In my extensive feature story for Frontiers magazine on what's happening with initiatives to repeal SB 48, the California FAIR Education Act, I wrote about some of the developments Equality California board presidents Clarissa Filgioun and Cathy Schwamberger formally announced Thursday. Specifically, I noted the excellent decision to bring back Alice Kessler, the former Government Relations Director who is highly regarded by legislators and can work on EQCA's legislative package for next year and help strategize a response to the crafty and potentially dangerous effort to repeal SB 48. Joining her is Amy Simon, whose professional, incredibly detailed opinion research will be invaluable in formulating a response, as well.
Alice Kessler (Photo from Equality California)
What I had not realized until I saw EQCA's press release is that the entire "Save EQCA" effort seems to be publicly lead by women. To be sure, there are some men in the background - Matt Foreman from the Haas Jr. Fund, for instance, is responsible for granting money to EQCA for their "Breakthrough Conversations" project and bringing longtime LGBT activist Toni Broaddus on board to direct that. And former Basic Rights Oregon executive director Roey Thorpe is going to consult with the board as they finally start looking for an interim executive director.
Add these respected women to the board co-presidents Clarissa Filgioun and Cathy Schwamberger, consultants Joan Garry and Julie Anderson, and Communications Director Rebekah Orr who has also been offering strategic advice - and you've got a foster of feisty, smart professionals who may not only cooperatively stabilize the transitioning organization but ironically take EQCA in another new direction.
This is not unprecedented. Women stepped up when gay men in leadership positions were dying of AIDS in the late 1980s. This time the pall under which they are working is not constant death but the national and statewide economic crisis. It will be interesting to see what kind of an organization these women create.
Here's the EQCA press release:
As many of you know, 2011 has been a year of change, challenges and opportunities for Equality California. We have seized this moment to take stock, to look at the big picture and to ensure that Equality California is well-positioned to continue to lead the LGBT equality movement in California.
In our last message, we shared with you that we had engaged long-time LGBT advocate and former GLAAD Executive Director Joan Garry to lead our transition efforts. And at that time, we promised to keep you posted on our progress.
Since then, we've grown our field staff to 32 and this talented team has been hitting the streets and the phones every day to ready ourselves for a possible campaign to protect the FAIR Education Act and to identify 25,000 new supporters of marriage equality. Their work and the passion and commitment they demonstrate remind us that change happens one conversation at a time.
We are also pleased to share some new developments with you. We are excited about them and hope you will be too.
- Former EQCA Government Relations Director Alice Kessler, is bringing her passion, knowledge and history back to EQCA together with the full assets and support of her firm-DiMare VanVleck and Brown. As part of our transition team, Alice and the firm will lead our legislative work and assist with the activities of our political action committees-including our efforts to protect the FAIR Education Act;
- Toni Broaddus, a veteran LGBT civil rights leader who served as the Executive Director of the Equality Federation from 2005-2010 and once served as program director at EQCA, has agreed to lead Equality California Institute's new public education project, The Breakthrough Conversation. This program, thanks to a generous grant from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, focuses on research, message development and trainings across a broad coalition of LGBT organizations around the state. The Breakthrough Conversation project will be critical in enabling EQCA and the LGBT movement to identify, understand, and then break through the emotional and psychological barriers to full LGBT equality.
- This month, Amy Simon-one of the foremost leaders in LGBT public opinion research-will begin comprehensive and groundbreaking polling and focus groups that will form the foundation of the messaging, training and public persuasion efforts related to The Breakthrough Conversation, and perform other public opinion research that will help us to fight back against attacks on the FAIR Education Act;
- And, Roey Thorpe, will provide support to the board in our search for an interim executive director in her capacity as Director of Strategic Projects for the Equality Federation (of which EQCA is a member.) An activist for social justice for over 25 years, Roey has served as the executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon and has worked as a field organizer for Empire State Pride Agenda.
Equality California and the Equality California Institute are incredibly fortunate to benefit from the wisdom, experience and savvy of this first-rate team.
And, we're fortunate to have your ongoing support, engagement and commitment as we continue to strengthen EQCA in the fight for full and lasting equality for LGBT people in California.
Clarissa Filgioun, President - Equality California
Cathy Schwamberger, President - Equality California Institute
(Crossposted at LGBT POV)