I first met Sam Garrett-Pate at our communications firm’s June birthday party, which he had turned into an annual Pride Month celebration. He was rushing through the halls of our office, meticulously instructing the staff on where and how to hang the rainbow decorations and making sure everything looked spectacular — no detail was too small.
This wasn’t just a party for Sam. This was a history lesson, and he made sure that everyone in the office understood the meaning and significance of Pride. In order for his colleagues to be true progressive leaders and change-makers, he knew we needed to fully understand both the oppression the LGBTQ community has faced and its resilience.
Because that’s who Sam is. He’s made a career of pushing people to be the best versions of themselves. He doesn’t accept mediocrity and always gravitates toward the underdog, the marginalized or the underestimated in order to help pave a path toward success.
Sam started his career in Washington, DC, working on anti-bullying and safe schools initiatives under Assistant Deputy Education Secretary Kevin Jennings and later serving as an aide to Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York. From Capitol Hill to the campaign trail, Sam helped drive the openly gay Congressman’s advocacy for LGBTQ civil rights — including the fight for marriage equality.
“Sam was a fighter for the LGBTQ community here in Washington and he’ll be a fighter for the community in California as well,” said Congressman Maloney. “He knows the challenges we face together, and he’s got the experience in public policy that’s needed to make an impact – Equality California is lucky to have him.”
When Sam’s husband Matthew got an opportunity to attend the law school of his dreams, the two packed up their lives and moved to Los Angeles. Having never lived or worked on the West Coast, Sam relished the challenge of a new environment and quickly worked his way up to being a well-respected communications strategist. That’s when we met and eventually became officemates.
Two months ago, Sam left our firm to join Equality California as the organization’s new communications director and spokesperson. Somehow I always knew — from the moment I saw him running around at that June birthday/Pride party — that Sam would find his way back to the LGBTQ civil rights movement. And I know the movement is happy (and as Congressman Maloney said, lucky) to have him back.
“With so much at stake for the LGBTQ community right now, we’re thrilled to have Sam join our dynamic team of civil rights advocates,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “Sam has years of deep experience, not only in crafting strategic messaging and political communications campaigns, but also serving the LGBTQ community in various leadership roles. He’s a great asset in our fight for a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people.”
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I first came out 11 years ago. I think that question is tricky though because we all come out every day. Every time I mention my husband to the grocery store cashier or explain what I do for a living to a waiter at a restaurant, I’m coming out. Those, for me, are the hardest conversations because I never know what to expect.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Edie Windsor. I really admire the fact that she never stopped fighting for love.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
I’m a bit obsessed with Bar Mattachine. It’s downtown, has great cocktails and I’m pretty sure Pickle hosts the best drag trivia in Southern California.
Describe your dream wedding.
I married my husband on a boat in Newport Harbor, which was pretty dreamy. But I think if I could do it all over again, I’d opt for a taco truck and great wine in someone’s backyard.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I’m really passionate about education — about every child having a shot at success at a safe and supportive public school. But that’s an LGBTQ issue, too (as are most issues in some way or another).
What historical outcome would you change?
Bobby Kennedy should have been president.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I’ll never forget the day Michael Jackson died. I’m not entirely sure why, but I know I’ll never forget it.
On what do you insist?
Loyalty. Not to a person, but to a cause.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I thanked Joy Reid for her apology to the LGBTQ community. No one is perfect. The most we can ask of anyone is acknowledgment of past mistakes and growth.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
How old are you?
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Start recruiting. (Kidding.) In all seriousness, I love being gay and would never change that about myself — even if it were an option.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I’d like to hope that Hogwarts is real.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Facts don’t change hearts and minds — stories do.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My cats, my nephews, my sister and my husband.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That gay men don’t like football. Fight on!
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Call Me by Your Name.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Meal times. I think everyone should feel free to eat what they want when they want it.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Nothing compares to winning an election.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I was living in DC at the time — I wish I’d realized sooner that winter is overrated.
Why Los Angeles?
Because winter is overrated.