October 4, 2018 at 12:46 pm PDT | by Karen Ocamb
Equality California’s Rick Zbur: ‘We’re not going anywhere’

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur at Awards gala Sept. 29. (Blade photo by Karen Ocamb)

The Equality California Awards gala was different this year. It felt like a breather, a respite from the frantic political activism racing into next month’s critical midterm elections. The rallying cries by honoree Kathy Griffin and others were met more with excited agreement than angry urgency during the well-heeled community party. But family fun did not mean shirking responsibility: more than $140,000 was raised in less than 20 minutes during the floor call for contributions, helping Equality California exceed its overall goal for the night, EQCA Communications Director Samuel Garrett-Pate tells the Los Angeles Blade. 

Griffin, receiving the Ally Leadership Award presented by friend Lance Bass, called for action against the administration that “wants to roll the clock back. And guess who that affects? LGBTQ folks.” This is the time “for the so-called ‘others’—that’s everyone in this room according to our fake president—because we are now the majority—we make up most of America. And I couldn’t be prouder to live in a diverse America.”

Legend Jewel Thais-Williams, founder of Jewel’s Catch One nightclub (soon to receive an historic designation) was presented with the Community Leadership Award by another icon, her friend and singer Thelma Huston. “I think the most important thing for us to do now is to not assimilate and get caught up in broader society,” Thais-Williams said to a standing ovation. “It’s important for all of us to keep our gayness, our greatness alive.”

“Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown accepted the Equality Visibility Award with the reminder: “Your voice has power!”

Executive Director Rick Zbur said EQCA made history this year passing 14 bills and 3 resolutions—10 bills were signed into law; 2 bills (SB 990 and AB 2943) didn’t make it to Gov. Brown’s desk; and 2 bills (AB 2153 and AB 1247) were vetoed.

Zbur also noted that “since January 20th of last year, we’ve been in the fight of our lives” battling Trump. “But even in the face of adversity, I can proudly tell you this: we’re not going anywhere,” he said. While the folks in Washington look for ways to divide Americans, we’ve marched forward together — toward a state that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people.”

Zbur told of how his twin sons asked to go to a March For Our Lives rally with signs reading, “the NRA is Not Really American.” “As dark as these times may seem, I have never been more hopeful for our future. There is a generation of young leaders out there— some here in this room,” he said, “who are unjaded, uncorrupted and unwilling to wait for the rest of us to catch up. They’re marching in the streets—marching to the ballot box—ready to be the change they seek.”

Rep. Jimmy Gomez and California Controller Betty Yee were among the 1,200 in attendance at the JW Marriott on Sept. 29, as were Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, whose LGBT youth homeless bill (SB918 with out Sen. Scott Wiener) was signed by Gov. Brown and Assemblymember Laura Friedman, whose Property Tax Equity for Same Sex Partners (AB 2663, with out LA County Assessor Jeff Prang) was also signed into law.

Election Day is Nov. 6. Vote-by-mail ballots drop on Oct. 8; the deadline to register to vote is Oct. 22 (see the California Sec. of State’s website for information on how to register online).

The Los Angeles Blade asked Assemblymember Evan Low, chair of the California LGBT Legislative Caucus, about his pulling AB 2943, the so-called “Conversion Therapy is Consumer Fraud bill,” despite having the votes. He explained that some conservative religious leaders with whom he met surprisingly disavowed “conversion therapy.”

“We had the former president of the National Evangelical Association come out in opposition to ‘conversion therapy,’ thereby creating a greater environment for us to build bridges and work together to say, ‘Wow – this is actually a very narrow segment of the population that still practices this.’ Let us encourage and build that opportunity,” Low said.

Low noted that there is great mutual interest in the movie “Boy Erased,” which premieres next month. “This is about the basic fundamentals of equality and people and having those on the religious side of the community also create an environment for them to speak out in support of us, to say: ‘This not only doesn’t work but it’s not Christian and we will be with you and be strong to fight ‘conversion.’

“We should be celebrated and loved as who we are, as God made us,” Low said. “And that’s the kind of environment we want to continue to welcome people to best understand and we will do so in partnership with them to weed out those small segments of the population that continue to harm hard-working LGBT people all over the country.”

Meanwhile, “they are bringing a wider conversation to change politics at universities, religious institutions, and having that fundamental conversation. That is where we begin this effort,” he said.

“Progress takes time,” Low said, reacting to the anti-LGBT policy change at Azusa Pacific University, adding that he understands that the board is “fractured.” So how “to bring them to best understand that love wins,” he asks. “How do we create an environment where we can support those that are on our side and also help educate and show the type of love that we have with the others?”    

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