Categoria: LA County Board of Supervisors

Praise, Support Arise For Ailing Gloria Molina, ‘relentless’ LA County Trailblazer

Beyond her curriculum vitae, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina’s role in the history of Latinos in Southern California came into sharper focus last week, when the 74-year-old politician announced she is battling terminal cancer.

“I enter this transition in life feeling so fortunate,” Molina wrote on Facebook. “Throughout my life I’ve had the support of many people.”

Angelenos lauded all of Molina’s firsts: the first Latina elected to the California state legislature, and in 1987, as LA City Councilmember. She is also the first Latina elected to the county Board of Supervisors in 1991.

For 23 years, she served the First District, which includes Pico-Union, East Los Angeles and much of the San Gabriel Valley.

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina seen in 2010 speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new El Monte Station. Molina, now 74, has announced that she is battling terminal cancer. (File photo by Keith Durflinger)

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina seen with other Los Angeles officials, including Supervisor Hilda Solis, at a grand opening of the East Valley Community Health Center in West Covina in 2008. (File photo by Leo Jarzomb)

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina seen in 2011 at a conference in Pasadena with then-Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. (File photo by Walt Mancini/SCNG)

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina seen with Margaret Clark, vice chair of Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, and LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis, in Azusa in 2006. (File photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/SCNG)

Gloria Molina, the first Latina elected to the LA County Board of Supervisors in 1991, speaks at a November 2010 dedication at Sorensen Library in Whittier. Molina, now 74, has announced that she is battling terminal cancer. (File photo by Keith Birmingham/SCNG)

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina seen at a 2010 dedication of the county’s first eco-friendly library, made of 40 percent recycled steel, at Sorensen Library in Whittier. (File photo by Keith Birmingham/SCNG)

Gloria Molina seen in a photo with soccer players in 1997. (Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library archive)

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina at a dedication at Mayberry County Park in Whittier in 2009. (File photo by Raul Roa/SCNG)

Gloria Molina seen in 2014 with Cal State L.A. officials in 2014, about a new bioscience incubator program that provided students and start-up businesses an opportunity to work together on innovative bioscience projects. (File photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

Gloria Molina, the first Latina elected to the LA County Board of Supervisors in 1991, speaks at a November 2010 dedication at Sorensen Library in Whittier. Molina, now 74, has announced that she is battling terminal cancer. (File photo by Keith Birmingham/SCNG)

Gloria Molina, the first Latina elected to the LA County Board of Supervisors in 1991, seen at a California Task Force 2 recognition ceremony at the LA County Fire Department Headquarters in Feb. 2010. Molina, now 74, has announced that she is battling terminal cancer. (File photo by Leo Jarzomb/SCNG)

In 2014, Molina retired from the Board of Supervisors due to term limits, ending a 32-year career in public service for the City of Angels.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, who succeeded Molina, called her a “role model.”

“Los Angeles is as great as it is because of her persistence and determination to fight for our most vulnerable communities,” Solis said.

Solis said she will propose to rename Grand Park in downtown L.A., which she helped to open as chair of the Grand Avenue Authority.

Clay Stalls is curator of California and Hispanic Collections for The Huntington in San Marino, where Molina donated more than 200 boxes worth of her papers in 2014.

“In general, Gloria Molina was a relentless advocate for public services for the underrepresented,” Stalls said. “When running for supervisor, she made it clear that she came from the district, and understood the problems and strengths of her largely Hispanic district.”

Molina’s parents, Leonardo and Concepcíon Molina, immigrated to the suburbs LA County suburbs from Mexico. Molina grew up in Pico Rivera and attended El Rancho High School, East Los Angeles College and Cal State L.A.

In an oral history interview from 1990, Molina opened up about her personal and political life, from growing up in Montebello and Pico Rivera, attending El Rancho High School, Rio Hondo College, and Cal State Los Angeles, and joining the Chicano movement in the 1970s.

Molina said she hoped the interview would help people understand what makes politicians tick, and how they make decisions.

As a county supervisor, she largely supported public health, jobs, education, parks and recreation, and the arts.

She supported organizations including the Central American Refugee Center, and was involved with the Mothers of East Los Angeles. In 1994, she fought against Proposition 187, which limited undocumented immigrants from health and public services.

Stalls said she funded arts programs in her district, supported economic revitalization groups and health clinics, and bolstered the building of bike trails in East Los Angeles.

“She especially took note of unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County that might receive short shrift regarding county services.”

Stalls said that Molina served on the Democratic National Party Committee as a vice-chair, on the board of the Mexican-American Legal and Educational Defense Fund (MALDEF), and also has her own youth education program.

Abelardo De la Peña, a spokesperson for LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Los Angeles, said a tribute to its ailing founder is in the works.

Molina helped start the community hub to celebrate Latinx culture through art. She was on hand to open its newest venture, the LA Plaza Cocina culinary museum in 2022.

“What impresses me most about her is her fortitude,” said De la Peña. “When she started her career as an activist and political leader, she fought for her community. She was able to rally people around whatever cause she’s fighting for. In the political arena, even when things were stacked against her, she didn’t back down.”

De la Peña worked with Molina on MALDEF, where he got to know the “straight-talking” politician who “could also be warm and friendly,” doling out hugs and talking Mexican food with joy, he said.

“(Younger) Latinas may not be aware of Molina’s legacy, but they’ve benefited from her being a pioneer. She paved the way.”

Zev Yaroslavsky served with Molina on the Board of Supervisors from 1994 to 2014. On Facebook, Yaroslavsky lauded his colleague for facing cancer in the same way she confronted all the challenges in her life: unvowed and unintimated.

“As a colleague you were a loyal ally as well as a worthy adversary, (though) I liked it better when we were on the same side,” he wrote. “Long ago you earned my utmost respect as an honest and indefatigable public servant. You have left a monumental legacy.”

Staunch admirers who worked under Molina called themselves “Molinistas,” and flooded social media with tributes to the 74-year-old.

Guadalupe De La Torre, an analyst for LA County, said she counts being part of Molina’s team for 17 years as “one of her greatest accomplishments.”

“You are an inspiration that will live on forever,” she said.

De la Peña said confronting her terminal illness, with grace, is “classic Molina.”

“She gave us the news and you see it’s on her own terms,” he said. “That’s her trademark.”

LGBTQ Groups Say Easing Rules For Gay Blood Donors Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Many individuals from the LGBTQ community in Southern California remember getting the letter. The one that said they were prohibited from donating blood for life.

“Yeah, I was banned about 15 or 20 years ago,” said Frank Guzman on Feb. 21, a gay man who is president, co-founder and executive director of the Pomona Pride Center. “I went in with the intention to donate blood. I filled out a questionnaire and they said, ‘We don’t allow individuals who are gay to donate’.”

Frank Guzman is a co-founder of the Pomona Pride Center on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. “The Center,” opened in a space provided by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Pomona. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG) On Jan. 27, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees the nation’s blood supply, issued draft guidelines that would allow gay men in monogamous relationships to donate blood. The proposal is aimed at increasing the number of potential blood donors and upping supplies while maintaining a safe product.

Many see it as an attempt to ease blanket restrictions that were placed during the 1980s AIDS epidemic on those who faced a potentially higher risk of spreading HIV.

The draft would do away with a requirement for men who have sex with men to abstain from sexual activity for a minimum of three months before being allowed to give blood. Instead, all potential donors would be screened with a new questionnaire that evaluates their individual risks for HIV based on sexual behavior, recent partners and other factors.

“We feel confident that the safety of the blood supply will be maintained,” FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks told the Associated Press.

While the draft rule was supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in a letter to the FDA on Feb. 7, it has raised questions and more opposition than support from the LGBTQ community, who say the FDA proposal doesn’t erase the stigma placed on potential gay blood donors and retains decades-old bans based on sexual orientation alone.

One of those questions is whether those who received deferral letters banning them for life from giving blood will be allowed to donate under new guidelines. The issue was raised last month during a virtual meting with FDA officials, White House officials and LGBTQ leaders across the nation.

As a senior at Baldwin Park High School and an Associated Student Body member back in 2012, Camila Camaleon, at the time a gay male who is now a transgender female, remembers being unable to give blood at a school blood drive she organized as an 18-year-old.

After being asked about her sexual partners, she was turned away. The next day she received a letter invoking a general ban for life. “It was something that really impacted me,” said Cameleon, 28, the trans president of the San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ Center.

Cameleon, who participated in the call with the FDA, asked whether those like her and Guzman would get letters rescinding the ban. She hopes the FDA will consider such a reversal.

Guzman, who served on the Pomona Unified School District board of trustees from December 2011 to December 2020, always voted against allowing Red Cross blood drives on school campuses, saying he didn’t want to support discriminatory practices.

“There was no reason for me to try again. My blood was not welcome,” Guzman said, echoing the feelings of most in the LGBTQ community today.

Joey Espinoza-Hernandez, director of policy and community building at the LGBT Center of Los Angeles, said that while the FDA is moving toward dismantling the bias, they need to go further, including reevaluating lifelong bans on some individuals.

“Our recommendation is to completely repeal the ban and trust the science,” Espinoza-Hernandez said on Feb. 21.

Gay rights groups have long opposed blanket restrictions on who can give blood, saying they are discriminatory. Medical societies including the American Medical Association have also said such exclusions are unnecessary given advances in technology to test blood for infectious diseases.

Dr. Michael Gottlieb, a staff physician at APLA Health (formerly known as AIDS Project Los Angeles), has worked with AIDS patients since the onset of the disease in the 1980s and was actor Rock Hudson’s doctor. As a young researcher at UCLA in 1981, Gottlieb was the first to identify and describe AIDS as a new disease, which led to a team of researchers in France identifying the virus in 1983.

The Pasadena resident was asked about the attempt by the FDA to ease restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men. He noted that blood used for transfusions has been screened for HIV since 1985.

Now, HIV testing is more sophisticated. Testers look for antibodies, antigens and the nucleic acid material unique to HIV, he said. Testing for nucleic acid is necessary because the presence of antibodies could show up days or weeks after the presence of HIV.

“The testing is definitive. The science supports relaxing the restrictions,” Gottlieb said on Feb. 20.

Regarding the removal of the abstinence period to replace it with a list of questions, he said, “I can see where people still view the questionnaire as stigmatizing.”

Under the new proposal, men who have sex with men will be asked if they have had new or multiple partners in the last three months. Those who answer affirmatively to either question and also report having anal sex would be barred from donating until a later date. The policy would also apply to women who have sex with gay or bisexual men.

Anyone who has ever tested positive for HIV would continue to be ineligible to donate blood, as would those on anti-retroviral drugs.

Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization that has long pushed to change the FDA policy, welcomed the change.

“We think these are good first steps in the right direction,” said Jose Abrigo, HIV project director for Lambda Legal who was born and raised in Los Angeles. “It removes the categorical restriction on men who have sex with men on donating blood and goes to a risk-based assessment.

“But it is not just queer men engaging in risky behavior. It should be applied to everyone so it could be fair,” he said on Feb. 20.

Guzman added, “This (rule change) doesn’t address the main concern. You can have multiple partners regardless of your sexuality. I know many straight people who are friends of mine that engage in promiscuous activity and donate blood anytime they want.”

One rule the gay activists want changed is the blanket ban on anyone taking pills to prevent HIV through sexual contact, at least until three months after their last dose. The FDA noted that the medication, known as PrEP, can delay the detection of the virus in screening tests.

Gottlieb said he understood the prohibition for those on PrEP, because an individual may not always take the pill daily as prescribed, leaving him vulnerable to HIV exposure. Others say the unwritten criticism is that men on PrEP have many sexual partners.

Again, it is Guzman’s experience that is not the case. “I know many individuals who are part of queer community who abstain from sex but are on PrEP and now they are excluded (from giving blood),” he said.

Abrigo said banning gay men who are using an FDA-approved prescription to prevent contracting HIV sends the wrong message. “We should not penalize folks for engaging in safe sex practices,” he said.

Since the COVID pandemic began three years ago, the nation’s blood supply has dropped considerably. The FDA and gay activist groups say the easing of restrictions could bring in more blood donors and increase the nation’s blood supply.

Gottlieb, who treated LGBTQ patients before the AIDS outbreak, said many were regular blood donors. “Gay men as a group were generous blood donors. These were patients who regularly gave blood in the pre-AIDS era,” he said. “They represent a significant percentage of the potential male blood donor pool.”

Abrigo sees a benefit to all if the changes are implemented.

“There is a blood shortage in the United States. The more we can expand it, or make the factors more inclusive without undermining the risk to the blood supply, the more beneficial to all,” he said.

FDA regulators will take public comments on the proposal until the end of March before beginning to finalize the guidelines.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.