Tagline: Until the Work Is Done
Online Extra: Political Notes: CA LGBT group creates Equality Council
October 1, 2015 at 12:00 pm

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Matthew S. Bajko, The Bay Area Reporter

Equality California has formed its own Equality Council to advise it on policy needs and help it groom future board members.

The initial 18 people named to the new advisory body for the statewide LGBT advocacy group skews heavily toward residents of Los Angeles and southern California. But by the time the council holds its first meeting in May, EQCA leaders expect to appoint to it another eight to 10 people from the Bay Area and northern California.

“It is a statewide body, and frankly, we just did the initial recruiting in southern California,” said EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur, who is based out of Los Angeles. “Generally speaking, we want both geographic diversity as well as broad diversity in the various industries, groups, and communities that we both serve and both support with our work.”

Members of the council will be expected to attend yearly daylong strategy meetings in person as well as two meetings per quarter conducted by telephone conference. They will also be asked to raise $5,000 to $10,000 for EQCA, half of what members of the nonprofit’s fiduciary board members are asked to annually raise.

“The people we are seeking ultimately we would like to see come on to our board,” said Zbur. “Because our board is getting full, we were looking for other avenues for people to engage with us. This is something most or many mature organizations have: an advisory board that complements the fiduciary board.”

Three people named to the council September 23 are from northern California, two of whom hail from the Bay Area. Eric Andresen , 55, of Moraga, is the father of Ryan Andresen, whose bid to become an Eagle Scout in 2013 was cut short when he came out as gay to his troop leaders.

The elder Andresen now serves as national vice president for Scouts for Equality and worked with EQCA in 2013 on legislation dubbed the Youth Equality Act. Introduced by gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles), the law would have revoked the tax-exempt status of youth groups in California that discriminate and was prompted by the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policies at the time that banned out gay scouts and troop leaders. (The bill, however, never made it out of the Legislature.)

“I like what Equality California does and this was an opportunity to serve at a little higher level than just being a volunteer,” Andresen told the Bay Area Reporter on why he wanted to join the Equality Council. “I see them doing their part to represent the LGBT community that continues to need a voice. I am just proud to serve.”

Oakland resident Nicole Opper, 34, who identifies as queer and is married to Kristan Cassady, was also named to the Equality Council. A filmmaker and professor at both San Francisco State University and Stanford, Opper also works with teenagers through the Bay Area Video Coalition.

She has been working with EQCA to produce short documentary videos it has used internally for fundraising purposes.

“I would say as a documentary filmmaker, my films focus on LGBT issues and challenges facing young people in our community,” said Opper, whose currently working on a biopic about transgender opera singer class=st>Breanna Elyce Sinclaire and has a new media project about her and her wife adopting a child from the foster care system. “These are issues I see EQCA putting their efforts into this year. They supported bills strengthening parents and protecting trans foster youth.”

Added Opper, “I saw their mission turning to issues I am most passionate about.”

The other northern Californian named to the Equality Council last week was Aaron A. Avery of Sacramento, who is a partner at Hefner Law with particular expertise in business insolvency matters.

A number of attorneys in the Los Angeles area were also named to the advisory group, including West Hollywood criminal defense lawyer Mike Cavalluzzi; Englander, Knabe & Allen partner Tina Choi; Munger, Tolles & Olson partner Katherine M. Forster; and Susan Jerich, who represents public safety officers and unions for the law firm Silver, Hadden, Silver & Levine and previously served as a San Francisco assistant district attorney and assistant U.S. attorney.

Other council members include Creative Spirits Lab Founder and co-CEO Ivan Dominguez, who lives in West Hollywood; Palm Springs resident Ernie Santora , who is president of First Community Insurance Services; and California Coastal Commission member Mark Vargas of Los Angeles who is president and CEO of Favor International Brands.

A full list of Equality Council members can be found at http://www.eqca.org.

Anyone interested in serving on the advisory panel should call EQCA’s main office at (323) 848-9801.

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