EQCA Executive Director Roland Palencia: "We are the most diverse civil rights movement in the history of this nation."
The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce hosted a welcome reception Wednesday night at the new offices of the Liberty Hill Foundation celebrating Roland Palencia's recent appointment as Executive Director of Equality California and Stephen David Simon's election as the new President of the Stonewall Democratic Club. At the event, Palencia and Simon each shared their vision for building the power needed to deliver full LGBT equality across California.
Palencia focused his remarks on the efforts being undertaken to protect SB 48, also known as the FAIR Education Act. The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act was passed by the California Legislature earlier this year and signed by Governor Brown in July. It currently is set to go into effect in January. The Act amends a provision of the California Education Code that currently requires social sciences instruction on the contributions of both men and women and of racial and ethnic minorities and other cultural groups, by mandating that the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and people with disabilities also be addressed. The Act additionally amends other provisions of the Education Code that currently prohibit instruction, textbooks and educational materials that promote discriminatory bias based on race, nationality, sex, religion, and disability so that promotion of discriminatory bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity is also forbidden.
The FAIR Act is now facing a possible referendum, launched by the Capitol Resource Institute (CRI), which has been called a "fringe" conservative group by some in the political community. CRI and their coalition have until October 12 to gather 505,000 signatures in order to qualify for a voter referendum on the June 2012 ballot. During his remarks, Palencia told attendees that EQCA has not yet tracked any major donations to CRI that might fund a signature gathering attempt, nor have they yet found any indication that CRI or its "coalition" are using paid signature gatherers.
Before the event, Palencia told me that he had learned that CRI plans to try to gather enough signatures by enlisting 700 conservative churches statewide to gather 1000 signatures each. For a referendum to qualify, the required minimum number of signatures must be gathered in a 90 day period, whereas those seeking to qualify an initiative have 150 days together the same number of signatures.
LA Stonewall Democrats President Stephen David Simon
Palencia described the potential campaign to protect the FAIR Act as an opportunity to have a breakthrough with a "core issue" for the LGBT rights movement; that is, the significance of speaking openly and honestly about LGBT people to children in our schools. Acknowledging that many voters seem to think that talking to kids about gay people might harm them, Palencia noted that SB 48 "… is an opportunity to talk about who REALLY is a threat to young people." He continued: "Environments that are not respectful to LGBT youth are harmful to students. ... We can teach young people about acceptance, about tolerance, about respect. That environment is conducive to learning."
Palencia said that EQCA is building a coalition to work against CRI's referendum qualifying for the ballot. Given his background as a longstanding LGBT Latino advocate and his other work for underserved communities at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Clinica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero, and the California Endowment, this coalition may well be one of the strongest ever for EQCA.
"We are the most diverse civil rights movement in the history of this nation," Palencia noted. "We are at the epicenter of power and at the margins of society. We understand what inequality is."
Simon, an attorney who has served as AIDS Coordinator for the City of Los Angeles for the past seven years, covered an array of topics in his remarks, including the recent statewide redistricting process; the importance of coalition building; reaching out to the Log Cabin Republicans; and reworking Stonewall's endorsement process.
(Crossposted at LGBT POV.)