In Memoriam

Longtime LGBT activist, attorney Paula Ettelbrick dies at 56


LGBTQ Nation

NEW YORK — Longtime LGBTQ activist and attorney Paula Ettelbrick, who recently stepped down from her post as Executive Director of the Stonewall Community Foundation due to her ongoing battle with cancer, died today, just five days after her 56th birthday.

Ettelbrick has been honored for her leadership roles at Lambda Legal, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, as well as the Stonewall Community Foundation.

Paula Ettelbrick

A lawyer by profession, Ettelbrick had a 25-year history in leadership positions within LGBT advocacy non-profits in the United States. From 2003 to 2009, she was the Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), a U.S.-based non-profit headquartered in New York with regional offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Cape Town, South Africa and Quezon City, Philippines.

IGLHRC, also a recipient of Stonewall funding, partners with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups around the world to challenge human rights abuse and discrimination and advocate for global policies and laws that respect the rights of LGBT people everywhere.

Ettelbrick also served as the legal director at Lambda Legal, policy director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, legislative counsel for the Empire State Pride Agenda, and family policy director at the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

She was considered an expert on matters pertaining to civil, constitutional and human rights issues related to sexuality, gender and sexual orientation. She was an adjunct professor of law at New York University Law School, teaching courses on Sexuality and the Law, and a lecturer in the Women’s Studies Department at Barnard College. She also taught in the law schools of the University of Michigan, Columbia University, Wayne State University, and the Whittier Law School’s Amsterdam Summer Program.

Tributes poured in from all over the globe as former associates, colleagues, and others acknowledged Ettelbrick’s contributions to advancing the cause of LGBTQ equality rights.

Kate Kendall, the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which Ettelbrick served as policy director from 1993-1994, said in a statement:

“Paula was possessed of singular intelligence, integrity, ferocity and wit. She was also unfailingly generous and open-hearted. She will be missed as a tireless advocate of the most disenfranchised. But at this moment what I miss most is her passionate and inspiring friendship. We wish her family, especially Marianne, Suzanne, Adam, and Julia, much love and comfort at this very difficult time.”

The Stonewall Community Foundation released this statement:

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.

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.”

In New York, the GMHC organization noted:

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.

Cary Alan Johnson, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission wrote:

Paula was IGLHRC’s third Executive Director and took our organization to whole new places in terms of our capacity and depth. Paula was so many things to so many people — her family, the movement, the New York City and global queer communities. First and foremost I can say that I found her to be so genuinely deeply unfalteringly committed to our liberation as LGBT people. […] More will be said by many in the coming weeks, as we have lost an icon of our movement.

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