Stanback led the fight for marriage equality in the state of Connecticut as co-founder and leader of the organization Love Makes Family. Now married to her wife Charlotte Kinlock, Stanback has worked tirelessly on LGBT rights, women’s issues and reproductive rights, and now spends a great deal of time working to pass laws in states across the country that will make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in areas such as employment and housing.
“We have a lot to do in terms of guaranteeing the promise of equality for all,” she said. “Marriage was expected to be the last LGBT issue, but then it leaped ahead of so many others. There is still too much harassment and bullying of LGBTQ youth and too much violence against transgender people, but we are making steady progress. There are issues in this country that I’m much less optimistic about related to race, our criminal justice system, disparities in income … but knowing that so many Davidson alumni and current students are focused on those issues makes me more hopeful.”
Davidson is a place that taught Stanback the importance of team work and collaboration. A member of the women’s tennis team and part of a blended family that counts many Davidson diplomas among them, Stanback says she had many fiery discussions inside and outside the classroom, teaching her how to argue in a passionate but civil way.
“Throughout my career, I have worked on controversial issues where I often found myself in public debates with opponents,” she said. “I may not always have been successful, but I certainly tried to hold on to a level of respect for the person on the other side, even when I fundamentally disagreed with their position.”
She also says Davidson was an environment that expected its community members to speak up.
“If something isn’t being done, and if a group doesn’t exist and an issue isn’t being addressed, you create it,” she said. “There is an entrepreneurial spirit on Davidson’s campus that encourages students to create something if it’s not there.”
Stanback says she is not the smartest person or the greatest public speaker or the best with technology, but being a leader means different things to different people.
“I believe you can learn leadership and improve leadership by watching others,” she said. “There were so many people at Davidson who influenced me—some very consciously and some that I only recognized years later. Sometimes leadership is just taking a courageous stand, making a hard decision and standing by it. Showing up, doing the work, and being responsible. That’s what I saw in the vast majority of my classmates and professors at Davidson.”
Storytelling, she says, is one of the keys to progress in our world.
“When people ask me how we won in Connecticut and nationally, I tell them the tool of storytelling was at the core of what we did,” she said. “Putting a human face on an issue that is scary and controversial. That will change the world.”
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