As they would later learn from a short video, the familiar = sign stacked over a reverse 7, graphically represents the shape of the state of California, with the phrase “For All.” Supporters feel it is a fitting recognition of the fact that LGBTQ people are deserving of social justice, as a part of every racial, ethnic, and religious community. The new tagline “Until the work is done” emphasizes the lack of basic civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in most states and at the federal level.
Co-chairs Geoff Kors and James Williamson, Jackie Lopez and Elizabeth Romerowelcomed the crowd, thanking them for their support.
In recognition of the one-year anniversary of the death of two Palm Springs police officers killed in the line of duty, they invited everyone to attend a memorial of their lives the next day, as police chief Brian Reyesand fire chief J. Kevin Nalder received thunderous applause.
The audience continued to show their gratitude for the more than 30 elected officials present that evening, including U.S. Congressional representatives Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-CA 36,) Mark Takano (D-CA 41,) and Maxine Waters D-CA 43.) The co-chairs also gave shout-outs to current candidates for Palm Springs City Council, Lisa Middletonand Christy Holstege.
Congressman Ruiz introduced EQCA executive director Rick Zbur who spoke of the importance of continuing the organization’s work throughout the country, particularly given the current presidential administration’s policies.
A bright spot for the future of tolerance came when Raymond Cree Middle School received the Equality for All Award, accepted by principal Bernie Marez, followed by the school’s students singing “Step One” from “Kinky Boots” with the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus.
As a part of accepting the evening’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Ginny Foat talked of her work and friendship with and deep admiration for Congresswoman Maxine Waters. In addition to helping organize groundbreaking efforts advancing the civil rights of gays, women, and other minorities, Foat was also a leader in HIV care as a part of her lengthy service career. Foat was followed by California Assembly member Evan Low who introduced a video about HIV Criminalization Reform that significantly advanced California’s HIV laws.
Introduced by its namesake, Waters received the Geoff Kors Leadership Award, proclaiming “No one is equal until we’re all equal. Let’s make sure America lives up to its promise!” Having become something of a social media hero to younger “digital natives,” Waters played off her admonition to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, as she urged the crowd to “Reclaim your time!”
Each year, the Equality Awards are held in five different California cities – Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs – as a means of both honoring inspirational leaders and outstanding allied organizations, as well as to raise necessary funding to continue EQCA’s work in each location. The 2017 Palm Springs Equality Awards clearly contributed its share with nearly $300,000 in sponsorship and ticket sales, with another $53,000 in text-to-give contributions throughout the evening. Presenting sponsors included Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Lyft, Harold Matzner, and Fred Noble.
With almost 800,000 members, Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights organization.
EQCA strives to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. For more information or to support the work, visit eqca.org.