Passionate Advocate for LGBT Families Emerges
For those who worry that the institutionalization of the LGBT rights movement, the community’s drive for equal marriage rights, and the desire by couples to raise children and protect their families inevitably diminish the exuberance and passion of gay life in earlier eras, the example of Gabriel Blau provides compelling evidence to contrary.
Blau, a longtime New Yorker, is the new executive director of the Family Equality Council and, at 33, perhaps the youngest head of a major national LGBT rights organization. Over lunch at Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop in the Flatiron District recently, he was not once at a loss for another example of the unmet needs of LGBT parents and the children they are raising or of how addressing those issues can benefit the nation’s youth overall.
Blau is married to Dylan Stein, and the couple have a five-year-old son, Elijah, but he is well aware of how even in a marriage equality state like New York the challenges facing LGBT families can be daunting. He also readily acknowledged that his family is not like every other LGBT household, just as the notion of the “average” American family is a myth –– one that stands in the way of progress for all families.
The Family Equality Council, founded more than three decades ago, is now a $3 million a year operation that provides support, services, and advocacy for the three million LGBT parents and their six million children nationwide. The organization supports a network of about 120 family groups across the country and hosts half a dozen or so family days at locales ranging from Provincetown to Disneyland. Young adults raised by LGBT parents can tell their family’s story publicly through the organization’s Outspoken program, chaired by Zack Wahls, who captivated the nation by defending his moms’ marriage before the Iowa State Legislature several years ago. Grandparents of children raised by LGBT parents can do the same in a program dubbed Pearls of Wisdom.
One of Blau’s priorities is integrating the support and services programs of Family Equality with its advocacy push. “We have a tremendous policy team,” he said, with evident pride over the fact the group has been “one of five or six” called into the White House to discuss efforts to combat school bullying and to ensure access by LGBT families to the healthcare plans offered through the Affordable Care Act. Working with the Obama administration, gay advocates have ensured that best practices regarding LGBT families are a part of every option available in the state insurance networks rolled out on October 1.
Blau also noted that the amicus brief Family Equality filed in support of Edie Windsor’s successful challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act was cited in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion.
In spite of his buoyancy over the group’s accomplishments, Blau, who previously served as the development director at Manhattan’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, was quick to point out that there are many vital players in the movement, who, he said, are all working in better collaboration since the recent successes against DOMA and Proposition 8.
“We pride ourselves on being very, very good partners,” he said of Family Equality.
There is plenty of work to do...