Two trans civil rights groups merge to further equality

Anti-Trans image with the word trans with the transgender flag inset
Anti-Trans image by Ed Hahn

the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), two leading national trans civil rights organizations, announced their intent to merge yesterday. The new organization will be named Advocates for Trans Equality (A4TE). Once the merger takes effect, Andrea “Andy” Hong Marra (she/her), executive director of TLDEF, and Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen (he/him), executive director of NCTE, will lead the new organization as CEO and Executive Director, respectively.

“With double the resources, expertise, and fearless commitment to justice, we will be a powerful national organization to lead the next chapter of the transgender rights movement,” said Marra. “Advocates for Trans Equality will show exactly what can be materially achieved when trans advocates come together and seek nothing less than equality for trans people in America.”

“NCTE and TLDEF already have a long history of partnering to fight for the legal rights and protection of transgender people,” said Heng-Lehtinen. “Even though we’ve achieved many victories over that time, it feels like it was just a warm-up for the journey ahead. With a record number of attacks on trans people and trans rights, now is the time to unite and use our combined power and influence to advance trans equality in bigger and bolder ways than our organizations could alone.”

By combining strengths into a single entity, Advocates for Trans Equality the ne entity will ensure that trans experiences and perspectives guide the national movement for trans rights. Advocates for Trans Equality will house both a 501(c)3 organization that focuses on litigation and public education and a 501(c)4 that will influence policy to fight for transgender equality at local, state, and federal levels.

“Now, more than ever, we need trans voices and organizations leading on the issues that impact the trans community,” said Shelby Chestnut (they/he), Executive Director of Transgender Law Center. “In the face of discrimination and injustice, the trans community needs the strength that this historic merger will create. It is an essential step to achieving equality for all. This moment represents the future of the LGBTQI+ movement’s work, with powerful trans leaders at the forefront.”

Advocates for Trans Equality plans to maintain, strengthen, and expand upon the life-saving policy and legal programs for which each organization is known. It will operate offices in both New York City and Washington, D.C., with staff working across the country. The merger is expected to be final by this summer. The merger is subject to regulatory approvals and satisfaction of all closing conditions under the definitive agreement. 

Formal exploration and merger planning between NCTE and TLDEF has been supported by nationally recognized experts, firms, foundation partners, and volunteers including: Arcus Foundation; Brandie Balken (strategic facilitation); communications firm Burness; Catherine Corey (strategic facilitation); design and technology firm Decimal Studios (digital); Deepti Gudipati (strategic facilitation); Jacob McClain (finance and operations); design firm Pentagram (branding); digital agency Rad Campaign (digital); Patricia Harrington (digital); Rhodes Perry (staff support); Lukas Soto (staff support); Roey Thorpe (staff support); and other consultants and funders.

Pro bono counsel representing both organizations in the merger include Cooley LLP (Aaron Binstock, Quay Strozier and Alex Weaver) for NCTE and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP (led by CBT Associates Theresa Kalathil, Christina (Nina) Wlodarcyzk, Julie Thompson and Ann Reynolds, with guidance from Partner Andrew Ray; and advised by Employee Benefits Associate Anna Pomykala and Partner Greg Needless) for TLDEF. The law firm Brown Rudnick LLP (Peter Willsey and Ethan Lin) was retained for trademark representation of the new organization. 

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