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  WINDY CITY TIMES

HRC Leader Addresses Media
by Bob Roehr
2003-11-12

This article shared 2172 times since Wed Nov 12, 2003
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Massachusetts State Sen. Cheryl Jacques, the next president and executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, spoke with the gay media Nov. 4.

Jacques, 41, is a graduate of Boston College (1984) and Suffolk University Law School (1987). She became politically active at an early age and was first elected to the state senate in 1992, serving continuously since then.

'I've pretty much been an advocate my entire life,' Cheryl Jacques said during the telephone news conference. As an assistant district attorney she 'specialized in child abuse cases and protecting kids.'

Those same concerns were the focus of her work in the Massachusetts Senate. She spoke at length 'of reaching across the aisle' with 'a lot of hard work and a lot of coalition building' to create legislative successes.

Jacques said she wants to continue HRC's leading role in 'educating America and helping her to understand why it is important that America fulfill her promise of fairness and equality to each and every citizen.' The expansion of civil rights has been one of the nation's greatest achievements. 'Our job is to make sure that America understands she is stronger when she includes everyone.'

'The most important tool in our arsenal in appealing to the hearts and minds of Americans is living our lives openly and honestly,' Jacques said. Yet when asked when she had realized she was a lesbian and how did she justify staying in the closet while gay rights were under assault, she wasn't very forthcoming.

Jacques argued that she had been 'a fighter and an advocate for civil rights for all, including the GLBT community, long before I was living my life openly.' She recounted an incident of homophobia during her first campaign. She praised HRC for not judging, 'We accept people along their path in life and don't ask why or why not, we just greet them with an open hand.'

Her partner gave Jacques a gift of attending the Millennium March on Washington for GLBT rights in April 2000 and that experience led to her public coming out as a lesbian in an editorial in the Boston Globe.

She declined a request to discuss her compensation package, saying, 'One of the things that I'm loving now is that I can have just a little corner of my life be private. My compensation is between my family, HRC, and myself.'

She seemed unaware that such matters must be filed on the organization's IRS 990 form, which is publicly available, albeit one to three years after the fact, depending on the filing schedule. She said, 'We'll cross that bridge when we get there.'

Jacques said that during the transition period she will establish her priorities for outreach. 'I'm not going to give up on people who have written us off, I'm going to continue to extend olive branches and discussion, because, some people come around.'


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