December 3, 2010
San Francisco – Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors today announced that he will step down from his position on March 31, 2011, at the conclusion of his ninth year with the organization. Kors has served as Equality California’s executive director since April 1, 2002. Kors’ decision was communicated to the organization’s Board of Directors this morning as they prepare for their final 2010 board meeting and 2011 planning discussions at their annual retreat starting tomorrow.
“It has been a true honor and privilege to serve as Executive Director of Equality California and to work with California’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” Kors said. “I am incredibly grateful to the elected officials, coalition partners, dedicated staff, board and especially to our members who have done so much to advance equality here in California. I am committed to working with the Board to ensure a smooth transition so that the organization can continue to thrive and achieve our mission.
“We have made unprecedented progress over the past nine years. Yet, there is still much work ahead in order to achieve full equality for our community. I’m glad that Equality California is on solid financial footing as I prepare to depart and that we are adding additional staff in Sacramento to take advantage of the expanded opportunities the new administration presents us. As we move forward, Equality California today is without question closer to achieving our goals, especially with the election of a governor and attorney general who are true champions for our community,” Kors said.
“I want to personally extend my gratitude to Equality California and to Geoff Kors who has done so much to advance equality and justice in our state and who was instrumental in mobilizing LGBT Californians to support my candidacy for governor,” said Governor-elect Jerry Brown. “When I take office, I look forward to continuing my partnership with Equality California as I work to meet the many challenges our state faces.”
Under Kors’ leadership at Equality California, California has been dramatically transformed into a state with the most sweeping and substantive rights and protections for LGBT community members in the nation. Equality California, working in partnership with the LGBT legislative caucus, allied legislators and coalition partners has helped enact 71 pieces of pro-LGBT legislation, more than any other organization of its kind in the country.
“I thank Equality California for its ardent support and Geoff Kors who is an outstanding leader and who will be greatly missed,” said Kamala Harris, who recently won a closely contested race for attorney general. “As our state’s next attorney general, I am looking forward to working with Equality California to ensure that every Californian is treated with dignity and equality under the law.”
During Kors’ tenure, California became the first state in the nation to pass comprehensive domestic partnership legislation without court order in 2003 and the first in the nation to pass marriage legislation for same-sex couples in 2005 and 2007 when the state legislature twice passed bills that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry. Kors also led the successful fight to pass the broadest transgender protections in the nation and make California the only state in the country to prohibit insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, requiring insurance equality for the entire LGBT community. Equality California also sponsored numerous ground breaking bills protecting LGBT youth and seniors.
In addition, Equality California was the sole organizational plaintiff in the In Re: Marriages case in which the California Supreme Court legalized marriage for same-sex couples in 2008.
“Speaking for our board of directors, Equality California is deeply grateful to Geoff for his years of steadfast service to the LGBT community and to our mission,” said Cary Davidson, Equality California Board Chair. “Geoff took the organization from infancy to maturity with his trailblazing leadership and tireless commitment, which have helped make California a leader in the fight for LGBT equality in America. We know his shoes are tough to fill.”
Davidson and Equality California Institute Board Chair Cathy Schwamberger also reported that beginning this weekend the board will focus on its forthcoming search for a successor. Kors has not yet decided on his next career opportunity. Instead, he plans to work on helping staff and board members to achieve a smooth and successful transition over the next several months.
“I have truly enjoyed working with Geoff both in San Francisco and in Sacramento to advance LGBT equality,” said Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). “His razor-sharp strategy skills and sheer commitment to civil rights have often helped propel legislation forward in some of the toughest debates and battles we have waged together. He will be missed.”
Equality California experienced significant growth during Kors’ tenure. When Kors joined Equality California in 2002, there were just two staffers without a single office, just 50,000 members and a minimal budget. The organization now has offices across the state and 20 staff members working for equality. Membership has grown to more than 700,000 today, and in 2010, Equality California has raised $6 million so far with more than $1.5 million in net assets.
The boards of Equality California and Equality California Institute have grown to 50 members, including such notable leaders as Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America; Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights; Katherine Spillar, the Executive Vice President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and Feminist Majority and Stuart Milk, longtime LGBT advocate and nephew of Harvey Milk.
Kors also oversaw the creation and growing influence of Equality California Political Action Committee, which advocates for candidates who support full equality for LGBT Californians. In the November elections, Equality California endorsed candidates swept the polls, including candidates for governor and attorney general, and the California LGBT Caucus now boasts the highest number of openly LGBT elected officials in the history of our state and our nation. Prior to taking the helm of Equality California, Kors was a partner in a California civil rights law firm.
Kors served on the Executive Board of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club where he originated the idea for and helped orchestrate passage of San Francisco’s landmark Equal Benefits Ordinance, which is credited with a dramatic shift in the number of companies that offer equal benefits for employees in same-sex relationships. Kors has served as director of both the Gay and Lesbian Rights Project and the AIDS and Civil Liberties Project of the Roger Baldwin Foundation of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois.