Monday evening, Equality California (EQCA) hosted their 2012 Equality Awards reception at the California Dental Association’s banquet room, just a block away from the State Capitol in Sacramento.
San Francisco based, EQCA is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California. They have partnered with legislators and advocates to sponsor more than 80 pro-equality bills providing the LGBT community with the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation.
Each year, the organization bestows three awards to persons who most exemplify the work EQCA does by improving the lives of LGBT Californians, creating a strong California, and defending LGBT rights and protections. This year the three awards went to five people.
The first award, EQCA Leadership Award, was presented to California State Senator Christine Kehoe. Sen. Kehoe represents the 39th Senate District which includes much of San Diego, Del Mar and Lemon Grove.
During her time in the Senate, Kehoe’s focus has been on the environment and LGBT issues. In 2002 Sen. Kehoe was a founding member of the California LGBT Legislative Caucus, making California the first state in the country to recognize an official caucus of openly-LGBT legislators.
The EQCA’s Equality Lifetime Achievement Award went to noted American labor leader and civil rights activist who, along with César Chávez, co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farmworkers Union, Dolores Huerta.
Huerta has received numerous awards for her community service and advocacy for workers’, immigrants’, and woman’s rights including the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award and the US Presidential Eleanor D. Roosevelt Human Rights Award.
It is her decades-long strong advocacy for LGBT civil and marriage rights that EQCA awarded Huerta this achievement award for equality. Back in the 70’s she was a personal friend of Harvey Milk and they mutually supported each other’s struggle.
In her acceptance speech, Huerta said that she hopes, “our community, the LGBT community continues to (work together) in cooperation and in coalition with other organizations”. Huerta continued, “We really can’t fight these fights by ourselves whether it is a fight for immigration or a woman’s right to choose. We all have to learn to work together.”
The last award, Community Advocate Award, was actually given to three people who had banded together last year to work as the Sacramento Redistricting Coalition that successfully lobbied to redraw political boundaries to create gay-friendly districts for both the Sacramento City Council and County Board of Supervisors.
Dr. Darrick Lawson, Steve Hansen, and Rosanna Herber worked countless hours on the new plan that will allow citizens in that district to elect an LGBT person in both the city and the county. While EQCA provided the trio with demographic data, Lawson, Hansen, and Herber tapped into several other organizations and individuals to come up with a plan to literally put the LGBT community “on the map”.
The 2012 EQCA Equality Awards was attended by over 150 supporters including corporate sponsors and representatives of other organizations such as Sacramento Stonewall Democrats, Sacramento Rainbow Chamber, Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center and Equality Action NOW. Legislative representatives also attended including members of the LGBT Legislative Caucus.
By Ken Pierce