Tag Archives: Equality California

EQCA needs help to elect pro-LGBT candidates statewide

Hi. I’m sure if you’re reading this site, your e-mail box must be stuffed by now with pleas to volunteer for the election. But I want to let you know about one more volunteer opportunity that I think is really important, just in case it’s a good fit for you.

I volunteer with Equality California, the group trying to repeal Proposition 8 and bring marriage equality back to California. I want to let you know that every weekend until the election Equality California will be holding phonebanks at each of its statewide offices doing get-out-the-vote calls for pro-LGBT candidates like Jerry Brown and Kamala Harris– and we have a huge need for volunteers right now.

The reason a marriage equality organization is working on elections is that the┬ánumber one question on ending Prop. 8 right now is what happens to the Federal court case. After Judge Walker declared Prop. 8 unconstitutional, Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown declared they would not defend Prop. 8 further and filed briefs in opposition to Prop. 8. This has had a huge impact on how the trial has gone at the appeal level. If Jerry Brown is elected governor and Kamala Harris is elected attorney general this November, they will continue this policy and fight Prop. 8 in court. But if Meg Whitman or Steve Cooley is elected, both have promised to reverse the state’s position and defend Prop 8.

So what we’ve been doing is meeting each Sunday (or Saturday at some offices) from about 1 to 5 to call known LGBT-friendly voters from the old No On 8 database and ask them to vote for the candidates who will uphold gay, lesbian and transgender rights. In each case we talk about Brown, Harris and one downticket race that varies from office to office. For example here at the SF and San Jose offices the downticket candidate we’ve been calling for has been Victoria Kolakowski, a judicial candidate in Alameda County who if elected would be the first trangender judge at the superior court level in the entire United States.

We’re making a lot of progress but we need more people if we’re going to reach all the people we need to reach, and by-mail voting starts as early as next week. You can find the phone bank for your area by clicking here and clicking the area where you live:

EQCA.org -> Take Action Locally

Ignore the signup form that pops up, for now anyway, and keep scrolling– there will be a schedule with times and addresses under the signup form.

Thanks, and I hope you can make it this weekend.

Electing Equality: Voters Chose LGBT and Pro-LGBT Candidates at the Polls

(A hearty welcome to EQCA – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

By Chris Moore, Deputy Director of Political Affairs, Equality California

Last night’s elections were invigorating! The outcomes are generally very favorable for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians and could prove to be history making. There are, however, some dangerous candidates on the horizon that will require our community to be energized and cohesive in order to beat them.

Nearly every single EQCA endorsed candidate won their primary yesterday, and we were hard at work helping to make that happen. Our Political Action Committee and its many donors directly contributed to candidates’ campaigns. Our volunteers and staff made over 20,000 phone calls to urge support of our candidates and to get out the vote. We sent over 140,000 pieces of mail to every corner of the state. And to ensure that our candidates succeeded, we closed our offices yesterday and our 44 staff spent the day working on the most critical campaigns.  

Key Wins for Equality

One key win from yesterday may prove to be history making — Victoria Kolakowski, candidate for the Alameda County Superior Court, took the greatest number of votes in her race, with 45 percent, and when she is elected in November will be the first transgender trial court judge elected in our nation’s history! Equality California contributed to her campaign, helped recruit and spread the word on her campaign through social networking and email, made over 10,000 phone calls to voters in the district, and sent a mail piece to the district.

We can also expect to see the size of our state’s LGBT Legislative Caucus increase from four to seven — making California’s LGBT Caucus the largest in the nation to date. Three openly gay and lesbian candidates for the Assembly won their primaries and are gearing up for November: Toni Atkins (76 – San Diego), Rich Gordon (21 – San Mateo) and Ricardo Lara (50 – Los Angeles). All have exemplary records in both government and LGBT advocacy work.  

Right now our state’s judiciary is drastically lacking LGBT representation. EQCA is  committed to changing this and accordingly backed the following successful candidates. Linda Colfax, an out lesbian, won her race for Superior Court Judge in San Francisco with 52.61% of the vote. Because she won a majority of votes, she is now elected to the seat and will not face a runoff. Michael Nava, also a candidate for Superior Court Judge in San Francisco, gained 45.52% of the vote. He will face a run off in November against the second highest vote-getter but is well positioned to win it.

And at the federal level, Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet won the Democratic primary to for the 45th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. If he unseats incumbent Mary Bono Mack in November he will be the first legally married gay father in Congress.

In two of the closest races yesterday our unwavering straight allies, Betsy Butler and Mary Salas, succeeded! Betsy Butler has been a staunch advocate for the LGBT community for decades and yesterday overcame hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads and won her primary in the 53rd Assembly District. Mary Salas has not wavered in her dedication to full and complete equality for the LGBT community. Yesterday she won her primary for Senate District 40 (San Diego) over Juan Vargas, a Democrat who opposes marriage equality. Expect to see both Salas and Butler run strong campaigns between now and November.

Proposition 8 Supporters Also Making Gains

Not all the news was good news. Our opposition also made some alarming gains.

Andrew Pugno, co-author of Proposition 8 and attorney for the Yes on 8 campaign, won the Republican primary for Assembly District 5 (Sacramento area). Pugno was one of the architects of Prop. 8 and its predecessor Proposition 22 in the year 2000. He continues to serve as chief counsel for ProtectMarriage.com and is currently defending Prop. 8 in federal court. His career has been largely devoted to denying rights to LGBT Californians, and EQCA will do everything in its power to stop him.

Meg Whitman won the Republican primary for Governor. She essentially bought her way into the race in November using $60 million of her own cash. She supports a constitutional ban on marriage equality and indicated so when she helped fund Prop. 8. If elected, she appears likely to help defend Prop. 8 in court — something that even Gov. Schwarzenegger has refused to do. EQCA has endorsed Jerry Brown’s run against her.

What’s next? EQCA staff and volunteers will keep up this work through November to see these pro-equality candidates and others get elected. Please join us! Even something as simple as making 15 to 20 phone calls from home makes a big difference. Sign up to volunteer with EQCA at www.eqca.org/volunteer, or contact me at chris dot moore at eqca dot org.

Learn more about these 100 percent pro-equality candidates and others at www.eqcapac.org.

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.  

Why YOU should care: Pro-LGBT citizen activists needed for new redistricting commission

(I wrote about this last week, but moving beyond partisanship, this is important.  I would argue that we should be looking for progressives to fill those non-partisan seats, and maybe even a centrist Republican for those seats. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Drawing our legislative districts used to be the job of elected officials, but now it’s up to YOU. That’s because of a voter-approved measure last year that called for the creation of a new Citizens Redistricting Commission.  Last Thursday, the State Auditor launched a new website for the effort: http://WeDrawTheLines.ca.gov.

It’s absolutely critical that pro-LGBT citizens apply for the commission to ensure that the new boundaries are drawn to empower our community–not gerrymandered to divide us.  

Thanks to your hard work and support, California has some of the strongest laws in the nation to protect LGBT people–including anti-discrimination laws, domestic partnership, and anti-bullying protections for our youth. However, if we don’t have a strong voice in the redistricting process, there’s a chance we’ll start losing ground. Those who oppose our equality are looking for ways to take over the legislature, build political support and roll back our hard-earned gains. We have to make sure that these laws stay in place.

In 2010, California will be starting the process of drawing new legislative district lines. Thanks in part to the advocacy of Equality California, for the first time ever in our state’s history, sexual orientation will be considered as a factor for how districts are drawn. This change increases the possibility of electing even more pro-equality legislators, provided that sexual orientation is truly taken into account. To make sure our needs aren’t ignored, we need pro-equality people to join the Redistricting Commission. Almost anyone who has voted in two of the last three statewide general elections can apply.

Stand up and use your voice! Starting December 15, you can apply to be on the Redistricting Commission. We must all take action to preserve and keep advancing our equality.

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

IMPORTANT: EQCA raises $1 million for 2010

Greetings –

We are writing to inquire about the recent fundraising activities of EQCA.  In early July, it was brought to our attention that EQCA had hired a professional fundraising corporation known as Grassroots Campaigns Inc (www.grassrootscampaigns.com).  Since then, we have heard numerous reports that this money was being raised with a script promoting 2010 – Several people on this list, including Stacey Simmons and Robert Polzoni can attest to this.  On August 5th, Melissa Staten, a director for Grassroots Campaigns, confirmed that her organization has raised $530,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area and over $ 1 million dollars statewide for EQCA’s “repeal of Prop 8 in 2010.”  We have a few questions as it relates to the money for 2010 and EQCA’s announcement later today:

A) Should EQCA announce that they are supporting and/ or in favor of 2010, will a portion of this money be used to pay for the additional research?  The Courage Campaign, along with Winner & Mandabach, have stated that we need to raise nearly $200,000 to conduct additional polling, research, and focus groups to solidify ballot language and a campaign plan.

B) On August 11th, 2009 at 2:31pm, Becky – director of the San Francisco office of Grassroots Campaigns Inc. (415-447-9396) – confirmed that money being raised is for 2010.  If EQCA announces 2012, we have two questions: 1) will the money that was raised using a script for 2010 be given to support the efforts of the grassroots moving forward or 2) will this money be refunded?  At the very least, people should be able to request a refund, if they wish, as numerous individuals were assured that their money was being used for 2010.

C) In addition to the million-plus dollars EQCA has raised since May, the Courage Campaign has raised over a $100,000 in a week’s time.  Regardless of a particular campaign date, it has become evident that significant funds can be raised at the grassroots level, despite major donor’s reluctance.

Our final question: what systems are in place to assure accountable and transparent use of funds being raised?  Perhaps this is a question better suited for the August 22nd campaign structuring meeting – but it is a question that the community should ask nonetheless.

Sincerely,

Yes! on Equality

On 2010 vs. 2012 vs. Someday And Our Leadership Structure

If you ever chat with an LGBT activist, bumped into one on the street, or happen to sit near one on the train, you’ve heard about the great 2010 v 2012 debate. It’s all the rage in the LGBT community. On the surface, it’s a relatively simple point: do we go back to the ballot to repeal Prop 8 in 2010, 2012, or the rather fearsome “someday.”

First, to borrow from one activist, let me address one point which I think is frequently ignored in this debate. The decision isn’t really one between simply 2010 and 2012. It is a fight between 2010, 2012 and fear.  There are some who will always argue that it is too early. There isn’t enough money, people are mad right now, yada, yada, yada. To those people, and you know who you are: F you.

To me this is an argument of political strategy and civil rights. And with that, the question is can we build a campaign that can reasonably win in 2010? A campaign that has both smart leadership and a vibrant and successful grassroots. That is what I’m looking at with this question.  The Courage Campaign post/letter of last week talked about some of the various strategic questions.

They touched upon one of the questions, but here’s a slightly different take:

First, just the hard numbers should give us pause as we look towards the ballot in 2010. That is not to say that we cannot win in 2010, but it will be challenging. The lower turnout will skew slightly more conservative, and there is a slight advantage of just another couple of years taking their course on the electorate. If we were ONLY looking at which would be easier, it’s really not that close of a call, 2012 is a better bet.

Of course, we can’t look only at electoral ease.  LGBT families are being denied civil rights, and that is an untenable situation. As William Gladstone reportedly said, “justice delayed is justice denied.” This is certainly true, and a delay hurts not only the LGBT community, but the greater cause of civil rights in California and the nation.

Follow me over the flip, this is going to take a bit of explaining, and a bit of time mulling over the role of Equality California.

Yet we need to ensure that if we go to the ballot that we move forward, and not back.  A step backward from our 48-52 loss would be a devastating blow, and might hinder our chances at another attempt in 2012.

This is a movement in chaos.  There is no leader. There is no follower. I have been involved in many of the decision making processes.  And calling them that is rather generous.  I don’t want to sound heavy-handed here, but you can’t run a campaign through a democracy. You can’t call for votes of 50 organizations and then do something. You can’t plan everything with a conference call of 50-100 people.  This is unwieldy, and quite simply, you will not get any better result than we did last November unless we radically change how things are done.

Take the largest LGBT organization in the state, Equality California.  They’ve hired a few new folks, but the fundamental problem we had in 2008 is still there. They are a really, really good lobbying organization, and they are a valuable asset to the community in that role.  However, I’ve yet to see any evidence that they are a really good political organization. The two are vastly different tasks. Marc Solomon, who is now the “marriage director” for EQCA, has tremendous experience in Massachusetts in leading the charge for marriage equality while the case was in the courts and then helping to block it from getting on the ballot, but, to put it bluntly, he’s not what you would consider an expert on California ballot campaigns.  And as for the ED of EQCA, Geoff Kors, he’s not really given EQCA stakeholders any more reason to trust the organization. If EQCA was serious about moving forward, perhaps they should look for leadership amongst the legions of LGBT political campaigners who have had experience in working and running ballot initiatives in California.

Of course, EQCA is a 2012 leaning organization now, and you can’t blame them for that. It is, after all, in their interest. Despite polling from their own members showing strong support for 2010, as an institutional player, they are simply more slow to react. But their failures are real in a number of ways. They don’t carry the same level of trust, and their tiptoeing through the daisies has prevented any other organization from really taking the lead on this.

This lack of trust in our formerly central organization has led to a flourishing of other really interesting organizations, particularly in the LA Area, pushing for more proactive movement on the repeal.  However, EQCA is still clinging to primacy throughout the state, and that fact ensures that no other organization can take the reins, for better or worse.  We are left with a sort of cold war, played out in some very passive-aggressive actions between the old guard and the new. It is not effective for anybody, the old line organizations, the newly-formed insurgent groups, and for the community as a whole. If we are to succeed in repealing Prop 8, in 2010 or 2012, we are going to need to sort out these issues.

But our organizational problems can be overcome.  Polls alone are not enough, and organization can be built.

“If Barack Obama had relied on the polls, then he never would have run for president,” Steve Hildebrand, one of Obama’s top confidants and a gay rights advocate, told The Chronicle. Hildebrand has informally advised the Courage Campaign on the issue. “And 16 months until an election is a lifetime.”

(SF Chronicle 8/10/09)

There is yet time, but it is an ever-narrowing window. If we are going to go to the ballot, a question of which I am still not sure myself, we simply need to pull our collective shit together.  The mob mentality that we have seen in the politics of the Prop 8 repeal efforts has to be harnessed into an effective grassroots campaign with a structure that can support and nurture all that energy. We need strategists who understand California and understand the particular issue that will dedicate their time and effort to the cause.

We can’t continue simply playing pattycake and worrying that somebody’s feelings will get hurt in one of the 87 marriage equality orgs. I’m all about democracy, but we can’t let it run amok with our efforts to win in the bigger democratic arena.

So, there’s the gauntlet: get serious about 2010, or about 2012. But either way, let’s ensure that we keep our eyes on the prize: repealing Prop 8.

The Tension Behind Bay Area Reporter’s Story on Grassroots Growing Pains

Today, Seth Hemmelgarn of the Bay Area Reporter (BAR) ran a story titled “Growing pains seen in grassroots work” which describes some of the tension in the marriage equality movement as the power begins to shift from the old guard leadership to the new generation of powerful grassroots leaders heading the charge for change.

Specifically, the story focuses on Robin McGehee, the head organizer for the large event “Meet in the Middle 4 Equality” or known as MITM. (Disclosure: Unite the Fight is the official blog covering the event.) The tension described in the story rose when Robin was informed by local community member Sandy O'Neill of Visalia, CA, that Geoff Kors, President of Equality California (EQCA), had mentioned to her at the Dinah Shore fundraising event in Palm Springs that they were supporting buses to transport people to Fresno for MITM. In fact, no monetary support from EQCA for the event had been given.

“I went [to the Dinah Shore fundraiser] to tell Geoff and Kate [Kendall, Exec. Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)] how excited I was to see MITM on their websites, especially after their absence in the valley during the No on 8 Campaign,” Sandy told Unite the Fight.

She says Kate sat with her and her wife at their table talking about the movement and MITM and that then she had a chance to talk to Kors. When she brought MITM up to Kors, Sandy quoted him as saying, “Yeah, we're providing the buses for that.”

Kors told Unite the Fight, “I don't recall having this conversation. There was no such commitment.”

“Reason it sticks in my mind is I just read about those buses coming from other cities on the MITM website. 'How are we going to pay for that?' I thought. I assumed it would be the community paying for that,” says Sandy. “When Geoff said they were providing the buses, I thought, 'Oh, that's how.'” Sandy then emailed Robin congratulating her on the support from EQCA. This was what took Robin by surprise.

Robin told Unite the Fight that Equality California first contacted Robin last month after having been asked what they knew about MITM. Not knowing much about the event up to this point, EQCA reached out. Says Robin, “They did contact me last month and asked how they could help. We gave them several options, one being financial support if possible. We mentioned that grassroots groups, such as Courage Campaign and White Knot, had donated money for operating costs and that if they knew someone willing to give, that would be great because most of the cost was going on my credit card.”

Currently, MITM is costing $19,000 and growing.

Robin is known for direct responses and cutting to the heart of the matter. So when asked by Bay Area Reporter Seth Hemmelgarn if EQCA was financially contributing to this large scale event, Robin said no. In an attempt to explain that the financial support might still be coming, Robin explained that she was told by a local community member, Sandy, who attended the above mentioned fundraiser, that EQCA had stated they would be supporting the event with buses. But, as the lead organizer of the event, she had no details to that account.

Frustrations with EQCA and the No on 8 Campaign in the Central Valley stem from the lack of support that they felt during the campaign period. When many central valley activists contacted the campaign asking for support in the solidly red territory of the state, they barely got yard signs.

“When the No on 8 campaign took over, they moved the [EQCA] staff out of the valley,” Kors said. “That was a mistake.”

Robin and the valley area have been very vocal about their feeling of abandonment. “I did tell EQCA about my personal frustrations with how the valley was treated.” And that's not all she's communicated. Robin, who attended the February 26 San Francisco town hall, took the little time left at the town hall to make her position clear by reading the MITM mission statement. An excerpt:

“It would be neglectful not to mention our LGBT brothers and sisters who have not relocated to LGBT friendly places like the bay or LA areas feel like we live in a Third World gay ghetto that somewhat in an after-thought was sent limited rations of resources and supplies as the helicopter jetted back to the safe Mecca of San Francisco and we were left to fend for ourselves. Many might see this statement with the purpose to place blame or shame on any one person or organization, but as a people of faith and courage, we have to believe that all those involved in the fight to secure marriage rights for our community did what they felt was best at the time.”

 

While reading this at the town hall, Robin says the EQCA panelists and leaders “went to the back of the room to hobnob with the local dignitaries and basically ignored me, Kip Williams [organizer of One Struggle, One Fight] and other leaders talking about next steps. When they asked emerging leaders to speak, it was disingenuous.”

Robin repeated the adjective “disingenuous” to EQCA themselves after they called her frustrated over the Bay Area Reporter article. She heard from their communication director and the director of their public education arm. Robin quoted them as saying, “We never promised anything.” But Robin didn't back down and countered, “I know that you haven't promised anything, but you are stating, publicly, a different message.”

Finally, Kors called. “I never said anything about buses [at the Dinah Shore event],” Robin says Kors told her. “Maybe Kate [Kendall of NCLR] did at an NCLR event.” He asked her why she told Seth he shouldn't be running our next campaign and Robin stated, “You're a good fundraiser and have made fantastic legislative connections, but not a campaigner. You're not in touch with the community.” She even went on to say, “You're disingenuous. You're treating me like I'm naive.”

About an hour after calling Robin, Kors emailed her asking her for the MITM budget and which grassroots groups had donated and how much. Robin gave the budget but refused to say who had given what. “It should not matter who gave what – either you believe in and support the event or you don't – this is not a competition,” she told Unite the Fight. Robin claims that EQCA has stated that they may be able to give $1000, but because MITM is not a non-profit organization or a 501(C)3 and the donation would not be tax deductible, they are still deciding what they are going to do. They offered to receive donations through their “Let California Ring” website, but Robin declined, honestly stating, “If they were answering my questions about the dishonesty that has plagued this entire conversation, we as a community, may be willing to let them serve as our fiscal agent. But right now – we'll have to operate without their donation and fundraise forever to pay off the debt. For grassroots organizers, it should not be this hard.”

Robin also heard from Kate Kendall of NCLR who clarified that she had mentioned at the Dinah Shore event that there were in fact buses available for people to use but that she would never raise money claiming it was for one purpose and then using it for another. “I never said that's what they were doing,” Robin told Unite the Fight was her response. “But someone claimed they were supporting us with buses. Someone is lying.”

“Look, I don't care what happens for me after MITM. I was a nobody before this and can return to being a nobody afterward,” said Robin. “If I have to take forever to pay off my credit card for this, I will. But I just think it's time for them to be honest.”

Many feel change is coming. Molly McKay of Marriage Equality USA, who was an outspoken critic recently said, “Overall, I'm feeling very encouraged” by the efforts of EQCA and other groups.

“We feel like there has been a willingness … to think outside the box and do things in a new way, and I think that we are on the right track,” said McKay. Marc Solomon, who helped MassEquality in Massachusetts win marriage equality there, joined EQCA April 1 as its marriage director. The BAR quoted him at the recent San Francisco town hall, “Our plans for the Central Valley will be led and guided by the people doing the work in the Central Valley … We realize we need to do a lot better there.”

Kors told Unite the Fight they were hiring staff today “to do regional work. They will be [in the Central Valley] for the long term.”

Kors said he found the BAR article, “surprising and confusing,” having spoken to people mentioned in the article for some time and offering support, without hearing of any problems. “I hope we all can focus on unifying the community to fight against an emboldened enemy.”

Robin does regret she let the BAR “bait her” with Seth's questions and does in fact have a desire to have good working relationship with the EQCA and NCLR. “Different stories are floating around out there. I didn't make this happen, though. I try to make every decision I make come from honesty and the heart. All in all, I have to answer to me, my family, my community.”

As many leaders and grassroots organizers have told this blog, it's time we move on and work together, heading in one direction. Growing pains will exist. Miscommunications will abound. Feelings will be hurt. But we all have to keep our eye on our shared ultimate goal – FULL EQUALITY FOR ALL.

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

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.

Vermont Rules! Blog post from Marc Solomon

Like clockwork, I woke up at 6 AM Pacific time, knowing the Vermont legislature would soon be voting to override Governor Jim Douglas’s veto of the marriage equality bill. I turned on my computer, went to the Burlington Free Press website, and have been glued to it since then. After the first vote–the Senate veto override vote–I left a message for Peter Shumlin, the President of the Vermont Senate who has become a good friend and tremendous ally over the past two years.

For the last year-plus, MassEquality—the organization I just left—has been working extremely closely with the other New England states to win full marriage equality. Last year, much of the focus was on protecting the court win in Connecticut. Since mid-2008, in partnership with the amazing leaders at Vermont Freedom to Marry (it is truly an amazing organization), I've worked very hard towards this day. Days of meetings in Vermont, meetings and conference calls with Senate President Peter Shumlin and the past and present House speakers, phone banks and volunteer canvasses into Vermont, and for the past couple of months, almost daily check-ins.

While Vermont is a small state, the symbolism of the first state with civil unions saying, very clearly, that CU is not good enough, that only marriage is… is huge.

We knew there was a chance, but never expected, Governor Douglas to veto the bill. We thought he’d allow it to become law without his signature (which you can do in Vermont). And we also thought that we would be in grave trouble if he did veto the bill.

But today, Vermont proved, once again, what we all know–that marriage equality makes a tremendous difference for gay and lesbian couples and families, and those who love and care about them. And for the rest of society, it's not a big deal. In fact, I am positive if you were to poll Vermonters today, a strong majority would say they are proud to be the first state to have passed marriage through their legislature and enacted into law.

For us in California, this shows that anything short of marriage—whether it is called civil unions, domestic partnerships or anything else—doesn't suffice. Full equality is marriage, plain and simple. The people of Vermont, acting through their elected officials—more than two-thirds of them—get it. It's our job to make sure that a majority of the people of California get it too! It will happen here, sooner rather than later. We just have a lot of hard work to do making that case to a majority of Californians.

Iowa, Vermont—what a week! Now on to New Hampshire, Maine, New York and New Jersey! And of course, our own state of California.

Let Freedom Ring!

Marc Solomon
Marriage Director
Equality California

–Reposted from the California Ripple Effect