Reached by phone, Palencia said, "I literally made a personal decision that I wanted to move on. There's really nothing more to it." He said he was not forced out by the board. About the group's financial situation, he said, "Right now a lot of nonprofits are having problems," but he maintained that the organization has "a lot of support."
Cathy Schwamberger, Equality California Institute board chairwoman, said its members were grateful for Palencia's service "and wish him the best in all of his future endeavors."
The organization appears to be in turmoil. Its recently laid-off Capitol office manager said staff has been cut drastically.
Palencia released a statement to journalist Rex Wockner today about the organization's decision not to go back to the ballot:
"The decision about going or not back to the ballot to overturn Proposition 8 was a gut-wrenching one. Ultimately, I believed that initiating a signature drive could ignite something powerful in our movement here in California. This needs to be balanced with the responsibility of raising close to $2 million by December 2011 for the signature gathering alone; and maybe over $40 million to win this campaign by November 2012. Not a small task. Given the pending federal lawsuit, the economy, critical support among the base and a number of other factors, not winning this campaign could be a very disempowering experience."
Love Honor Cherish, a grassroots organization dedicated to repealing Proposition 8, said in an email today that it is "severely disappointed" in EQCA's decision not to go back to the ballot and it is "ready to fill the void" in fighting for LGBT Equality in California:
Last week, Equality California announced its much-delayed decision to, once again, abandon and postpone any effort to repeal Proposition 8 at the ballot box. EQCA's decision comes despite its members' favoring going to the ballot to repeal Prop 8, despite the town halls that EQCA held favoring being prepared to repeal Prop 8 if the Court case does not go well, and despite EQCA's making numerous statements favoring 2012.
Last night, we all heard the surprising news that EQCA's recently-appointed Executive Director, Roland Palencia, is leaving that position. LHC Outreach Director Lester Aponte says "Roland Palencia is a true gentleman is every sense of the word and has been a tireless advocate for our community and for all the least fortunate in society. Although we disagreed on important issues, our disagreements have always been respectful. Our concern is that his resignation reflects a far larger crisis in the largest LGBT rights organization in California and our movement in general. The failure by EQCA's Board and Mr. Palencia to push strongly for marriage equality is both a symptom and a consequence of this crisis."
In light of EQCA's abdication of their responsibility to fight for equality for the LGBT community in California and to honor their prior commitments, Love Honor Cherish stands ready, willing and able to fill the void and will have further announcements in the coming weeks.