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October 21, 2011

Paula Ettlebrick, who fought many battles, has lost her final one

New York City--After winning countless battles on behalf of LGBT equality over the last quarter of a century, Paula Ettelbrick lost her year-long fight with cancer on October 7. She turned 56 five days earlier.

She served for five years at the legal director at the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, from 1988 to 1993, then spent another half a decade as the legal counsel for the Empire State Pride Agenda.

She worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force at its Policy Institute before becoming the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission in 2003. She then became the executive director of New York’s Stonewall Community Foundation and taught law at New York University.

She is survived by her partner, Marianne Haggerty, and two children with her former partner Suzanne Goldberg, Adam and Julia, 14 and 12 years old respectively. She is also survived by her two siblings, Robert Ettelbrick and Linda Anderes.

“I will truly miss Paula--her sass, her smarts and her smile,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “She was supportive of me and of other women in leadership positions. In fact, upon becoming the executive director of the Task Force, I received a note card from her along with a contribution to the Task Force in honor of women’s leadership, telling me the story of how when she had become an executive director, another woman executive director had done the same for her.”

“I have continued this tradition by sending a note to some new women executive directors, telling Paula’s story and writing a check to their organization,” she continued. “I know the tradition and her story will live on.”

“Paula was a pioneering lawyer and dedicated leader in our movement,” Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said. “We mourn the loss of a tremendous force in the LGBT community and honor her unrivaled commitment to the full equality of all people.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends,” he concluded.

Kevin Cathcart, the executive director of Lambda Legal, said she was “a woman who never stopped fighting for social justice. When Paula Ettelbrick came to Lambda Legal 25 years ago to fight for the rights of gay men and lesbians, it took not only vision and a passion for justice--it also took courage to stand up in court and in the public eye during that earlier time in our history. Paula was fearless.”

“She was among a generation of lawyers, feminists and activists that helped to shape our movement,” Cathcart continued. “At Lambda Legal, she fought for the rights of lesbian and gay parents and lesbian and gay students, and helped to shape the strategy that eventually overturned sodomy laws.”

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