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Mitchell Award Honorees: Drew Fennell & Lisa Goodman

Katie Tabeling

Drew Fennell and Lisa Goodman both remember the day Gov. Jack Markell signed civil unions into law in 2011. It was at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, and the energy was electric. People were crying in joy, Fennell said.

Drew Fennell & Lisa Goodman

“There were 600 people in that room, and every single person contributed to that moment. There was so much love in that room. It was remarkable,” she said.

“What I’m proudest of is that we got very passionate people in the room, we set aside our pre-existing beliefs and thought about what we could accomplish,” Goodman added. “We all moved in one direction. It’s hard to hold a coalition together, but we did it. And we ran a heck of a campaign.”

For years before that watershed moment, the couple were already practicing lawyers that had fought hard to expand civil liberties. In the 1990s, LGBTQ+ rights came to the forefront of the First State and a series of legislation was launched in response like the 1994 hate crimes bill. Fennell was the executive director of the ACLU Delaware and Goodman founded Equality Delaware, both organizations that drafted and lobbied relentlessly for an anti-discrimination bill and the civil unions bill. It took a decade for both to pass.

“We spent a decade changing hearts and minds, one legislator at a time, primarily Drew,” Goodman said. “When she came out on the floor of the House, I think no one could believe that she didn’t fit their picture of a lesbian.”

Outside the landmark bills, the couple worked on prisoners’ rights, voting rights, criminal justice policy and anti-discrimination practices that were a reaction to 9/11, among others. Fennell said some of those issues crossed their paths through personal or professional careers.

Today, the work is still not over. Fennell is the executive vice president of Social Contract, a collective impact consulting firm, and Goodman now is a partner at 302 Strategies.

“One of the things that is important is how incredibly tied these all are together,” Fennell said. “When you’re advocating people of a different national origin or who speak a different language, they all deserve a world in which we can be safe, have good lives and live to our full potential. That’s a critical part of the work.”


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