Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Equality California

Today being National Coming Out Day, it seems appropriate that the charity of the day be Equality California. Over the past few years, some amazing work has been taking place in California regarding equal treatment under the law for lesbians and gay men. The recent act of the California legislature to be the first in the nation to voluntarily enact same-sex marriage was due in large part to the work of Equality California (EQCA). They have worked closely with a number of key allies in the legislature, at the same time as "rallying the base", and forging key alliances with other groups. (Their work with the United Farm Workers secured some key endorsements for the same-sex marriage bill that may have made the difference in its passage.) Despite the veto by Governor Schwarzenegger of the same-sex marriage bill, there were a half-dozen other bills on EQCA's agenda, several of which were signed into law. These included the granting to domestic partners the same property tax exemption for transfer on the death of a partner, state pension coverage for domestic partners of state employees, and the addition of sexual orientation to the list of classes protected against non-discrimination in California's Unruh Act, the key non-discrimination protection statute.

EQCA has been skillful in lobbying and politicking, and creative in their actions. Their recent "twelve days of equality" last-ditch effort to get the Governor to change his mind about a veto featured a different strategy and constituency each day. One day, they highlighted lesbian and gay families, and delivered 40,000 postcards to the governor written by children of same-sex parents. Another day, they highlighted lesbian and gay veterans, with a letter campaign from those who have served in our nation's military. Yet another day, they highlighted the support of this bill from church leaders across the state. Although this particular effort did not succeed in its immediate goal, this activity and others like it have strengthened the foundation for the future by raising awareness and shifting opinion at large, and moving the goal posts of the debate. (Remember when a simple domestic partner registry was radical? Today it's the conservative option.)

In my book, EQCA gets an A+ for organizational effectiveness. I don't have numbers to offer on their efficiency and capacity at this time. Their website does not contain financial statements, and though I have found the IRS 990 for Equality California Institute, I believe that that represents only a portion of the overall organization. (I have requested this information by email, and will update based on what I receive.) EQCA itself is a 501(c)4 political organization, not a 501(c)3 charitable organization, so donations to it are not tax deductible. However, I consider the promotion of social justice through political means as a legitimate philanthropic purpose, and would thus consider contributions to organizations like EQCA to be an appropriate element in my family's own philanthropic program.

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