Bittersweet News: Farewell and THANK YOU to Emily Hecht-McGowan

Dear Friends and Stakeholders of Family Equality Council,

Last month I received news that was so bittersweet: the ever-incredible Emily Hecht-McGowan, our Chief Policy Officer, had been offered a beyond-exciting position with the newly formed Biden Foundation.  While we are deeply sorry to see Emily go, we also congratulate her on her next step, joining Vice President  Biden’s team to lead their LGBTQ equality work. We have every confidence that Emily will continue her record of excellence as an advocate for the LGBTQ community, and of course she will continue to work for our families in her new role.

Emily joined Family Equality Council in 2009 as Senior Legislative Counsel, charged with opening the organization’s Washington D.C. office, and building our federal policy and advocacy portfolio. In 2010, she rose to lead our policy team, a leadership position she has held to this day. Emily also served as an interim co-executive director alongside Brent Wright during 2015 and 2016, playing a crucial role in steering the organization to the strong position we find ourselves in today.

Since 2009, Emily has played a pivotal role in many of Family Equality Council’s most significant achievements on the national stage. Many of these accomplishments center on ensuring LGBTQ-headed families can access key government benefits and processes, securing changes to forms required to obtain social security numbers, passports, federal student aid. Under Emily’s leadership, we successfully campaigned to broaden the definition of family to allow LGBTQ-headed families to pass through Customs and Border Patrol checkpoints together, secured health insurance benefits for children of domestic partners of federal employees, and expanded the definition of “in loco parentis” used when qualifying for leave under FMLA.

Emily Hecht-McGowan and FamilyMost significantly, Emily was the chief architect of Family Equality Council’s groundbreaking series of “Voices of Children” amicus briefs, submitted to the US Supreme Court and to Federal appeals courts, bringing the voices of our families’ children to bear in some of the most significant court-cases to affect LGBTQ families in a generation. We stand alongside many others in our community in expressing our gratitude to Emily for her leadership of this crucial project, the significance of which was highlighted when US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy specifically referenced the importance of hearing the voices of children affected by these cases during oral arguments over Prop 8 in 2013:

“There is an immediate legal injury or legal — what could be a legal injury, and that’s the voice of these children. There are some 40,000 children in California […] that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?” (Justice Kennedy, speaking during oral argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry.)

As you’ll recall, Justice Kennedy continued to write the majority opinion in United States v. Windsor, the case that finally overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and paved the way for full marriage equality.

Part of the legacy that Emily is leaving at FEC is a strong team.  Upon Emily’s departure, Director of State Policy Denise Brogan-Kator will take on interim leadership of the Policy Team, ensuring no interruption in the vital advocacy work Family Equality Council conducts on behalf of LGBTQ families nationwide.

I’m sure you’ll join me in sending Emily our gratitude and warmest wishes for her next step. And be reassured that Emily will remain a dear friend to all of us; in fact Emily, her wife Sharon, and their two beautiful daughters Sadie and Shaia will still be joining us at Family Week 2017!

The Reverend Stan J. Sloan