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Equality California names new executive director

SAN FRANCISCO -- John O’Connor, a seasoned nonprofit executive with deep ties in the LGBT community, today was named the new executive director of Equality California and Equality California Institute.

O’Connor will begin his tenure on Monday, Dec. 3.

"I am honored to lead Equality California forward as the statewide voice on LGBT equality. The message will be that we are for full equality and nothing less," said O’Connor, who currently serves as the executive director of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

“That means enacting, implementing and enforcing legislation that expands the protections and freedoms afforded to LGBT Californians, supporting and electing pro-LGBT legislators, and winning the hearts and minds of Californians through effective education. I won’t just be speaking — I’ll be listening too, to our coalition partners, to the needs of LGBT Californians, and to everyone involved in building a state of equality.”

O’Connor has extensive experience leading non-profits through transition and into solvency and stability. Most recently, through his work at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, he brought in new staff, established a new counseling center — which was fully staffed and operational within a year — and forged important partnerships with area schools in order to bring anti-bullying and suicide prevention workshops into every 9th grade and first year continuation class.

From 2006 through 2010, O’Connor worked directly under former California First Lady Maria Shriver to establish the California Hall of Fame at the California Museum, and he played a key role in stabilizing the museum and leading fundraising and program development that brought the organization statewide visibility and acclaim.

O’Connor brings important national and foundation experience to his new role. From 2002 to 2004, O’Connor was national director of the Gill Foundation, a $220 million foundation dedicated to advancing LGBT equality. He also served as program director of The David Geffen Foundation, where he worked closely with charities and issues of importance to the LGBT community.

“On behalf of the boards of directors, we are very pleased to welcome John aboard, knowing that his background and experience will be valuable as we chart our future,” said Clarissa Filgioun and Cary Davidson, board presidents of EQCA and EQCA Institute respectively. “John is a bold leader with a history of leading nonprofits into the next phase of their journeys. He will enable EQCA and EQCA Institute to broaden our work and move forward on our path to achieve LGBT equality in California.”

O’Connor was selected by the boards of directors of Equality California and Equality California Institute after an extensive, national search conducted by executive search firm Morris & Berger.

Leaders both inside and outside of the LGBT movement have reacted enthusiastically to O’Connor’s appointment:

"John's dedication to The California Museum, which represents all of the breadth and diversity of California, was key to the turnaround it experienced and the success it achieved during the years I was California's First Lady. I know that he will bring that same passion, commitment and skill to making sure that the voices of all LGBT Californians are heard. Congratulations, John, and congratulations Equality California," said Maria Shriver, award-winning journalist, best-selling author and former First Lady of California.

"Equality California made a terrific choice in John O'Connor. I am confident John will provide strong leadership and look forward to the opportunity for EQCA to be a powerful advocate for LGBT health as part of the organization's overarching efforts to advance the well being of LGBT people throughout California," said Daniel Zingale, Senior Vice President, Healthy California, California Endowment.

"We congratulate John on being selected as the Executive Director of Equality California. His accomplishments at The LGBT Community Center of the Desert have been tremendous and we are certain he will remain fully committed to the success of our organization as he moves into a larger role. While we will miss John at The Center, he will be carrying on the mission of enriching the lives of the LGBT community on a state-wide basis affecting a much larger community with national implications. We support John in his new role and wish him the very best," said Randy Lowe, Chairman, LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

"I've known John for more than a dozen years and couldn't be happier with EQCA's selection of him as their next executive director. Whether in his role as a foundation manager or non-profit director, John has always been a passionate advocate for, and a great partner in, so many of the causes and concerns that we all share. I look forward to working with John as he takes on this great challenge," said Michael Fleming, executive director of David Bohnett Foundation.

“Equality California has thoughtfully selected an executive director who has a solid track record of growing LGBT organizations. I look forward to collaborating with John and EQCA as we build a stronger movement for LGBT equality in California," said Masen Davis, executive director of Transgender Law Center.

“John O’Connor is a great choice to lead EQCA. He has grassroots, organizing and fundraising experience and he understands the importance of strategic vision and partnerships. NCLR and EQCA have been critical partners for years. We have often joined forces to make significant gains for LGBT residents in California. We fully expect that partnership will deepen under John’s leadership. We stand ready to help John and EQCA in any way that helps LGBT Californians and their families,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of National Center for Lesbian Rights.

About Equality California

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has passed more than 90 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment.

More information is HERE.