Santa Clara County becomes first nationwide to establish office of LGBTQ affairs

Members of the LGBT movement hold a gay pride flag during a parade celebration in Managua, Nicaragua, Sunday, June 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (BCN) —¬†Santa Clara County has become the first county nationwide to establish an Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Affairs, county officials announced Thursday.

“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,” a statement from Supervisor Ken Yeager, the first openly gay official elected in the county, said.

“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.”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. have their own offices that address concerns of the LGBTQ community, but Santa Clara County is the first to represent them at a county level, county officials said.

Many jurisdictions across the country have staff liaisons and advisory commissions comprised of people from the LGBTQ community. There is no dedicated office at the state level, according to county officials.

The Santa Clara County’s new office will provide training and guidance in serving the LGBTQ community, county officials said.

The office will also make sure county departments use best practices in serving LGBTQ people and identifying needed services to serve them, among other duties, county officials said.

Maribel Martinez and Ashley Scarborough will serve full-time in the office as manager and management analyst. They will start their jobs on Jan. 19, county officials said.

Martinez has been the founding director of San Jose State University’s Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center for the past eight years. She also worked with nonprofits on issues including health care, education reform, mental health services and neighborhood safety, county officials said.

“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.

“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.”

Scarborough is coming to the county from the California STD/HIV Prevention Training Center in Oakland where she helped raise awareness on health issues in order to avert and deal with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, according to county officials.

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