March 1, 2004

Contact: Laura Heidbreder, Student Union Activities, 864-2431

UPDATE: Elizabeth Birch to speak at KU March 1, replacing ailing Judy Shepard

LAWRENCE -- Elizabeth Birch, the former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, will speak at the University of Kansas tonight in place of an ill Judy Shepard.

Shepard, the mother of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard, was scheduled to speak at 8 tonight at the Lied Center as the opening event for KU's "Into the Streets Week" but fell ill over the weekend. The event will go on featuring Birch, and tickets are free and available at the Student Union Activities box office in the Kansas Union. Anyone already with tickets to the event still may use them to gain admittance.

During Birch's eight-year tenure leading the Human Rights Campaign, the group˙s membership quadrupled to 500,000 and emerged from its grassroots founding to a modern corporate model with a 100-person staff and a $20 million budget. The organization is known for its cutting edge advocacy techniques and groundbreaking use of media and innovative communications strategies. In 2002, Birch received the highest honor given by the Leadership Counsel on Civil Rights, the nation's oldest coalition of civil rights organizations.

The former worldwide director of litigation for Apple Computer Inc., Birch also has worked with Fortune 500 companies to develop and implement nondiscrimination and domestic partner benefits policies. Birch stepped down as HRC executive director in January.

KU's Into the Streets Week, slated for March 1 through 6, is an annual event, organized by the student-run Center for Community Outreach. The center aims to raise student awareness about the need for activism and engagement in public life.

Other events this year will include a voter registration drive in front of Wescoe Hall at KU, a hunger banquet at 6:30 p.m. March 4 at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, and a Sleepout for Homelessness the night of March 6. Additional event information is available by calling SUA at (785) 864-SHOW. -30-

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