Laura Kanter, LMSW
Lecturer of Social Work,
College of Human Sciences and Humanities
Laura Willa Kanter, LMSW, has over 20 years of experience as a school counselor, community
organizer and LGBTQIA+ advocate. She began her advocacy in the 1990s, working to increase
access to medical care for women at risk for HIV/AIDS in California. She earned her
MSW from UCLA in 1996.
Laura has since been involved in advocacy for LGBTQ+ youth, marriage equality, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the rights of undocumented queer and trans folkx, ending ICE contracts with local law enforcement, LGBTQIA+ inclusive sex education and inclusive curriculum, and the use of restorative justice practices in education.
In 2012, Laura was selected as a fellow with the Women’s Policy Institute through the Women’s Foundation of California, and went on to work on local and statewide policies related to LGBTQ youth, school district policies, transgender rights, immigration, and healthcare. In Santa Ana, California, Laura worked with youth, educators, and community leaders to improve school climate through policy advocacy at the local and state levels as part of a place-based grassroots coalition that earned millions of dollars in school funding to support LGBTQIA+ and immigrant youth.
In 2014, Laura co-founded the Orange County LGBTQ Policing Partnership, and worked with law enforcement leaders in Southern California to improve communication and trust with the LGBTQ community. Laura was also the co-founder of the Orange County Equality Coalition (OCEC) and the Orange County Lavender Democrats, the county’s LGBTQIA+ Democratic group.
In July 2020, Laura started as the Manager of Youth Services at the Montrose Center where she oversaw the Hatch youth program, youth outreach and youth rapid rehousing programs, and represented the Montrose Center as an advocate for LGBTQIA+ youth and their families. She is on the Statewide Multidisciplinary Task Force to End Child Sex Trafficking, and was just appointed to Mayor Turner's LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.
Laura has received multiple awards for her work including being named the “Best Voice for the Little Gay” by OC Weekly in 2012; the M. Katherine B. Darmer Outstanding Community Service Award by the Orange County Lavender Bar Association in 2015; the Harvey Milk Award by the OC Young Democrats; and the Orange County Human Relations Diverse Community Leader Award in 2017. The Orange County Register named Laura one of Orange County’s Most Influential People in 2016.
Laura is committed to creating intersectional communities in which people from a multitude of situations become aware of the ways in which power and oppression operate in their lives and come together as advocates for healing and system-wide change.