Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors announced today that he will leave his position in March, 2011, after leading the major gay rights organization for nine years. Many observers credit EQCA for helping California become one of the most gay-friendly states in the country.

Kors, however, had become a controversial figure after Proposition 8 was passed in 2008 — Kors helped guide the failed “No on 8” campaign. Known for a keen mind and a nearly obsessive work ethic, Kors helped grow EQCA into a widely known gay rights group with political pull in Sacramento.

Kors took over as executive director at a time just after Proposition 22 was passed. Known as the Knight Initiative — named after the author of the ballot measure, California State Senator William “Pete” Knight — Prop. 22 outlawed same-sex marriage.

The California State Supreme Court struck down the initiative in 2008, deeming it as unconstitutional.

Kors went on to solidify the power of Equality California over the next nine years, touting its record of getting gay-friendly legislation passed, raising huge sums of money for the group, and taking a leadership position in the Prop. 8 campaign.

Some observers have felt that Kors should have resigned from EQCA after the “No on 8” loss, which resulted with same-sex marriage being banned again as it was in 2000. But the executive director stayed and tried to position EQCA as a key group in another ballot measure push to legalize gay marriage in 2010 or 2012.

Then the Proposition 8 federal lawsuit happened.

Led by the Los Angeles-based American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group helped to fund and organize the lawsuit that resulted with U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker finding Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional in August. EQCA was not a key player in the lawsuit.

Enthusiasm for a pro-gay marriage ballot measure quickly simmered in the gay community in California, and EQCA found itself without a major issue to push, with some observers wondering what direction EQCA would go next since so much pro-gay legislation had already been passed in California.

Kors wrote in a press release:

“While I will miss coming to work at Equality California each day, I look forward to joining you as a dedicated supporter, knowing that it is Equality California's members who truly fuel our work and make the difference.”

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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