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  Equality California to Celebrate Local Civil Rights Champions at Palm Springs Equality Awards
October 13, 2016 at 5:55 pm

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Palm Springs – Equality California will honor outgoing U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, transgender pioneer Lisa Middleton and, posthumously, Equality California’s former Palm Springs Field Manager George Zander for their leadership in the fight to advance LGBT civil rights and social justice at its annual Palm Springs Equality Awards, Saturday, October 15, 2016.

Sen. Barbara Boxer will receive this year’s Vanguard Leadership Award. She is retiring from the U.S. Senate at the end of her current term. She has been a steadfast LGBT ally since she was first elected to Congress in 1982, showing the courage to support pro-equality legislation long before it was politically safe or expedient to do so. She led the fight in the U.S. Senate against “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” that barred openly LGBT servicemembers from serving in the military. In 1996, she was one of only 14 senators to vote against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, that defined marriage for federal purposes as only the union of one man and one woman. In 2004 and again in 2006, she strongly opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, calling it a “wedge issue” designed to “divert attention from [the George W. Bush] Administration’s abysmal record on jobs, health care, education, and the environment.” Boxer currently lives in Rancho Mirage.

“Senator Boxer has been a champion for the LGBT community since before she was elected to Congress,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “Her courage and her refusal to allow LGBT people to be less than equal has made Senator Boxer a true hero and ally.”

Lisa Middleton is this year’s recipient of the State Farm Good Neighbor Award. She is a member of the board of Equality California Institute as well as the Palm Springs Planning Commission, Organized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs, the LGBT Community Center of the Desert and the Desert Horticulture Society. In 2014, she also served as interim executive director of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. She is a tireless builder of community, not only through her work to improve quality of life for all Palm Springs residents and to educate voters and make her city more environmentally sustainable, but also within the LGBT community itself. Her visibility as an activist and public official in both the LGBT and broader communities has made her a role model for transgender people and created awareness of the issues they face.

“Lisa is an unstoppable force for more liveable neighborhoods, a more responsive city government and a better community for everyone in Palm Springs,” said Zbur. “What’s more, simply by being open about who she is and her life, Lisa has done much to increase public awareness of and support for transgender people. We are thrilled to honor someone who has made such a difference in the lives of the Desert’s LGBT and broader community.”

George Zander will receive the inaugural award in his name, the George Zander Activist Award. Zander, Equality California’s Inland Empire regional field manager, died last year, a month after he and his husband were brutally beaten leaving a Palm Springs nightclub. Zander was a Desert resident for more than two decades and was a veteran political activist and organizer. He was a founding member and longtime chair of the Desert Stonewall Democrats and helped lead the King County Democratic Party while living in Seattle. He was a constant, energetic presence in the Desert’s LGBT community and was especially passionate about mentoring and helping LGBT youth and the transgender community. He was one of the most energetic LGBT leaders in Palm Springs and dedicated his career to improving the lives of LGBT people and the community he loved. He is survived by his husband, Chris Zander.

“There are people who help knit communities together through their energy, commitment and compassion,” said Zbur. “George was one of them. His is sorely missed, not only by those of us at Equality California, but by the entire Desert community – in fact, anyone who was lucky enough to cross paths with him. His work to improve the lives of LGBT people will live on in the work of Equality California, the Desert Stonewall Democrats, and the hearts of the people who loved and admired him.”

The Palm Springs Equality Awards will be hosted by openly transgender actor Scott Turner Schofield. In 2015, Schofield became the first openly transgender actor on daytime television, in a recurring role on CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful. He is also a thought leader in the transgender community. His TED Talk, “Ending Gender,” is used as a training tool for companies around the world.  His lectures and consults have changed hearts, minds, and policies in business, classrooms, the entertainment industry, and living rooms for over a decade. The event is co-chaired by Equality California Institute boardmember Jackie Thomas, her wife, DeeAnn McCoy, Equality California boardmember Pjetur Sigurdson and his husband, Dimitri Bakakos.

Each year, Equality California recognizes individuals and organizations who have made a significant impact on the movement to secure full and lasting equality for LGBT people at its annual Equality Awards — a series of formal events held in San Francisco, San Diego, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

This year’s Palm Springs Equality Awards will take place on Saturday, October 15 at the Riviera Palm Springs, located at 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive. Individual tickets are $250 and up, with event sponsorships opportunities beginning at $3,500.

The 2016 Equality Awards are sponsored by AT&T, The Coca-Cola Foundation, Gilead, La Crema, PG&E, Prophet, Sempra Energy, Southwest Airlines, and State Farm Insurance. For more information about the Equality Awards, visit www.eqcaawards.com. For tickets or sponsorship information, contact Scott Gizicki at scott@eqca.org or by calling 323-848-9801.

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Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization dedicated to creating a fair and just society. Our mission is to achieve and maintain full and lasting equality, acceptance and social justice for all people in our diverse LGBT communities, inside and outside of California. Our mission includes advancing the health and well-being of LGBT Californians through direct healthcare service advocacy and education. Through electoral, advocacy, education and mobilization programs, we strive to create a broad and diverse alliance of LGBT people, educators, government officials, communities of color and faith, labor, business, and social justice communities to achieve our goals. www.eqca.org


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