Marriage Equality USA Board of Directors
Marriage Equality USA's Board of Directors is responsible for the governance, health, welfare and conduct of our organization. The Board monitors the organization and its volunteer leaders and staff.
Brandon Brawner, Member
Brandon is an avid civil rights activist who has been advocating for the complete legal equality and true social acceptance for the LGBT community for nearly a decade. He is very driven and energized to be on the Board of Directors of Marriage Equality USA during such a critical time in our movement.
Brandon previously served as Co-Chair of Vote for Equality, the organizing arm of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center; was Program Manager for the LGBT Municipal Caucus of the California League of Cities; and served on the Board of Directors of Equality California (EQCA) from 2007 through 2010. He was an Organizer and Lead Trainer with the No on Proposition 8 campaign in California in 2008, and later in 2009 served as Deputy Regional Field Director for the No on 1 campaign in Maine.
In the post Proposition 8 climate, Brandon was instrumental in the creation of groundbreaking messaging research, development, and testing through direct in-person voter contact in areas where Proposition 8 had passed by overwhelming margins. His commentary has been featured on NPR, ABC Radio, The TV Guide Channel, and on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.
In addition to his advocacy work Brandon has significant experience in international business, having lived and worked in China for many years, where he managed China Records and China Music Publishing, a joint venture with the Chinese government. He also served as Director of Program Management at the international advertising and entertainment firm Footprint Worldwide.
In his free time, he loves to write poetry, sing, and remains a passionate dancer. Brandon currently works in Business and Legal Affairs for Fox Television Studios a division of 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment, while pursuing his degrees in Political Science, Law, and Public Policy.
Cathy Marino-Thomas, Co-President
An out lesbian since 1978, Cathy lives with her wife, Sheila and daughter Jacqueline. Sheila and Cathy have been together 17 years. They had a Union Ceremony in 1995, registered as domestic partners in the state of New York in 1996 and married in Massachusetts in 2004. They have an 11 year old daughter through artificial insemination. Cathy is the birth mother and Sheila was able to obtain a second parent adoption making both parents Jackie’s legal guardians.
Cathy worked with Marriage Equality New York on and off from 1998 to 2012, was Executive Director for 3 years (2005 - 2008) and was Board President until Marriage Equality New York became a state chapter of Marriage Equality USA in 2012. At that time she joined Dave Janis-Kitzmiller as Board Co-President of Marriage Equality USA. Cathy speaks all over New York State about the 1,338 federal rights, privileges and obligations that protect families only through the right to civil marriage.
Prior to working with Marriage Equality New York, Cathy spent many years as a Buddy in the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) Buddy Program visiting countless people afflicted with HIV/AIDS and assisting them with daily chores, advocacy and information.
Currently, Cathy splits her volunteer time between Marriage Equality USA and her daughter's elementary school. Her family and love for her wife motivate her to continue to pursue a legal right to marry.
Dave Janis-Kitzmiller, Co-President
Dave has been a gay rights activist since his teens. As the Chairperson of the Conference Council on Youth Ministries for the California Nevada Methodist Church he was a supporter who stood up for the rights of gay and lesbian clergy. As a young adult, Dave became active as a member of the California Alliance for Pride and Equality (CAPE), which later became the foundation of Equality California (EQCA). Dave has always been a leader involved in community activities and helped out as a Volunteer Supervisor with San Diego Pride as well as well as the San Diego Aids Foundation. Dave continues to volunteer as a member of the Solano Pride Center, the Solano-Napa LGBTQI Organization Coalition, the Vallejo Gay Network, Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, NAACP, and EQCA as well as Marriage Equality USA's Solano County Chapter.
Dave met his husband Jeff in 2000, filed as Domestic Partners with the state of California's Domestic Partner Registry in 2001 and then was married in the rotunda of San Francisco's City Hall along with many other same-sex couples on 15 February 2004 during the "Winter of Love". Dave has been featured in the documentary I Will, I Do, We Did! which chronicles the historic San Francisco same-sex marriages of 2004, in AB205 training materials prepared by the Department of Justice, on websites such as The Rainbow Wedding Network, Gay Rites, Love & Pride as well as in the Spouses for Life-A Wedding Album exposition. He and Jeff were featured on ABC Television's Good Morning America as California became the second state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriages (albeit briefly). Dave has served on Marriage Equality USA's Board of Directors since 2006 and was previouslypresident of the organization for two years. In 2008 he legally married his husband Jeff during California's "Summer of Love". Dave was joined by Co-President Cathy Marino-Thomas in May 2012.
Dave's highly sophisticated list of fave foods includes: Kraft Mac & Cheese, Oscar Meyer hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, PB&J sandwiches, and Spaghettios! His favorite books are The Celestine Prophecy, The Tenth Insight and The God Memorandum.
Jane Wishon, Member
Jane Wishon is a straight ally who has held leadership positions in a number of socially conscious organizations for the last 20+ years. She currently serves as a CA Los Angeles County Chapter Leader for Marriage Equality USA, volunteers in Case Management for AIDS Project LA, reaches out to high school students for UCLA Admissions, blogs on behalf of the LGBT community, and works with The Trevor Project both in schools and online.
Jane's background includes an MBA as a Baker Fellow at the Anderson School of Management UCLA, New Business Research and Development for Xerox Learning Systems, and Store Management for Bullocks Wilshire Department Stores. Jane lives in Los Angeles CA with her husband of 34 years and her three children. She is an Elder of the Presbyterian Church.
Jane focuses on building coalitions and her work for Marriage Equality USA includes networking with People of Color communities and representing MEUSA with the organizations we partner with -- she is our "Coalition Maven"! She also serves on the board of the Latino Equality Allance.
Jane likes to read, and her favorite teams are the Lakers and the Dodgers. Her family teases her about being blonde and speaking slowly (she grew up in Texas). Inequality is the thing that gets Jane's blood to boiling!
John Lewis, Member
John Lewis graduated in the top ten percent of his class from Stanford Law School in 1986, where he was awarded the Steven M. Block Award for writing on Civil Liberties. After clerking for the Honorable Thelton E. Henderson of the Northern District of California Federal Court, he practiced civil rights, public policy, and constitutional law.
John and his husband, Stuart Gaffney, were plaintiffs in the landmark California Marriage Cases, 43 Cal.4th 757 (2008), that established broad constitutional protections for lesbian and gay people and the freedom to marry in California before Proposition 8.
John is a member of the State Bar of California, and in addtion to serving as a member of the Board, he is the Marriage Equality USA Legal Director. John provides legal analyses of marriage equality-related court case proceedings, judicial decisions, and legislation to MEUSA leaders and members: Marriage Equality in the Courts Additionally, John works with his husband, Stuart Gaffney, Marriage Equality USA's Media Director, as a media resource and public spokeperson for the organization.
Interesting fact: John worked in a refugee camp in the Philippines for Southeast Asian refugees in the early 1980's. He totally agrees with Stuart's assessment of their pre-wedding global backpacking trip! (see Stuart Gaffney below)
Lisa Cannistraci, Vice-President
Lisa co-owns Henrietta Hudson Bar & Girl on Hudson ST in New York City and is a philanthropist and community activist.
“Social responsibility is what it’s all about,” says Lisa. She feels true passion “lies in community activism, grass roots politics and providing a safe and happy environment for the LGBT community.” Lisa defines her philanthropic activities as being deeply rooted in and connected to a community of people who historically have had to fight for their rights as human beings and who have had “to fashion a life out of nothing”, giving each other support with “good grace” and encouragement. Social responsibility has become a lifestyle for Lisa, an integral part of how she views, loves and appreciates the world.
Lisa served on the Board of Marriage Equality New York before joining the MEUSA Board in 2012.
Renee Richardson Treasurer
Renee served on the Board of Marriage Equality New York prior to joining the MEUSA Board in 2012.
She is the Controller for the Population Council and is an Australian Chartered Accountant (CA) with more than a decade of experience managing finance, accounting, and reporting functions for international organizations. Renee’s extensive international field experience (Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East) has provided her with extensive knowledge of working with the U.S. Government, European donors, foreign governments, multilaterals and foundations. An expert on multi-donor cost principles, accounting and reporting rules, Renee has developed and maintained internal financial controls and accounting policies and procedures in compliance to generally accepted accounting principles, donor, audit, legal and statutory requirements.
Renee’s previous experience includes Director of International Finance at the International Rescue Committee and Controller of amfAR – The Foundation of AIDS Research in New York.
Robert Lassegue, Secretary
Prior to joining the MEUSA Board in 2012, Robert was a member of Marriage Equality New York (MENY) and served as a Chapter Leader on Long Island, New York beginning in 1999. In 2001, he become a MENY Board Member and was elected Board Secretary.
Robert and his partner of 10 years, Manuel Reyes, were legally married in 2011 after the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Act in the State of New York.
In addition to his marriage equality activism, Robert also works for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), and civil rights for all LGBT individuals.
He served on the board of the Bronx Community Pride Center, Inc. and currently serves on the board of GetEQUAL, as well as Marriage Equality USA.
Robert St.Genis, Member
Robert's professional career has been in various forms of marketing and sales. He has volunteered in many political and charitable efforts over the years. He has served on fundraising committees for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Equality California, the United Negro College Fund and others. Robert has incorporated his marketing and sales expertise into supporting objectives of Inland AIDS Project, Desert AIDS Project, Palm Springs Desert Museum and more. He has served as a Board Member of the Desert Business Association and was appointed a Human Relations Commissioner in the City of Riverside, CA.
In 2009, he sought to advance his passions for politics by participating in Ethics training for the City of Los Angeles and attending the Campaign and Candidate Training for the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute. Connections made through the training lead Robert to become the Campaign Manager for Mayor Mitch Ward's (Manhattan Beach) run for California State Assembly. Robert has since formed St.Genis Fundraising Consultants which works both with non-profits, such as Friends of Project 10 and on political campaigns. Recent campaigns have included Torie Osborn for CA Assembly, Susan Eggman for CA Assembly and Mitch O’Farrell for LA City Council.
Robert Voorheis, Member
Robert, an interior designer by trade, previously served as the Executive Director and the Treasurer of Marriage Equality New York. When he first became involved in the fight for marriage equality a dozen years ago, with his now-husband Yonkers City Councilmember Michael Sabatino Jr., there was little interest around the issue. According to Robert, the two men focused from the beginning on educating gays and lesbians on the need for marriage, and educating straight people on why marriage is so important.
However, not everyone was open to their message. Voorheis and Sabatino married in Canada in 2003 after 25 years together and the New York Times published their wedding announcement. When they returned home and shared the news with fellow parishioners at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in the Bronx, Monsignor Edmund Whalen confronted the two men, saying he would "shut down the choir" rather than allow them to sing in it. After the news went global, the couple was welcomed by several different congregations and the couple now attends an Episcopal Church.
Several years later, the two made headlines again for their involvement in the historic Godfrey v. Spano case in 2006. Lambda Legal argued to uphold then-Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano’s executive order that said the county would officially recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. The anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund challenged the ruling, but in November 2009 the New York State Court of Appeals ruled the state would recognize these marriages.
The two men are prominently featured in the 2010 acclaimed documentary March On -The Movie, the story of the Equality Movement through the lives of five families.
Robert proudly wears three rings on the various fingers of his two hands. One is from the commitment ceremony he and Michael held less than a year after they met in the West Village in 1978. It adorns his right ring finger. Another features an engraving of the symbol for the male gender enjoined with one of the identical shape, on his left middle finger. The third, a white and yellow gold band, is the ring he exchanges with Michael when they were officially married in 2003 in Niagara Falls, Canada. It is on the traditional left ring finger.
Stuart Gaffney, Member
Stuart Gaffney and his husband John Lewis have been prominent voices speaking out for marriage equality in the local, national and international media since 2004. Stuart is one of the well-known "faces" of the marriage equality movement. His messaging and marriage equality news dissemination is widely relied upon, both professionally and informally.
Stuart and John were plaintiffs in the California case for marriage equality, In re marriage cases. Together for 24 years, they legally married in 2008. A graduate of Yale University, Stuart is a filmmaker and a policy analyst at the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies.
In addition to serving as a member of the Board, Stuart is the Marriage Equality USA National Media Director, serving as the primary liaison to all areas of the organization as it relates to media/press: MEUSA Media Center
Not surprisingly, Stuart was president of his high school's debate team WAY back in 1980. Stuart says that one of the best times of their lives was when he and husband John backpacked around the world together before their wedding day.