Board of Directors
Bruce Cohen, President
Bruce Cohen is an Academy Award-winning and Emmy-nominated producer of film, television, theater and live events. He won the Best Picture Oscar in 2000 for producing “American Beauty” along with Dan Jinks, was nominated again for the Best Picture Oscar in 2009 for “Milk,” also with Jinks, and again in 2013 for “Silver Linings Playbook,” with Donna Gigliotti and Jonathan Gordon. He was nominated for an Emmy in 2011 for producing the 83rd Annual Academy Awards with Don Mischer. His work also includes the films “Down with Love” and “Big Fish” and the Emmy-winning television series “Pushing Daisies.” He and Jinks are now working on the Broadway musical version of “Big Fish,” with book by John August, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and to be directed and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Susan Strohman. Cohen was chair of the Los Angeles Finance Committee for the NO on Prop. 8 committee and is the recipient of numerous awards for his work in the LGBT community. In May 2008, Cohen and his husband, Gabe Catone, were the first same-sex couple to be married by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Michele Reiner, Treasurer
An accomplished photographer, producer, and children’s advocate, Michele Reiner is a co-founder of Parents’ Action for Children, an organization for which she produced the prime-time ABC special “I Am Your Child” and worked with Newsweek to produce a special parenting issue dedicated to early-childhood issues. Other credits include a series of nationally distributed DVDs that have helped educate thousands of parents, caregivers and professionals on topics relating to early childhood development. These films were produced in English and Spanish and were given to every birth mother in the state of California. Reiner has also produced numerous public service announcements, including PSAs featuring Meg Ryan, Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Aniston, among others. In 2012 she produced an independent campaign ad in support of President Obama’s re-election that focused on women’s issues and featured Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington. Reiner also directed a series of advertisements for Gold Star Families for Peace, an organization comprised of families of service-members killed in action.
A founding board member of AFER, Reiner was the co-producer of ’8′, a play written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. Framed around the 2010 U.S. District Court trial to overturn Proposition 8, the play was read in New York and Los Angeles and featured George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Martin Sheen, Morgan Freeman, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jane Lynch, Kevin Bacon and others.
Dustin Lance Black
Lance Black is an award-winning screenwriter, director and producer. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for MILK and was a writer and producer of the acclaimed TV series Big Love. He recently completed his feature directorial debut, Virginia, and penned the screenplay for J. Edgar, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo Dicaprio. Black is also a noted equal rights advocate. He was a leading opponent of Prop. 8 during the 2008 election, was a featured speaker at the 2009 March on Washington, has spoken at scores of colleges across North America and Europe, topped The Advocate magazine’s list of “Forty Under 40,” and has repeatedly been listed in OUT Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful LGBT persons.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, has spent his career taking on the toughest fights against the most entrenched, well-financed interests like Big Tobacco and Big Oil to shape the policy debate around some of the nation’s most important issues, including equal rights, clean energy, universal health care, stem cell research, and early childhood education. Griffin led the largest ballot initiative ever recorded, Proposition 87: California’s Clean Alternative Energy Initiative; Proposition 10, which generates $600 million a year to early childhood education; and Proposition 71, which secured billions of dollars for stem cell research despite the Bush Administration ban.
Griffin’s fundraising and strategic counsel in the final weeks of the campaign to oppose Proposition 8 earned him selection as one of The Advocate’s 2008 People of the Year. A veteran of the Clinton White House communications team, Griffin was the youngest staffer ever to serve in the West Wing. He is an executive producer of the recently released Kirby Dick film “Outrage.”
Jonathan D. Lewis
Jonathan D. Lewis is the president of Jonathan Lewis & Associates, an independent design, development and project management consulting firm. He has successfully developed, managed and financed multiple award-winning restaurants and hotels. In 2004, Lewis created a political funding partnership with his father that funded dozens of LGBT equality and youth empowerment organizations to further progressive values and inspire a new generation of leaders. The political partnership has spent almost $20 million on this focus area. Along with many other current philanthropic efforts, he helped found GetEQUAL, a direct action group that fights relentlessly for LGBT equality, and funds a multi-year scholarship at the Point Foundation, which is awarded to students who demonstrate promise as future leaders.
Kenneth B. Mehlman
Kenneth B. Mehlman is the global head of public affairs for Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR), a leading global alternative asset manager. Prior to joining KKR, Mehlman was a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld with a bi-partisan practice in legislative and regulatory counseling. He previously served in high level positions on Capitol Hill and the White House, including as chairman of the Republican National Committee and campaign manager of President Bush’s re-election campaign. He is a trustee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Franklin & Marshall College, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and The American Enterprise Institute’s National Council, serves the board of directors The IDEAL School of Manhattan, and on the Senior Advisory Committee of the Harvard University Institute of Politics. Mehlman graduated with a B.A. from Franklin & Marshall College and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Actor and director Rob Reiner has been a leader in elevating the issue of pre-Kindergarten education and other services for children ages 0 to 5. He chaired the campaign to pass Prop. 10, the California Children and Families Initiative, and chaired from 1999-2006 First 5 California, the state agency responsible for allocating $600 million a year for health, education and other services for young children and parents. He played a key role in defeating Prop. 1D, which would have gutted critical programs for Californian children, and he has also championed open space preservation and alternative energy. Recently, he and his wife Michele joined with the American Foundation for Equal Rights to bring the landmark federal court challenge to California’s Prop. 8, the ban on marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Reiner’s career as one of the nation’s most accomplished actors and directors includes his Emmy Award-winning role in “All in the Family” and directing the films This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, The American President, The Bucket List, Flipped and the just-completed The Magic of Belle Isle.
Kristina Schake is the Chief Communications Officer for L’Oreal USA overseeing all corporate communications, industry and government relations, sustainability projects, and corporate philanthropy programs. Prior to joining L’Oreal, Kristina was a Special Assistant to President Obama and Communications Director to the First Lady Michelle Obama, where she successfully worked at the nexus of political, business and press environments. She conceptualized and managed every element of the First Lady’s profile, serving as her key strategist, cultivating her brand, determining her activities and schedule, preparing her for all appearances, and handling all sensitive political and press situations.
Prior to the White House, Schake co-founded Griffin|Schake to conceive and implement national media relations campaigns on behalf of progressive leaders, foundations and nonprofit organizations. The firm, based in Los Angeles and New York, affected public policy from renewable energy to civil rights, and secured billions of dollars in funding for issues from public education to medical research. Griffin|Schake also specialized in communications for high-profile legal cases, having been retained by the nation’s top appellate and defense firms to devise the public and media positioning for their cases and clients. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University with a degree in writing, Schake began her career in politics working for Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan.
Adam Umhoefer, Executive Director
Adam Umhoefer has spent nearly a decade working in politics and non-profit management. Prior to becoming AFER’s first staff member, Umhoefer spent the better part of 2008 working on President Obama’s first presidential campaign. Earlier, at Andy Spahn & Associates, Inc., Umhoefer worked with individuals and non-profit companies consulting on strategic philanthropy, government affairs, public relations and fundraising. He also spent several years working in program management for the Institute for Educational Advancement, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving high-potential youth. He graduated from the Arts and Sciences Honors Program at Boston College and is a native of Racine, Wisconsin. In 2011, Umhoefer was named by The Advocate magazine as one of its top “Forty Under 40.”
Melissa Gibbs, Project Coordinator
Melissa Gibbs manages all administrative aspects of AFER. Prior to joining the team, she ran successful fundraising campaigns for the ACLU, Oxfam America, and Equality California with Grassroots Campaigns, Inc. While earning her Masters of Communication Management and B.A. in Public Relations from the University of Southern California, she participated in the efforts of USC’s LGBT Center, GLAAD, Equality California, and the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center. She wrote her Master’s thesis examining the potential threat the ex-gay movement poses for the gay rights movement.
Shumway Marshall, Online Director
Shumway Marshall develops AFER’s strategies online. Prior to joining the team, Marshall headed the online efforts at Equality California, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization. There, his efforts helped pass scores of legislation for the LGBT community, including domestic partner rights, the Harvey Milk Day bill, and gender identity protections. During the No on Proposition 8 campaign, Marshall helped raise over $20 million online in the final month of the campaign. He is a board member of the Scott Hitt Foundation, which grants scholarships for internships at organizations who seek to achieve equality for LGBT communities.
A native of New Hampshire, Marshall majored in French at Occidental College, where he also serves on the Board of Governors.
Elizabeth Riel, Senior Communications Consultant
Elizabeth Riel manages AFER’s communications efforts. As a seasoned communications strategist and expert in social marketing campaign, Riel’s work has impacted public policy, changed people’s behavior, and created healthier lives. Her past experience includes 10 years as a senior vice president with GMMB, a national strategic communications and political consulting firm, where her clients included the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Cisco Systems, First Five California, the Healthcare Finance Administration, Children Now, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and Buckle Up America. On behalf of her clients, Riel developed and directed various communications strategies including TV/radio/print advertising, strategic partnerships, event production (including press conferences, roundtables, concerts, Capitol Hill hearings), market research/surveys, strategic partnerships, PR and earned media outreach, collateral materials for internal and external audiences, website development and content, PSAs and videos.
Manny Rivera, Media Relations
Manny Rivera is a seasoned media relations and reputation management professional with a proven record of delivering strategic and innovative thinking to some of the most recognizable companies and brands. Rivera trained within the corporate and consumer public relations practices at two global public relations firms, as well as specialized crisis boutique and public affairs firms. In his most recent role, Rivera was responsible for crafting and implementing public affairs and communications strategies supporting complex projects and business imperatives for a Fortune 10 company. Immediately prior to that, he led the rapid-response and strategic communications function for a global Fortune 500 education provider, and served as national spokesperson for the company’s largest subsidiary. He began his career as a field representative and caseworker at the district office of the Hon. Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano, D-Norwalk.
Rivera serves on the board of Honor PAC, a voluntary non-partisan committee that advocates for the political empowerment of Latina/o LGBT communities. He is a graduate of Cornell University, earning Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology and Government, with a concentration in Law and Society.
Robert A. Levy is chairman of the Cato Institute, a public policy research organization dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace. He also sits on boards of the Institute for Justice, the Federalist Society, and the George Mason University School of Law. From 1997 until 2004, Levy was an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University. Levy received his Ph.D. in business from the American University and his J.D. degree from the George Mason University School of Law.
John Podesta, Co-Chair
John Podesta is the Chair and Counselor of the Center for American Progress. Prior to founding the Center in 2003, Podesta served as White House Chief of Staff to President William J. Clinton. He served in the President’s cabinet and as a principal on the National Security Council. Most recently, Podesta served as co-chair of President Obama’s transition team. He is currently a visiting professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center.
From his college days as a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to his recent chairmanship of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Julian Bond has been an active participant in the movements for civil rights, economic justice, and peace. He served more than 20 years in the Georgia Legislature after a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that the Georgia House of Representatives unconstitutionally denied him the seat he had won. A collection of Bond’s essays has been published under the title “A Time To Speak, A Time To Act.” He is also the author of “Black Candidates – Southern Campaign Experiences.”
Lt. Dan Choi
Lt. Dan Choi is an Army Officer and Iraq War combat veteran who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with degrees in Arabic and environmental engineering. Choi is a leading advocate against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Margaret Hoover is a CNN Political Contributor and the author of the book American Individualism: How A New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party published by Crown Forum in July 2011. Ms. Hoover is a veteran of the Bush Administration White House, two presidential campaigns, and a former staffer on Capitol Hill. Her work is committed to renewing the Republican Party to enable it to connect with a new generation of Americans, even as it remains true to the principles of individual freedom and fiscal conservatism and continues to champion a robust U.S. foreign policy. She also serves on the advisory council of GOProud, as well as on the boards of the Hoover Institution, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association, and the Belgian American Educational Foundation. Raised in Colorado, Ms. Hoover lives in New York City with her husband.
Dolores Huerta, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, co-founded the United Farm Workers of America with Cesar Chavez, and is a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Human Rights Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. She has led national efforts to stop the exploitation of farm workers and extend government protections and equal rights.
Cleve Jones founded the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which today honors more than 85,000 Americans, with affiliates of the Project active in more than 50 countries around the world. He was an aide to San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and a consultant to two California Assembly Speakers.
Author, political strategist and civil rights activist David Mixner’s career spans the McGovern presidential campaign to those of Gary Hart and Bill Clinton. After serving as campaign manager to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, he led the successful fight against California’s Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Amendment, which would have banned gays and lesbians from being teachers.
Stuart Milk, the openly gay nephew of the late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, today continues to spread his uncle’s message of hope for an America that provides equality to all. He has been a vocal advocate for LGBT equality around the world and for civil rights in the U.S., and recently accepted from President Obama the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on behalf of Harvey Milk.
Hilary Rosen is editor-at-large at Huffington Post and a political contributor on CNN. Former chair and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), she also is currently managing partner of the Brunswick Group in Washington. Rosen serves on the boards of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Creative Coalition and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. She has served two U.S. Senators and has lobbied and advocated for civil rights for over 25 years.
Judy and Dennis Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation in memory of their 21-year old son, Matthew, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998. The Foundation seeks to “Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion & Acceptance” through its varied educational, outreach and advocacy programs and by continuing to tell Matthew’s story. In 2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.