National Center for Transgender Equality, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Announce a Merger

Feb 8, 2024

National Center for Transgender Equality, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Announce a Merger

Staff writer
Feb 8 2024

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), two prominent organizations championing transgender civil rights in the United States, have announced a groundbreaking merger. This strategic alliance will birth a new entity, Advocates for Trans Equality (A4TE), set to spearhead the next wave of advocacy and legal battles for transgender rights nationwide. The merger is a calculated response to the escalating challenges facing the transgender community, aiming to consolidate efforts, resources, and expertise to enhance the effectiveness of the transgender rights movement.

Leading this merged powerhouse will be Andrea “Andy” Hong Marra, the current executive director of TLDEF, and Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the executive director of NCTE. Marra will serve as the CEO, while Heng-Lehtinen will take on the role of Executive Director. Their combined leadership is poised to navigate A4TE through the complexities of national advocacy, legal challenges, and public education campaigns with a rejuvenated vigor and strategic focus.

Marra emphasizes the merger’s potential to double the impact through consolidated resources, expertise, and a unified commitment to justice. This collaboration is not just about scaling operations but also signifies a transformative approach to tackling the systemic inequalities transgender individuals face in America. Heng-Lehtinen reflects on the legacy of partnership between NCTE and TLDEF, viewing the merger as an evolution of their collaborative efforts to secure legal rights and protections for transgender people.

The timing of this merger is critical. With a record number of legislative and social attacks against transgender individuals and their rights, the formation of A4TE represents a strategic consolidation of advocacy firepower. By merging, the two organizations aim to amplify their influence, navigating the political and legal landscapes with greater agility and strength. A4TE will function as a dual entity, comprising a 501(c)3 organization focusing on litigation and public education, and a 501(c)4 aimed at policy influence. This structure is designed to champion transgender equality across various fronts, from local and state levels to the federal arena.

Shelby Chestnut, the Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, highlights the significance of this merger in the broader context of LGBTQI+ advocacy. Chestnut views it as a critical step towards ensuring that transgender voices lead the charge against discrimination and injustice, affirming the essential role of powerful trans leadership in shaping the future of the movement.

The operational footprint of A4TE will span the nation, with offices in New York City and Washington, D.C., and a staff working across the country to maintain, strengthen, and expand the policy and legal programs each organization is renowned for. The merger’s finalization, anticipated by the summer of 2024, is contingent upon regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of all conditions outlined in the definitive agreement.

Support for this merger has been robust, involving a diverse array of experts, firms, foundation partners, and volunteers. This includes strategic facilitation by recognized professionals, branding and digital support from leading agencies, and pro bono legal counsel from prestigious law firms. Such widespread support underscores the merger’s importance and the community’s trust in A4TE’s potential to make a significant impact.

In conclusion, the merger between NCTE and TLDEF to form Advocates for Trans Equality marks a pivotal moment in the fight for transgender rights in America. By pooling resources, expertise, and advocacy efforts, A4TE is poised to lead the transgender rights movement into a new era. This unified approach aims not only to confront the current challenges head-on but also to lay the groundwork for lasting equality and justice for transgender individuals across the nation.

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