Santa Clara County established an office of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) affairs on Jan. 8, making it the first county in the nation to establish such an office. While other jurisdictions, such as Washington D.C. and Philadelphia employ advisory commissioners and mediators from the LGBTQ community, no other county or state has an entire office specifically dedicated to serving 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,” District Supervisor and the county’s first openly gay elected official Ken Yeager said in a statement. “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.”
The primary functions of the LGBTQ Office will include training County staff and community stakeholders on LGBTQ issues, offering guidance to County departments seeking to properly serve LGBTQ individuals and ensuring all County departments and are following the best practices when it comes to treatment of LGBTQ residents. They will also identify further gaps in services to LGBTQ residents and develop resources to address them. Additionally, they will promote and collaborate on LGBTQ community events, including those that foster dialogue and increase access to services for the most disenfranchised members of the LGBTQ community. The office will follow the County’s efforts in serving ethnic minorities, veterans, women and immigrants.
County officials estimate that LGBTQ people account for 4 percent of the Santa Clara County population, which totals 1,894,605 people, based on 2014 U.S. Census numbers. A Gallup survey released in March that looked at LGBTQ residents of the country’s top 50 metro areas found that the LGBTQ population in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area was 3.2 percent, or 3,368 residents age 18 and older.
The department will be staffed with two full-time workers: manager Maribel Martinez and management analyst Ashley Scarborough. Martinez has been the founding director of San Jose’s Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center for the past eight years. Under her lead, the center launched youth mentoring programs, created a community garden and tackled issues such as 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 in a statement. “We can look to Santa Clara County and its leaders as trailblazers for inclusive justice.”
Martinez has also previously worked with nonprofits on issues including mental health services, health care, neighborhood safety and education reform.
“Over the years, the county has led efforts to address the needs of many communities, including the LGBTQ community,” County Executive Jeff Smith said in a statement. “Under Maribel’s leadership, we are confident the new office will support the needs of the LGBTQ community.”
Before accepting her position for the county, Scarborough worked for the California STD/HIV Prevention Training Center in Oakland. She brings with her extensive experience in research, analysis, project management and engagement with diverse communities, according to a press release made by the County.