Together we can

  • by Geoff Kors
  • Wednesday March 30, 2011
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As I write my last opinion piece in the Bay Area Reporter in my capacity as executive director of Equality California, I've reflected on the collective accomplishments of California's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, and we have much to be proud of. We have come leaps and bounds over the past decade – passing 71 pieces of LGBT legislation, including the nation's first marriage equality bill and the nation's most comprehensive protections for  LGBT individuals, coming closer than any state to winning a marriage equality ballot measure, helping elect countless supporters of full equality to office, and moving public opinion to majority support for equality. Yet despite these phenomenal gains, we still have a long way to go to achieve true equality and acceptance both here in California and throughout our nation.

That was brought home to me last week when I was in Sacramento testifying on three pieces of Equality California-sponsored legislation. As we push aggressively forward with the largest pro-equality legislative package in state history, the rhetoric from our opponents has become even more harmful. Their attacks on legislation authored by state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), sponsored by Equality California and co-sponsored by GSA Network to include LGBT history in social science instruction, were some of the nastiest we have seen in years. Their bully-style attacks on rights and protections for LGBT individuals – including LGBT youth – are unacceptable. Our adversaries are not reasonable, they are not honest, and they are not concerned with who they hurt in their quest to deny us the same rights they enjoy.

Someone recently asked me why our opponents are escalating their attacks just as poll numbers are indicating that we likely have reached the proverbial tipping point. The answer is exactly that. They know we are at the moment that history will likely record as the time we won the battle for hearts and minds, and they lost. So they are fighting us with everything they have to stop us from succeeding. But we cannot allow them to change the course of history and deny us our equality.

The way we continue our progress here in California is to maintain our no-compromise approach to equality. Equality California's success is due in large part to the fact that we do not settle for anything less than full equality for the entire LGBT community. We only endorse candidates who support full equality. We fight for legislation that has never been introduced anywhere else in the country knowing we may not succeed in our first attempt, but also knowing that unless you try you have no chance of success. We do not support legislation that leaves any part of our community behind because it is morally unjust and politically naive to do so. We support a broad array of social justice issues, as LGBT people come from every community, and we must stand with our allies whenever there is need.

And that is how we need to advance our rights both here in California and nationally. Our community must stop supporting candidates who are not fully supportive of true equality – from marriage to insurance coverage for transgender individuals to protections for LGBT youth and seniors – either a candidate is with us or they are against us. We should not provide our endorsement or our money to any candidate who is unwilling to put in writing that they support complete equality. And it is time to advance a comprehensive equality bill in Congress that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and calls for equality in all of the nation's laws. Supporting such legislation does not mean we give up our fight for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Uniting American Families Act, and other pressing issues. But we must advocate for bold legislation that will help us achieve full equality.

As I leave my position at Equality California I am writing, one last time, to ask you to take action to help us advance equality.

Send an email to the governor asking him to support all 11 Equality California-sponsored  pieces of legislation. And if you can, join us in Sacramento for one of our lobby days, speak out at a hearing, or volunteer to phone bank to help us pass these bills. Information is available at This year's bills will change the lives of people not just here in California but throughout the nation. If we are successful, California will be the first state to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression in every single legal code in our state. We will be the first state to require schools to include LGBT history in social science instruction. Imagine growing up and learning about Harvey Milk, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, Ambassador James Hormel, and other heroes.

Together, we are creating the kind of nation where all young people can grow up feeling loved and cherished for who they are. We are creating the kind of nation where people can reach their full potential. We are creating the kind of nation where two people in love can get married, raise their family, and share in the joys of life, without facing the pain and hardship of government sanctioned discrimination.

In addition, I want to thank the B.A.R. for covering our fight for equality and providing me and Equality California the opportunity to share news, strategy, and views with the community. The B.A.R. is an essential voice and we all need to support an independent LGBT press.

Finally, thank you for your support and continued commitment over the years during the joys and heartbreaks of our collective fight for true equality. It has been a true honor and a privilege to have served our community.

Geoff Kors, whose last day as executive director at Equality California is March 31, served in that capacity since April 1, 2002.