The following is an update from Equality California Executive Director John O’Connor regarding the status of the referendum attempt:
With your help, Equality California and our coalition partners tracked the activity of anti-LGBT groups over the past few months as they gathered signatures to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act. We received calls and emails confirming what we already knew — our opponents were employing shameless and desperate scare tactics to collect, and ultimately submit signatures for a referendum.
Now, Equality California and our partners have been hard at work, carefully monitoring the results of their attempt to repeal this historic law that ensures all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in school.
Status of the Referendum Attempt:
As of Friday evening, the Secretary of State is reporting that they’ve received a total of 613,120 signatures from a majority of California’s counties. While there are still three small counties that have yet to submit signatures, the current total surpasses the threshold of 504,760 signatures needed to initiate the signature verification process.
That’s the phase we’re in now, but this does not mean the referendum has qualified.
Now, the Secretary of State’s Office has notified county elections officials that they will have to randomly sample signatures for validation, to ensure petitions were signed by registered voters.
The deadline to complete the random sample validation is January 8, 2014.
If the result of the random sample indicates that the number of valid signatures represents between 95% and 110% of 504,760, the Secretary of State would then direct the county elections officials to verify every signature on the petition. In this scenario, the verification process could go into mid-March of 2014. This process is referred to as a full check of signatures.
Moreover, at this stage, if the total number of valid signatures is less than 95% of the number of signatures required to qualify the referendum, the referendum will fail to qualify for the ballot.
If the number of valid signatures is greater than 110% of the required number of signatures, the initiative measure will qualify.
Currently, opponents are averaging 75.46% in the random sample, which is far below the average ultimately needed to qualify.
Because the purpose of the School Success and Opportunity Act is really to spell out the existing federal and state law so that school administrators, teachers, parents and students fully understand their responsibilities and rights, even if this referendum attempt were to qualify and pass — which looks more and more unlikely — those fundamental responsibilities and rights would not change.
Rest assured that regardless of the outcome of this referendum attempt, EQCA is committed to doing whatever it takes to defend this bill and protect the opportunities it creates for all students, including transgender students.
We will continue to provide updates as they are made available. In the meantime, we strongly urge you to learn more about the School Success and Opportunity Act by visiting our coalition website: www.supportallstudents.org.
Very truly Yours,
Yesterday, our opponents submitted signatures in an attempt to overturn the School Success and Opportunity Act at the ballot box. The same people who spearheaded Proposition 8 – Frank Schubert and the National Organization of Marriage – are now going after the most vulnerable members of the LGBT community – our youth.
These fringe anti-LGBT groups have used every dirty trick in the book to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures. By distorting the truth about non-discrimination protections, they were able to scare voters into signing their petitions.
Join us by contributing to protect the School Success and Opportunity Act now!
The Secretary of State will verify the raw count of all signatures they submitted by Thursday, November 21st which our opponents have stated is close to 620,000. The Secretary of State has up to 38 business days to verify the signatures submitted by our opponents before she determines whether or not a referendum on the School Success and Opportunity Act will qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
We know that our opponents lie and that’s why we are waiting on the Secretary of State’s confirmation about the actual number of valid signatures submitted. Nonetheless, this is a very serious attack on our youth and we will do everything we can to protect the law.
In the meantime, Equality California, along with the co-sponsoring organizations of the law, will be monitoring the situation closely and preparing for all scenarios.
We refuse to let these attacks on our youth go unanswered. That’s why we need to continue to set record the straight about the law and combat these blatant lies. Over the past few months, you’ve helped us engage in tens of thousands of conversations about the law – on the phones and on the streets. But, it’s even more crucial now that we keep this up.
The campaign to overturn this historic law protecting our youth has been primarily fueled by wealthy out-of-state funders. A hedge fund manager from New Jersey, who gave over $1 million to Proposition 8, recently wrote checks totaling $200,000 toward this new attack on our rights. Our movement doesn’t have massive funding, but we have you – and we need your help in two specific ways – 1. fund our grassroots campaign to defend this law and 2. sign up to be on call as a volunteer.
Stand up to the right-wing money machine and donate $100 to help us spread the truth.
Click here to sign up to be a volunteer on call.
Regardless of whether they qualify for the ballot, our opponents will continue to attack our community – at the ballot box, in the legislature and in the courts of law. Equality California, along with our allies, remains vigilant and will continue to update you with any new developments.
Cindy McCain signed postcard in support of ENDA
Passing a national Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees has been a goal of LGBT advocacy for a generation, introduced in every Congressional session since 1994, with similar legislation dating back to 1974.
ENDA may be getting new life, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid readying ENDA for a Senate floor vote, and a growing effort to bring Republican support to the bill.
Even Cindy McCain is signing on, though her husband has yet to vote in favor.
But if the Senate can pass ENDA, the real question will be the GOP-led House. After an “autopsy” came out last year analyzing the dismal failure of the Republican party to attract young voters, one of the prescriptions was moving toward more support for LGBT equality, and an employment bill could be more palatable than something like marriage.
A staggering 80 percent of voters already believe that ENDA is law, and 56 percent of self-described Republicans favor passing ENDA, according to a new poll (PDF) from the Human Rights Campaign. However, Republicans in the House are even more conservative than Republican voters as a whole, so it’s hard to predict whether ENDA will gain sufficient traction to pass.
Angel Haze covers Macklemore’s “Same Love” and raps about queer sexuality beyond boundaries. https://soundcloud.com/angelhazeym/same-love-angel-haze
Congratulations to loving same-sex New Jersey couples — the New Jersey Supreme Court today held that same-sex couples can marry starting Monday at 12:01 a.m., denying a stay while the court case winds its way through the appeals process.
In their decision, the Court wrote: “What is the public’s interest in a case like this? Like Judge Jacobson, we can find no public interest in depriving a group of New Jersey residents of their constitutional right to equal protection while the appeals process unfolds.”
The long, winding road to the freedom to marry in New Jersey began in earnest in 2002, when Lambda Legal filed Lewis v. Harris, which ended in 2006, with the NJ Supremes ruling that loving same-sex couples couldn’t be denied the rights and privileges of marriage without explicitly mandating the freedom to marry. The New Jersey legislature enacted civil unions, but Garden State Equality, New Jersey United for Marriage and Lambda Legal have been working since then to get full marriage.
The current case, Garden State Equality v. Dow, was filed in 2011, and on September 27, the New Jersey Superior Court found that in the wake of the Defense of Marriage Act case, civil unions no longer provided the same protections and benefits that marriage did, ruling that all loving couples in New Jersey must be allowed to marry, setting the effective date as October 21.
Equality California is proud to observe National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) today. Established in 2003, NLAAD is dedicated to raising awareness about the impact HIV/AIDS has on the Latino community. The 2013 theme is “Commit to Speak”/“Comprométete a Hablar”. Every October 15th, the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, partners across the United States raise their collective voice to promote HIV/AIDS education, prevention, testing, treatment, and overall awareness for Latino communities.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the HIV infection rate among Latinos in 2009 was nearly three times as high as that of caucasians. As the Latino community grows exponentially, it is essential to address this epidemic head on if we hope to create an AIDS-free generation.
Visit the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day website to learn more (NLAAD). To find an HIV/AIDS testing site in California, click here.
The United States Post Office confirmed today that Harvey Milk will be the first proudly out elected official to grace a postal stamp, joining a myriad of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender icons already recognized on postage, including Tennessee Williams, Keith Haring and Willa Cather.
The stamp will reportedly feature Milk’s slogan, “Hope will never be silent.”
The decision came after a multi-year push from the LGBT community to honor Milk with a stamp.
In 2009, Equality California sponsored SB 572 which was authored by Senator Mark Leno and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown declaring May 22 Harvey Milk Day in California.
This is a tremendous honor who’s spirit is alive and well. And who says philately will get you nowhere?
It just got a little bit easier (and cheaper) for transgender Californians to live authentic lives.
Governor Jerry Brown just signed AB 1121, written by Assemblymember Toni Atkins, which streamlines the process for documentation changes, specifically name and gender changes on ID like driver’s licenses and vital documents like birth certificates. The law was cosponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.
Up until now, changes to birth certificates required a court hearing, and now California is in line with many other states that only require an administrative action, in this case from the Office of Vital Records. Since the court filing fee is $435, and the courts are already overburdened with actual cases, this is a win-win for transgender Californians and good governance.
The law also changes the requirement of public notice, which for many transgender people requires outing themselves to their entire community, which may not be safe and at the least is an unnecessary hassle.
“One step in enabling transgender people to live authentic lives consistent with their gender identity is to ensure that their names and their official documents are consistent with who they are,” said Atkins. “I am very pleased that the Governor signed my bill to move us forward toward equality and dignity for transgender Californians.”
“Today California made it easier for people who are transgender to live authentic lives by removing unnecessary barriers to name changes and identity documents,” said John O’Connor, EQCA executive director. “This is a common sense solution to ensure that transgender Californians are treated fairly and with respect. We thank Gov. Brown and Assemblymember Atkins for their leadership.”
“Make no mistake, Immigration Reform is an LGBT issue!”
That was one of the core messages highlighted by Equality California Executive Director John O’Connor at the Los Angeles Equality Awards on October 5 – the day Governor Jerry Brown signed the historic TRUST Act.
With federal efforts at immigration reform stalled, California is taking proactive steps to move it forward, at least in the Golden State. Gov. Brown’s signature will prohibit law enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless specified conditions are met.
“While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead. I’m not waiting,” said Gov. Brown in a statement.
What’s the connection to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians? We know that LGBT people are more likely to be accosted, harassed and arrested by police for minor charges (including one case last year for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk), but that LGBT people are also more likely to be victims of crimes, including assault and domestic violence. In a recent survey of 220 transgender Latinas by the Williams Institute, 60 percent believed they had been stopped by law enforcement in the last year without breaking any law.
By ensuring that undocumented LGBT people won’t necessarily face deportation from routine, low-level law enforcement interaction, that means that LGBT people who are undocumented are more likely to report serious crimes, cooperate with law enforcement investigations and testify in court cases. It’s a victory for public safety and equity among a traditionally marginalized segment of California’s population.
The law, authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, is similar to one vetoed by Gov. Brown last year, but this version makes more explicit which crimes qualify as violent or serious, making the detainee ineligible for release. Some law enforcement officials, like Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, opposed the bill last year but supported it after Ammiano made changes.
The bill is a success for the increasingly collaborative coalition work between advocates of LGBT equality, immigrant rights and economic justice; organizations signing a letter of support included EQCA, Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center, Gender Justice LA, Immigration Equality, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Out 4 Immigration, and the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. (more…)
100 days ago, the Supreme Court struck down the central portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, and dismissed the last gasp appeal of the Prop. 8 supporters, returning the freedom to marry to California. Across the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people cheered along with allies who supported the vision of an America where everyone could marry the person that they love.
Since then, we’ve seen a parade of victories at the federal level, from the Department of Homeland Security allowing same-sex spouses full immigration privileges to the IRS issuing new rules to make sure loving same-sex couples are recognized, to the first same-sex weddings on U.S. military bases. We’ve seen big marriage victories in New Mexico and New Jersey, and we’ve seen the roll-out of the biggest advance in LGBT healthcare in our lifetimes with the Affordable Care Act.
Here in California, we’ve seen the federal courts uphold SB 1172, which ended the psychological abuse of LGBT youth by licensed therapists, we’ve seen transgender students win both with the passage and signing of the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), which ensures that transgender students can participate as their authentic selves in school, and at the Arcadia Unified School District, which settled a lawsuit and implemented policies to ensure transgender equality. (more…)