October 7, 2019 at 2:10 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Kevin Jennings named CEO of Lambda Legal
Kevin Jennings is the new CEO of Lambda Legal. (File photo courtesy Jennings)

Longtime LGBT rights advocate and former Obama administration official Kevin Jennings will become the CEO of Lambda Legal, the organization announced Monday.

“Being Lambda Legal’s CEO is a dream job that anyone would love to have, and I am thrilled to be stepping into this role at such a critical time for Lambda and our nation,” Jennings said in a statement. “From my childhood as the son of a Southern Baptist preacher to when I became a member of the Obama administration, I’ve known what it’s like to be the target of hateful, anti-LGBT bullies, but those attacks only made me more determined to challenge them.”

Jennings is set to begin his role at Lambda Legal on Dec. 12, a spokesperson for the organization said.

Previously, Jennings served as assistant deputy secretary for education in the Obama administration, where he headed the department’s Office of Safe & Drug-Free Schools and headed an anti-bullying initiative.

Jennings more recently served as the president of the New York-based Tenement Museum, which focuses on America’s urban immigrant history. For five years, Jennings led the Arcus Foundation, one of the world’s largest foundations funding LGBT rights causes.

But Jennings has been an LGBT rights advocate since 1988, when he helped students create the first school-based Gay-Straight Alliance club at Concord Academy.

Subsequently, Jennings founded the organization now known as GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which he led for 18 years.

Jennings is set to take the helm of Lambda Legal after a 14-month search following the departure of Rachel Tiven, who left the organization amid discontent with her management practices.

Anne Krook, board chair of Lambda Legal, said in a statement Jennings brings a wealth of experience to his new role that will energize the LGBT legal group.

“For nearly 50 years, Lambda Legal has been on the frontlines of the fight for LGBT rights in our courts on behalf of transgender students, workers fired for being gay, transgender service members and service members living with HIV,” Krook said. “Now, more than ever, we need a leader who has cut his teeth in the movement and understands and embraces the significance of Lambda Legal’s legacy and commitment to the community.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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