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Morten, Madigan make transitions [31 December, 2008]

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Two prominent Chicago LGBT activists are making significant career transitions.

Mary Morten is stepping down as the interim executive director of Chicago Foundation for Women.  Morten was the first African American and first out lesbian chair of the board in 1999.  She became the interim executive director in November 2007.

Speaking about her future plans, Morten said that she is looking forward to new and ongoing projects, including returning full-time to her consulting business.  Also, she will be launching Executive Retreat, for women executive leaders, with friend and business partner Laura McAlpine: “The retreats came out of something Laura and I would do for ourselves twice a year; we’d go on our own retreats.  It’s so critical for your own personal and professional development.”  Morten was cautious about the advancement of people of color in the nonprofit sector.  She said, “I’ve seen more in the last several years than I’m seeing right now.  What that signals to me is that we must continue to be inclusive and diverse and really living those values in all aspects of our organizations.”

Morten will also be working on a documentary inspired by the Black Youth Project, a survey of 1,600 African-American youth overseen by Cathy Cohen at the University of Chicago.  The survey looked at nine issue areas, including gender and politics.

On another front, James “Jim” Madigan has joined Equality Illinois as the interim executive director.  He does not plan for this to be a permanent position: “I’m not going to run a Dick Cheney-style search.  My goal is to assist the organization make a push for civil unions, with their annual gala coming up and to focus on getting a long-term executive director.  So really my goal is to help get everything ready to hand over to someone in the long term.”

Madigan last worked at Lambda Legal.  He counts among his legal successes his representation of a gay-student organization in Chicago; it was the first case in the country brought under the federal Equal Access Act against a charter school.

Madigan is excited about the organization’s role in the upcoming and renewed push for a civil-unions bill, especially because he was one of those who helped draft the last version.  “I got to see that we were really on the cusp of persuading a majority of people in Illinois and the legislatures that it was a good idea, so this seemed to be an exciting opportunity to help with that.  I think the organization represents the one place where the entire LGBT community in the state can come together and marshal its resources.”

Originally published in Windy City Times, 31 December, 2008


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