by Seth Hemmelgarn
The LGBT advocacy group Equality California has hired its first national policy director.
Valerie Ploumpis, 54, will lead the statewide lobbying group’s legislative and administrative programs in Washington, D.C., where she lives. EQCA said she’ll help protect LGBT rights at the federal level, including through executive orders that protect the community from workplace discrimination, prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, and help many of the state’s estimated 250,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants stay in the country.
Ploumpis pointed to California’s influence in terms of its population and its economy, and its progressive leadership.
“I think in many ways the rest of the country is looking to California to lead” and help determine “what would be the best way forward on a number of issues.”
In an interview, Ploumpis said, “My top priority is gearing up on the Affordable Care Act,” and working with health, labor, civil rights, and other organizations to protect the national health care reform law “from the incoming Trump administration.”
An estimated 20 million people have gained health care coverage under the ACA, but Trump and congressional Republicans have vowed to dismantle it.
Ploumpis, a lesbian who started her new post January 1, said she’d also help try to safeguard Medicare, Social Security, and other programs.
EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a news release, “We’re thrilled that Valerie will move into this new role leading our federal advocacy efforts. Now more than ever, California is positioned as a bastion of LGBT civil rights and as a beacon of hope in Donald Trump’s America. Valerie will play an instrumental role as we fight attacks on the Affordable Care Act that so many LGBT people rely on, on undocumented immigrants and on the LGBT community in general.”
Around the time Zbur joined EQCA in 2014, he announced that the Los Angeles-based organization would like to expand its scope to include national issues.
Ploumpis said that along with health care, “The other big priority is watching to see who Mr. Trump nominates for his Cabinet” and as chief advisers.
Among the nominees EQCA and other groups are concerned about are Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), the attorney general nominee, who’s been criticized for anti-LGBT and racist views; and Congressman Tom Price (R-Georgia), who’s been nominated to be Health and Human Services secretary.
Ploumpis, who’s originally from California, is on the board of directors of OutRight Action International, a global LGBT civil rights group, and she also served as board co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund’s Campaign Board, which supports LGBT elected officials and political candidates.
Before joining EQCA, she was a principal at the political consulting firm Burnside & Associates, where she managed political and mobilization campaigns.