Guest Blogger

EQCA: What should our priorities be?

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 15, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: California, Equality California, Geoff Kors, Harvey Milk Day, LGBT rights, Sacramento

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Geoff Kors is the Executive Director of Equality California.

Geoff Kors  250x323.jpgIt's been a stunning year in California. We've seen partisan gridlock and a budget showdown that led to millions of dollars being cut from critical programs that keep our state thriving -- programs like HIV/AIDS services and education, children's health insurance and Medicaid. All of these programs affect the lives of LGBT individuals and their families in the state, and we've fought hard to prevent and minimize these cuts.

At the same time, we've been fighting hard to expand rights for LGBT Californians. In spite of the dire situation in the state, we've been able to pass a record 11 pieces of legislation. Another six bills have either passed their first house or a key committee and will continue to move forward when the legislature meets again in January. These 17 bills have progressed thanks to thousands of hours of work by Equality California supporters and staff -- especially including the talents and drive of EQCA's Government Affairs Director, Alice Kessler.

Perhaps not incidentally, this year also saw our community's largest Lobby Day in state history: over 1000 people came to Sacramento to tell their policymakers why our rights matter. And nearly 40,000 of you signed our petition to the governor to sign a bill establishing Harvey Milk Day in California, while countless others called and tweeted him your support. You also took repeated action to fight budget cuts and preserve our community's critical infrastructure.

Here are a few quick highlights from this year's legislation, all of which are waiting for the Governor's signature:

  • SB 572 would commemorate May 22 of each year as Harvey Milk Day. In spite of anti-gay extremists intent on burying Harvey's legacy, your support helped us get the bill past the legislature. Keep calling Governor Schwarzenegger at 916-445-2841 and ask him to sign the bill. It's time to give Harvey the full honor he deserves.
  • The Equal ID Act would allow transgender people born in California but living elsewhere to more easily correct their birth certificate, making it easier for them to work and travel.
  • The LGBT Domestic Violence Programs Expansion Bill would help programs for LGBT survivors of domestic violence to access new funding and better serve their clients.
  • The LGBT Prisoner Safety Act would require that sexual orientation and gender identity be considered in decisions on housing prisoners.
  • SB 54 clarifies that same-sex couples who married out of state before November 4, 2008 are considered married. The bill also clarifies that same-sex couples who have married or will marry out of state since November 4, 2008 will have all the rights and responsibilities of married couples, without the word "marriage."

Back in January, we passed two resolutions, one in the Assembly and one in the Senate, putting our legislature on the record as opposing Proposition 8 as an improper revision of the California Constitution. We've also passed resolutions putting our legislature on record as supporting the passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Other resolutions that will progress in January support the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act; an end to the outdated Food and Drug Administration policy that bans healthy gay and bisexual men from donating blood; and passage of the Uniting American Families Act, which would keep bi-national same-sex couples together by allowing one partner to sponsor the other for immigration.

What's next? The resolutions have all passed, but the five bills -- on Harvey Milk Day, the status of couples married out of state, the Equal ID Act and the domestic violence bill -- are awaiting the signature of Governor Schwarzenegger. Then it is time to look ahead to next year. We already know we'll keep working to preserve the critical infrastructure and HIV/AIDS services that our community has labored so hard to establish. This is simply too important of a battle to lose.

What do you think our next legislative priorities should be? If you have a suggestion, please leave us a comment. Thanks for your commitment and hard work in building a state of equality in California!

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EQCA should focus it's energies and resources on Marriage Equality in Maine and Washington State. Then after that election should turn its focus back on its self. We need to do this together, supporting one another. Alot of out of state money, talent and recources went to CA when they needed it. Its time to step up and help others out.


I'm happy to see criminal justice issues on your plate, but frankly that safety act is just a drop in the bucket. It could make a good first step, but please don't set it aside now.

I'm not certain the status of CA policy, but I'm guessing it's mostly patchwork by county if not uniformly against us. You could try to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of reasons that don't justify a police stop. You could specify that safety should take priority over genitals in the placement of trans people in custody (The bill just passed is more likely to put trans people in solitary then in gender and safety appropriate housing), or that determining gender status is not adaquate justification for a strip search, or that solitary confinement is not an adaquate solution solution for protecting LGBTQ people's safety, especially not long term. Or that at the very least, that people put in solitary because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (presumably for their own protection) should still have access to good behavior programs and other resources that other prisoners have.

Especially with the CA budget problems, there's a good argument to be made here. Solitary confinement is not just incredibly harmful in long term scenarios, it's also expensive, and by cutting off access to good behavior programs to people without behavior problems, they have to serve longer terms and that costs more money too.

I'm with Tobi, who knows more about the issue than I do.

I'd also say that the Equal ID Act which "would allow transgender people born in California but living elsewhere to more easily correct their birth certificate, making it easier for them to work and travel" is critical.

I'd like to see some of the wealth spent on fighting Prop 8 before and again spent to help out some of the other less fortunate states like Indiana or Idaho. You're already light years ahead of us and never look back.

Thanks everyone for your feedback! As a member of the Equality Federation (, the coalition of the statewide LGBT groups, Equality California is supporting the marriage equality work in Washington and Maine. So far we have raised more than $75,000 for Maine, and we have committed to helping Washington fundraise, too. We are also collaborating with their communications department and trying to meet their other needs.

We hope you will join us in supporting the work to defeat the ballot initiatives in these two states AND join EQCA in changing hearts and minds here in California!