Mitchell Rivard, the new president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Congressional Staff Association, said he and the group's board have a plan to broaden their organization.
“The three pillars we’re working on are more Republicans, more women and more people of color,” said Rivard, who started in January.
They're off to a good start. The group has bipartisan sponsorship in Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R–Fla., and Jared Polis, D–Colo. And though the majority of the members are Democrats they have expanded outreach efforts, such as bringing in the president of the Log Cabin Republicans to speak to the group. The deputy chief of staff for Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee hails from Bay City, Mich., and was the first in his family to attend college. His first taste of political life happened at Michigan State University, where he got involved with the college Democrats when the Legislature targeted the merit-based Promise Scholarship program. The club organized a “Keep Our Promises” campaign, through which he became acquainted with then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Even though Rivard was still in school, Granholm offered him a job as a communications assistant. The former governor remembers Rivard as "a social media maven who brings energy and passion to work every day," adding, "There's no one I'd rather watch House of Cards with."
Rivard initially intended to go to law school, but the Hill beckoned, and he landed a position as a press intern for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in 2011.
That was also his first time being involved with the LGBT Congressional Staff Association. “As an intern, I was able to go to all the events and networking opportunities they had.”
Rivard went to the Justice Department in March 2012 to be a press assistant in the civil rights division, and then went to work for Kildee in 2013 as his communications director. During that time, Rivard got reacquainted with the LGBT Congressional Staff Association. He started as the group’s communications director and, as other leaders retired or took new jobs, he started to move up the ranks.
In a statement, Kildee said of Rivard, “I’m proud of his work not only in my office, but also with the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, where he's working with Republicans and Democrats on efforts on Capitol Hill to fight for fairness and equality for everyone.”
The feeling appears mutual. Rivard said one of his favorite memories of working with the congressman came in June 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled on a touchstone gay rights case.
“When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, I walked over to the Supreme Court and stood on the steps with my boss and we learned about that decision together. The moment we learned he turned around and gave me a big hug,” he said. “Sharing that moment with your boss? That’s an incredible and unique opportunity. … That makes me come into this office and work so hard every day for him and for our constituents back home.”
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