The nonprofit Equality California (EQCA) is the country’s largest statewide organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ civil rights. Representing 900,000 members, the nonprofit is California’s only organization working at the local and state levels, as well as on a national scale with a mission of creating a world that is healthy and equal for all LGBTQ+ people.
The organization was first founded as the California Alliance for Pride and Equality in 1999 and transitioned to its current name in 2003. The following year, the nonprofit merged with Marriage Equality California and became the nation’s largest organization of its kind. EQCA championed marriage equality, first suing the state of California and winning marriage rights, then fighting against Proposition 8 (which took away those rights) until marriage equality was restored.
EQCA also worked to pass civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and helped pro-equality candidates gain office. The nonprofit manages 11 programs currently working on behalf of their mission. The Safe and Supportive Schools program focuses on the LGBTQ+ experience in schools. After passing legislation to make schools safer for the LGBTQ+ community, the nonprofit turned its focus to the schools to ensure that laws were being implemented effectively. EQCA gathers information through Safe and Supportive Schools Report Cards, which highlight successes and challenges that schools experience when executing LGBTQ+ inclusive programming.
EQCA also manages LGBTQ+ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training, which works with direct service providers, such as health care professionals and those working with unsheltered populations, to help them understand the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ community. This training provides instruction on cultural sensitivity and educates on issues that affect the community, as well as on how to create a welcoming environment. To date, the program has trained nearly 3,000 service providers in California, Nevada, and Arizona.
To help end the stigma suffered by individuals living with HIV, EQCA manages HIV Is Not a Crime, which partners with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation to support work to modernize outdated and discriminatory laws. The nonprofit was one of the founding members of Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform and has successfully updated the state’s HIV criminal laws. This program also educates legislators on issues impacting people living with HIV.
Through a partnership with Comcast, EQCA offers the Equality California Institute Comcast Fellowship, which leads a 4-week annual class in Sacramento for legislative fellows to learn about the policymaking process and meet the state’s top LGBTQ+ leaders. The organization identifies six undergraduates and places them in fellowships with pro-equality legislators. Fellows gain leadership skills, make valuable connections, and learn how advocacy and public service can lead to substantial change.
Additionally, EQCA leads a full-day conference each year in Sacramento or Los Angeles called Fair Share for Equality. Through this event, hundreds of LGBTQ+ leaders, policymakers, and elected officials work to set aside a fair share of budgetary resources on behalf of LGBTQ+ communities. In addition, the event’s findings and recommendations are compiled into a report that is given to the governor’s office and important members of the legislature.
These are just some of the many important programs managed and administered by Equality California. The organization relies on generous contributions of time and money. To learn how you can help, visit www.eqca.org.