CHICAGO, Ill. – Equality Illinois (EI), the state’s oldest and largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Illinoisans, has named Brian C. Johnson as Chief Executive Officer, the organization announced on Monday.


Johnson, 38, currently serves as a Vice President at Leadership for Educational Equity, a national organization that works to get teachers and former teachers more politically and civically active. A former public school teacher, Johnson has spent more than a decade leading high profile advocacy campaigns, including those centered on social justice and youth issues.

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“Equality Illinois must be led by someone with the kind of experience and passion around our work who can build and execute a vision for its future. Brian is that person and the Board is thrilled to welcome him as our new CEO as we look to strengthen and expand our mission around achieving equal treatment for all Illinoisans,” said Grant Gochnauer, chair of the board of Equality Illinois and member of the search committee, which was comprised of representatives of the three boards that govern the organization. “Brian is an impactful leader who has the organizational growth experiences and vision for EI’s future that will enable it to fight for our underserved communities, continue pushing for transgender rights, protect our wins, support our youth, and expand our reach into every community throughout the state.”


As Johnson takes over, Equality Illinois is celebrating its 25th anniversary year with a mission to continue its work “Until We’re All Equal,” a mission that Johnson fully embraces.


"I am so honored to serve and lead Equality Illinois and to create a vision for the future that will continue building upon its trailblazing history," said Johnson. "The work and sacrifices made on behalf of Equality Illinois' founders, champions, supporters and staff are testament to all the community has achieved in its 25 year history, and I am excited about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead to continue moving our community forward until we have achieved full equality and acceptance for every LGBT Illinoisan. While so much has been accomplished over the past two decades, our fight is far from over."


Johnson received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1999 and a law degree and master’s degree in business from Stanford University in 2005.


Until Johnson comes on board, the work of Equality Illinois continues under the direction of Angelo Barone, the chief operating officer, during a very active period that includes a full legislative agenda, outreach and educational programs and fundraising. “We will not lose one step during the transition period,” Gochnauer said.


“For 25 years, Equality Illinois has won unprecedented victories for our community, and now is the time to defend our hard-won achievements and double-down on the fight for full Equality,” said Anthony D’Amato, who serves as Chair of the Equality Illinois Institute and led the CEO search. “With two decades of experience fighting for justice, Brian is the right leader at the right time to drive our movement forward.”


Between earning his undergraduate and advance degrees, Johnson was a classroom teacher for two years, which led to his work as executive director for Teach for America in Los Angeles, Executive Director of Larchmont schools and to his work in Chicago as Vice President of regional impact at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) since 2012. He is also currently the LGBT chair of the Princeton Club of Chicago and is a member of Education Policy Working Group for Secretary Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. His expertise extends to building political coalitions, boosting organization membership, and both raising capital for and managing seven-figure budgets.


Johnson, who lives in Chicago, will assume his new post on June 1. He replaces Bernard Cherkasov, who previously announced his resignation effective on March 31.


As CEO of Equality Illinois, Johnson will oversee the three entities that make up the organization, each with its own board of directors: Equality Illinois Institute, the 501 (c)(3) arm that focuses on education of the public, media and policy makers on LGBT issues; Equality Illinois, the 501 (c)(4) entity that advocates policies; and the Equality Illinois Political Action Committee, which endorses and supports political candidates on the state and local levels. In his current position, Johnson has experience with all three types of non-profits.

 

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