Tag Archives: EQCA

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.  

Courage Campaign press release: 2010 Prop. 8 repeal effort too soon

Via Joe My God, I find this press release issued today by the Courage Campaign:

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Courage Campaign today called for more research and time to change hearts and minds before returning to the ballot to restore marriage for gay and lesbian couples in California. At least one initiative to restore same-sex marriage is currently circulating that, if it qualifies, would appear on the November, 2010 ballot…

“For months, we have laid out the criteria for moving forward. Like the Obama Campaign, we understand that we need a combination of powerful and clear research that informs an expertly run campaign, an unstoppable movement that harnesses the new energy we have seen since the passage of Prop. 8 and the connections through personal stories and outreach in order to win at the ballot box,” said Rick Jacobs, the Courage Campaign founder and Chair. “We are taking the lessons learned from last year’s Prop. 8 campaign, the campaigns in Maine and other states to understand the fundamental work that must be done before moving forward in California. We also must come together as a community to create a broad coalition and governance structure, put in place a strong manager and secure the resources to win. Right now, the pieces are not all in place to do so confidently.”

I am understanding this to mean that the Courage Campaign is no longer on board with a 2010 campaign and will be shifting their resources to a 2012 effort (although the language is oddly vague– if any Courage Campaign people are reading this, any clarification would be appreciated greatly). At a minimum the clear message of this release is that Courage Campaign does not at this time support the specific 2010 ballot filing by Love Honor Cherish, which they reference in the first paragraph.

Courage Campaign is currently soliciting volunteers for their Prop. 8 repeal and “Equality Team” efforts here. EQCA is also soliciting volunteers to canvass for their 2012 repeal campaign here.

Say No to Manchester: Boycott Continues

Doug Manchester played a relatively unsung, but crucial role in qualifying Prop 8 for the ballot. His $125,000 donation came in at a critical time when the proponents were running out of cash during the signature gathering process.

It is conceivable that Prop 8 would not have made it on to the ballot, if it were not for Doug Manchester.  In response to that donation and the poor treatment of his workers a boycott of his hotels was established a year ago, and has now cost Manchester upwards of $7 million in canceled reservations.

He has hired gay heavyweight PR crisis man Howard Bragman to respond to the boycott.  Their genius idea was to offer up $100,000 in hotel credits and a $25,000 contribution to any 501c3 organization that supports civil unions.

It was a cynical attempt to try and buy-off and divide the LGBT and labor communities.  And it’s not working.  No way.  No how.

Today, the Courage Campaign, Equality California, UNITE HERE and Californians Against Hate have teamed up to launch the “Say No to Manchester” website, asking our members to sign a pledge to uphold the boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt and Grand del Mar Resort.

It’s a relatively unique campaign with labor and LGBT organizations coming together to support workers rights and equality.  These types of coalitions are crucial for building progressive power here in California.  Any repeal of Prop 8 will need support from our brothers and sisters in labor and they need our help on their organizing efforts for workers’ dignity and rights.

Boycotts don’t always work, but this one has been effective, though not perfect.  Unfortunately, the California Bar Association has refused to move their annual.  Jenny Pizer from Lambda Legal:

“The bar associations recognize that many of their members will not feel comfortable attending conference activities at the Manchester Hyatt given its owner’s extraordinary personal support of the campaign that made gay people and their families unequal under law, and undermined the basic rights of all minority groups in California,” she wrote.

Of course, Bragman tries to wedge labor and LGBTs.

Bragman added that the boycott was less about LGBT rights, and more about the hotel workers trying to unionize. “The union issues and the boycott and the GLBT issues are apples and oranges,” he said. “They are two separate issues. We frankly have a boycott that is being funded and designed by people who have motives other than the GLBT community in an effort to unionize the properties.”

Is it inconceivable to Bragman that LGBTs care about workers rights AND their own rights, not to mention the fact that shocker of all shockers, there are LGBT hotel workers?  Like I said earlier, we are unified and will not let Manchester divide us, try though they might.

Flip it for the email we sent out to our members today.

Dear Julia —

It’s time for unity in the face of those who seek to divide us.

Doug Manchester, owner of the second-largest Hyatt hotel in the country — and the man who donated $125,000 in crucial early seed money to the Prop 8 campaign — has launched a cynical public relations campaign to divide the marriage equality and labor movements.

That’s why the Courage Campaign and Equality California are teaming up to reject Manchester’s attempt to divide Californians. Will you join us?


Here’s the story:

Doug Manchester owns the Grand Hyatt hotel in San Diego. When he gave $125,000 in early seed money to the “Yes on 8” campaign — a critical infusion of urgent cash that paid for the signature-gathering to put Prop 8 on the ballot — Californians Against Hate teamed up with Cleve Jones and the hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE to lead a boycott of Manchester’s hotels, subsequently joined by the Courage Campaign, Equality California and several other organizations concerned about equality and workers’ rights.

Launched in the summer of 2008, this highly successful boycott is believed to have cost Manchester’s Grand Hyatt more than $7 million in lost business. Despite the success of this growing boycott, Doug Manchester has refused to apologize, refused to meet with the organizations leading the boycott, and refused to improve conditions for hotel workers.

Instead, Manchester has tried to buy off LGBT organizations by offering $100,000 in “hotel credits” and $25,000 to any 501(c)3 organization that supports “civil unions” — a tax write-off for Manchester that dodges full support for marriage equality and could never be used to fund a repeal of Prop 8, the passage of which Manchester made possible.

No one has accepted.

Today, the Courage Campaign and Equality California are launching the new “Say No To Manchester” web site along with UNITE HERE and Californians Against Hate and asking our members to sign a pledge to join the Manchester boycott. Please click here to add your name today:


By signing this pledge, you will increase pressure on Doug Manchester to make a public apology for his $125,000 donation to Prop 8 and negotiate an honest, fair resolution with boycott organizers.

Thank you for joining the Courage Campaign, Equality California, UNITE HERE, and Californians Against Hate. Standing together in solidarity, this growing movement for equality and fairness will win.

Rick Jacobs

Chair, Courage Campaign

Will the Governor sign the Harvey Milk Day Bill?

While I’m not a fan of some things that Equality California could probably have been done better, lobbying and legislative work is really their strong suit.

Well, right now the gang at EQCA are focusing on Mark Leno’s Harvey Milk Day bill.  It’s been passed by both houses of the Legislature, but is currently awaiting the Governor’s up or down.

He vetoed the bill last year, but EQCA is pushing to reverse that.  In his veto message, he said that Milk was a local figure. Things have clearly changed since then. Specifically, Milk was the subject of a major motion picture and the recipient of the Presidential Medal Freedom. Perhaps it will become clear to Arnold what progressives, and the LGBT community in particular, has known since Milk’s assasination: Harvey Milk is more than a local celebrity who was murdered.

Harvey Milk is a symbol of the fight for civil rights for all Americans. He is a symbol of equality. He should be honored as such.

If you want to encourage the Governor to sign the bill, call 916-445-2841 or tweet @schwarzenegger.

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.


Yes! on Equality

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