Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

EQCA to fight SB 48 referendum


Roland Palencia (Photo: Lydia Gonzales)
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Hoping to prevent a referendum repealing the state's new Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act from reaching the ballot, Equality California and about 40 other organizations will join forces to mount a decline to sign campaign, officials said Wednesday, July 27.

"We are definitely doing a decline to sign campaign, getting ready to launch a website, and will be doing a social media decline to sign campaign as well," EQCA communications director Rebekah Orr told the Bay Area Reporter.

On Monday, opponents of the FAIR Act, or SB 48, were given the go-ahead by the secretary of state's office to begin collecting signatures in their effort to place a referendum on the 2012 ballot to overturn the law.

The group pushing for the referendum,, has until October 12, less than 90 days, to collect 504,760 valid signatures.

SB 48 was authored by openly gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). It amends the state Education Code to require that schools teach about LGBT people's role in – and contributions to – the economic, political, and social development of California and the U.S. It also prohibits classroom instruction and school-sponsored activities that promote a discriminatory bias on the basis of sexual orientation, and requires that social-sciences textbooks and other social-sciences instructional material used in California adhere to the bill's requirements.

The bill passed out of the legislature July 5. Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed the bill July 14. The next day, Paulo Sibaja, director of communications and legislation at the Capitol Resource Institute, filed paperwork with the attorney general's office to begin the referendum process.

"Governor Brown refused to listen to the calls of pro-family voters asking him to veto SB 48," stated Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute and its affiliated Capitol Resource Family Impact.

LGBT organizations wasted no time alerting their members about the signature gathering effort.

Roland Palencia, executive director of Equality California, sent an email alert to about 400,000 people Tuesday.

"They plan to run a multi-million dollar signature-gathering effort to make sure they succeed," Palencia said in his email, referring to "We need your immediate support."

The alert asks for contributions to reach a $50,000 immediate goal, volunteers to work with coalition partners, and to report signature gatherers.

Orr said Tuesday that about 40 organizations were on a conference call to talk that day about what a potential campaign might look like. Palencia was on the call, she added.

"It was the first of many, many discussions," Orr said, adding that groups representing communities of color, faith, disabilities, and youth and families were on the call.

Orr said that the discussions included various roles for the groups, but that ultimately, EQCA will take a leadership position on any campaign.

The coalition's first priority is to keep the measure from reaching the ballot, Orr said Tuesday, so discussions included what a decline to sign campaign might look like.

Palencia, in an interview with the B.A.R. last week, said the organization had already begun talks with campaign consultants.

"We're talking to political consultants as we speak," he said.

EQCA is the only statewide LGBT lobbying organization in California, and it has more infrastructure and a political action committee so that it can engage in political work. Many smaller nonprofits don't have that capability.

Palencia and Orr both told the B.A.R. in the interview last week that they are mindful of the pitfalls EQCA encountered after the No on 8 campaign, in which EQCA played a leading role. One of Palencia's goals is to build more coalitions in the state between LGBTs and allied groups.

"We have already built coalitions," Palencia said, explaining that EQCA worked with GSA Network on SB 48.

Orr echoed that Tuesday, saying EQCA is ready to defend the bill.

"I understand it feels a little nebulous at the moment," she said, "but just because we're not making announcements doesn't mean there are not substantive conversations taking place and making sure it's collaborative."

For more information on EQCA's efforts, visit

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