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Equality California (EQCA)  
 
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Equality California (EQCA) is one of the largest statewide glbtq advocacy and civil rights organizations in the United States. With approximately 50,000 members and a staff of ten in 2005, EQCA has chapters throughout the state and maintains offices in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Following a period of upheaval after the passage of Proposition 8 in 2008, the organization seems to have regained stability with the appointment of a new executive director in 2012.

Originally known as California Alliance for Pride and Equality (CAPE), Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization with a mission to ensure the dignity, safety, equality, and civil rights of all glbtq Californians. ECQA leads efforts for glbtq civil rights at the state level by lobbying legislators, building coalitions, and empowering other organizations and individuals to become involved in the legislative process. It sponsors bills relevant to its mission and leads efforts to ensure their passage.

Sponsor Message.

History

In its first years of operation, CAPE successfully sponsored three key pieces of legislation that focused on employment and housing discrimination, safe schools, and a domestic partner registry. However, as CAPE began to establish itself as a statewide organization, in 2000 the first anti-gay marriage initiative in California (Prop 22) was introduced and adopted by a wide margin.

Disheartened over the passage of Prop 22, the glbtq community was critical of CAPE for not having opposed it more effectively. In 2001, Jean Harris stepped down as Executive Director of CAPE. After serving as interim Executive Director, Geoffrey Kors became Executive Director in 2002.

A 1986 graduate of Stanford Law School, Kors served as Assistant Regional Counsel for the United States Environmental Protection Agency for five years. He then went on to serve as Director of the ACLU of Illinois Gay and Lesbian Rights and AIDS and Civil Liberties Projects. Kors then returned to California to work as Chief of Staff to San Francisco Supervisor Leslie Katz and also as a partner in a small civil rights law firm.

While on the Executive Committee of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Kors was one of the creators of the "Equal Benefits Ordinance," which requires private firms and contractors doing business with the city of San Francisco to provide the same job-related benefits to domestic partners and married spouses of their employees. In 1996, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Equal Benefits Ordinance making San Francisco the first jurisdiction in the country to address the inequity of benefits for same-sex couples. In 2001, Kors joined the board of CAPE. After becoming Executive Director, he spearheaded the organization's change of name to Equality California.

Early Successes

In 2002, seven EQCA-sponsored rights bills were passed into law in California, including bills on hate crimes, domestic partnership rights, and healthcare for people with HIV. In 2003, Equality California sponsored and passed a gender non-discrimination bill, a bill requiring equal benefits in state contracting, and a comprehensive domestic partnership bill.

(In 2005, the new domestic partnership law in California took effect as the most comprehensive in the nation, providing California same-sex couples and their families with many--though not all--of the state rights and protections that come with civil marriage.)

In 2004, five of the six Equality California-sponsored pieces of legislation were passed into law. These bills extended equal insurance coverage to registered domestic partners, strengthened hate crime protections, and improved employment and housing non-discrimination law.

In 2005, the major piece of legislation that EQCA sponsored was the "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act." The bill passed the legislature, but was vetoed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Equality California Institute

Equality California Institute was established in 2000 as a non-profit educational organization affiliated with EQCA. The EQCA Institute informs glbtq people and the general public about issues impacting the community and its allies. The EQCA Institute connects various communities working for justice and civil rights and trains them to respond and work proactively for glbtq equality.

Equality California Institute also organizes advocacy training, forums, and legislative briefings in many cities. In its short history, the Institute has already developed an extensive network of activists and allies that can be mobilized quickly to respond to threats or attacks on the civil rights of glbtq Californians.

In 2004, EQCA Institute created Transgender Equality in order to educate the public and legislators about transgender discrimination.

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