After nine years at the state's largest LGBT advocacy and lobbying organization, Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors announced Friday morning that he will step down from his position on March 31, 2011. Kors will stay with EQCA until then to help the board select his replacement and "to ensure an orderly transition" to the next executive director.
"For me, after nine years," Kors told Frontiers magazine, "it seems like a good time to leave since we just had our most successful legislative session in the history not just of Equality California but of any LGBT group in the nation--having passed 25 pieces of legislation through the legislature in the 2009-2010 session."
Equality California has grown from a six-figure debt in 2002 (in its previous incarnation as CAPE) to a net asset of $1.5 million today; from a staff of two to a staff of 20; a board of nine members to over 50; and the second largest number of members and donors of any LGBT organization in the nation. "We're in a really strong position today," Kors said.
Kors also noted that EQCA worked hard to get pro-equality candidates elected--and for the first time in history, every statewide elected official supports full equality for LGBT people. Among the politicians grateful for EQCA's help is the next governor of California.
"I want to personally extend my gratitude to Equality California and to Geoff Kors who has done so much to advance equality and justice in our state and who was instrumental in mobilizing LGBT Californians to support my candidacy for governor," said Governor-elect Jerry Brown in a statement. "When I take office, I look forward to continuing my partnership with Equality California as I work to meet the many challenges our state faces."
Under Kors' leadership, Equality California, working in partnership with the LGBT legislative caucus, allied legislators and coalition partners, enacted more than 70 pieces of pro-LGBT legislation--more than any similar advocacy organization in the country.
California passed groundbreaking legislation during Kors' tenure, from the first comprehensive domestic partnership legislation passed without court order in 2003 to the first marriage equality bills in 2005 and 2007--both vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Kors also successfully fought to pass the broadest transgender protections in the nation and legislation making California the only state in the country to prohibit insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as legislation to protect LGBT youth and seniors.
"Speaking for our board of directors, Equality California is deeply grateful to Geoff for his years of steadfast service to the LGBT community and to our mission," said Cary Davidson, Equality California Board Chair. "Geoff took the organization from infancy to maturity with his trailblazing leadership and tireless commitment, which have helped make California a leader in the fight for LGBT equality in America. We know his shoes are tough to fill."
(This is cross-posted from a story I broke on Frontiers' website. I am working on an in-depth story to place Kors into historical context.)