Gabriel Blau, 34
New York, D.C., Boston
During the big Family Equality Council events, executive director Gabriel Blau and his family often end up in photographs projected on giant screens. He and his husband and son are just one of the many families Blau is fighting for in his everyday work.
But that enormous photo on display is also a reminder of what he really does, which is volunteer his family for the scrutiny of those who oppose our marriages and our families. If you ask Blau, visibility of families is integral in the way the victories for marriage equality have unfolded.
He often highlights the fact that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, during oral arguments over whether to scrap Proposition 8 in California, cited the "voice of these children" of same-sex parents as a big reason the law is unfair.
Family Equality Council has gone on to file what it calls the "Voices of Children" amicus briefs with the 10th, Sixth and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals, which put it at the center of legal battles about marriage equality in Utah, Virginia, and Oklahoma -- states with cases that could potentially head to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But even with all the advances for marriage equality, Blau is a vocal reminder that gay-headed families are often the target for discrimination.
Blau, 34, is one of the leading voices in reclaiming the word "family" from the right wing, which so often uses it as code for promoting its antigay values. The politely named Family Research Council, for example, is actually designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Family Equality Council finds itself going head to head with FRC, most recently over a bill FRC helped propose in Congress that grants a religious exemption to adoption and foster care service providers that want to discriminate against same-sex couples.
"This work is intense, tiring, and challenging. It's also exhilarating. So when I need to recharge I go home, or at least call home," says Blau, who is often on the road. "I speak to our 6-year-old, listen to that sweet voice, and think about why this work is so important -- because millions of children and families rely on what we do every day."