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Williams Institute Celebrates 15 Years

The Williams Institute was founded 15 years ago to conduct research related to LGBT law and policy. At the Harvard Club, its annual Fall Reception both celebrated and looked ahead.


Justice Kennedy directly cited the Institute's research in the Supreme Court ruling this year that brought marriage equality to all 50 states. The organization has published more than 200 research reports on marriage equality. Just before remarks by Williams Institute founder Chuck Williams, center, we snapped him with Out Leadership founder Todd Sears, left. Todd's a former Merrill Lynch financial adviser, who started the first national team to focus on the LGBT community, bringing in $1.5B in new assets to Merrill. He also helped Merrill organize a $100k grant for the Williams Institute, where he now sits on the board. Out Leadership focuses on the business case for LGBT inclusion.


Chuck said that marriage equality is the tip of the iceberg. "We have more to do now than we ever did." New issues to focus on include poverty, homelessness (around 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT), criminal justice issues, laws protecting against discrimination (particularly in the most vulnerable populations, such as youth and transgender individuals), and helping to extend laws protecting LGBT rights to other countries.

Williams Institute founding executive director Brad Sears, above, outlined the strategy the Institute used to promote marriage equality and will apply to the new issues:

  1. Rigorous, cutting-edge research.
  2. Education of key decision-makers, such as judges and policy-makers.
  3. Fostering new talent, such as law professors and researchers.
  4. Disseminating its work to the media, policy-makers and courts.

Brad (here with David Hochberg, an artists' agent) pointed out that the Williams Institute filed 40 amicus briefs in the past year, in every appellate case related to marriage equality, and had its research featured in at least 1,000 news articles. According to Williams Institute research, in the four months following the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling, around 96,000 same-sex couples married in the US, adding $813M to state and local economies.

We need to ensure not just that there are new laws and policies, Brad said, but that they're enforced and make a difference in people's lives.


Paul Hastings environmental and energy practice partner and Williams Institute board member Tom Mounteer, author and Williams Institute board member Anna Curren, former Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis, and Shakespeare Theatre Company artistic director Michael Kahn. SLDN, which has merged with OutServe, was instrumental in the fight to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. Anna, a former SLDN board member, also provides a fellowship for Williams Institute researcher Christy Mallory. (Here's Christy at last year's Fall Reception.)


We also snapped ConEd's Rebecca Craft and Thomson Reuters' Victoria Hood. Guests enjoyed live music, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres including mozzarella and bruschetta crostini, fried shrimp, and sliders, following a panel discussion on LGBTQ youth with True Colors Fund's Jama Shelton and the Williams Institute's Ilan Meyer, Brad Sears and Bianca Wilson.