Equality Advocates Pa. announces new agency, board

Local LGBT legal group Equality Advocates Pennsylvania announced two major organizational changes this week, including the launch of a new advocacy agency that will focus solely on enhancing the rights of LGBT Pennsylvanians.

Jake Kaskey, outreach and policy director for Equality Advocates, has been named policy and programs director for Equality Pennsylvania, which, as a designated 501(c)4 organization, will have more advocacy power than Equality Advocates, whose title as a 501(c)3 nonprofit limits the amount of advocacy work it can do. Mason Lane, a recent college graduate, will serve as the Eastern Pennsylvania field organizer for the agency.

The organization is planning to launch satellite Equality Pennsylvania offices in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg early next year.

“Forming Equality Pennsylvania allows us to spend greater time and resources directly advocating for LGBT policy priorities in Harrisburg and across Pennsylvania,” said Lynn Zeitlin, executive director of Equality Advocates.

Zeitlin said the Equality Pennsylvania board is currently in formation.

The organization also released the names of its own new board members this week.

This past summer, nearly all of the board members at the organization resigned over a several-week period, and Zeitlin said the organization was working to restructure and reorganize its leadership.

Kaskey said the organization has “made a concentrated effort to broaden its reach across the state,” and recruited board members who represent different regions and who can facilitate the flow of information and resources between various LGBT communities and the agency.

The new board members are president Brian Sims, staff counsel for policy and planning for the Philadelphia Bar Association and chair of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia; vice president Mark Usry, associate professor of legal studies at Bloomsburg University; treasurer Ann Loftus, partner at Zateeny, Loftus, LLP; secretary Jay Meadway, attorney at Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott, LLC; and members Jeff Brauer, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences at Keystone College; Thomas Waters, director of new media at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy; and M. Saida Agostini, targeted case manager supervisor for the Family Shelter Support Team.

“I am excited that such talented and committed individuals from across Pennsylvania have joined the board of directors,” Zeitlin said.

Sims was named board president in the summer when the restructuring began, and said it’s been his “personal mission to find a group of committed, diverse advocates from across the state to help build Equality PA.”

The board members held their first meeting during Equality Advocates’ Pennsylvania Equality Summit late last month, during which they voted to move forward with plans to launch Equality Pennsylvania.

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].