May 24 2010

Levi_Ross New York's Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) reached within its own ranks to finally pick a new Executive Director. Ross Levi (photograph), who has worked on the staff of the Agenda as its Public Policy and Education head in Albany, will helm the organization. He will replace Alan VanCapelle. Levi was selected after a turbulent couple of weeks for the organization in a difficult selection process. Those who know Ross know he is a talented and extremely capable intellectual who will serve the organization well.

Brian Ellner was offered the position but after some controversy decided, with a great deal of class, to withdraw from consideration. The Gay City News who had the exclusive on the appointment described Levi and his new role:

Levi’s responsibilities over the past decade have included legislative development, public policy advocacy, and education, and his tenure has spanned ESPA’s success in seeing a hate crimes bill and the state’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) become law, in 2000 and 2003, respectively. The Legislature, during the past decade, has also passed laws recognizing specific rights for same-sex partners in areas including hospital visitation, medical-decision-making, control of remains at the time of death, and access to family courts.

Since 2000, ESPA has also played the lead role in securing more than $50 million in social services funds, separate from any dollars earmarked for HIV/ AIDS programs, for a network of dozens of LGBT organizations statewide. Last month, the State Department of Health advised the Pride Agenda that the health and human services needs of the LGBT community would now be part of the evaluation process for any state funding allocated through its Center for Community Health, a unit of state government with a $1.2 billion annual budget.

Before joining the Pride Agenda, Levi was legislative director for Brooklyn State Senator Nellie Santiago. A communications graduate of Boston University, he received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1997. During his years in law school, Levi held legal internships with Lambda Legal, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, US District Judge David Trager, and the Civil Rights Committee of the New York City Bar.

Levi currently lives in Stephentown with his partner Paul, and is the author of “The Celluloid Courtroom: A History of Legal Cinema.