Geoff Kors currently serves as Government Policy Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), best known as the organization that actually sues state governments on behalf of LGBT couples for Marriage Equality, and pays for the legal cases for co-plaintiff couples from that state. At NCLR, he spearheads work on local, state and federal legislation and government policy. Previously, Geoff served for nine years as Executive Director of Equality California where he led the effort to transform California from a state with almost no legal protections for the LGBT community to the state with the broadest protections in the nation. Geoff’s experience also includes representing local government as a lawyer, working as a senior legislative staffer for a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors/City Council, serving as an Assistant Regional Council for the United States Environmental Protection and owning two small businesses including one in Palm Springs. Geoff has been honored for his work by the State of California, the City of San Francisco, the Human Rights Campaign, Los Angeles and Palm Springs Pride, Metropolitan Community Church, and awarded commendations by both the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Justice.
A graduate of Stanford Law School, Geoff helped pass more than 70 bills, many of which he conceived of and drafted. He has appeared on hundreds of television and radio programs and has been quoted extensively in the media. Geoff has also spoken at major universities and conferences around the nation. Most recently, Geoff announced that he’s running for Palm Springs City Council. He lives with his husband, Palm Springs School Board Member James Williamson, in Palm Springs.
Kate Buckley: Geoff, we met through our mutual friend, Mark Jones, who brought you to my attention for your outstanding contributions to the LGBT community and to Palm Springs. Was there a defining moment that sparked your career in advocacy and public policy?
Geoff Kors: I credit my parents for my desire to work for social justice and focus on making the world a better place. My Dad graduated at the top of his class at NYU Law School. Because he is Jewish, he was unwelcome at major law firms in New York and was unable to get a job at any of those firms. He never let that deter him and he opened his own firm, building one of the most respected consumer advocacy law firms in New York before he retired here in the Desert. My Mom, who passed away eight years ago, was active in politics, serving as a member of the Democratic Party Central Committee. She was a fighter for equal opportunity and education reform. I worked on my first political campaign at the age of 13 and have been actively involved in politics and government ever since.
Where are you from originally? What is it about Palm Springs that led you to make your home here?
I am originally from New York and moved to California to attend law school. I started visiting Palm Springs 25 years ago and immediately fell in love with the spectacular natural environment and architecture. My parents moved to the Desert in 1995, so I started spending even more time here. In 2000, I decided to make Palm Springs my home. My dad is a resident of Palm Springs and I know how fortunate I am to have him so close.
You just announced your decision to run for Palm Springs City Council. J.R. Roberts and incumbent Paul Lewin are also running for the two open seats on the Council in November’s election. Sitting Councilman Rick Hutcheson has stated he will not seek re-election. What led to this decision to run?
I care passionately about our city. When Rick decided not to seek re-election, many people I know and respect asked me to enter the race due to my extensive experience working both inside and outside of city, state and federal government, my history of community service here in Palm Springs and my history of working in coalition to achieve the best results. I decided to run because I believe that my 25 years of work and activism—and my passion for Palm Springs—will make a difference for our city and enhance the effectiveness of our city council. I believe that I will bring a unique set of skills from my work as an attorney and government policy expert to the Palm Springs City Council, and that my experience will help inform the decisions we make. I have spent decades building coalitions and working to bring people together to enact government policy that helps people, and I will work hard to make Palm Springs an even better city.
What would you say are the major components of your platform? What would you like our readers to know about your candidacy?
It is an exciting time for our city; Palm Springs is undergoing a major and much needed revitalization. The decisions we make today will have an impact for decades. It is essential that we maximize this opportunity to grow our economy—and do so in a sustainable manner that retains what is special about Palm Springs. It is also important that every member of our community participates in our success. I believe that my 25 years of work and activism both inside and outside of local, state and federal government—and my passion for Palm Springs—will make a difference for our city and enhance the effectiveness of our City Council.
We enjoy an enviable quality of life; but we have sustain it—with the highest quality of cost-effective public services, with a growing entrepreneurial economy, and most importantly with neighborhoods that anyone would be proud to call home.
You’ve been instrumental in bringing so many necessary legal protections to the California LGBT community. What would you like to see happen next?
We need to continue working to provide services to those who need them, including LGBT youth and seniors. It is estimated that more than 20% of foster youth are LGBT, a result of family rejection that sadly is still happening even here in the Valley. I serve on the advisory council of Sanctuary Palm Springs, an organization that is working to provide a group home for LGBT foster youth and a mentorship program. I also work with Safe Schools and recently presented at their annual conference. It is also critical that we ensure that LGBT seniors can continue to thrive—and not feel that they need to hide who they are if they move into a senior care facility. I am proud to be a member of both the Mizell Senior Center and the LGBT Center of the Desert, and have been a featured speaker at the LGBT Center.
Geoff Kors, what is it you most love about Palm Springs?
There is so much to love about Palm Springs. It is such a truly special place. As I mentioned at the start of our interview, it was the stunning natural environment and architecture that initially attracted me to Palm Springs. That said, what I love most is the people who, like me, call Palm Springs home. People in our city care about one another and share a common value of wanting to give back. The sense of community is wonderful and makes living here a true joy. Palm Springs has always been a place of refuge. I am dedicated to the insuring that for generations to come. Palm Springs is place of welcome—a place that diverse people from all over the world can also call home.