GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders Announces Interim Executive Director Richard Burns as Janson Wu Prepares to Begin New Role with the Trevor Project

The board of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is pleased to announce Richard Burns will join the organization as Interim Executive Director, as current Executive Director Janson Wu steps down October 6 to take a position as Senior Director of State Advocacy and Government Affairs with The Trevor Project. 

“Throughout his nine-year tenure as Executive Director, Janson Wu has provided GLAD with steady and strategic leadership while overseeing substantial legal victories for the LGBTQ+ community, including GLAD’s historic Obergefell national marriage victory and the successful effort to hold back Trump’s transgender military ban,” said GLAD Board President Shane Dunn. “We are excited for the important work Janson will do for the community in this new role with the Trevor Project.”

Richard Burns is a seasoned organizational leader and nonprofit management consultant with strong roots in the LGBTQ+ legal advocacy movement. He will begin his tenure as GLAD’s Interim Executive Director on October 10.

“The board and I are thrilled to have found in Richard Burns an interim leader who not only has exceptional organizational management expertise but also extensive knowledge of the LGBTQ+ legal movement and a deep connection to GLAD,” said Dunn.

Burns served as president of GLAD’s founding board from 1978-1986, then helmed the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center as Executive Director for over twenty years, including through the height of the AIDS crisis. He also served as chief operating officer of the Arcus Foundation, and developed and led the LGBT Leadership Institute there from 2013 to 2019.

Richard Burns, GLAD’s incoming Interim Executive Director. Photo by Leandro Justen.

In recent years Burns has effectively steered several LGBTQ+, social, and racial justice-focused organizations through transition periods as Interim Executive Director, including the Drug Policy Alliance, the North Star Fund, the Funding Exchange, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, the Stonewall Community Foundation, Lambda Legal, and, most recently, the Johnson Family Foundation. He is currently Board Chair of the American LGBTQ+ Museum, an in-development project to preserve, research, and share LGBTQ+ history and culture.

“Richard brings a clear passion for GLAD’s mission to defend and advance freedom for all LGBTQ+ people as well as the experience to steer an organization steadily through transition,” said GLAD Board Vice President Mario Nimock. “His stewardship will allow the organization to continue its critical work uninterrupted while we conduct a thorough search for GLAD’s next exceptional leader.” 

GLAD’s current litigation and legislative docket includes challenging dangerous state laws banning access to established medical care for transgender adolescents; fighting politically motivated attacks on public schools and ensuring LGBTQ+ students can receive an equal education; advancing legal security for LGBTQ+ families and their children through updated state parentage laws; defending the rights of transgender workers including in equal access to healthcare coverage; protecting and expanding access to PrEP to address racial disparities in access and to end the HIV epidemic; and robustly defending the freedom to marry.

The organization’s strategic agenda, announced last year, includes expanding the organization’s legal team in order to address escalating nationwide anti-LGBTQ+ attacks, advance equality for LGBTQ+ people across all areas of life, and sustain an antiracist and intergenerational LGBTQ+ justice organization and movement for the long term. 

“GLAD has been a fierce advocate for freedom and the rights of LGBTQ+ people for more than 45 years. Now, when LGBTQ+ people, and especially transgender people, are so virulently under attack, and our country’s potential to realize a true pluralistic, multiracial democracy is under threat, GLAD is needed more than ever,” said Richard Burns. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with an organization that has meant so much to me, and to support GLAD’s incredible team of advocates at this critical moment.” 

GLAD’s board of directors is planning a robust search for a talented, diverse, national candidate pool to find the organization’s next permanent Executive Director.