Leaders for equality met this summer at their annual meeting of the National Equality Federation Institute, a national civil rights organization in Madison, Wisc.
Jody Cofer, undergraduate research program specialist, co-chair of the University President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion and adviser to Alliance, was re-elected as co-chair of the National Equality Federation Institute.
The Equality Federation is made up of all the statewide LGBT organizations nationwide.
The group lobbies on behalf of the LGBT community for more resources, according to the organization’s website.
The bulk of civil rights progress has happened at the local and state levels.
There is no federal law that protects an individual from being banned from work or other accommodations because of sexual orientation.
Real LGBT progress is made through a state-based movement, he said.
With all the states working together it adds up. The idea of having a state law against discriminating based on sexual orientation is growing. Lexington and Louisville have sexual orientation discrimination laws, but no statewide law exists, Cofer said.
All of the public universities and Fortune 500 companies in Kentucky have LGBT policies
Discrimination in Kentucky is not tolerated, he said.
The NEFI also advocates peer- based mentoring and training, constantly trying to and change people’s minds to be more inclusive, Cofer said.
Progress for equality in a conservative state like Kentucky is much different than that in New York.
“It is a hot-button issue,”?Cofer said. “Our generation is handling it much different than the generation before us. Traditional college-age kids, don’t care and we have to use that to our advantage. If they are open to this (LGBT community) then let’s make sure they are educated and know what it is all about.”
Cofer said the days of not talking about it are over.
Every time an issue is avoided, an opportunity is missed, he said.
Cofer said while the immediate recognition is exciting, he still has much to do in fighting for the organization’s cause.
“It is a great honor,” Cofer said. “I was very happy that my colleagues across the county re-elected me as co-chair. I felt a sense of pride, but also a reminder that a lot of work needs to be done.”
Governor Steve Beshear said Cofer’s re-election is a testament to the faith his peers have in him.
“Jody’s re-election to the leadership of a national civil rights organization speaks strongly of how his peers across the country view his work,” Beshear said in a press release. “His passion to ensure that our nation continues to live out the true meaning of our creed that all are created equal continues a long legacy of Kentuckians who have fought for equality and make him uniquely qualified to continue in this leadership post.”