Political Notes: EQCA, finally, unveils its 2023 scorecard for CA lawmakers

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday April 8, 2024
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As expected, Governor Gavin Newsom was dinged on Equality California's 2023 Legislative Scorecard for vetoing three LGBTQ-related bills. Photo: Bill Wilson
As expected, Governor Gavin Newsom was dinged on Equality California's 2023 Legislative Scorecard for vetoing three LGBTQ-related bills. Photo: Bill Wilson

Although the 2023 legislative session ended six months ago, only now is Equality California releasing its annual grading of state lawmakers on their support for LGBTQ legislation last year. It is the latest the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization has done so, with the annual reports in recent years coming out in January.

Last year's report being released on February 1 had been the latest date for the scorecard's issuance until now. Although the 2023 Legislative Scorecard is arriving later than normal, EQCA is making more of a splash with its release Monday.

EQCA is holding a rally in Sacramento at the State Capitol West Steps where it will honor those lawmakers who earned a 100% rating in 2023. No surprise the more than 90 who did so are all Democrats, as Republican lawmakers and party leaders have been ramping up their attacks on LGBTQ rights even in California in recent years.

The attacks have continued into 2024, with conservatives pushing a ballot measure aimed at restricting the rights of transgender youth. Yet, most observers believe it has little chance of making it onto the November ballot, and a wave of anti-LGBTQ local leaders have been recalled this year. Two conservative Sunol school board members could be the next ousted ones when residents of the East Bay district cast ballots in the special July 2 election.

"Far-right school boards are targeting vulnerable trans students and passing discriminatory policies that threaten their safety and well-being. And the LGBTQ+ community — particularly trans people and Black and Brown members of our community — continue to face high rates of homelessness, significant health inequities, and disproportionate rates of criminalization and violence," noted EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang in his introductory message to the 2023 scorecard.

He added, "Make no mistake, we will not back down from our fight to build a just and fully equal world for all LGBTQ+ people. The majority of Americans — and the overwhelming majority of Californians — stand with us, and these tactics by far-right extremists will not succeed."

The rally at the Statehouse is set to kick off at 11 a.m. with Palm Springs City Councilmember Lisa Middleton (D) among the featured speakers. She aims to become the first transgender member of the Legislature by winning a state Senate seat in the November 5 election.

The event is being held in conjunction with EQCA's annual LGBTQ+ Advocacy Day where it brings community leaders from across the state to Sacramento to press lawmakers to support its legislative package and budget priorities. The latter will be even more consequential this year, as state legislators are grappling to close a deficit in the 2024-2025 fiscal year that has fluctuated between $38 billion and $73 billion.

"This year's decision was to elevate the scorecard with our advocacy day rally to not only bring awareness of our legislative package but also recognize the legislative champions who scored 100% and bring awareness of the need to support LGBTQ+ legislation during the fights we are facing," explained EQCA Communications Director Jorge Reyes Salinas about its release date being April 8.

Pressed about how late the scorecard was coming out compared to previous years, Salinas told the Bay Area Reporter several factors went into its delayed release. The organization is marking its 25th anniversary in 2024 and held its first event celebrating that milestone with its Sacramento Equality Awards on February 28.

It also prioritized its endorsements and support for LGBTQ candidates like Middleton who ran in the March 5 primary. As the B.A.R.'s Political Notebook column reported in January, this year saw a record 30 LGBTQ individuals seek either state Assembly or Senate seats on the primary ballot, along with a slew of out candidates who ran for local elected positions.

"It wasn't to do with trying to have any strategy. It was more about us having been busy," said Salinas. "We made a priority supporting our endorsed candidates."

This is the first time that EQCA is holding an event for the California scorecard's release that is honoring lawmakers with perfect scores. Salinas told the B.A.R. a similar event was held for the October 6 release of EQCA's Silver State Equality 2023 Legislative Scorecard in Nevada.

With it turning out to be a success, he said EQCA wanted to duplicate it in the Golden State. This also marks the return of its advocacy event in Sacramento to the spring.

Because of COVID, EQCA held it virtually during the first years of the pandemic when legislators were working remotely and not at the Statehouse. The advocacy day returned last year for the first time in-person since 2019 but was held in August due to staffing changeovers in EQCA's legislative team, noted Salinas.

Newsom dinged for 3 vetoes

As for the results of the 2023 scorecard, which the B.A.R. was provided last week under embargo, they are not much of a surprise. As expected, Governor Gavin Newsom was dinged for his vetoes of three bills EQCA had prioritized last year.

As the B.A.R. had reported, one would have required state judges to take into account parental support for their transgender children during custody disputes. The other two had to do with health insurance coverage policies.

For signing into law seven other bills EQCA had backed, Newsom received a score of 78%, his lowest score from the LGBTQ rights group since becoming governor in 2018. In 2021, during his third year as governor, Newsom scored 88% on EQCA's scorecard for vetoing a bill related to substance use.

All 12 members of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus received perfect scores. They were among the 93 Democrats who earned 100% in 2023 from EQCA.

The lone member of the party's legislative caucus not to was Senator Maria Alvarado-Gil (D-Jackson). She earned a score of 82% due to her not voting in support of two Assembly bills.

One was AB 957, the trans child custody bill carried by Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City), the mother of a trans adult son. The other was AB 1078 by gay Assemblymember Corey A. Jackson, Ph.D., (D-Perris) that restricted school districts' ability to ban LGBTQ books and other titles.

Among the Republican caucus 12 members received zero grades for rejecting all LGBTQ bills that came before them in 2023. Eleven earned grades ranging from 9% to 27%; among them was Middleton's opponent this fall for the 19th Senate District seat, Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), who netted 18%.

Just three scored higher than 50%. Assemblymembers Juan Alanis (R-Modesto) and Marie Waldron (R-San Diego) each earned 55% scores.

The Republican with the highest score in 2023, at 73%, was Assemblymember Greg Wallis (R-Bermuda Dunes). He is facing a strong challenge in November for his Assembly District 47 seat from bisexual Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege (D), who narrowly lost to Wallis in 2022.

The results of the 2023 scorecard didn't impact EQCA's endorsements of incumbent legislators running for reelection this year. Those who have earned perfect scores in the most recent years prior to their elections are usually automatically endorsed by EQCA, which backed state legislative candidates in more than 80 primary races last month.

Those legislators with less than stellar scores on its scorecard can still receive EQCA's backing if it finds acceptable their reasoning behind their decisions not to vote for its priority bills. For Alvarado-Gil, she has two more years to secure perfect scores from EQCA and clinch its support before she is up for reelection in 2026.

EQCA's 2023 Legislative Scorecard can be downloaded via its publications page on its website

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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