Gabriel Blau: Family Advocate and Family Man
Gabriel Blau (right in photo above) is the executive director of the Family Equality Council, a national organization devoted to advocating for LGBT parents and their families. At the same time, he and his husband are raising their 6½-year-old son.
In his opinion, it’s not easy to do balance work and home life, but it’s important. The two are intertwined, after all.
“All day long I’m worrying about families like ours,” says Blau, 34. “How do we make these families’ lives better?”
The Family Equality Council has been around for 32 years, and has played an important role in advocating for LGBT parents and their kids. Its amicus briefs have been cited by judges in marriage equality cases. It has collaborated with the federal government to revise forms, making them more inclusive. And it’s working with local groups across the country to make sure all families have the same opportunities.
There are 9 million people affected, Blau says. That’s 6 million children and 3 million parents. LGBT families are more likely to be multi-racial, making them an incredibly diverse group. These families are also twice as likely to live near the poverty line.
“These are issues that cut across American society,” Blau says. And his group’s mission is ultimately nothing less than working to “change lived equality on the ground.”
COMING TO WORK, PARENTHOOD
Blau has been engaged with the gay rights movement for 15 years. He and his husband, acupuncturist Dylan Stein, have been together for 11 years. But he didn’t start out as a professional activist.
Instead, Blau worked in the business world, running his own marketing and communications company. He also became involved with Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBT synagogue in New York with a strong interest in social justice.
Something dawned on him.
“I realized I wasn’t meant to be in business,” Blau says. He took his experience and passion and brought it to the nonprofit sector. He’s been with the Family Equality Council for about two years and executive director for about a year.
“I’m really stepping into a well-established leader in the movement,” he says. Later in the interview, he added: “I felt a calling.”
He and Stein had also felt a calling to be parents, from the beginning of their relationship. The only question was when.
“We both wanted to adopt,” Blau said. “We didn’t really talk about it. We just knew we wanted to do it.”
At a certain point, the two knew they needed to act. He’s heard much the same story from many other couples, Blau said. “It was just this sense that came about in the relationship.”
The two thought the process would take a long time. Stein was in graduate school at the time, and Blau was running his company. Instead, the whole process -- from the home study to the birth of their son, Elijah -- took 3½ months.
“It’s hard to imagine any other child being our child,” Blau says.
PULLING IT TOGETHER
With a new son, Blau found himself in the position of so many new, working parents. He had to figure out how to make the different parts of his life fit together. He worked from home once or twice a week. Family members in the area were also able to help out.
“We have all had this experience of trying to pull together child care,” he says now. “I was lucky to (have) that, but boy was it hard.”
Eventually, the couple found a part-time babysitter. New York, where they live, also offers full-time pre-kindergarten as part of the public education system. Fast forward to the present, and Elijah has just started first grade.
Even as he’s gotten busier and busier in his career, Blau says, “finding the time to be with my son is central to my ability to center myself.” He puts special importance on breakfasts with his son and makes sure to be home for dinner each night.
Parenting, he says, “goes from being very stressful to being critical to my own well-being.”
Advocating for parents balancing work and home life is an important mission of the Family Equality Council, too. Blau speaks passionately about how employers should allow their workers flexibility to care for their families.
“When their lives are respected, their work feels less like work and more like life,” Blau said. “That’s a really important lesson.”
What about his own work-life balance? How is Blau doing with that?
“I think it’s okay, but I could be doing more,” he says. He should join a sports team and meditate, he adds.
In the meantime, he has his mission. And his husband. And his son.
“Everything I do is for them,” Blau says.
This is the second article in a series about gay men balancing career and fatherhood. To read the first article, click here.