Last week we witnessed deep and significant changes that we have yearned to see. From national and state successes to historic changes in our own backyard, we have much to celebrate.
The Supreme Court delivered what journalist Masha Gessen called “the single biggest victory in the history of the LGBTQ-rights movement.” Employer discrimination based on sex or transgender status is, finally, illegal. It’s a critical victory. More than half of U.S. states did not have these protections until now.
The Supreme Court stood with the California Values Act, SB 54. SB 54, sometimes called “sanctuary,” broadly prevents local law enforcement resources from being used for federal immigration, except in cases of violent crime. Donald Trump attempted to take SB 54 to the Supreme Court, and he failed. Despite Republican assertions that SB 54 was “unconstitutional,” the court saw SB 54’s legality so plainly that it didn’t bother to take up the case.
Many in Orange County recall the Republican Party’s obsessive support for Trump’s failed lawsuit against SB 54. At an April 10, 2018 Orange City Council meeting, City Council member and Orange County Republican Party Chair Fred Whitaker introduced a resolution opposing SB 54 saying the law was “unconstitutional.” Other council members called it “divisive,” and it was. Just as Proposition 187 ignited a movement among immigrants to run for office in the 1990’s, the Republican Party’s anti-SB 54 actions outraged residents so deeply that it sparked a backlash of progressive activism that continues today.
The Supreme Court’s victory for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, provided critical breathing room for approximately 700,000 young people. The justices ruled that Trump’s baseless and cruel rollback of DACA was not done legally, so the program stands. As someone who immigrated to this country at the age of six, I understand the urgency of not only establishing a permanent path to citizenship for DACA recipients, but also reforming our deeply broken immigration system.
For Orange County, the week’s victories hardly end at the Supreme Court.
Governor Newsom rightfully issued a statewide mask requirement that creates uniform standards for all Californians. The new measure follows health expert recommendations, and if properly enforced, it can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. Many in the press credited Governor Newsom’s actions in part to our Orange County Board of Supervisors, who allowed weeks of public attacks and death threats on county Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick until she resigned. She was the third health officer to resign since the pandemic began and shortly after she left, the county issued weaker mask recommendations.
In the state legislature, we saw a pivotal breakthrough for ACA 5, a constitutional amendment that would expand upward mobility for people of color in higher education and government contracting. A 2015 study found that businesses led by women and people of color lose upwards of $1.1 billion in government contracts each year. Less than a third of tenure-track positions in California’s public universities and colleges are held by people of color. If passed this fall, ACA 5 would allow for more equitable affirmative action — and we need it.
Sacramento’s successes also included the passage of AB 3216 through the state Assembly, which would ensure that hotel and hospitality workers who lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic will have the “right to recall.” The law will require employers to offer to rehire their former employees once the positions become available again. The hospitality industry is among the heaviest hit by COVID-19, and is predominantly made up of women and men of color. Now is the time to stand with our workers, and ensure they have a seat at the table in our economic recovery.
But our successes don’t stop in Washington or Sacramento. Look into Orange County, and even more victories are underway.
Right here in our own backyard, a wave of actions are bringing racial equity and justice into the forefront, and changing our public institutions.
Fullerton Joint Union High School District approved the removal of KKK member Louis E. Plummer’s name from their auditorium, and Anaheim Union High School District passed a strong resolution affirming and centering Black students and faculty. Santa Ana Unified School District approved Orange County’s first Ethnic Studies requirement, ensuring that every SAUSD student will have an opportunity to learn about racial history and diversity.
In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, the City of Tustin was among the first municipalities to pass a resolution in solidarity for Black lives. City leaders made a bipartisan commitment to enhanced community policing and open dialogues about racism, implicit bias, and discrimination. The resolution said in part, “many of us cannot begin to understand the depths of anguish and pain caused by the inexcusable treatment of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We share in the anger and exhaustion that his death has sparked.”
These significant strides — whether in Washington or in Orange County — show the power of our protest, and the purpose of our leadership. These victories are changing our systems, saving lives, and helping people to live openly and without fear.
Make no mistake, we have a long way to go. This year the Supreme Court failed to take up eight challenges to qualified immunity laws, laws that allow police officers to evade prosecution. On June 12, the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Donald Trump stripped away protections for transgender patients in our health care system. Our DACA victory, while crucial, fails to provide a secure path to citizenship that young people desperately need.
We must demand answers and keep raising our voices. We must demand that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department enforce Governor Newsom’s mask requirement, to keep us truly safe and healthy. We must support our city councils and school districts as they introduce much-needed changes. We must channel our protests and actions into the ballot box, and we must elect leaders who stand up for our values. This November we must watch for our vote-by-mail ballots, fill them out, and send them in.
These victories are powerful but we can’t get complacent, and we can’t leave the work to someone else. All of these fights, whether for Black lives or LGBTQ rights or economic prosperity or education, are our fight. We have to stand up for each other. We have to keep speaking up and speaking out and protesting. We must keep our eyes on the prize, and keep working.
Ada Briceño, Co-President UNITE HERE Local 11, Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, Democratic National Committee Member-Elect
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