Keynote Presenters

Balken ImageBrandie Balken, Program Officer, Gill Foundation

Brandie Balken is a program officer with the Gill Foundation, focusing on the management of the religious refusals and national equal treatment portfolios. Previously, Brandie served as the Executive Director of Equality Utah. During her 5 year tenure at the state’s largest LGBT advocacy and policy organization, Equality Utah was able to successfully implement more than 35 individual pieces of LGBT-affirmative policy. Brandie helped form and lead Utah’s America Votes affiliate roundtable which worked to align labor, education, conservation, women’s organizations, and the LGBT community in their endorsement and advocacy goals. She has deep experience in the nonprofit sector having volunteered for a diverse array of organizations including Food Not Bombs, the Western Shoshone Defense Project, the Inclusion Center for Community and Justice and as a volunteer radio host for KRCL – Utah progressive public radio. She has provided board service to Seeds of Peace, Envision Utah, the Utah Pride Center, Utah Diversity Connections, and served as co-chair of the Equality Federation board and the Utah Votes board. Originally from rural Utah, Brandie graduated cum laude from Weber State University. Post graduation, she traveled throughout the West, working for environmental justice and indigenous people’s rights before coming out and returning to Utah to serve the LGBT community. When she’s not working, she happily shares her life with her wife, step-daughter, and the family’s two four-leggeds, Bella and Guapo.

Lehwald pictureCarly Lehwald, Trans Advocate and Cast Member, ABC Family's Becoming Us

Carly Lehwald, of the ABC Family docu-follow Becoming Us, is a Trans woman from the Chicagoland area. She transitioned publicly in 2012, after 9 years of planning and preparation, and says that experience has been the healthiest part of her life so far. Heart problems in early 2015 lead to her new found passion of advocacy and activism within and on behalf of the transgender community. Produced by Ryan Seacrest, Becoming Us focuses on the struggles with relationships and coming to terms with loving each other, not in spite of Lehwald transitioning but in support of it. The show itself was her son, Ben’s idea. It was a platform for Ben to tell their story, with the intention of helping others. Becoming Us presented the whole family with a rich and beautiful opportunity to be of service to others. Lehwald especially appreciates serving the trans community through open discussion via speaking engagements, social media and putting people together to support each other. Although Lehwald has experienced some adversity, her faith and the belief that she is here to be of service is what keeps her going through hard times. She strives to raise awareness and educate the GLB community and the general public about transgender people, and help them co-exist with understanding, love and compassion. “I am earnestly seeking to see a time come when legislation and government protections are not required because as a society we have been able to move beyond that need, to a time when we can respect others, and even celebrate the diversity which makes our world beautiful.” Lehwald currently works in Information Security for a large insurance company performing computer forensics, electronic discovery and data loss prevention. She has been in Information Technology for the past 25 years. She has three amazing children, Sutton, Ben and Nick. She currently lives in Chicago with her girlfriend Cera, and their cat Boba.


Thorpe ImageRoey Thorpe, Director of Advocacy Programs, Equality Federation

Roey Thorpe is the Director of Advocacy Programs for the Equality Federation, providing strategic partnership to LGBT organizations across the country. In this role, Roey works closely with activists to create plans and strategies to pass laws banning discrimination against LGBT people. Roey has worked as a social justice advocate for more than 25 years, at both the state and national level. Of the many roles she has held, she is especially proud to have served as the executive director of Basic Rights Oregon and of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, helping build both organizations into proactive political powerhouses. She also served as Alderperson and Acting Mayor of Ithaca, New York, making her their first out elected official. Despite the fact that Roey lives in Portland, Oregon, she has resisted urban chicken farming and other signs of overt hipster culture. Instead, she prefers high heels and plays a mean game of poker.

Patricia Todd ImageHonorable Patricia Todd, Alabama State Representative, and State Director, Human Rights Campaign Alabama

Patricia Todd has socially and professionally advocated for public policies relevant to social justice, education, HIV/AIDS, and a wide range of issues for over twenty years. Patricia was elected to the Alabama Legislature as the State Representative for House District 54 in November of 2006 as the first openly gay elected official in Alabama’s history. In addition to Representative Todd’s numerous community activities and awards, she was selected as the first UAB School of Public Health “Advocate of the Year”, UAB Outstanding Alumni, SMART Woman by The Women’s Fund, and the Billy Jack Gaither Award for her fight to ensure equality for LBGT Alabamians. In addition to her legislative work, Patricia holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from UAB and professionally serves as the State Director of Human Rights Campaign Alabama. Patricia’s friends refer to her as fearless because she never gives up and stands up for what is right to move Alabama forward.