Portland, Ore. (November 11, 2015) – Andrea Zekis, co-founder of ArTEC, the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition, is the new Policy Director at Basic Rights Oregon.

Zekis spent 10 years in Arkansas where she was co-founded and served as Executive Director of ArTEC, which focuses on statewide public education, resource development, transgender inclusion, policy and research. She also served as the primary investigator of its Transform Health Arkansas project, which empowers transgender, genderqueer, gender non-binary and intersex Arkansans to lead their own health care research.

“Andrea’s experience in Arkansas moving policy that directly affects the lives of transgender communities will be a great asset in her work in Oregon,” said Co-Director of Basic Rights Oregon Nancy Haque. “We are deeply immersed in policy change to increase the safety and wellbeing of transgender Oregonians who are incarcerated and reduce barriers to comprehensive health care within public and private insurance systems. She will be a great addition to our team.”

Andrea also is a 2015 Victory Empowerment Fellow for the Victory Institute and previously consulted for the Human Rights Campaign’s Project One America. Besides her health research work, Andrea successfully increased access to legal name and gender change services, advancing policies that support transgender equality at the local and national levels and developed a database of transgender friendly providers in Arkansas.

Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Andrea graduated from the University of Evansville, where she studied mass communications. She completed graduate studies in journalism at Syracuse University and geographic information systems at University of Central Arkansas and previously had careers in both fields.

In her new role at Basic Rights Oregon, Zekis will lead a successful policy team, which has advanced significant LGBTQ legislation in its 19-year history. After a number of local victories, Basic Rights’ first big statewide victory came in 2007 when it passed comprehensive non-discrimination protections and domestic partnership recognition in the same legislative session. Other major legislative victories include the Oregon Safe Schools Act, to protect LGBTQ youth from bullying; a bulletin to ban insurance companies from excluding medically necessary health care for transgender Oregonians; transgender-inclusive Medicaid, marriage equality and a ban on youth conversation therapy.

Zekis replaces Nico Quintana, who left Basic Rights Oregon in September to begin law school at the University of Washington as a Gates Scholar.