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GetEQUAL makes leadership transition

WASHINGTON -- GetEQUAL today announced a national leadership transition.

Two of the national civil rights group's leaders, Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez and Heather Cronk, will become co-directors and Robin McGehee, co-founder and current director, will shift into the role of movement-building strategist.

These new responsibilities are effective immediately.

This shift comes as GetEQUAL celebrates the three-year anniversary of its founding in 2010, which placed an emphasis on civil disobedience and bold action. GetEQUAL has made headlines since its founding, most notably in activists' arrests at the White House that helped push the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" over the finish line.

Sousa-Rodriguez has worked with GetEQUAL during the past year as national field director, guiding the organization to expand its public profile and scale up the organization's work on issues of employment discrimination and immigration reform.

Cronk has worked with GetEQUAL for the past three years as managing director, deepening the organization's volunteer field program and coordinating the work of volunteer organizers across the country.

"Our past three years of work have marked a sea change in the LGBTQ movement -- from one that valued political access to one that values the voices of grassroots organizers," McGehee said. "I'm so proud that GetEQUAL has changed the political calculus of the movement -- and has created the accountability mechanism for elected officials that we set out to create. As I transition back to local grassroots organizing, I couldn't be more excited about this shift, and I look forward to the exciting and creative organizing that Heather and Felipe will take on."

"This is a momentous move forward by GetEQUAL, to maximize its generous leadership talent in Heather and Felipe in the most effective manner to continue our work to achieve full equality for LGBTQ persons and their families in America," said Tanya Domi, the chair of GetEQUAL's board of directors. "Robin has been a visionary in co-founding and leading GetEQUAL during its first three years and we are so fortunate that we can continue to use Robin's strategic creativity and passion as we move forward."

Sousa-Rodriguez was ranked one of the top 20 community college students in the United States and best student in the state of Florida in 2008 by the American Association of Community Colleges. In addition to his educational excellence, he also served his peers as student government president of Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus. A recent graduate from St. Thomas University, he was born to a single mother in the slums of Brazil, who sent him at age 14 to the United States, where he first dreamed of becoming a teacher. Sousa-Rodriguez walked on the Trail of Dreams in 2010 to draw attention to the need for the DREAM Act, and has organized with both Presente and United We DREAM. He was awarded the "Freedom From Fear" award from Public Interest Projects in 2011 for his work on the Trail of Dreams. He has a long record of pressuring both Democrats and Republicans for progress on Latino issues — and he is bringing that knowledge and history to the LGBTQ movement.

Cronk joined GetEQUAL in May 2010. Previously, she was the chief operating officer at the New Organizing Institute, overseeing operations and expanding programs. She has also worked with organizations such as mySociety in the U.K. and with Idealist.org in the U.S., always focused on building community and pushing for tangible social change. A native of Lexington, Ky., Cronk holds a bachelor of arts degree in religion/philosophy from Berry College in Rome, Ga., and a master of divinity degree from Wake Forest University Divinity School in Winston-Salem, N.C.

There is currently no national LGBTQ organization that is led or co-led by an openly undocumented immigrant -- Sousa-Rodriguez is the first openly undocumented immigrant to take on that role. He recently received a work permit through the executive action called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).