Santa Clara County this week became the first in the nation to open an office of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer affairs.
While other jurisdictions employ liaisons and advisory commissioners from the gay community—namely Washington DC and the city of Philadelphia—no other county or state has a dedicated office for LGBTQ residents.
“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 Supervisor Ken Yeager, the county’s first openly gay elected official.
The Office of LGBTQ Affairs will model itself after the county’s efforts serving women, veterans, immigrants and ethnic minorities. Primary functions of the new office will include training county staff and community stakeholders on LGBTQ issues, guiding county departments, identifying gaps in service and fostering dialogue.
“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 confidence that the Office of LGBTQ Affairs will get us closer to that end.”
The county will staff the department with two full-time workers: Manager Maribel Martinez and Management Analyst Ashley Scarborough.
Martinez has worked for the past eight years as director of the Associated Students César Chavez Community Action Center at San Jose State University. Under her lead, the center launched youth mentoring programs, a community garden and tackled issues including poverty and homelessness.
“Access to resources and a responsive government are essential to the longevity and well-being of LGBTQ communities, especially those whose identities intersect multiple areas of marginality,” Martinez said. “We can look to Santa Clara County and its leaders as trailblazers for inclusive justice.”
Before accepting her position for the county, Scarborough worked for the California STD/HIV Prevention Training Center in Oakland. Both Martinez and Scarborough start in their new roles on Jan. 19.