June 01, 2015

Q & A with Kate Kendell

There has been much written on the doings of Kate Kendell, as Executive Director of NCLR, one of SOGI’s recent ABA Stonewall Award recipients. On Saturday, February 7, 2015, before the Stonewall Award reception, I had the opportunity to sit down with Kate for the purpose of interviewing her for this profile.

The lighter side of Kate…

AM: So, how’s your family?

KK:[Laughs] Let’s start with the most important stuff, right, yeah! No, that’s really true. I mean my family is the most important thing in my life, and, frankly, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it for as long as I’ve done it, if I hadn’t had the tremendous support of my wife, Sandy, now of 21 years together, and together we have a son, Julian, who’s 18, and a daughter, Ariana, who’s 13, and then my oldest daughter, [Emily], who is very much a part of our family and big sister to our kids, she’s 33 and she married her wife in that window when they first started getting married in Utah, which is where she moved back to after she completed college. So, yeah, when I think of my family I’m immediately flooded, and when you brought it up, just feelings of joy and gratitude that’s what it’s all about.

AM: You’re in San Francisco?

KK: We’re in San Francisco proper, in a neighborhood called “The Excelsior” or “Outer Mission.” I feel very lucky that we got a house in San Francisco, because if we were trying to buy a house now, there would be no way we could do it. But, yes, we bought our house when Julian was 2 years old, and we live in what was, and has been, a working class neighborhood, but we can already see the change.

AM: What do you like to do in the neighborhood?

KK: Oh, that is such a great question! Well, a perfect example of what I like to do in our neighborhood, because it is not a destination neighborhood. [One example] was a weekend, I was home, which I love being home on the week ends, and Sandy said, “Why don’t we go down to Doctor’s Lounge for breakfast?” … which is this fabulous, divvy, but really cool bar in our neighborhood, and as long as they’re serving food, minors are allowed. So, we went and had a fabulous breakfast… we walked down five blocks to Mission Street, it’s right on Mission and had breakfast and then walked back. I love finding some of the hidden gems in our neighborhood. Exploring that part of the neighborhood with the family is great, and, on my own, we live a few blocks below McLaren Park, which is truly an ignored gem in San Francisco. I go mountain biking in McLaren Park and it's terriffic...scary...cause I'm just learning how to mountain bike, so it's really fun.

AM: So, you haven’t learned to jump yet?!

KK: Oh… No jumping! If I were to jump, the jump would be immediately follwed by a fall! [Laughs]

AM: On the subject of same-sex break-ups with children…

KK: The most heart breaking cases we’ve seen are cases involving, mostly lesbian couples, where one of them has all the parenting power. I think that’s the problem. So, my first villain is the law by allowing one parent based only on biology or legal status to completely exclude another parent. This “best interests” standard screws people up… because too many times a parent thinks it is in the best interest of the child for the other parent to never see the child again. Well, that may be in [that parent’s] best interests as the adult, because you loathe this [other] person now, but it is almost never in the child’s best interest to be cut off entirely from their other parent.

INTERVIEWED BY ALYSON MEISELMAN

Liaison, ABA Commission on Domestic Violence