Tag Archives: CA Legislature

Governor Schwarzenegger and First Lady Shriver induct Harvey Milk into California Hall of Fame

They say history is written by the victors. Well, tonight we should all feel victorious as Harvey Milk is inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

I am thrilled to be going, not to watch history being made, but to watch a history finally start to be written that includes LGBT people, their lives, their stories and their achievements.

Harvey’s nephew Stuart Milk will attend the ceremony on behalf of his uncle, along with family members of Mayor George Moscone, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and Senator Mark Leno. The Hall of Fame exhibit at the California Museum will be toured by scores of California students who will finally get in touch with a key piece of LGBT history. Also, one of the winners of this year’s California Dreamers Challenge, a scholarship for high school students, will be announced tonight who is a gay youth who was inspired by Harvey Milk.

EQCA worked hard to pass a bill in 2009 creating Harvey Milk Day in California to commemorate Milk’s legacy across California and in our schools, but we still need you to help make it happen. Leading up to the first official Harvey Milk Day on May 22, 2010, EQCA plans to work with local groups and educators to develop educational materials and plan appropriate commemorative events across the state (May 21 and 22 in San Francisco, May 22 in Los Angeles and May 23 in Palm Springs). Every child should grow up knowing they are valuable.

Watch out for our organizing kit, prepare to attend one of our events across the state, and start talking to people you know about why Milk’s legacy matters.

Last Friday was the 31st anniversary of Milk’s assassination, so I feel it especially poignant that Harvey should be so honored today. This has indeed been a remarkable year for Harvey.

Last month we honored Stuart Milk at our San Diego Equality Awards for his work around the world spreading Harvey’s message of hope, the hit film Milk won two Oscars, Harvey was posthumously awarded the Presidential of Freedom by President Obama, and the Governor signed the legislation authored by Sen. Mark Leno and sponsored by EQCA officially establishing Harvey Milk Day in our state.

California has always led the way forward, which is why it was so important for our state to take a stand and honor an LGBT hero with a day of special significance. Equality California pushed hard for this legislation, using all the tools at our disposal to make the case. I’d like to thank the nearly 40,000 EQCA members who sent emails to the Governor urging him to sign, the thousands who made phone calls or Tweeted, and the countless others who spread the word to their friends and family. This couldn’t have happened without your dedicated action!

I’d also like to thank our state legislature who passed Harvey Milk Day and 14 other pro-LGBT bills this year and Governor Schwarzenegger for signing into law the first official day ever recognizing an openly LGBT figure. EQCA knows from experience that supporting equality is a winning strategy for elected officials.

This victory is significant because it’s a message to future generations. This is when we stop erasing LGBT people and their achievements from the history books. Thanks to the support and advocacy of EQCA members California has among the most comprehensive protections for students and youth in the world. The anti-LGBT industry would like to take it all away. After all, LGBT minors make easy targets, and schools are the best places to go after them. They have no choice but to be there.

We need to be there for our community’s youth, which is why we need Harvey Milk Day, Safe Schools legislation, anti-bullying and nondiscrimination protections, and comprehensive curriculums which teach the value of all students, as well as the cost of violence.

In anti-marriage ballot campaigns across the country we’ve seen the other side exploit fears about their children becoming gay in order to trick voters into taking our rights away. We need to stand up and make it absolutely clear that there’s nothing wrong with children learning about LGBT people in school.

Alice Kessler is the Government Affairs Director for Equality California. www.eqca.org.  

Pro-LGBT bills moving forward in CA legislature

I am thrilled to report that EQCA-sponsored legislation is moving right along, with two bills passing their first key committee votes yesterday, one to establish Harvey Milk Day, and one to protect LGBT victims of domestic violence.

SB 572, the Harvey Milk Day Bill, passed the Senate Governmental Organization Committee by a 9-4 margin. Introduced last month by Senator Mark Leno (D — San Francisco), it calls for a “day of special significance” to recognize slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk.

The far-right wants to stop this bill. The Traditional Values Coalition and Capitol Resource Institute lobbied against it in the hearing, saying it would teach youth about a “controversial lifestyle.”

Sen. Dean Florez from Bakersfield countered by asking where the opposition witnesses were from – they responded Inland Empire, Roseville and Sacramento. He then requested to become a co-author of the bill to demonstrate that people living in more conservative parts of the state also support the measure.

Debra Jones, who served alongside Cleve Jones as an intern for then Supervisor Milk in 1978, also testified: “There are some who say that Harvey's contributions to the civil rights movement should merely be acknowledged locally. With that perspective, Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy would not be known outside of Atlanta, and the legacy of Cesar Chavez would not be known outside of the Central Valley. Hope doesn't know geographic boundaries.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The legislation was originally introduced last year by then Assemblymember Leno, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, claiming Harvey Milk was not well known enough beyond San Francisco. Since that time, however, Harvey Milk has become a focal point of national conversation following the release of the successful biographical film Milk, for which both Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black received an Academy Award. You can use EQCA’s Action Center to urge the governor sign it this time once it reaches his desk.

AB 1003, the LGBT Domestic Violence Services Bill, introduced last month by Assemblymember John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a 5-2 margin.

The rates of domestic violence in same-sex relationships are equivalent to the rates in opposite-sex relationships. Unfortunately, though, service and support for LGBT survivors of violence still lags far behind that provided for their non-gay counterparts. The LGBT Domestic Violence Services bill corrects this inequity by expanding access for LGBT service providers to funding within a state agency responsible for responding to domestic violence. This bill will both support innovative, proven program models assisting survivors and will also help decrease the overall rate of domestic violence within the LGBT community.

We’re also waiting on bills to protect LGBT prisoner safety, provide accurate ID documents to transgender individuals (possibly a moot point after a recent court victory), make mental health treatment more accessible for LGBT youth, prevent unfair property tax increases and end discrimination against gay men in blood donations. More information can be found at EQCA’s Legislative Center.

Stay tuned for the unveiling of our full 2009 legislative package, coming soon…  


Alice Kessler is the director of government affairs for Equality California.  She blogs for the California Ripple Effect

This isn’t just about marriage

By now, most of us have seen the despicable ad unleashed in several key states this week in response to our two historic victories in Iowa and Vermont.

It was commissioned by the National Organization for Marriage (but only if you’re straight) whose website reveals some of their misleading tactics, thoroughly dissected on Pam’s this morning. 

What strikes me most is their desperation.  Turning themselves into victims is the only weapon the anti-LGBT industry has left.  Yes on 8’s Frank Schubert himself has said that attacking LGBT folks directly doesn’t work anymore.  We can be thankful for that, but must we must learn to effectively respond with the truth to this new tactic.     

To succeed, opponents of the freedom to marry must convince moderates that loving, married same-sex couples somehow pose them a risk.  They must stir up enough fear and doubt that otherwise fair-minded people will err on the side of discrimination. 

They claim this is not just about marriage.  They’re right. 

As their ad implies, they want to hurt LGBT people any which way they can.  This is part of a much larger anti-LGBT agenda to dismantle existing rights.

Tuesday, there will be a hearing on a suit in federal court against SB 777, a law sponsored by Equality California and authored by Senator Sheila Kuehl, requiring basic nondiscrimination protections for LGBT students in California public schools.  EQCA has joined with other civil rights groups to fight this unfair attack on youth. This has nothing to do with “redefining marriage” but the usual suspects are all over it.”

It’s easy to laugh at this ad with its hokey special effects and its saccharine melodramatics. One of the suggestions on its accompanying website was that people fight against marriage equality by eating at fast-food chain El Pollo Loco!  Yet they cry foul when Prop 8 opponents vote with their dollars. It’s indeed easy to laugh, but these extremists are not to be dismissed.  

The Yes on 8 campaign subjected the LGBT community to untold trauma, as we were forced to watch our neighbors and fellow Californians turn on us, stripping us of our rights and dignity. 

Opponents of the freedom to marry say they don’t want their children to learn about same-sex couples, yet they’re spending millions of dollars to broadcast this garbage in homes all across the country.  

Likewise, ads like this one create a toxic environment, and send homophobic and transphobic messages to our nation’s youth.  In recent years we’ve seen an increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes, and just yesterday we saw the suicide by hanging of an eleven-year-old-boy who had been relentlessly bullied and taunted at school—just because other students perceived him as gay.  

This isn’t just about marriage.  This is about our very lives.  

Geoff Kors, Equality California

Reposted from the California Ripple Effect.

It’s unanimous! Prisoner Safety Act sails through first committee

LGBT people face unique and severe challenges in the prison system, including serious threats to their safety.

I am thrilled to report that The LGBT Prisoner Safety Act, AB 382, came one step closer to becoming law yesterday, passing the Assembly Public Safety Committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote, winning the endorsement of the entire committee, including five Democrats and two Republicans. Sponsored by EQCA and introduced last month by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill is designed to prevent violence against LGBT people in the state prison system.

The legislation promotes safety for and prevents abuse and assault against LGBT people in the prison system by including sexual orientation and gender identity on the list of factors that should be considered when classifying and housing prisoners. The current list of factors includes age, gender, type of offense, and prior time served.


Shelly Resnick, a transgender survivor of the prison system, can testify to the urgent need for more protections:

If the CDCR properly recognized my transgender status and listened to my requests for safer housing from the beginning, instead of throwing me into a maximum security general population prison, I am confident that I would not have been assaulted.”

This bill is extremely important. According to a recent study from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 67 percent of LGBT inmates report being sexually assaulted by another inmate, a rate 15 times higher than the overall prison population.

I think my friend, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, said it best when he introduced the bill:

All people deserve basic protections — including those serving time in our state prisons. No prisoner should fear for his or her life or be the target of abuse because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.”

We were going to do an Action Alert to our members to get them to contact the committee, but we didn’t need to. The Assemblymembers clearly saw the need for this legislation and supported it 100 percent. It may be a different story when this bill goes before the full Assembly, and then (hopefully) the full Legislature. We may just have to sound the alarm then, but I’m confident EQCA members will rise to the occasion and contact their representatives through our online Action Center, should it come to that. I encourage everyone who cares about this bill to sign up at www.eqca.org/takeaction.

The Senate Committee on Public Safety already held a meeting on the matter in December, chaired by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles), and this legislation is a direct result of those discussions. Along with NCLR, Just Detention International, the Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project, and the Transgender Law Center, EQCA was able to plead the case for LGBT prisoners.

Marriage has been a front page story for a while now, especially in the past year. Once same-sex couples reach this basic threshold of equality, it will be a lot easier to fight injustice and discrimination in other areas, too. However, other critical challenges face our community. A state of equality is built brick by brick.

The Prisoner Safety Act is about protecting the most vulnerable members of our community, those who often cannot protect themselves without our help.

–Alice Kessler, EQCA Government Affairs Director, reposted from the California Ripple Effect


LGBT supportive CA legislators win out 61 to 18

(Someday this won’t be an issue, but until then, it’s good to see stats like this. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Based on Monday’s post about the Capitol Resource Institute’s attacks on EQCA legislation, Alice Kessler, our legislative advocate, pointed out to me something else about the anti-LGBT extremist lobby’s legislative score card.

If you compare theirs to ours, you’ll notice that both rate the legislators based on their performance on key votes. EQCA only endorses candidates who score 100% on our scorecard, which means they support the entire LGBT community 100% of the time—they go all the way on the freedom to marry and trans inclusivity.

Even though we refuse to compromise, we’ve still managed to get 100% scores for 61 legislators on our last scorecard. The Capitol Resource Institute only gave 18 legislators a 100% score.

Obviously one side is doing better. This is testament to the work EQCA has done in the legislature making sure that our issues are front and center, that senators and assemblymembers get the facts about how their votes will affect their LGBT constituents, and that LGBT supportive candidates get elected to office and keep their seats.

This is why we rate legislators and endorse LGBT-supportive candidates, to help educate voters and empower them to vote for equality, every time. Go to www.eqca.org/legislation to learn more about this year’s legislative package.

In other good news, Curren Price won the Democratic primary in my district Tuesday, taking this EQCA-endorsed, LGBT ally another step to office.

–Reposted from the California Ripple Effect

Anti-LGBT lobby goes after EQCA legislation

Now Announcing… Capitol Resource Institute versus EQCA!!

Arch-conservative anti-LGBT lobbyist Capitol Resource Institute is all in a tizzy over EQCA-sponsored legislation. Their Legislative Scorecard is much like EQCA’s own guide.

But it’s an uncanny mirror image in terms of values and priorities, scoffing at the real needs of our community and describing LGBT people in offensive, retrograde terminology.

Their framing is really quite breathtaking in its bald defamation.

Wanna go for a spin?

Now Announcing… Capitol Resource Institute versus EQCA!!


  • Laird’s Civil Rights Act of 2007 which expands existing nondiscrimination protections to include LGBT people: “Changes over 50 areas of state law to grant privileged status to homosexuals.”
  • Leno’s groundbreaking marriage bill, AB 43, which made California’s the first legislature in the country to grant the freedom to marry: “Legalizes homosexual marriage. Bypasses the people's decision in 2000, via Prop 22, to preserve marriage between one man and one woman.”
  • Levine’s AB 394, which prohibits discrimination and provides resources for education about LGBT people: “monitoring of student attitudes on sexual orientations.
  • Leno’s Harvey Milk Day Bill: “A resident of the infamous Castro district in San Francisco, Milk was one of the first homosexual elected officials in America, and is considered a martyr for the homosexual cause.”
  • Migden’s Senior healthcare bill which helps address some of the unique concerns facing LGBT seniors: “establishes a special class of patients based on sexual choices.”
  • And the granddaddy of them all, Safe Schools legislation, the target of a pending federal lawsuit, the alleged ban on “Mommy and Daddy” in public schools, Kuehl’s SB 777, which actually is a relatively minor clarification of existing laws:”normalizes homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality in public and private schools. Bans all teaching and activities that ‘promote a discriminatory bias against’ these lifestyles. Likely to impact textbooks, instructional aids, restroom use, gender-specific sports teams, and more.”

I get it, LGBT people are SICK, and public schools should let them know it. In fact, schools have no obligation to protect students from discrimination or bullying. Maybe teachers should take the first swing? Sheesh…

What this all begins to show is that for our detractors, it’s NOT just about marriage, and marriage is not where they’ll stop. They want to round it out by taking away jobs, civil rights, proper healthcare, safe schools, you name it. Know thy enemy.

Marriage is such a hot topic right now that these other sorts of bread and butter issues often get left out of the discussion. EQCA’s legislation isn’t about wheeling and dealing at the Capitol, but about problems facing real LGBT Californians.

The guide also includes some bizarre objections to sensible legislation protecting youth, saying that a ban on cell phone use by teen drivers “Suggests that the state sees itself as better equipped than parents to make family decisions” and that a bill to prevent minors from going to cancer-causing tanning salons “displaces their parents with a ‘nanny government’.”

Wingnuts. I’d love ‘em if they weren’t so dangerous.

–Reposted from The Ripple Effect

Republican leader needs to grow up

(The Water Wars continue. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Last month, Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines (R-Fresno) gave us his priority on how to solve California's water issues. 

“Without reservoirs, there's no way it'll pass out of the Legislature. It's a requirement. There's no way we'll come to the table without it.”

 In other words, if you don't play the water game my way, I'll just take my squirt-gun and go home. There's a word for this attitude — childish.

Update by Brian: I’ve added the Assembly Report on the Water Hearings. There’s a vague reference to “bright lines in the sand.”

Assemblymember Lois Wolk (D-Davis), chair of the Special Committee on Water, and Assemblymember John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), leader of the Assembly Democratic Caucus Water Working Group, have decided to be a little more grown-up about the water crisis. They want to bring all ideas, every possible solution to the table, and they don't want any whining from the Republicans.

“I will be chairing hearings that will begin the process of moving forward responsibly on these issues,” Wolk said. “I don’t think issuing ultimatums or counter-ultimatums is the productive approach for California. The Delta should not be kicked around like a political football. There is a serious crisis and it needs a serious response. We need to all sit at the same table and talk. Tomorrow's hearing is a good start.” 

 No, she didn't mention dams, but she didn't say they were excluded either. What she did say is that this is serious stuff and we need responsible adults at the table.  Republican's unswerving loyalty to one view or one point is what keeps getting them into trouble. Unable to compromise, they continually play a mean game of brinkmanship, but manage only moderate success at moving the agenda. On the issue of water, they will surely lose if they don't grow up and learn the art of compromise. Consider this my paraphrase of the message the Governor tried to send them last month when he scolded them at their convention.

“There are those who believe strongly that dams must be part of the solution, and as the working group leader I have been asked my position on them,” Laird said. “To me, it’s a question of analyzing whether they should be built, and who pays. Dams have been built in California with no state money in recent years — with users paying the freight. The most the state has contributed for a dam has been 3% of the cost of Oroville Dam. The Governor has proposed three dams at a cost of over $5 billion — a record level of public financing because he is proposing the state come up with 50% of the cost for each dam.”

It seems that, these two Democratic leaders at least, are willing to look at all options, including dams, and come to some kind of bi-partisan solution. The solution may very well include dams, but to issue an ultimatum that you won't even talk if dams are not the forgone conclusion — well, that's just plain childish.  The Special Committee on Water will meet Thursday, October 3, beginning at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202 of the State Capitol in Sacramento. The hearing is expected to last approximately three hours.