SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.— The County of Santa Clara is opening a new Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Affairs, becoming the first County in the nation to establish an office to serve the LGBTQ community.
“I am proud to say that Santa Clara County is now the first county in the nation with an office exclusively dedicated to serving the LGBTQ community,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Ken Yeager, the first openly gay county elected official in Santa Clara County.
Although various jurisdictions in the United States have staff liaisons to and advisory commissions from the LGBTQ community, only the City of Philadelphia and Washington DC have dedicated government offices for the coordination of LGBTQ Affairs, but no representation had reached a county or state level until now.
The Office of LGBTQ Affairs will parallel similar County efforts to address the needs of women, veterans, racial and ethnic minorities, and immigrants, and give attention to their unique needs with focused, tailored services.
The primary functions of the LGBTQ Office will include: training County staff and community stakeholders on LGBTQ issues as they relate to clients, residents, and employees; offering guidance to County departments seeking to fairly and properly serve LGBTQ individuals; ensuring all County departments are following best practices when it comes to treatment of LGBTQ clients, residents, and employees; representing the County to local, state and national government agencies, school districts and nonprofit organizations on LGBTQ issues; identifying further gaps in services to LGBTQ residents and develop resources to address them; and promoting and collaborating on LGBTQ community events, including those that foster dialogue and increase access to services for the most disenfranchised members of the LGBTQ community.
“While our country and this County have come a long way in recent years, it is clear we can be doing more to serve LGBTQ individuals and ensure improved outcomes for this community,” Yeager said. “I am confident that the Office of LGBTQ Affairs will get us closer to that end.”
The new County office will be staffed with two full time positions, including the new Manager, Maribel Martinez and Management Analyst Ashley Scarborough.
“Over the years, the County has led efforts to address the needs of many communities, including the LGBTQ community,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith, M.D., J.D. “Under Maribel’s leadership, we are confident the new office will support the needs of the LGBTQ community.”
Martinez brings a wealth of experience to the new office. For the past eight years, she has served as the founding Director of the Associated Students César E. Chávez Community Action Center at San José State University promoting community service, leadership, student activism, and transformative learning. Through her leadership, the Center launched award-winning youth mentoring programs, community-engaged programming, a sustainable garden, and tackled complex issues of poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity. She also has worked in the non-profit sector addressing issues of health care, education reform, mental health services, and neighborhood safety measures with organizations such as Catholic Charities, CORAL, and Somos Mayfair.
“Access to resources and a responsive government are essential to the longevity and wellbeing of LGBTQ communities, especially those whose identities intersect multiple areas of marginality. We can look to Santa Clara County and its leaders as trailblazers for inclusive justice,” Martinez said. “I am honored and excited to join the Office of LGBTQ Affairs and provide support and services to our LGBTQ residents and their families.”
Management Analyst Ashley Scarborough joins the County from the California STD/HIV Prevention Training Center in Oakland. Through the center, she developed evidence-based interventions to improve STD/HIV prevention and care and collaborated with learning networks, social media partners, and other audiences to improve knowledge and remove structural barriers to health and health disparities to prevent and manage HIV and other STDs. She brings with her extensive experience in research, analysis, project management, and engagement with diverse communities.
Both Martinez and Scarborough begin their new roles January 19.
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