Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

EQCA honors trailblazers and looks to future


National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director and Equality California Institute board member Shannon Minter presents Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski with the Equality and Justice Award. Photo: Matt Baume
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Equality California held its annual Equality Awards gala at San Francisco City Hall Saturday, February 12, honoring state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski. But this year, much of the conversation was devoted to Executive Director Geoff Kors's announcement that he will step down from his position at the end of March.

"It's been fun," Kors told the Bay Area Reporter. "I still love what I do."

Reflecting on his nine years at EQCA, Kors said that one of the highlights was joining with partner communities, such as the United Farm Workers. After EQCA joined a boycott of Gallo vineyards in 2003, the organization discovered an ally for equality in Christine Chavez, granddaughter of farm workers union co-founder Cesar Chavez.

Kors also fondly recalled the 2004 "Winter of Love" marriages – the seventh anniversary of which was Saturday – and the first Equality Awards in City Hall in 2005.

"The year after marriages happened, we were here," he said. "That was a magical night."

This year's honorees had been EQCA's top election priorities in 2010. The organization devoted considerable effort to the successful election of the nation's first transgender judge and an attorney general who would defend marriage equality.

"They were the core of my field operation at one point," said Kolakowski, the wife of B.A.R. news editor Cynthia Laird. "Without Equality California, I could not have won this election."

So far, Kolakowski loves her new job. "Everybody's been friendly, supportive, and welcoming," she said. "I've never been happier."

Harris was unable to attend the ceremony, but her award was accepted by lesbian pioneer Phyllis Lyon, who told the B.A.R. that she was glad to see a surge in activism in recent years.

"Years ago, people were afraid to come out," she said. "There's a lot more going on now."

Lyon also expressed concern about the financial woes and near-closure of Lyon-Martin Health Services, which was named for her and her late wife Del Martin. "It would be an awful loss to the city if anything happened to Lyon-Martin," she said. "And not just because they named it for us. It's been incredibly helpful to so many people."

In addition to the awards for Kolakowski and Harris, state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) presented Kors with a proclamation of recognition from the seven members of the state' LGBT Legislative Caucus.

The sold-out event was attended by more than 600 people and raised just over $350,000, officials estimated.

Outgoing Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors gives the keynote address at Saturday's gala. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The search for Kors's replacement is proceeding rapidly, according to EQCA board member Cary Davidson. Executive search firm Morris and Berger is in talks with a broad range of stakeholders, he said, and they welcome suggestions and resumes.

But there are unlikely to be any public meetings regarding the search process. "I'm not sure that we gain anything through public meetings," Davidson said. "So much is done through professionals and conversations with candidates."

Morris and Berger expects to select a new executive director candidate for EQCA by May.

For his part, Kors remains tight-lipped regarding his post-EQCA plans. "I'm going to take a little break, and then figure out what's next," he said, adding that he plans to travel and vacation with friends.

Kors expects to remain in California, and to continue working closely with advocates for equality. "I'll always stay involved," he said.

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