Gov. Jay Inslee named J. Manny Santiago executive director of the newly-created state LGBTQ Commission today. The LGBTQ Commission, established by the Legislature, was signed into law by Inslee in April of this year. The commission will identify the needs of the LGBTQ community and advocate for LGBTQ equity and inclusion in all aspects of state government.
Santiago is currently the executive director of Rainbow Center in Tacoma, which advocates and supports policies that help LGBTQ people at local, state and national levels. He previously served as executive director of The Crossing Inc., in Madison, Wisconsin where he worked with the University of Wisconsin to increase equity and inclusion among the student population.
Santiago served for four years as a senior pastor at University Baptist Church in Seattle. Prior to that, he served as an associate pastor at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew in New York City.
“Manny has spent his life and career fighting for inclusion, tolerance and compassion,” Inslee said. “He is an activist and administrator, both of which provide him with the passion and expertise to run this commission. I look forward to partnering with him to help ensure that all Washingtonians are well-served and heard by their state government. I am deeply committed to continuing the fight for LGBTQ inclusion throughout Washington.”
Sen. Claire Wilson was the primary sponsor of the LGBTQ Commission bill.
“This is a historic moment for Washington state,” Wilson said. “I'm thrilled that Manny, as the first executive director, will bring passion and significant experience to the commission as he works with diverse communities. With nine members strong, the LGBTQ caucus of the Legislature looks forward to collaborating with Manny and the commission. Together, we will ensure that the LGBTQ community has a seat at the table.”
Santiago is currently pursuing his doctorate in education. He holds a master’s degree in divinity from Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts and a master’s in public administration from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico. He also earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez.
In his role as executive director, Santiago will work with a 15-member commission. The commission will include representatives from communities across the state and will be appointed by the governor in the coming months.
Individuals interested in serving on the new commission can learn more on the governor’s website.