Jewish Community Relations Councilof San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

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Mobilizing to Reduce LGBT Inequalities

January 10, 2017
Posted by: Jason Howe, Communications Director, Equality California

Bear a Torch - As the nation’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender civil rights organization dedicated to creating a fair and just society, Equality California (EQCA) is working within California, at the federal level, and directly with other states to win and protect full equality for LGBT people. The group is on the front lines against current threats to same-sex civil marriage and economic justice and healthcare equity, both of which our community holds consensus positions supporting. ACT NOW to help EQCA build a state of equality in California and beyond.

Torchbearer: Equality California

Despite the rapid civil rights advances of the past two decades, the LGBT community still suffers in almost every benchmark of overall health and wellbeing when compared to the general population. LGBT people still face staggering rates of poverty, depression, suicide, substance abuse and homelessness. They still experience harassment and abuse at the hands of law enforcement and an often-hostile penal system. Bullying by classmates and a lack of resources for teachers to help LGBT students leads to lowered school success and high rates of depression among LGBT youth. And many LGBT people lack access to basic, affordable healthcare. For LGBT people of color, women, the transgender community and LGBT undocumented immigrants, these problems are compounded. The stunning U.S. Supreme Court ruling of 2015 changed none of this. Equality California is committed to reducing these inequalities through legislative and administrative advocacy programs, community mobilization and by educating the LGBT community, public officials and healthcare providers.

Founded in 1999, Equality California is the nation’s largest and most effective statewide LGBT civil rights organization. As of 2016, it had sponsored and won passage of 118 pieces of legislation expanding LGBT civil rights and social justice in California, including laws banning so-called conversion therapy, requiring the inclusion of contributions by LGBT people in California school curricula, protecting the right of transgender students to use school facilities corresponding to their gender identities, and banning the gay or transgender “panic defense” in criminal trials. Following the tragic shootings in Orlando, Equality California became one of the first LGBT organizations in the nation to include ending gun violence as part of its mission, supporting the passage of six gun safety measures in the California Legislature.

Last year, Equality California Institute, the organization’s educational arm, co-led the launch of “Transform California,” an innovative program designed to build support for transgender people by educating the public about their lives and the issues they face. Through its Health Happens with Equality initiative, in 2016 the Institute trained staff at more than 85 clinics and healthcare organizations about the special needs of LGBT and undocumented people.

The incoming Donald Trump administration represents a salient threat to hard-won LGBT civil rights. Equality California has hired a Washington, D.C.-based national policy director to protect LGBT civil rights gains at the federal level, including executive orders and directives that protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination, expand Title IX to include discrimination based on gender identity, protect transgender students, shield many of California’s 250,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants from deportation, and more. In addition, Equality California will fight to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which for the first time brought health coverage to millions of LGBT people who had previously been shut out because of HIV status or other preexisting conditions. As the second-largest LGBT membership organization in the country, Equality California will mobilize its 800,000 members to fight for the priorities of the LGBT community.

The renewed attack on LGBT rights happening now is antithetical to California’s values of tolerance and inclusion. But while programs helping the LGBT community, together with all Americans, are under assault, it also represents an opportunity to lead. California is the nation’s future. Equality California is working to bring that future to pass.

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