County opens nation’s first LGBTQ Affairs Office

    The Santa Clara County gov prepares to open a new LGBTQ Office of Affairs to the public on Jan 19. Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County government website.

    The Santa Clara County government center will house a new LGBTQ Affairs Office similar to previous efforts to reach out to other minority groups. Photo: Santa Clara County government website.

    Santa Clara’s County opens the first office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Affairs in the nation today, Jan. 19 at the county government center.

    Santa Clara’s LGBTQ Affairs office will serve the community by assisting local community members with services such as the health and hospital system, reentry services, probation, corrections and social services, according to office manager Maribel Martinez. The office will train staff members on LGBTQ issues and provide case-specific assistance, according to Santa Clara County supervisor Ken Yeager.

    The office employees hope that the establishment of the office will inspire all counties to open similar offices, according to Yeager.

    “For many years, Santa Clara has been a leader in addressing the needs of underserved populations that require the services of the county,” Yeager said. “It is my hope that by establishing the nations first county office dedicated to the needs of LGBTQ residents, Santa Clara County will serve as an example for other counties looking to do the same.”

    In March 2015, Yeager sent a referral to the Board of Supervisors for the creation of the LGBTQ office.  The board approved the plan and funded it later in the summer, officially establishing the office on Jan. 7, according to Yeager.

    According to Yeager, the office will be led by Martinez and management analyst Ashley Scarborough.

    Martinez is a director of the associated students at San Jose State University, while Scarborough works for the California STD and HIV Prevention Training Center in Oakland.

    “I hope to continue to serve as an advocate for community needs and a bridge to services,” Martinez said. “Also, I hope to support local leaders in creating programs, services and policies that create a just and welcoming community for all residents.”

    County officials hope this opportunity will improve the lives of the LGBTQ community in Santa Clara County, according to Yeager.

    “In recent years, the county has created individual offices to serve women, veterans, racial and ethnic minorities and soon immigrants,” Yeager said. “By focusing particular attention on these groups, we are able to better serve them.  It is my hope that this will be the case with the office of LGBTQ affairs.”

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