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

Political Notebook: EQCA ED O'Connor goes to Sacramento


EQCA Executive Director John O'Connor
(Photo: Courtesy EQCA)
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One of John O'Connor's first orders of business as the new executive director of Equality California is to build relationships with lawmakers in Sacramento and Governor Jerry Brown's administration.

Based in Los Angeles, O'Connor recently spent three days in the state capital pressing the flesh with Democratic legislators and gubernatorial appointees. He met with 22 individuals, including Nancy McFadden, Brown's executive secretary for legislation, appointments and policy, and Dana Williamson, the governor's senior adviser for cabinet and external affairs.

"They were very receptive in talking with us and hearing about what is happening with EQCA," O'Connor told the Bay Area Reporter January 10 during an editorial board meeting.

Asked if he had discussed particular appointments with Brown's staff, such as the six vacancies on the San Francisco Superior Court, O'Connor said the conversations were not that specific.

"We didn't have a particular agenda on appointments or anything," he said. "The discussion around appointments just was that they welcome discussion from our community and absolutely are open to hearing from us."

He did not meet with any Republican lawmakers during his visit but did sit down with a number of gay and lesbian Democratic legislators as EQCA gears up for the new legislative session. He also met with class=st>State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson class=st>, as education issues are a top concern for the statewide LGBT organization.

"The list of people for me to meet with is long," explained O'Connor.

Lawmakers told the B.A.R. that O'Connor had made a good first impression.

"I thought he was very committed and very, very energetic," said gay state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco).

Gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) described O'Connor as "very capable, passionate and engaged" in his new job.

"Certainly, for those of us here in Sacramento to have a respected ally can only be advantageous," added Leno.

Gay Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) also was impressed.

"He is someone who clearly understands, I think, several key things: the challenge of managing and running a nonprofit; two, our community; and three, the political environment," said Gordon, re-elected chair of the LGBT Legislative Caucus this month. "Moving forward, having the stability that having a permanent executive director brings is just good for the organization."

All three expect a main focus for O'Connor will be bolstering EQCA's budget.

"Obviously, a lot of what they do depends on that kind of support and fundraising," said Ammiano.

Assisting O'Connor in Sacramento will be Alice Kessler , who is remaining as EQCA's main lobbyist on a contract basis, and Jo Michael, a trans man hired on as EQCA's legislative associate based in the capital.

O'Connor has some experience with the statehouse. Former first lady Maria Shriver hired him to help establish and run the California Hall of Fame.

"I commuted from L.A. for six months. I worked myself into the ground but it was also a wonderful experience," recalled O'Connor, who worked with Kessler to push for Harvey Milk's induction in 2009.

Vicky Marlane street naming effort launches

An effort to rename a portion of Turk Street in honor of the late Vicky Marlane, a transgender drag performer, kicks off this weekend.

Marlane died in 2011 at the age of 76 due to AIDS-related complications. Born Donald Sterger in Crookston, Minnesota, Marlane started out as a traveling circus performer before settling in San Francisco in 1966.

She underwent sex reassignment surgery in the 1980s and years later started a popular drag revue show at the Tenderloin gay bar Aunt Charlie's.

Last summer the Political Notebook reported on efforts by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club to honor Marlane and suggested renaming the block of Turk Street between Jones and Taylor, home to Aunt Charlie's, Vicki Marlane Way.

Milk members are working to rename that stretch of Turk Vicky Mar-Lane. The block is also where the Compton's Cafeteria revolt by transgender people occurred in 1966.

"She was a great entertainer," recalled close friend Felicia A. Elizondo, a transgender activist who is working with the GLBT History Museum to mount an exhibit about Marlane. "It is time to recognize the transgender community."

A petition drive supporting the street renaming idea kicks off Sunday, January 27 at El Rio. The event, from 3 to 8 p.m., will double as a fundraiser for the Milk club's Howard Grayson LGBT Elder Life Conference set for March 30.

The club plans to hit the streets to seek signers for the petition, which will be posted to its website at It is working with District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim's office to navigate the city approval process for renaming a street.

San Francisco has renamed three streets for LGB people. A block of 16th Street in the Castro is Jose Sarria Court, named after the first gay man and drag queen to seek public office in the city.

A block of Myrtle Street near City Hall is named for lesbian author Alice B. Toklas, who was born nearby. And Jack Kerouac Alley in North Beach honors the bisexual Beat Generation writer.

"The LGBT community has helped give San Francisco the edge that makes people want to come visit us but the 'T' has never gotten its rightful significance," said Milk club member Susan Englander .

El Rio is located at 3158 Mission Street. There is a sliding cover of $8-$10, with all of the entrance fees from 3 to 4 p.m. going to the Milk club.


Speier hosts SF town hall

Congresswoman Jackie Speier is hosting a town hall meeting this weekend in San Francisco. The Democratic lawmaker represents the city's southern neighborhoods as well as part of San Mateo County.

The meeting will run from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, January 26 at Temple United Methodist Church, 65 Beverly Street. The church is near the intersection of 19th Avenue, Junipero Serra and Highway 280.


Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. The column returns Monday, January 28.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:

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