Angel Haze covers “Same Love”

October 24, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

Angel_haze Angel Haze covers Macklemore’s “Same Love” and raps about queer sexuality beyond boundaries.


October 18, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

Freedom to marry garden stateCongratulations 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.

National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

October 15, 2013 By Jesse Melgar


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.



Harvey Milk to be Honored on U.S. Postage Stamp

October 10, 2013 By Jesse Melgar


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?


Gov. Brown Signs Law Making Accurate ID Easier for Transgender Californians

October 8, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

ab 1121It 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.”

HISTORIC: Gov. Brown Signs TRUST Act

October 7, 2013 By Jesse Melgar


“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 Later

October 4, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

100 days from SCOTUS marriage100 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…)

Transgender Student Activist Ashton Lee Takes Aim At Fringe Anti-LGBT Group For Illegal Fundraising

October 2, 2013 By Josh Steichmann
Cathrine and Ashton Lee

Cathrine and Ashton Lee

Remember Ashton Lee, the 16-year-old boy from Manteca who delivered 5,700 signatures to Governor Brown asking that he sign the School Success and Opportunity Act, which clarifies protections for transgender students?

Monday, Ashton and his mother, Catherine Lee, filed a complaint with the California Attorney General’s office, asking for an investigation into the Capitol Resource Institute, a fringe anti-LGBT group dedicated to undermining protections for LGBT people. They were behind Prop. 8, as well as the failed attempts to remove LGBT history from public schools. Now they’re back, attempting to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act. Specifically, they’re fundraising for a repeal effort.

But the IRS yanked CRI’s tax-exempt status back in February because the CRI hadn’t filed any paperwork in over three years. Oops.

In a press release, Ashton said: “It troubles us that this group, which is sending out emails asking for money to overturn a law, the School Success and Opportunity Act, that just makes sure students like me can participate in school, is doing so illegally. Our lives are directly harmed on a daily basis by the work they are doing to attack our rights and opportunities.”

Upon hearing about Ashton’s empowering advocacy, EQCA executive director John O’Connor said: “After years of failing to defeat other LGBT nondiscrimination protections, it is sad that these fringe groups are using their resources — illegally — to target vulnerable students. It is an inspiration to see that Ashton is not so vulnerable and has taken great initiative to organize and take action with his heroically supportive mother.”

And the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, who were first approached by the Lees: “We are so proud to see Ashton, a young person who legally and honestly fought for the opportunity to succeed in school, stand up to these fringe groups who have lied to the public in their attempt to bully him and transgender students across the state,” said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network.


Freedom to Marry Affirmed in NJ Court Decision

September 27, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

new jersey freedom to marryNew Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson granted a summary decision today in favor of plaintiffs, represented by Lambda Legal, seeking the freedom to marry in New Jersey.

The decision rests on two points: First, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided in the 2006 Lewis v. Harris case that New Jersey’s constitution requires same-sex couples be granted the same rights as opposite-sex couples, something that had until now been resolved with civil unions.

But given the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which overturned the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples who are married are now entitled to the same federal rights and benefits as any other married couple, which does not apply to civil unions.

Given that, Jacobson held that in order for same-sex couples to have the same protections and rights, the current ban on same-sex marriage could not be constitutional. She ordered that marriage licenses for same-sex couples are to be granted starting Oct. 21.

Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who will likely seek the Presidential nomination in 2016, had held that it was constitutional to exclude same-sex couples from marriage, and will likely appeal.

Enrollment opens in one week

September 24, 2013 By Shaun Osburn

hhweOn October 1, California’s online health insurance marketplace, known as Covered California, will open enrollment and begin connecting residents with new, affordable health insurance options. This marketplace was created as a result of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and has the potential to drastically improve health disparities among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Equality California Institute educates LGBT people and the public at large about issues impacting our community, and barriers to health care has been one of the Institute’s central focuses this year. That’s why we launched our “Health Happens with Equality”/”La Salud Ocurre Con La Igualdad” campaign to connect thousands of LGBT Californians with the resources needed to make informed health insurance decisions.

Click here to sign-up to receive reminders about enrollment or to get enrollment assistance. (more…)