Connect with us


Equality California holds LGBT idea-sharing convening

EQCA announces new Advocacy Network



Valerie Ploumpis and Rick Zbur at Equality California Institute at Paramount Studios April 6, 2018 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Equality California Institute held its fourth annual Fair Share for Equality convening at Paramount Studios on Friday, April 6 where nearly 400 LGBT leaders, allies, elected officials, policymakers, and community influencers shared ideas and asked questions to find ways to ensure that the LGBT community gets its “fair share” of California resources.

The two big headliners were longtime LGBT ally Rep. Barbara Lee and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who Equality California has endorsed for governor.

Rep. Barbara Lee (Photo by James Bianchi courtesy of Equality California Institute)

Lee gave a shout out to Toni Atkins, who, “in the face of what we are seeing from Washington,” was elected the first openly LGBT Senate Pro Tem in California. She also talked about how religious exemptions are a license to discriminate, running counter to the Constitution. If laws are written to allow discrimination, she said, LGBT people will not be able to access fairness and equality.

Lee also told the story of her own harrowing birth where her mother Mildred —in desperate need of a cesarean — was only admitted to the segregated El Paso, Texas hospital after her mother’s mother convinced the admission’s office that Mildred had Irish roots- her grandmother had been raped by an Irishman. Mildred was admitted but left unattended until it was too late for a cesarean. Mildred was rushed into surgery for a last minute forceps delivery. Mildred and baby Barbara almost died. “I came into this world fighting for justice and equality,” Lee said.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (Photo by James Bianchi courtesy of Equality California Institute)

Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, needs Los Angeles to win over former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in the June 5 Democratic Primary. “We are here in LA, in the most diverse city, in the most diverse county, in the most diverse state, in the most diverse country…the world is looking to us, to all of you,” Newsom said. “The long arc of history bends toward justice, but you have to bend it.”

How to bend that arc was a focus of the convening. “We know what we’re up against. That’s why you’re all here. We need to mobilize our community to defend the progress we’ve made and continue to push the needle forward toward a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all #LGBTQ people,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur.

California LGBT Legislative Caucus members – Sen. Scott Wiener, Sen. Ricardo Lara, EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur, Assemblymember Evan Low, and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (Photo by James Bianchi courtesy of Equality California Institute)

Four of the eight LGBT Legislative Caucus members attended the convening, talking about their own LGBT bills, sponsored by Equality California, and answering questions about bills such as Sen. Scott Wiener’s resolution celebrating, not fixing, intersex infants and bills seemingly outside the scope of LGBT issues, such as Wiener’s bill preserving Net Neutrality in California.

The legislators also spoke of the work still needed to be done. “We need to find the talent who will replace us. We need to figure out how to do that; that’s how we maintain the wins that we have. We have more ceilings we have to break,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara, who the audience saluted for running for State Insurance Commissioner.

Palm Springs City Council member Lisa Middleton (Photo by James Bianchi courtesy of Equality California Institute)

Palm Springs City Council member Lisa Middleton movingly spoke about the shoulders she stands upon, and the stunning progress so far. “When I went to sleep on Nov. 6, 2016, there were seven elected officials who were openly transgender. When I woke up on Nov. 7, there were 16,” she said.

The focus of the annual convenings, Zbur told the Los Angeles Blade, is to bring together leaders, allies and other organizations “that works at the intersections of our movement to really try to develop legislative and advocacy strategies for our community. We use this to start identifying bill ideas so we can work together on things and bring them about for next year’s legislative session.”

Valerie Ploumpis (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Zbur also announced a new initiative—an Advocacy Network lgbtq-advocacy-network with monthly calls on the status of bills and getting help turning out voters in certain districts where the legislator is not yet on board with an EQCA or EQCA-supported bill. Additionally, National Policy Director Valerie Ploumpis, who blogs about issues on EQCA’s website, will also hold regular calls about federal bills and issues.

“The Advocacy Network from the federal side is a little bit more two-way in the sense that a lot of the organizations here in the LGBTQ community don’t actually have a presence in Washington DC,” Zbur said. “One of the reasons why we hired Valerie is so that she can also be eyes and ears for some of the smaller LGBTQ organizations in the state and provide information,” especially since actually policy news tends to be overshadowed by the latest scandal.

Zbur was more circumspect talking about the work Equality California is doing to prevent the Democratic Party’s crowded congressional “jungle primaries” on June 5 from electing a Republican. “We going to try to align behind a single candidate,” Zbur said. “I’m not sure whether we’ll be successful doing that—but we’re in the middle of discussions with a number of labor unions and some other progressive organizations to see if we can align behind a candidate and get a Democrat in.”

However, if the Democrats do take back the House in 2018, Zbur wants Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to resume her spot as Speaker of the House of Representatives, third in line for the presidency, should President Trump and Vice President Pence be forced to leave their posts.

“I love Nancy Pelosi,’ Zbur said “I think she has been an incredibly effective leader in Congress and a strategic leader for us. She is out-maneuvering [Speaker] Paul Ryan on a whole host of things now and being incredibly effective holding off some of the things that we don’t want to happen. I think she gets a lot of credit for that. So I have just amazing amounts of respect for Nancy Pelosi and I am not at all in the camp that we should be pushing aside effective strategic women leaders.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Out for America; nearly 1,000 elected LGBTQ+ officials but more needed

Lack of representation has consequences, as LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks



Victory Institute Out for America report cover Image of Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride (D First District) being sworn in to office

WASHINGTON – In its annual report the Washington D.C. based LGBTQ Victory Institute noted that there had been an increase of 17 percent in the past year of LGBTQ Americans serving as elected officials. According to the data in the Out for America 2021 report released this past week, there are 986 known out LGBTQ elected officials in the United States.

The Victory Institute reported that total included two U.S. senators, nine U.S. representatives, two governors, 189 state legislators, 56 mayors and six statewide executives. While this is considered a large increase, LGBTQ people hold just 0.19 percent of elected positions in the United States, despite making up at least 5.6 percent of the U.S. adult population.

Americans must elect 28,116 more LGBTQ people to public office for LGBTQ people to achieve equitable representation (serving in 5.6 percent of elected positions) the report went on to note.


The report found that in the past year (between June 2020 and June 2021):

  • LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 51 percent, with Black LGBTQ elected officials growing at the fastest pace (a 75 percent increase);
  • Trans women elected officials increased by 71 percent (from 21 to 36), yet trans men saw no increase (with just five serving nationwide);
  • Queer-identified elected officials increased by 83 percent, faster than all other sexual orientations; and
  • LGBQ cisgender women state legislators surpassed the number of GBQ cisgender men state legislators for the first time.

The report also found that:

  • LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than the overall elected official population, but are less diverse than the U.S. population;
  • Mississippi is the only state in the nation with zero known out LGBTQ elected officials serving;
  • 23 states have transgender elected officials serving and 29 states have non-cisgender elected officials;
  • LGBTQ people are equitably represented among mayors of top 100 cities for the first time (with six), but are underrepresented among mayors overall and in all other public positions; and that
  • 84 percent of LGBTQ elected officials are Democrats and just three percent are Republicans.

In an emailed statement, former Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker, who currently serves as the President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute reflected, “While LGBTQ elected officials are growing steadily in number, at this pace it will still take decades to come anywhere close to achieving equitable representation in government.” 

Parker went on to note, “This lack of representation has enormous consequences, because LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks and to change the hearts and minds of colleagues in supporting inclusive policies. A moonshot effort to increase our numbers is essential to advancing equality at every level of government – and a large part of that is showing LGBTQ people that running for office is our best bet to achieve lasting social change.”

In addition to changes in representation over the last year, the report also looks at trends since the first Out for America report was released in November 2017. In that time, LGBTQ elected officials increased by 121 percent (from 448 to 986) overall, and LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 201 percent (from 92 to 277). 

Since November 2017, there is a 296 percent increase in Black LGBTQ elected officials (from 23 to 91), 135 percent increase in Latinx LGBTQ elected officials (from 51 to 120) and a 117 percent increase in Asian American and Pacific Islander elected officials (from 12 to 26). Trans women increased by 800 percent (from four to 36) and bisexual elected officials by 787 percent (from eight to 71).

“LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more diverse than the overall elected official population – so their impact extends beyond LGBTQ equality alone,” said Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute. “LGBTQ elected officials are on the frontlines in legislative efforts to end police brutality, defend voting rights and secure inclusive healthcare reform. LGBTQ people are represented in every community in America and that diversity allows for more thoughtful policy changes when we are in office.”

The Out for America report is an annual analysis of LGBTQ elected representation in government based on Victory Institute’s LGBTQ elected officials database – the largest and most comprehensive listing available. The interactive Out for America map, updated daily, displays all known LGBTQ elected officials and is available at

Read the full Out for America 2021 report at

Continue Reading


Biden to nominate LGBTQ synagogue rabbi to religious freedom commission

Sharon Kleinbaum joined NYC’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992



Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Friday announced he plans to nominate the chief rabbi of an LGBTQ synagogue in New York City to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum joined Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992.

“She was installed as CBST’s first rabbi in 1992, arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership,” reads a bio that announced Biden’s intention to nominate Kleinbaum to the commission. “She guided the congregation through a period of loss and change, while addressing social issues and building a strong and deeply spiritual community. Under her leadership as senior rabbi, CBST has become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.”

Kleinbaum is married to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

The commission seeks to defend religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world. The president and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress nominate members.

Continue Reading


Bill would require universities to apply for Title IX religious exemption waiver

Measure seeks to highlight anti-LGBTQ higher education institutions



WASHINGTON — Four members of Congress on Thursday introduced a bill that would require federally-funded universities to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education before they can receive a religious exemption from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

A press release that U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) issued notes the Exposing Discrimination in Higher Education Act would also require “the Department of Education and the exempted higher education institutions to prominently display the waiver on their websites in order to inform students of their beliefs before arriving on campus.”

The members of Congress note “several higher education institutions across the U.S.” beginning in 2013 “applied for religious exemptions with the Department of Education that would allow them to discriminate against LGBTQ students on campus.” The Department of Education during the previous White House sought to revoke the waiver application requirement.

“These exemptions allow students to be removed from extracurricular organizations, leadership posts, sports teams, and even be expelled simply for being members of the LGBTQ community,” reads the press release.

The previous White House rescinded guidance to public schools that said Title IX requires them to allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity. The Biden administration last month said Title IX bans discrimination against LGBTQ students.

“Every student deserves to attend a college where their entire identity is accepted and celebrated,” said Clark. “Without transparency about a school’s beliefs, students may arrive on campus only to learn that their school has policies in place that infringe on their civil rights. I’m proud to introduce the Exposing Discrimination in Higher Education Act to ensure that students can apply to college with all the information necessary to set them up for success.”

Davids added “every student deserves an educational experience free from discrimination and harassment.”

“At the moment, we are letting down our LGBTQ+ community on college campuses, as more taxpayer-funded universities quietly skirt around civil rights law,” said the Kansas Democrat. “By reinstating the waiver requirement for universities who seek exemption from anti-discrimination protections, we are not only protecting LGBTQ+ students from unfair treatment, but we are reminding them that their experience is visible and valuable.”

Continue Reading

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts