Staff Spotlight: Che Ruddell-Tabisola, Federal Associate

Freedom to Marry has a dedicated and diverse staff working each day to secure the freedom to marry nationwide, and we want to help you get to know each of us a little bit better. This week, we hear from Che Ruddell-Tabisola, Freedom to Marry's Federal Associate. Che works in Washington, D.C., helping to oversee our campaign in the nation's capital. He has worked in LGBT advocacy for years, organizing on behalf of the freedom to marry, LGBT people of color, and LGBT representation in the U.S. Census. He holds a master's degree in international conflict analysis from the University of Kent at Brussels and lives with his husband, Tadd, in Washington, D.C.

1) Where are you from, and what brought you to Washington, D.C.?

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb right above Los Angeles in Southern California. My husband Tadd and I moved to D.C. in 2006 after I finished grad school in Brussels. My master's is in international conflict analysis, so with that kind of degree, we figured we should head to either New York or D.C. We had a friend in DC who was working, and a friend in New York who could only land unpaid internships. So we chose D.C. 

2) You've worked on advocacy campaigns for the LGBT community for years - what are some of the things you have learned from your previous work, and how have they informed your time at Freedom to Marry?

Every morning I come to work with an open heart and an open mind, which means, among other things, suspending judgement and assumptions. We can never assume how someone feels about the freedom to marry based on their appearance or where they live or work; it's tempting to do so, and we do it all the time, but our own prejudices can stand to impede the progress we work so hard to achieve. Take a program such as Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, which really is a groundbreaking project that challenges some essential ontological assumptions and has tremendous potential to affect change. Helping to launch that program has, for me, meant checking my own biases at the door each morning. 

3) What do you like to do in your free time?

Tadd has a food truck, so you can usually find me at least one day a weekend helping on the truck or in the kitchen banging out dishes. You won't find me cooking though; Tadd's a pretty demanding chef, and I don't have the culinary skills he asks for in the kitchen. He once re-cut two cases of red cabbage that I had cut because my slices were larger than a quarter inch wide. 

4) What has been your favorite "freedom to marry" moment - a time in the movement that has particularly resonated with you?

This happened before I came to Freedom to Marry. I was walking with a group in the San Diego Pride Parade in 2009. It was the first Pride after we lost Prop. 8. At one point during the parade the flow got backed up and our group ended up standing right in front of the anti-Pride protesters for about five minutes. They're always there, but I had never paid attention to them before, and it was the first time I ever listened to their bullhorns or read their signs. The longer we stood there, the more our group got fired up, cheering and smiling and waving at them. I waved, too, and my heart swelled with - well - pride, and it was the first time in my life when I "got" Pride. I'm very fortunate, being gay has never really been a big deal for me. No one in my life has ever really challenged it. So in that moment, Pride was less about working a booth or socializing, it really was about being proud of who I am, proud of being married to my husband, and proud of working some very tough turf (we lost San Diego County by 7 and a half points). Thinking back on it, I'm actually really grateful to those protesters for providing that gift to me.  

5) Why does the freedom to marry matter to you? 

That's the million dollar question, isn't it? Really, I just enjoy helping people. And the very strategic work we do here at Freedom to Marry for the freedom to marry is about more than gaining a set of rights and protections; it's about fighting a prejudice that stigmatizes an entire group of people and leaves them suffering because of an immutable trait. I've been fortunate, but many have not. And so I hope at the end of the day that the work I'm doing will benefit someone. 

Read all of our Staff Spotlights: