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Gay Man to Lead California’s Largest Civil Rights Agency

Gay Man to Lead California’s Largest Civil Rights Agency

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After a storied career fighting illegal retaliation against low-wage workers and cases involving human trafficking, Kevin Kish is tapped to lead an agency beset by allegations.

After an amazing 2014 full of gains in LGBT rights, 2015 kicks it off with another on day one: California Governor Jerry Brown names Kevin Kish, an out gay law professor, as the head of the state's largest civil rights state agency, the Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing. His appointment is pending Senate approval.

Karen Ocamb reports in Frontiers that "Kevin Kish was 15 years old when the LGBT community exploded and demonstrated for two weeks in 1991 after then-California Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed AB 101, the gay civil rights bill that would have added the words 'sexual orientation' to the Fair Employment and Housing Act. On Monday, Dec. 29, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Kish, now 38, an openly gay adjunct law professor at Loyola Law School and director of the Employment Rights Project at Bet Tzedek legal services--as the new head of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing."

"Kevin Kish is one of the best litigators I have ever known, and LGBT Californians are gaining a strong and passionate legal champion who will work hard to ensure everyone in California gets a fair shot on the job and a fair chance to rent or own housing," said Tico Almeida, the Latino founder and president of the national LGBT organization Freedom to Work. "Latino Californians are also gaining a strong advocate who has already taken on and won significant victories against the unlawful traffickers in human beings, the exploiters of hard working immigrants, and all those criminals who would put corporate profit above human fairness."

Almeida continued, "I'm not surprised that such a talented attorney like Kevin, who happens to be gay, would rise to the very top of Governor Brown's selection list because the California Governor has a long history of rewarding smarts, talent, and achievement in his government appointments. Kevin Kish speaks impressive Spanish, and he has very clearly demonstrated a winning record of achievement as a civil rights attorney. We urge California legislators to approve his nomination without delay."

"Kish would assume leadership of an agency beset by allegations of inappropriate hiring and promotion practices, "writes Jeremy B. White in the Sacramento Bee. The agency, which manages discrimination claims around both housing and workplace issues, was investigated by the California State Personnel Board after a woman was promoted twice despite lack of qualifications. Their report said that the agency staff were ignoring rules around employment.

Kish, a graduate of Yale Law, is no stranger to historical appointments. He previously spent a year as a law clerk for District Court Judge Myron Thompson for the Middle District of Alabama, believed to be the first African-American employee of the state of Alabama who was not a teacher or a janitor. Later he specialized in illegal retaliation against low-wage workers and cases involving human trafficking, according to AllGov.com.

For more on Kish's storied career (including historic win in a $21 million settlement from Walmart contractor Schneider Logistics Transloading and Distribution Inc. , see AllGov.com.

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