John O'Connor, Executive Director of Equality California (EQCA), the largest statewide LGBT advocacy organization fighting for full equality for LGBT persons in California, appeared on my radio show to discuss LGBT equality after the victory for same-sex marriage in California, as well as important issues for LGBT equality in 2013 and the future.
John has been Executive Director of Equality California since January 2013. Before coming to EQCA, his experience included serving as Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, Program Director of the David Geffen Foundation, and National Director of the Gill Foundation, and working with former California First Lady Maria Shriver at the California Museum. O'Connor is a graduate of Georgetown University.
Together with its allies, Equality California has successfully sponsored more than 91 pieces of pro-LGBT legislation. The latest focus of Equality California is on improving the lives of LGBT Californians by fighting for LGBT youth, fighting against youth suicides, bullying, and anti-transgender harassment and discrimination, and protecting LGBT elders against abuse in nursing homes. The "T" in "LGBT" has sometimes been forgotten in the fight for full LGBT equality, and as an African-American transgender woman, I know how important equality is for my transgender brothers and sisters (especially the youth) trying to survive and live in the United States.
In 2013 Equality California has co-sponsored Assembly Bill 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act. According to the Transgender Law Center, another co-sponsor of the bill:
AB 1266 will ensure that California public schools understand their responsibility for the success and well-being of all students, including transgender students, and will allow transgender students to fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities in accordance with their gender identity. ...
California law already prohibits discrimination in education, but transgender students are often still unfairly excluded from physical education, athletic teams, and other school activities and facilities because of who they are. This exclusion negatively impacts students' ability to succeed in school and graduate with their class. For example, physical education classes help students develop healthy fitness habits and teach values like teamwork and fair competition - and P.E. credits are required, so students cannot graduate without them.
The Transgender Law Center further explains:
Co-authored by Senators Mark Leno and Ricardo Lara and Assemblymember Toni Atkins, the bill is backed by a coalition of leading organizations, including Transgender Law Center, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Gender Spectrum, Equality California, ACLU of California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, statewide teacher and parent organizations, and dozens of other organizations.
A.B. 1266 successfully passed both houses of the California state legislature and was just signed into law today, Aug. 12, by Gov. Jerry Brown. By signing this law, Gov. Brown continues his leadership on issues of equality and support for transgender students in their efforts to succeed in school and graduate on time.
With a brand-new physical location for Equality California, John O'Connor and his new management team (Deputy Director Jack Lorentz, Chief Administrative Officer Rikimah Glymph, Chief of Staff Tony Huang, and Communications Director Jesse Melgar) are marching forward to create a strong California and defending LGBT rights and protections, especially transgender rights.
In our interview, John O'Connor talks about his vision for the future of Equality California and the continued fight for full LGBT equality. He states that the mission is full equality for all LGBT persons and nothing less.
Equality California phone team warriors (photo by Josh Steichmann)
Listen to the live interview with John O'Connor:
To all my transgender brothers and sisters: Stay encouraged, and remember that there are a lot of people fighting for your equality and rights and protections. We are God's children, created by Him, and we deserve fairness and equality, just like any other American citizen, and nothing less.