Board of Directors

SC Equality is led by an active Board of Directors who are strategically positioned throughout the state.


Jeff is the Chair of the Board of SC Equality, the statewide political advocacy and educational outreach organization for LGBT equality in South Carolina.  For over 20 years, he has been an innovative thinker and leader in business technology, having led the design and implementation of the TLC program for USAirways (now American Airlines).  He first became an LGBT activist in the 1990’s, serving with The Names Project (AIDS Memorial Quilt) and in October, 1996, was part of the organization when the entire quilt was displayed on the National Mall in Washington. While living in Charlotte, NC he served as board chair of the former Metrolina AIDS Project, a local AIDS service organization in the greater Charlotte-metro area which once served over 1400 people infected with AIDS. 
 
In 2010, Jeff moved to Charleston (where he still lives) and with the encouragement of Linda Ketner, founder of SC Equality, he joined the board in 2011. Shortly after, in 2012, he became board chair and during his leadership, SC Equality has grown into the largest LGBT equality organization in South Carolina and was instrumental in the implementation of the Post DOMA Litigation Task Force and the TransAction Task Force. Most recently, Jeff lead the charge and was a vital part behind the strategy of the now historic lawsuit filed in the federal courts which brought marriage equality to South Carolina for the first time in history in November of 2014.  In 2015, he was a permanent fixture at the South Carolina State House, successfully fighting anti-LGBT legislation and supporting pro equality bills that would protect LGBT South Carolinians in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.  “My goal has always been that, at some point in my lifetime, marriage equality would be the law of the land and would not be an issue any longer, and that everyone will be treated equally under the law.  Last year, I witnessed the constitutional right of all same sex couples in South Carolina with the right to marry the person they love.  And as we continue to march down this long hard road for equality, we pause to celebrate our recent victory, however, the movement is far from over.  In South Carolina, you can still be fired because of who you are (or love), can be turned away because a business owner doesn’t agree with your lifestyle and you can be refused housing.  Our LGBT teenagers are still bullied in our schools, with some of the highest rates of any state in the Union.  And transgender South Carolinians are still discriminated against and deserve the right to live as they choose. For those who continue to stand against these civil rights, they look as outdated as George Wallace standing on the school steps keeping James Hood from entering the University of Alabama because he was black.”
 



  

Malissa Burnette lives in Columbia and is a Partner at the law firm of Callison Tighe. Certified by the SC Supreme Court as a Specialist in Employment & Labor , she has been practicing law for 33 years. Malissa is experienced in all aspects of civil rights and discrimination law as well as family law. She has been named one of the Best Lawyers in America. Malissa joined the Board of Directors for SC Equality in 2009 and serves the organization as a project manager and member of the Nominating Committee.



Dianne Odom is a Certified Public Accountant, practicing in Irmo South Carolina.  She has been licensed for 18 years and graduated from the University of South Carolina.  She joined the board of South Carolina Equality in 2009. Dianne serves as the Board Treasurer and lives in Irmo with her family.


 

Ann Willbrand lives in Aiken with Pat, her partner of 14 years. After teaching organic chemistry for 22 years as an Associate Professor, in 2007 Ann retired from the University of South Carolina in Aiken. In 2004, Ann began working with SC Equality as a delegate from the CSRA Rainbow Alliance. She participated in the Fairness for All Families campaign in 2005-2006 and officially joined the SC Equality Board of Directors in June 2007. Ann now serves as the Board’s Secretary.


 

Veronica Walters resides in Myrtle Beach, SC. She attended UNC-Wilmington and received her BA in Theatre. Her background in local theatre production is extensive and includes several movies. She currently operates her own business, V. Walters Services. In 2005, she co-founded the T-Time support group and has been a presenter at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta. Veronica was a Board member and past President (2009-10) of The Center Project LGBT community center in Myrtle Beach. Besides now being part of SC Equality, she is currently Vice President of Red Ribbon Friends, a LGBT fund raising organization that supports Careteam of Horry/Georgetown, who provide services to directly assist persons with HIV/AIDS. Veronica joined the board in 2011.


 

Doug Yates lives in Columbia where he is an anesthesiologist in practice with Anesthesiology Consultants of Columbia.  He has been in the practice of anesthesiology for 25 years.  He received his B.A. from the University of Arkansas, his M.D. from Tulane University School of Medicine, and his specialty training in anesthesiology from Wake Forest University.  He joined the SC Equality Board in 2009 and serves on the nominating committee.



Nichols Bleckley is a South Carolina native (originally from Anderson, SC).  She received her bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from Winthrop University before making Charleston her home.  Nichols has been an active supporter of LGBTQ organizations throughout the state, including SC Equality, AFFA, Upstate Pride, We Are Family, and currently serves on the board of the Charleston Pride Festival. Nichols is employed by Blackbaud, Inc., where she has worked directly with thousands of non-profit organizations since 2002. She lives in Charleston with her partner Colleen, their son, and a plethora of animals



 Amy, founded a local peer support group (C.A.T.S. - Charleston Area Transgender Support) for transgender individuals. She grew up in Springfield, Vermont, and has lived in the Charleston area since 1997. Amy has a degree in engineering, and currently works as the Director of Engineering at a large area hotel where she transitioned on the job in 2009. Last year’s recipient of the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA) Groundbreaker award, Amy is a guest speaker on transgender issues, and has spoken at the Medical University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, University of South Carolina, We Are Family, and consulted with My Sister’s House regarding extending services for victims of domestic violence to transgender females.



Michael McCord, a passionate democrat and small business owner originally from Abbeville, South Carolina, currently resides in Greenville, South Carolina with his partner of three years and their two-year-old son. He is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Human Resource. Michael has spent time volunteering for multiple nonprofit organizations, as well as volunteering in Haiti in 2010. He proudly joined the Board of SC Equality in 2016.


As a student in high school I never saw myself as someone who would be an activist- I never wanted to stand out. In fact, all I wanted was to blend in and get by. When I got to college however everything changed. I no longer found myself concerned with other people's opinion of me- instead I found myself increasingly more interested in the rights of me and my friends who identified as LGBT. After becoming an Officer in EROS, I found myself more and more invested in fighting for and protecting these rights. It only seems natural that as I step away from EROS that I step towards another organization that impacts change in this way.



Susan Smith, president of the SC Democratic Women's Council, Southern Regional Director of the National Federation of Democratic Women has from childhood held an interest in GLBT issues. Growing up in a small town in NC, she heard conversations about 'those people,' yet realized when those conversations included someone they knew, it changed the conversation. She is passionate about  repairing the threads that bind us all together. She has made coalition building her mission as a Democratic Party office holder.