Equality CA Welcomes New Executive Director

Equality California, the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization in California, announced today that its executive director, John O’Connor, will step down in July following a successful, 18-month tenure leading EQCA through a period of extensive organizational transition. EQCA also announced that board member Rick Zbur, a senior partner with the law firm of Latham & Watkins and an LGBT and environmental advocate, has been unanimously elected as the organization’s new executive director.

“John has been an incredibly effective leader and the boards of directors of both Equality California and Equality California Institute are extremely grateful for his exceptional service to the LGBT community in our state,” said Andreas Meyer and Joyce Rowland, board presidents of EQCA and EQCA Institute respectively. “John has successfully guided EQCA through a period of significant transition, leading this important organization to greater stability and improved financial condition.”

During his tenure, O’Connor’s major accomplishments include developing new funding sources, reorganizing EQCA staff and consolidating the organization’s presence across the state, leading numerous legislative victories, elevating the visibility and funding of the EQCA Candidate PAC, partnering with board members in robust new board recruitment efforts statewide, and initiating new programming that did more to directly enroll uninsured LGBT people under the Affordable Care Act rollout than any other LGBT organization nationwide.

“I’m very proud and grateful to have had the opportunity to lead Equality California through this critical period in its history,” said O’Connor. “Having accomplished the key objectives I was brought on to address at EQCA, the organization is well positioned to move into its next chapter. Rick Zbur is a dynamic leader who will continue our work and advance EQCA’s mission of securing full and lasting equality for LGBT Californians.”

“It was a difficult decision to leave EQCA at this time to handle personal affairs,” O’Connor continued, “but I’m thrilled to be handing off the organization to such a capable leader.”

Zbur will succeed O’Connor as executive director later this summer. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, Zbur will retire from Latham & Watkins, one of the largest law firms in the world, and begin leading EQCA full-time on September 1.

“The boards are very pleased to welcome Rick, a respected and accomplished leader in the community, to the helm of EQCA,” said Meyer and Rowland. “Rick’s extensive experience working in advocacy and with nonprofit boards, coupled with his passion, intelligence and commitment to the work of achieving full equality for LGBT people, make him an excellent fit for the job. His appointment also ensures a smooth and effective transition for the organization.”

A father of three, Zbur grew up in a farming community in the Rio Grande Valley south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where his mother, Erlinda Chavez Zbur and her family have lived for generations. A lifelong LGBT trailblazer, Zbur was Latham & Watkins’ first openly gay attorney and first openly gay partner. He took a leave of absence from the firm in January 1996 to run for Congress in California’s 38th Congressional District, where he became the first openly gay, non-incumbent to win a contested primary for U.S. Congress.

Zbur has served and will continue to serve as president and chair of the board of the California League of Conservation Voters, the political action arm of California’s environment community. He formerly served on the board of Lambda Legal and was a founding director and vice president at the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation.

“I’m thrilled to join Equality California and will build on the excellent foundation that John O’Connor created,” said Zbur. “My focus will be on the organization’s core mission of achieving full and lasting equality for LGBT people through smart and effective legislation, education and outreach, and building and expanding our community’s political power. A key to EQCA’s success will be to continue to strengthen our partnerships and alliances within and as a part of California’s emerging electorate.”

Top ranking elected officials reacted enthusiastically to the news of Zbur’s election.

“Since his historic run for Congress, Rick has been a tremendous advocate for the LGBT community, and a thoughtful and talented leader who knows how to build the coalitions that are crucial to advancing our movement,” said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. “We have made a great deal of progress, but we clearly have more work to do to ensure that every LGBT person in California is treated with dignity and respect, and I am absolutely confident that Rick will be an exemplary leader for EQCA who can focus on moving our movement forward. I also want to thank John O’Connor for his effective and dedicated service as executive director of EQCA. He has done a remarkable job in leading one of California’s preeminent LGBT rights organizations, and I am thankful for his service.”

“Rick is an LGBT trailblazer and true advocate for full equality,” said Speaker-Elect Toni Atkins. “I’m looking forward to working with EQCA under his leadership to continue advancing equality for LGBT Californians.”

“Rick is well known and respected among state and local leaders as a result of his leadership of one of California’s premier environmental organizations,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. “And he has the vision to ensure that EQCA continues to lead California to a state of full equality for LGBT people.”

EQCA also announced that Laurie Hasencamp has been appointed as interim chief operations officer to enable O’Connor to focus on key transition-related priorities. In 2012, Hasencamp served for 10 months as EQCA’s interim executive director and currently serves as board treasurer. She is a member of the Founder’s Council of The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and a former member of the Board of Directors of Lambda Legal.

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization in California. For more than a decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to a state with some of the most comprehensive human rights protections in the nation. Equality California has partnered with legislators to successfully sponsor 96 pieces of pro-equality legislation. EQCA continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org