Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 24, Suze Orman

24 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate a woman who is using her personal success to advocate for civil rights for all. Susan “Suze” Orman was born in Chicago in 1951. She received a B.A. in social work  from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After college she moved to San Francisco, where she initially worked as a waitress as she had as an undergraduate. She raised $50,000 from friends and supporters to open her own restaurant, which she invested with Merrill Lynch.

Her broker at Lynch lost the investment. Frustrated and wanting to pay back the money, Orman was convinced she could do a better job and convinced the firm to hire her. Once she learned the ropes, she sued the firm for the lost investment and won. She also kept her job, impressing her supervisor with her business acumen and strength of character. After a time she moved on to Prudential, and eventually founded her own financial group which she ran until 1997.

Also in the mid-90s Orman began writing books to help others manage their finances. Remembering everything she had to learn and applying her early training in social work, she focused on helping people who would not otherwise get good financial advice. Although she has also written books on managing wealth on a much larger (and rarer) scale, she has always put energy into providing advice for everyone. Much of her work has focused on financial advice specifically for women, acknowledging the unequal playing field. She has been a frequent commentator on news and talk shows and in 2002 began her own show on CNBC.

She has written nine consecutive New York Times Best Sellers and has written, co-produced and hosted seven PBS specials based on her books, winning two Emmy awards. Orman has also won more Gracie Awards (for women in media) than anyone else. She  was named to the Times Magazine list of 100 most influential people in 2008 and 2009, the 2010 Forbes Magazine 100 most powerful women in the world, and 18th on the Forbes list of The Most Influential Women In Media.

Orman came out as lesbian in 2007 and has won GLAAD media awards for her work for the LGBT community since. She married her long-time partner, Kathy Travis, in 2010. On her show yesterday, Orman focused on gross financial inequities faced by LGBT couples (such as the horrific tax morass created by DOMA and conflicting state laws). Starting powerfully from her own experience, she set out the very practical case for marriage equality.

Here I sit in front of you. A 61-year-old woman who has been gay my entire life. Who has been in a committed relationship for the past 12 years. And I will die in this relationship … YET, I am not treated equally.

She lays out the four primary issues — taxes, pensions, social security, and health insurance — and makes a clear, impassioned case for breaking down the bigotry that rules federal marriage law. Consequently, any United States Presidential candidate that believes in discriminating against the LGBT population looks like a bigot and just ridiculous. What a great gift for pride month.

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