Bringing Pride and Equality to Fullerton



Fullerton City Councilmember Ahmad Zahra — the first openly gay Muslim of any city council in the nation, spoke to a crowd at an Equality California fundraiser held at Matador Cantina on October 26. Stephanie Wade and Ahmad Zahra hosted the event.

“In 2008, Prop 8 was on the ballot. It was initiated through hate against marriage equality. I remember on Harbor Blvd there were professional trucks putting prop signs on city-owned posts. It was like this parade. I went to the City Council. I won’t mention who was on there. As you know, it is illegal to put political signs on public property. But the City Council at that time wasn’t doing anything. I filed a police report against the city. I also wrote an op-ed in the Fullerton Observer, our local newspaper. The issue wasn’t resolved, and I finally went to the council; after the election night, I gave my final speech, and the mayor at that time said, “Whoever spoke about Prop 8, you lost. Get over it.” I will never forget those words.”

Ten years later, Ahmad Zahra ran for council, and within a year, the LGBTQ community had the Pride flag waving proudly. The event was approved by the city council and was hosted by Councilmember Ahmad Zahra. The flag flew from Harvey Milk Day (May 22) through the month of June to commemorate Pride Month, which is celebrated in cities around the world.

“When we did the little ceremony,” said Zahra, “the one thing that stood out for me, while everybody was cheering and crying to see this for the first time, there was an LGBT child who was smiling. They were happy to see this. And this is what it’s about. It’s about making sure that we are creating the safe spaces in our communities, laws protecting our children to be who they are so they can thrive in a community that loves them.”

LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer — the range of sexual identities celebrated on Harvey Milk’s birthday (May 22nd) and throughout Pride Month (June). The rainbow-colored Pride Flag is flown as a positive message against discrimination and violence and to celebrate dignity and equality.

The city tried to bring the pride flag down a few years later, but that didn’t work because people rallied. “I remember the article in the Observer said, ‘Equal but Separate.’ We kept [the Pride flag] where it was. Thank you, Stephanie, for leading that community charge.”

Pride Parade photos by Mike Ritto

Tim Johnson helped organize the Pride Parade in conjunction with Fullerton Museum Center team members, and in 2022, Fullerton held its first Pride Parade (bicycle parade for Pride). By 2023, over 1000 people showed up and took over Fullerton. The momentum is there to be an even bigger event next year.

“Through incremental change and rallying together, we make a difference.”

With over 900,000 members, Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. They are California’s only LGBTQ+ civil rights organization working at the local, state, and national levels. their mission is to bring the voices of LGBTQ+ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people. They are advancing civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating, and mobilizing through an inclusive movement.

To support Equality California, go to:

2023 legislation that has passed or is still in the works

• ACA 5 (Low): Protecting Marriage Equality

ACA 5 is a constitutional amendment to protect marriage equality for LGBTQ+ couples and remove Proposition 8 from the state’s constitution. In 2008, Proposition 8 declared “only marriage between a man and a woman” as valid or recognized in California. If approved by the Legislature, the measure will appear before voters in the 2024 general election.

Status: Passed both legislative chambers, currently in the process of becoming a proposition to be placed on the 2024 general election ballot. 

• AB 5 (Zbur): Safe and Supportive Schools Program

AB 5 will require teachers and school staff serving grades 7-12 to complete one hour of LGBTQ+ cultural competency training, with a sunset after five years. The bill will provide teachers and staff with the tools and training to support LGBTQ+ students and make California schools safer and more supportive for all students.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 23, 2023.

• AB 783 (Ting): All-Gender Restroom Access

Building on previous legislation that required single-user restrooms to be designated as all gender-restrooms, AB 783 will improve compliance with existing law by requiring cities and counties to notify all applicants for a new or renewed business license that single-user restrooms in any business, place of public accommodation, or government agency must be identified as all-gender restrooms.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 23, 2023.

• AB 957 (Wilson): TGI Youth Empowerment Act

AB 957 will update California law to clarify that, for the purposes of child custody and visitation decisions, a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity or gender expression is an essential factor that must be considered in determining the best interest of the child. Family acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth is a crucial protective factor in combatting depression and can drastically reduce rates of suicide.

Status: Vetoed by Governor Newsom on September 22, 2023.

• AB 1432 (Carrillo): Insurance Coverage for Abortion and Gender-affirming Care

While states across the country are taking steps to ban and even criminalize abortion and gender-affirming care, AB 1432 will close loopholes in existing law to ensure that health insurance policies provided to California residents by out-of-state employers with out-of-state insurance contracts include coverage for abortion and gender-affirming care.

Status: Vetoed by Governor Newsom on October 7, 2023. 

• AB 1645 (Zbur): Protecting Access to Preventive Care

In the wake of a Texas lawsuit targeting health insurance coverage for PrEP and other preventive services, AB 1645 will close loopholes and strengthen protections in existing law to ensure that California health insurers continue to provide free coverage for preventive services like PrEP and STI testing consistent with clinical best practices.

Status: Vetoed by Governor Newsom on October 7, 2023. 

• SB 339 (Wiener): Improving Pharmacist Delivered PrEP

Building on previous legislation that authorized pharmacists to furnish PrEP without a doctor’s prescription, SB 339 will improve the ability of pharmacists to provide PrEP without a doctor’s prescription by increasing the amount of PrEP that pharmacists are authorized to provide and requiring health plans to reimburse pharmacists for providing PrEP.

Status: Senator Wiener will not move SB 339 forward this year after the Assembly Appropriations Committee inserted harmful amendments to the bill. Over the recess, Senator Wiener will determine if there is a path to deleting these harmful amendments.

• SB 345 (Skinner): Safe Haven for Abortion and Gender-Affirming Care

SB 345 will provide additional legal protections for California health care providers that offer services for abortion or gender-affirming care. The bill will also strengthen the state’s “safe haven” laws by adding protections for people who come to California seeking refuge from draconian out-of-state laws that criminalize abortion or gender-affirming care.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 27, 2023

SB 407 (Wiener): LGBTQ+ Foster Youth Protections

SB 407 will strengthen protections in existing law to ensure that LGBTQ+ foster youth in California are placed in homes that are affirming of LGBTQ+ identities. Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are overrepresented in foster care, with multiple studies estimating about 30 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ+.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 23, 2023.

• SB 729 (Menjivar): Insurance Coverage for Fertility Care

SB 729 will require health plans to provide coverage for fertility care, including treatment for infertility and in vitro fertilization, and ensure that LGBTQ+ people are not excluded from coverage. For the LGBTQ+ community, fertility care, and family-building are just as important as they are for anyone.

Status: Converted to a two-year bill by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on September 1. Can be considered again starting January 2024.

• SB 760 (Newman): All-Gender Restrooms For Students

SB 760 is first-of-its-kind legislation to require public schools in California to provide at least one accessible all-gender restroom for students to use safely and comfortably during school hours. Survey data shows that 45% of LGBTQ+ and non-binary students actively avoid using gender-segregated school restrooms because it makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 23, 2023.

• SB 857 (Laird): LGBTQ+ Student Task Force

SB 857 will require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene an advisory task force to identify statewide needs and make recommendations to create a safe and supportive learning environment for LGBTQ+ students. A safe and supportive school environment allows LGBTQ+ students to succeed academically and has a significant impact on their overall well-being.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 23, 2023.