The State of LGBT OC by the President of the Orange County Lavender Bar Association

Part of me thinks that Proposition 8 was one of the best things that happened to Orange County because it is what made us come together as a community to fight for equality. It happened after yellow signs saying, "Yes On 8" began to appear in front yards or stuck to car windows, signs which proclaimed that only a man and a woman was a real family.

So starting in the late summer of 2008, we put our blue "No On Prop. 8" sign in our front yard. We started holding signs on sidewalks in Orange County: "I love my two moms" and "I'm not a second class citizen." Quotes from Mother Teresa and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also appeared. The young, the old, the straight, the gay, all came out to rally for our rights.

The punch in the stomach hit us on Nov. 3 of that year, when Prop. 8 passed and same-sex marriages ceased. Marches and vigils turned into organizations. Orange County Equality Coalition (OCEC) formed the week after Prop. 8 passed. It was an amazing first meeting. Committees were formed, and professor Katherine Darmer offered to chair the legal community. Little did I know that Katherine would have such an impact on my life with her unwavering energy, beliefs and ability to influence me to become a leader.

Pride in Orange County was also revived by OCEC. Tiffany Chang chaired Picnic In the Park, held at Irvine's Mason Regional Park in 2009; Sal Landers, a musician who had played at the first OC Pride 25 years ago, performed for about 200 there.

My partner—now fiancée—Heather Ellis was so inspired by the event that she was determined to turn Picnic In the Park into a Pride festival. It was a full-time job on top of our full-time jobs, but it was worth it. In 2010, OC Pride took place in Irvine with close to 3,000 entrants. In 2012, OC Pride was a free event in the streets of Santa Ana with close to 10,000. We have come a long way in Orange County.

Orange County Lavender Bar Association (OCLBA) also formed in 2010. OCLBA is an LGBT and ally attorney association devoted to educating the legal and general Orange County community through panels and events. Of course, Darmer was behind the inception of OCLBA, bringing the lawyers from OCEC Legal to meet Andreas Meyer, at the time an attorney at Gibson Dunn. OCLBA formed that day, and weeks ago, we celebrated its third anniversary with close to 300 attendees. We cheered for the United States Supreme Court's rulings lifting the stay on same-sex marriage in California, as well as the repeal of DOMA.

Darmer passed away in February 2012. OCEC and OCLBA wanted her legacy to continue by granting a monetary award to a law student with ties to Orange County and the LGBT community. Our first recipient, Jordan Aiken, a 2013 UC Irvine Law entrant, was given the first scholarship of $5,000.

I know that without Darmer and Ellis, my motivation for becoming a part of this community would not have developed into the activism and visibility that has changed not only me, but also Orange County. Everyone has to come out, as Harvey Milk said in 1978. It took me decades to do so, but when people came out and came together, Orange County changed.

 
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