WASHINGTON – The Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute today announced the launch of the Victory Congressional Fellowship, a new program aimed at assisting the House LGBT Equality Caucus in its mission to extend equal rights, repeal discriminatory laws, eliminate hate-motivated violence and improve health and well-being for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
Funded by a generous grant from the David Bohnett Foundation, Victory Congressional Fellows will work in an LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair’s office, supporting the caucus’ executive director for a year. Fellows also participate in an educational and leadership development program to learn about the legislative process and careers in policy-making.
“We’re excited to partner with the Victory Institute to help make history in Congress,” said Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation. “The Victory Institute is one of the most influential LGBT organizations in the country—integral to the political progress and governmental leadership of the LGBT community. In launching the fellows program, we can help expand and strengthen the Equality Caucus, which now represents the largest class of out LGBT lawmakers ever to be elected.”
The first-ever Victory Congressional Fellow is University of Cincinnati graduate Blake Jelley, an accomplished LGBT leader who has worked on equality initiatives and campaigns in Ohio, New Jersey and Maine. Jelley’s activism grew out of a childhood conflict between his sexual orientation and religious upbringing in a small Appalachian town, an experience that led to depression and an attempt at reparative therapy.
“I don’t want any kid in America to go through what I had to go through,” Jelley said. “That’s why I’m proud to work with the LGBT Equality Caucus to help make the future brighter for young people across the country.”
Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Institute, said the fellowship program aims to support the Equality Caucus as it works to expand its influence in Congress.
“We’re especially proud to work with the David Bohnett Foundation to send the first-ever Victory Congressional Fellow to work with the Caucus for the next year,” Wolfe said. “Strengthening and growing the caucus will be vital to advancing an equality agenda in Congress.”
Brad Jacklin, the new executive director of the Caucus and its first staff member, said the Caucus will now have the resources to accomplish more of its legislative goals.
“Having a paid staffer and the full-time fellow from the Victory Institute definitely increases our capacity to do the education and outreach that will be required to pass legislation long sought by LGBT Americans and our allies,” Jacklin said.
The nonpartisan Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute is the only national organization dedicated to helping LGBT leaders achieve public office and serve effectively at all levels of government. Since 1991, Victory has trained hundreds of future leaders to participate in the political process. Victory gives our community a voice at the table and helps our country live up to its promise of equal representation for all.