. She will assume duties on Feb. 1, 2021.

The board praised Carey’s tenure and Johnson’s incoming leadership by saying, “Combining fiery advocacy with integrity and self-described nerdy fastidiousness, Rea Carey has enabled the Task Force to lead a generation’s contribution towards social justice. She has led the Task Force during one of the largest expansions of rights for LGBTQ people in our nation’s history. … We will miss her generosity and brilliance but are fortunate to now join together to support Kierra Johnson, who speaks to this moment with fierceness and compassion that are entirely her own. … Her experiences as a BIPOC will resonate with so many in our economically, racially, sexually, and otherwise diverse community.”

info: thetaskforce.org.

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.