The LGBTQ+ community has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn. In May 2020, Equality California Institute launched the COVID-19 LGBTQ+ Help Center as an online directory of health, financial and social resources specifically curated for the LGBTQ+ community. The COVID-19 LGBTQ+ Help Line (323-448-0126) is a phone number for members of the LGBTQ+ community to call for personalized assistance finding the resources they need. State and federal agencies don’t always speak directly to marginalized communities like ours or many of the diverse communities to which LGBTQ+ people belong. As a trusted messenger, we're working to connect LGBTQ+ people with the best services and resources for members of our community.
Equality California Institute’s Safe and Supportive Schools Report Card shines a light on some of the successes and challenges that California unified school districts said they are experiencing when implementing LGBTQ+ inclusive programs and policies. The data informing the 2019 Report Card was gathered through Equality California Institute’s inaugural Safe and Supportive Schools Survey, which was created with the support of the law firm Latham & Watkins, LLP and an advisory board of educators and advocates and distributed to all 343 unified school districts throughout the state. The next Safe and Supportive Schools Survey will be sent to unified school districts throughout the state in Fall 2021.
For two decades, Equality California has worked to sponsor and pass pro-equality state legislation in Sacramento. Many of the bills that Equality California has successfully sponsored and passed into law include protections for LGBTQ+ students and require programs aimed at making California schools safer and more supportive. But our work does not end at the Capitol. Laws must be implemented in order to be effective, and we must meet more than the basic legal requirements to achieve schools that are safe and supportive and that give every student — regardless of background, zip code, sexual orientation or gender identity — a shot at success.
Equality California Institute's LGBTQ+ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training is a unique in-person and/or virtual training program designed to empower direct service providers — including healthcare professionals and homeless service providers — to understand the unique needs of LGBTQ+ people and provide respectful and culturally sensitive care to the LGBTQ+ community. Our curriculum includes basic LGBTQ+ terminology, data on issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community, the significance of an intersectional approach and how to create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ people, among other relevant topics. To date, we have delivered training to nearly 3,000 service providers across California, Nevada and Arizona.
Equality California Institute partnered with AmeriCorps and the Fresno Unified School District to launch a unique mentorship program designed to offer support to LGBTQ+ students in Fall 2020. Equality California Mentorship Corps builds on the civil rights organization’s Safe and Supportive Schools initiative by deploying trained, culturally competent mentors to California's third largest school district. By providing additional support to students, assisting teachers, counselors and other professionals through a combination of virtual in-class and after-school programs, Equality California Mentorship Corps members provides Fresno Unified students with the support they may need to improve their social and emotional well-being which can significantly reduce depression and improve academic performance and grades.
Equality California is committed to ending stigma against people living with HIV by educating legislators and mobilizing the LGBTQ+ community, and those who are disproportionately impacted by HIV. In partnership with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, we work to support state-based HIV and LGBTQ+ organizations across the country in their work to modernize outdated, ineffective and discriminatory laws that criminalize people living with HIV.
In 2016, Equality California was one of the founding members of Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform, a broad coalition of people living with HIV, community activists, and healthcare and civil rights organizations that successfully worked with California Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to modernize California's HIV criminal laws.
For decades, Big Tobacco has preyed on the LGBTQ+ community, targeting us through their marketing campaigns, getting us hooked on their deadly products. As a result LGBTQ+ people are more than TWICE as likely to smoke as our non-LGBTQ+ peers, and nearly 30,000 LGBTQ+ people across the country die every year of tobacco-related causes. The OUT Against Big Tobacco coalitions in Los Angeles County and the Central Valley are fighting for the institutional changes required to save our next generation from the predatory practices of Big Tobacco.
The LGBTQ+ Leadership Academy is an advanced program designed to identify LGBTQ+ leaders and to support them in becoming effective agents of change. Through a combination of ‘in person’ trainings, mentorship and opportunity identification, Equality California Institute conducted two LGBTQ+ Leadership Academies in 2019 — one for emerging LGBTQ+ leaders in Northern California and one for emerging LGBTQ+ leaders in Southern California.
Equality California Institute and the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus host an annual California LGBTQ+ Leadership Summit, bringing together nearly 200 openly LGBTQ+ elected and appointed officials from across California to discuss key policy priorities for the LGBTQ+ community and provide leadership and networking opportunities.
With the generous support of the Comcast Foundation, Equality California Institute hosts an annual class of summer legislative fellows in Sacramento where they spend four weeks experiencing the policymaking process firsthand and networking with the state capital’s top LGBTQ+ leaders. After a competitive application process, we select six undergraduate fellows from across California and coordinate their placements in the Sacramento offices of pro-equality legislators. Fellows gain first-hand experience working with legislators, policymakers and their staff and develop key leadership skills. Fellows also meet with prominent community members and LGBT leaders from diverse backgrounds to learn about how advocacy and public service can fuel meaningful policy change.
Fair Share for Equality brings together hundreds of LGBTQ+ community leaders, elected officials and policymakers from across California to address the widespread disparities that LGBTQ+ people face, and to work to allocate a “fair share” of budgetary resources to advance the health and well-being of California’s LGBTQ+ community. A full day conference is held each year in either Sacramento or Los Angeles. Critical findings and program recommendations from the event are compiled into a report that is delivered to the governor’s office, members of the legislature, and other federal, state, and local government officials.
In 2016, Equality California Institute launched the statewide education campaign, #TakeIt: I’m PrEP’d, to educate the LGBTQ community and healthcare providers on the availability and benefits of pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, the daily pill to prevent HIV, and other forms of HIV treatment and prevention.
Our campaign targets gay and bisexual men and transgender women, especially from communities of color, who are often most at risk for HIV. Equality California is committed to working to end the epidemic by getting to zero – zero transmission, zero HIV-related deaths and zero HIV stigma.