Ian Palmquist leaving Equality NC: Off to fair Harvard

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Ian Palmquist
  • courtesy Equality NC
  • Ian Palmquist
News from Equality NC: Ian Palmquist, their stalwart leader, is departing after 11 years at the helm and heading for Cambridge, MA. There, he'll wear the crimson of fair Harvard University.

Under Palmquist's direction, Equality NC blossomed as a strong, statewide organization advocating "equal equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians."

If the Republicans in the General Assembly have their way, North Carolina will vote next year on a constitutional amendment to discriminate against LGBT citizens.

Palmquist helped build an organization capable of taking on that fight. A search is underway now for a successor who can carry through with the battle and win it.

Ian's been quoted in many an Indy story over the years. One of the first was this 2003 profile by Fiona Morgan — with a picture captioned "he's older than he looks."

That was before the beard.

Here's the statement from ENC:


RALEIGH, N.C., MAY 19, 2011 — Equality NC and its Board of Directors announced today that Ian Palmquist, the organization’s long-time executive director, will be leaving the organization on July 1. Palmquist will be moving to Boston to pursue a Mid-Career Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“I leave with an overwhelming feeling of pride in what we have built together, confidence in the future of this organization, and gratitude for the tireless effort that our board, staff, and supporters have given,” said Palmquist.

During Palmquist’s 11-year tenure with Equality NC, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization has effectively lobbied the North Carolina General Assembly, executive branch, and local governments on issues like inclusive anti-bullying policies, employment discrimination, hate violence, privacy rights, sexuality education, adoption, domestic partnership, HIV/AIDS, and more.

In the process, Equality NC won passage of the Healthy Youth Act, to provide comprehensive, medically accurate sex education; helped garner hospital visitation protections that became a national model and expanding hospital non-discrimination protections to include gender identity; strengthened the state's HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs by securing major funding increases for critical needs; supported the elections of the state’s first openly lesbian senator, Julia Boseman, and first openly gay representative, Marcus Brandon; and, for nearly a decade, has successfully fended off an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment—the only southern state to do so.

“This year, our fight to defeat the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment in the legislature will continue unabated. I truly believe we can retain our proud status as the only Southern state without this kind of bigotry in our constitution,” said Palmquist.

Palmquist’s work at the helm of Equality NC culminated in the organization’s pivotal advocacy to pass the 2009 School Violence Prevention Act, a landmark anti-bullying law that, for the first time in North Carolina’s history, codified that disparate treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity is unacceptable.


Under Palmquist’s leadership, Equality NC also experienced significant growth. The statewide LGBT organization now boasts over 25,000 supporters, 16,000 online activists, 1200 donors, 600 volunteers, 24 active board members, and a team of five employees, two lobbyists, and several contract organizers. Because of these successes, Equality NC has earned a national reputation as one of the strongest statewide LGBT advocacy groups in the country.

“I will miss working at Equality NC, but I will continue to be a part of the organization as a monthly donor and dedicated supporter. I will be proud to be one of the thousands of people across this state and this nation who believe we can build a state of equality in North Carolina,” said Palmquist.

Responding to Palmquist’s announcement, Rod Goins, Equality NC Foundation Board Chair said, “Although Ian had informed the board leadership some time ago of his intention to move on at some point, I am sorry to see him leave. He has had a very positive impact on the organization. We have experienced exceptional growth since Ian joined Equality NC in 1999, and had victories I never would have thought possible.”

Goins reported that he and Equality NC Board Chair Dan Gurley have already created a search committee to oversee the recruitment and selection of the next executive director at Equality NC. Fellow board member Sarah Ford has been selected to chair the selection committee. “Sarah’s knowledge and experience in the areas of employment counseling as an associate at the business law firm Parker Poe, as well as her leadership skills, will help provide a disciplined, effective and professional search process,” said Goins. “The other seven members of the committee consist of both directors from the Equality NC Boards and leaders from the community, and we will be providing further information on moving forward early next week.”

“Today, we focus on celebrating Ian’s accomplishments and wishing him the very best,” said Goins. “Speaking for our board of directors, Equality NC is deeply grateful for his work and we wish him much good fortune at Harvard and in all his future endeavors.”

In addition to his work with Equality NC, Palmquist served as a board member of the Equality Federation, including Board Chair for four years, as well as a Co-Chair of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network board.

Equality NC is a statewide organization working to secure equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.

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