Forty Under 40: Part Two
BY Advocate Contributors
April 13 2011 3:00 AM ET
35, New York City, Nonprofit executive
As executive director of the New York City LGBT Community Center, Glennda Testone manages a staff of 80, a $7.9 million budget, and constant development challenges. And she’s utterly delighted at seeing the 6,000 visits a week to the organization’s Greenwich Village headquarters and the 300 community groups that meet there each year. “I literally see people from the LGBT community come into the building feeling lost or confused or isolated and walking out feeling supported, empowered, and hopeful. It’s just priceless,” she says. In her tenure of less than two years at the world’s second-largest LGBT resource center, Testone, who has worked in media advocacy with the Women’s Media Center and GLAAD, says she wanted to help revamp the center’s cultural programming to include sessions on the most relevant issues of the day, such as repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the fight for marriage equality in New York State. Testone remains cautiously optimistic about the prospects for the latter. “The more stories I hear about New Yorkers who are in love and happen to be in a relationship with someone of the same sex yet have to find somewhere else to go get married, it just breaks my heart,” she says.
35, Los Angeles, Film marketing executive
“These great stories are anchored by LGBT characters, but they’re essentially relatable stories about families and relationships,” Eric Carr says, describing the acclaimed gay-themed films such as Brokeback Mountain, The Kids Are All Right, and the upcoming Beginners from his company, Focus Features. If you’ve seen or heard about any of them, Carr is partly responsible. As vice president for exhibitor marketing, it’s his duty to get trailers on movie screens, and displays in theaters, and to oversee the general promotion of a film — in other words, to get the word out. Carr sees being openly gay at work as an opportunity to give back to the community. “I never knew what it was like not to be out in the workplace,” he says. In 2010, Carr was named cochair of Out@NBCUniversal, an affinity group comprising gay employees and allies. “We work with executives at the company so employees can get to know both out and allied executives and build relationships and hear stories that inspire them in their jobs,” he says. Under Carr’s guidance, the organization also raises thousands of dollars for nonprofits including the Jeff Griffith Youth Center and AIDS Walk. “I always encourage people to be honest about their sexuality,” he says. “A lot of people think being gay comes secondary to their professional profile, but I think it’s equal and our organization recognizes that.”
35, United Kingdom, Asylum seeker and advocate
Brenda Namigadde captured the attention of the world in January with her desperate plea to avoid deportation from the United Kingdom, where she fled in 2002 because of persecution in her native Uganda for being a lesbian. A campaign orchestrated by the group All Out generated more than 60,000 petitions to the British government, which granted Namigadde a temporary reprieve moments before she was slated to embark on a harrowing return journey to Uganda. Her case is now under appeal. (An activist working on her behalf asked that we not use a photograph.) Namigadde magnified the already intense spotlight on the plight of gay men and lesbians in Uganda, where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison and a bill proposed by parliament member David Bahati would impose the death penalty. When the politician suggested she could return home safely if she would end her campaign against the country, she refused. “I’m not going to repent, because that’s who I am,” she tells The Advocate.
31, Pittsburgh, Attorney
While still in law school at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, Mariah Passarelli interviewed for a job with Tom Corbett, then Pennsylvania’s powerful Republican attorney general, now governor,. “He asked if I was married,” Passarelli remembers. “I said, ‘I’m a lesbian, and my partner’s name is Katie.’ He didn’t bat an eye, and he still made me deputy attorney general right out of school.” Now working at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, a private firm in Pittsburgh, the 31-year-old Passarelli says being out hasn’t complicated her rise to the top of her city’s legal community, nor her position at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches ethics. She was recruited to Ogletree through a diversity initiative, and the firm is supportive of her moonlighting as a pro bono attorney for gay people who need her expertise (she’s currently helping two women divvy up their assets following their breakup). “From the very beginning of my career, I had a philosophy,” Passarelli says. “I would rather get hired somewhere because I was out than work at a place where I’d get fired if someone found out I was gay.”
36, Denver, Colorado Democratic Party chairman
Rick Palacio was in high school in 1992 when Colorado voters passed Amendment 2, the antigay initiative that would ultimately be tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case Romer v. Evans. Though he was just coming to terms with being gay, “the whole idea of the amendment at the time seemed incredibly hateful,” he recalls. “At age 18 in Pueblo, I just knew it was something very discriminatory.” Now, with a civil unions bill being considered by state lawmakers, Palacio is in a position to help right previous wrongs for the battleground state’s gay and lesbian residents. After working in Washington, D.C., as deputy director of member services for House minority whip Steny Hoyer, he’s returning to his home state — where he can trace his roots to the time when it was a U.S. territory in the mid 19th century — as Democratic Party chairman. His agenda? Securing Colorado as a blue state in next year’s presidential election, for starters. But also regaining two U.S. House seats lost to the Republicans in 2010 and taking back the state house. “There’s going to be a tremendous amount of focus on Colorado in the next few years,” Palacio says.