While same-sex-friendly wedding bells may be ringing in California’s affluent cities and suburbs, in the state’s rural stretches, the GLBT community still faces discrimination and harassment in the most elemental of arenas: the workplace. Outreach programs such as Proyecto Poderoso (Spanish for Project Powerful) work with low-income GLBT people living in rural areas, many of whom are Latino farmworkers, to combat discrimination and, as the project’s lead attorney Lisa Cisneros explains in the Advocate (April 22, 2008), to create “safe places for people to live, work, and go to school.”
Half the battle is making people aware of their rights, which are significant under California’s sexual-orientation antidiscrimination laws. Proyecto Poderoso staffers talk GLBT rights on Spanish-language radio and television and do presentations with community groups in rural counties across the state. (Cisneros even did some outreach at a farmworker-frequented gay bar in Castroville, population 6,724, the heart of America’s Salad Bowl.)
The program, which has 21 offices around the state, is cosponsored by California Rural Legal Assistance and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and while they don’t keep track of the number of cases they handle month to month, Cisneros says she’s handled 18 legal matters herself since it launched in September 2007.