Scranton native Allyson Robinson was forcefully ousted yesterday from her position as the Executive Director of OutServe-SDLN by their Board of Directors. The vote compelling Robinson to resign was swiftly met with all of OS-SDLN senior staff and a more than a third of their 15 member Board immediately resigning from their positions. Robinson was the first transgender Executive Director of a national LGBTQ organization that was not trans-specific.
Six members of the Board immediately resigned in protest during the hours following Robinson’s departure. These departures included Board members Sue Fulton, Matthew Phelps and Beth Schissel; Director of External Relations, Zeke Stokes; Director of Chapter and Member Services, Gary Espinas; and Legal Director David McKean have all left the organization.
The Co-Chair of the Board, Josh Seefried, was accused of “rushing decision through,” according to Buzzfeed sources. The vote to terminate Robinson from her position occurred at a regularly scheduled board meeting, several hours into their executive session, without any prior notice that the Board was planning on seeking Robinson’s resignation.
Currently no official statements from Board members who participated in the vote to remove Robinson from her position, including Don’t Ask Don’t Tell activist Katie Miller, have been issued.
In a leaked email to Co-Chair Josh Seefried, Board member Sue Fulton claimed that the voting process to oust Robinson was far from democratic, and that members of the board were not present when the vote was taken.
“I was a member of the OS-SLDN Board yesterday, and I did NOT vote to ask Allyson to resign. Neither did Shannon. Matthew Phelps and Beth Schissel did not have the opportunity to vote either. Did you even ask for a roll call? On a decision like this? You cannot characterize this publicly as a “unanimous” vote of the Board. If you do so, Board members will speak publicly to deny that they voted for it. The details of who was in the room and who wasn’t when you rushed this vote through will not support your case.”
Fulton’s departure may represent a serious fallout within the LGBTQ military community. She was heavily involved in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and is a founding member and a former Executive Director of Knights Out, the LGBTQ alumni group at West Point. Fulton also is a founding member of OutServe, and remained on the Board until her recent resignation. President Obama appointed her to the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2011, making her the first LGBTQ person serving on the board.
Sources told Buzzfeed that the reason for Allyson’s forced resignation ranged from comments about her fundraising and leadership abilities, to suspicion of anti-transgender bias.
Director of External Relations, Zeke Stokes, criticized the choice to force Robinson to resign in his own resignation email. “Today, the Board of Directors made decisions that have compromised the trust I had placed in it heretofore. They have chosen a direction that is inconsistent with what I believe is necessary to secure a successful future for the organization. In doing so, they have for the foreseeable future sacrificed the viability of the mission.”
Robinson was the first trans leader of a non-trans specific LGBTQ organization. She was also the first executive director of Outserve-SDLN following the merger of the two groups, Outserve and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. While serving in the military, Robinson trained NATO troops and helped advise the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. It is notable that she served as the executive director of a military organization, in a time when transpeople are not allowed in the military.
Robinson, born in Scranton, has joined several other Pennsylvanians in becoming a national LGBTQ community leader. Other national LGBTQ leaders from Pennsylvania include the National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling (from Harrisburg); Human Rights Campaign Associate Director of Youth and Campus Outreach Candace Gingrich-Jones (a former co-worker of Robinson, from Harrisburg); Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson (from Pittsburgh), and Board Chair of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Chris Crespo (of Sharon).
This is the second recent dust up with a major national LGBTQ organization. Last year, GLAAD nearly imploded following a disastrous support of a AT&T merger. GLAAD publicly revealed their support of AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile, resulting in GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios and several Board members to resign over the potential conflict of interest. Mass resignations of Board members and staff typically occur when organizational morale is low, or a scandal has come to light.
Check back here for updates as they are made public.
Image by John Gara/Buzzfeed