Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 41 / 12 October 2017
 

As expected, syphilis cases in SF declined in ’09

San Francisco STD officials reported Friday, January 29 that the city has begun to turnaround a sudden spike in syphilis cases among gay and bisexual men that was first detected in 2008.

According to preliminary data for 2009, the city registered a 4.2 percent decline in syphilis cases, falling from 547 cases in 2008 to 524 cases last year. The drop was not unexpected, as the Bay Area Reporter reported in November that health officials were predicting a fall off in rates of syphilis cases.

At the time health officials had predicted (quite accurately as it turns out) that if current trends held then the total number of syphilis cases in 2009 would total 548. The number of cases is slightly less than the 552 cases recorded in 2004, when syphilis cases began a steady decline that lasted for the next four years.

Syphilis cases in San Francisco are predominately among men who have sex with men. And while STD prevention officials demur when asked what has led to the downward trend in new cases, the decline has coincided with the re-launch of the city’s heralded Healthy Penis prevention campaign. [One of the posters used this year is posted above.]

The city also recorded drops in cases of gonorrhea last year, although cases of chlamydia spiked upwards. Overall reported chlamydia cases increased from 4,120 to 4,169 (1.2 percent) while rectal chlamydia increased in 2009 from 666 to 740 cases for an 11.1 percent annual increase.

Often one caveat given for increases in rectal chlamydia is more testing for the STD rather than unsafe sex practices among gay and bisexual men.

Reported gonorrhea cases declined 9.8 percent from 2,008 cases in 2008 to 1,812 in 2009. Additionally, rectal gonorrhea among men declined from 465 cases to 457 – a 1.7 percent decline.

Health officials recommend that all sexually active men who have sex with men be screened every 3-6 months for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. In addition, all patients with an STD should be treated promptly and should be re-screened in three months.

STD screening is available at San Francisco City Clinic and community clinics such as Magnet, the gay men’s health center in the Castro. For additional information on where to get tested, visit STDtest.org.

— Matthew S. Bajko, January 29, 2010 @ 1:15 pm PST
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Poll finds Americans oppose Prop 8 repeal

A day after the lawyers arguing the federal Proposition 8 trial in San Francisco wrapped up their presentation of evidence in the case, a Canadian research company released a poll finding that a majority of Americans do not want to see the federal courts strike down the same-sex marriage ban.

A majority of Americans (58 percent) would prefer the Supreme Court judges rule that marriage is heterosexual only, while 34 percent would like a federal definition of marriage without gender limitations, according to the poll.

The survey also found that 52 percent of respondents believe if the Supreme Court reviews the Proposition 8 case the judges will rule that marriage is between a man and a woman. Only 28 percent of Americans think the U.S. Supreme Court will define marriage federally as a union between two people, regardless of gender.

Angus Reid Public Opinion, the public affairs practice of Vision Critical, which has an office in San Francisco, conducted the online poll of 1,000 U.S. adults. The full poll results can be found at the firm’s Web site.

A spokesman for the plaintiffs in the case dismissed the polling results and questioned its accuracy in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. Regardless of the poll’s findings, he said public opinion should not impact the outcome of the Prop 8 lawsuit.

“We are not concerned of an online poll of self-selected respondents from a Canadian firm we have never heard of,” said Yusef Robb. “Our founding fathers did not intend for our constitutional rights to be determined by the polls. Our courts exist to protect every American’s constitutional rights regardless of what the polls say; they have led the way for full equality time and time again.”

The lawsuit over whether Prop 8 is unconstitutional, known as Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, is on hiatus as far as public proceedings go until March when U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker (pictured at right) may schedule the closing arguments in the case. Walker has no deadline to render his decision, which many legal experts predict will find the same-sex marriage ban to be unlawful.

But no matter how the judge rules, the case is sure to be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. LGBT activists have voiced frequent concerns that the nation’s highest court, dominated by conservative justices, is not ready to rule for marriage equality.

What impact, if any, public opinion may have on how the various federal judges and justices rule on the Prop 8 case was addressed Wednesday by the attorneys for the plaintiffs, two same-sex couples who were denied the right to marry in California. David Boies, one of the lead co-counsels (pictured at top), said courts in the U.S. have a history on rendering decisions that a majority of Americans opposed at the time.

He pointed in particular to Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark civil rights decision that ended segregation in public school, as one example of where the Supreme Court justices were “no doubt far ahead” of the American public’s views on the subject. Boies also pointed to the California Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling In Re: Marriage Cases that struck down the state’s anti-gay marriage statutes, which lead to the voters’ rejection of the decision through passage of Prop 8 that November.

“The court has to be ahead of the public, otherwise we wouldn’t need the court,” said Boies.

Ted Boutrous, another one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, told reporters “there has been this myth that the Supreme Court follows public opinion polls.”

He pointed out that at the time of the court’s Loving vs. Virginia decision that ended state bans on interracial marriages, 74 percent of Americans were against interracial marriage. As with that ruling, which said people have a right to marry the person of their choice, gays and lesbians should also be allowed to marry the person they love, argued Boutrous.

“This case is the next step in that line of reasoning,” said Boutrous. “The conclusion, I think, is unavoidable: this law is unconstitutional.”

Andrew Pugno, the general counsel for the Yes on 8 campaign, told reporters Wednesday that the two cases have nothing to do with one another.

“This case is not similar to Loving vs. Virginia. This is not about the right to marry. This is about the meaning of marriage,” he said.

As for fears about it not being the right time to bring forward a federal same-sex marriage lawsuit, Boies said he is confident those fears have been addressed through the expert witness testimony and evidence produced during the Prop 8 trial.

“The American public has gotten a sense of what the facts are. We have brought to light the paucity of the reasoning to deny gays and lesbians from marrying,” said Boies, who expressed confidence that the ultimate outcome of the case would be a win for the LGBT community.

His co-counsel Ted Olson not only will deliver the closing arguments before Walker but will also argue the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, should the justices agree to hear it. Olson, a former U.S. Solicitor General, successfully argued the Bush vs. Gore case before the court and, just last week, scored another victory when the court struck down bans on corporate dollars in political races.

Asked what he had learned from losing to Olson in the Bush vs. Gore case, which ended the legal battle over the 2000 presidential election, Boies said simply that “You need five judges” out of the nine to win.

“How you get to a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is to ensure you have a good record below – I think we do – and present your argument well,” said Boies. “With Olson I think he will, and then you have to let the court decide.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, January 28, 2010 @ 5:16 pm PST
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LGBT giving to Haiti continues

As recovery efforts continue in Haiti, many LGBTs continue to be generous.

The American Red Cross LGBT Haiti Relief Fund has already raised more money than huge corporate donors. Within a week, the community has raised over $150,000 for the fund, according to a statement from Olivia Companies.

Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross

Donors and activists helped reach out to LGBTs, and there’s been a “massive” e-mail campaign to the members of Olivia and two other LGBT cruise companies: Atlantis and RSVP. Donations of cruises, an upgrade auction, and matching funds all were contributed by the cruise companies as pledges came pouring in, according to Olivia. An American Red Cross spokesman verified the information.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and other groups could also join the initiative.

“We are inspired to see so many groups coming together to help earthquake survivors in Haiti,” Nan Buzard, senior director of international response and programs for the American Red Cross, said in the statement. The LGBT community “has done an outstanding job of raising funds to support the American Red Cross’s relief work in Haiti,” where a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck January 12.

To contribute to the fund, visit: http://american.redcross.org/LGBT-pub

The San Francisco-based Rainbow World Fund, the LGBT-oriented group which has so far seen more than $90,000 in donations for Haiti, has also sent out a reminder of several upcoming fundraisers in the city:

“Reach Out” at Infusion Lounge, 124 Ellis Street, tonight [Thursday, January 28] from 6-8. There will be a short program with an auction, and happy hour. The minimum donation is $35.

The AIDS Housing Alliance/SF 6th Anniversary Party benefiting Haiti is Friday, January 29, at Trigger, 2348 Market Street from 6-9 p.m. Featured guests include BeBe Sweetbriar and Heklina.

The Edge is having a drag show and beer bust Saturday, February 6 from 4-7 p.m. at 4149 18th Street.

To donate to Rainbow World Fund online, go to www.rainbowfund.org/donate/

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 4:47 pm PST
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New SF eviction exemption includes LGBT families

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors have unanimously passed legislation designed to protect families with children under 18 from owner move-in evictions.

The legislation, which the supervisors voted for Tuesday, January 26, includes people with custody of a child and their domestic partners.

However, the legislation also includes an amendment that allows the evictions as long as they don’t take place during the school year.

Supervisor Eric Mar (pictured at left), a sponsor of the proposal, said the amendment came after conversations with other supervisors, the Mayor’s office, and groups such as the San Francisco Apartment Association.

He called the amendment “a major watering down” but said it still offers “a significant protection for families.”

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a longtime queer activist who works with the Housing Rights Committee, agrees the legislation’s been weakened, and questioned its effectiveness.

“I wonder how many queer parents in San Francisco who live in apartments feel better their kids can’t be evicted during the school year but can be evicted during the summer,” said Avicolli Mecca.

He added, “To me it’s kind of like saying we’re going to pass gay rights legislation, but it’s only going to apply on Fridays.”

It isn’t clear how many families with children have been affected by owner move-ins.

Janan New, executive director of the San Francisco Apartment Association, said the legislation involves a “very small, small sector of the housing market.”

Based on data from the city’s Rent Board and other sources, the city’s legislative analyst’s office estimated at least 18 families were affected by owner move-in evictions from 2008 to 2009. The office calculated a high range of over 45.

The analyst’s office noted the Rent Board data don’t include verbal owner move-in eviction notices, and Avicolli-Mecca said the evictions are “vastly underreported.”

The city’s current rent ordinance applies to most rental housing built before June 1979. Under that ordinance, an owner or their immediate family member can move in and evict the current tenant.

The prohibition wouldn’t apply in some cases, such as where the landlord only owns one rental unit in the building.

Tenants already protected in the rent ordinance include those who’re over 60 who’ve lived in their units for at least 10 years.

The legislation is expected to be up for a final vote Tuesday, February 2.

For more information, visit the Board of Supervisors online.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 27, 2010 @ 5:07 pm PST
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Milk Club elects new executive officers

As expected the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club has elected its first set of co-presidents to head the progressive queer political group as well as its first transgender female president.

The club voted last night (Tuesday, January 26) to install David Waggoner (pictured at left) and Denise D’Anne as co-leaders of the group. Late last year the 34-year-old club changed its bylaws to allow for the election of male and female co-presidents. [See this week’s online Political Notes column for more about the two co-presidents.]

In the only contested election for a spot on the club’s board, Douglas Welch beat out Larry Cohen for the vice president of internal affairs position.

In a statement following the election results, the two expressed optimism about their ability to work together in leading the club.

“It’s an exciting mix of youthful energy and deep community wisdom that will serve the club exceptionally well in this critical year,” said D’Anne, a veteran queer political activist.

“I’m honored to serve,” added Waggoner. “The Milk Club is of such huge significance to the LGBT community and the issues we champion, and 2010 promises to be one of the most exciting and important years ever in the club’s storied history.”

Current Milk Club president Rafael Mandelman stepped down after two years in the post in order to focus on his bid for supervisor in District 8 where Bevan Dufty is termed out of office this year.

“I’m so excited to leave The Milk Club in such capable hands,” stated Mandelman. “It has been humbling to serve as President of Milk – I will be forever grateful for the opportunity given me by this amazing, diverse community of passionate activists.”

Others elected to the board Tuesday night included Vice President of Political Affairs Linnette Peralta Haynes; Vice President of External Affairs Barbara Lopez; Treasurer Michael Lee; Recorder Jenette Lanning; and Correspondent Scott Trammell Moore.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 5:00 pm PST
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Parents of dead woman’s ex-girlfriend to be arraigned

The parents of a Sunnyvale woman who has been charged in the death of her ex-girlfriend are to be arraigned today [Friday, January 22] on charges of being accessories to a felony.

Wilmar Edwin Bautista, 45, and Elizabeth Virginia Bautista, 41, had been sought by San Jose police for allegedly aiding and abetting their daughter, Jennifer Vanessa Bautista, 19.

Jennifer Bautista has been charged in the death of Norma Leticia “Leti” Martinez, 20, (pictured below) who died on December 28 after allegedly being run over.

Rhoda Martinez, Leti Martinez’s mother, has said the two women had had an abusive relationship that her daughter had ended the same month she was killed.

Sergeant Ronnie Lopez, a San Jose police spokesman, said Bautista’s parents turned themselves in last week. According to court records, their case was filed January 15. They’ll be arraigned in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Jennifer Bautista faces felony charges of vehicular manslaughter and hit and run, and a misdemeanor charge of being an unlicensed driver in connection with Martinez’s death.

She has not yet entered a plea and remains in the Santa Clara County main jail in San Jose on $500,000 bail.

Bautista’s parents are also in custody. Wilmar Bautista’s bail has been at $50,000. Elizabeth Bautista’s bail is $25,000.

Nick Muyo, spokesman for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, said if Jennifer Bautista is convicted of all the charges, she could face a maximum prison term of seven years.

Police had received a 911 call at 6:43 a.m. about a female lying in the street in front of 1355 Michigan Avenue in Alviso, according to court documents.

The documents indicate police and emergency personnel found Martinez, who lived a couple blocks away, “critically injured and bleeding profusely after being run over by a vehicle.” She was taken to a local hospital and died several hours later.

According to the documents, one witness who had been looking out her window at about 6:05 a.m. had seen the two women arguing. Moments later, she saw Martinez riding on the hood of the car as it went down Michigan Avenue. Another witness saw Martinez jump on the hood of the car before it headed down the street, the documents showed. The car had stopped briefly, then later stopped a second time for a longer period before driving away.

On Wednesday, December 30, police located Jennifer Bautista during a vehicle stop near South Seventh and Tully streets, south of downtown San Jose, said Thomas. Alviso is north of San Jose and is patrolled by San Jose police.

Bautista, who had been sought as a “person of interest,” was arrested later that day after hours of questioning.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 22, 2010 @ 1:02 pm PST
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SF gay chorus to visit Prop 8 strongholds

Get ready, Fresno. You’re getting a gay chorus this spring.

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (pictured below) is set to kick off the three-part “2010 California Freedom Tour” on January 30.

The tour will start in Redding, then appear in Chico on January 31, continue in May with shows in Fresno and Bakersfield, and end in July with a concert in Tracy.

The cities are in the Central Valley, where the Prop 8 same-sex marriage ban found some of its biggest support.

“Before Prop 8 passed, we were planning to go to Europe in 2010,” Teddy Witherington, the chorus’s executive director, said in a statement. “The shock of losing our marriage rights caused us to re-think our priorities as an organization. Upon reflection, we have decided to eat our vegetables before having dessert.”

Currently, the chorus has 206 members. Over 100 will participate in the tour.

Chorus member Bud Dillon, born and raised in Redding, stated, “So many people only hear about gay men within the context of heated controversy. The Freedom Tour will help to change that in an incredibly entertaining way. ”

The program will include show tunes, classical selections, and a new piece titled “We are Coming Out.”

The tour is being presented in association with Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG) and will team with a local charity in each city.

All proceeds from ticket sales will be split by the local charity and PFLAG.

For more information, visit www.sfgmc.org

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 21, 2010 @ 4:49 pm PST
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Suspect in Castro area stabbing charged

The man who allegedly stabbed a cab driver in the Castro District is being charged with attempted murder.

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris is also charging Bruce Lee Griffin, 26, of Pittsburg, California with assault with a deadly weapon and first-degree robbery of a taxi driver.

As KTVU Channel 2 reported, Griffin had left his cell phone in the cab after the incident.

On Monday, January 11 at about 7:15 p.m., Griffin allegedly flagged down a taxi driven by Balvinder Singh, 53, and asked to be taken to States Street. The street is near the intersection of Market and 17th streets.

Once Griffin and Singh reached the 200 block of States Street, Griffin allegedly told him to stop and demanded that Singh give him money. As Singh reached for his money, Griffin allegedly began to stab him. The driver got out of the taxi, but Griffin also allegedly got out and continued to stab him in the street, the DA’s office said in a statement.

Singh dropped some of his money to the ground, but Griffin allegedly continued to stab him before leaning down to scoop up the money. Griffin fled the scene.

Singh, who suffered life-threatening stab wounds to the chest and head, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital.

Officer Boaz Mariles, a San Francisco police spokesman, told the Bay Area Reporter today [Thursday, January 14] the driver has been discharged from the hospital.

Griffin’was arrested early Wednesday morning, January 13, on Post Street. He is scheduled to be arraigned and enter pleas at 9 a.m. tomorrow [Friday, January 15] in San Francisco Superior Court.

He is in custody with two no-bail holds – one from San Francisco and another from the California Department of Corrections.

Griffin is alleged to have a prior felony “strike” under California’s “three-strikes” law for his conviction for robbery in 2003.

In a statement, Harris said, “In an act of profound cowardice, Griffin victimized and nearly killed a hardworking man who was just trying to make a living. In a model of true community policing, bystanders at the scene worked with the San Francisco Police Department shoulder-to-shoulder, which quickly led to the capture of this madman.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 14, 2010 @ 4:50 pm PST
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US Supreme Court blocks videos from Prop 8 trial

The Supreme Court has blocked televising the federal Prop 8 trial in San Francisco, ruling 5-4 late Wednesday, January 13 not to allow video from each day’s proceedings to be uploaded online.

The justices split along party lines, with the court’s Republican-appointed majority siding with claims by Prop 8’s backers that releasing the footage from the trial would have resulted in harassment of their clients and witnesses.

The lawyers for the plaintiff couples and LGBT leaders have pressed for the trial to be televised, arguing it would help to educate Americans about the discrimination gays and lesbians face in America.

“It is very troubling that the Supreme Court has decided to prohibit, even on a delayed basis, any video transmission of the proceedings in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. In doing so, the Court has failed to recognize that where matters so basic to the dignity and equality of millions of Americans are at issue, it is even more imperative than usual that all of the constitutional arguments, pro and con, be exposed to the greatest possible public scrutiny,” stated L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Executive Officer Lorri L. Jean.

Jean called Prop 8 backers’ move to stop the broadcasts of the trial “a new height in gall, but also extraordinarily telling,” since only months ago they “were spending millions of dollars to broadcast their lies and distortions about marriage equality up and down the state of California” but now want “the courts to shield their anti-gay arguments from public view.”

Jean argued that Prop 8’s proponents “know full well that without the appeals to fear and prejudice, which have become their stock-in-trade, they have no case to make against fairness and equal treatment for all Americans.”

U.S. Federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker had decided to release the videos and his ruling was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The appelate court recently decided to allow judges to have discretion over whether or not to televise proceedings before them.

But the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the decision prior to the start of the Prop 8 trial Monday, January 11. Cameras had been recording the first two days of testimony in case the court lifted its ban.

Walker had said Tuesday that he had received hundreds of thousands of comments about the issue, with the overwhelming majority of people in favor of having the same-sex marriage trial televised.

— Matthew S. Bajko, January 13, 2010 @ 3:05 pm PST
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New Jersey Senate rejects marriage equality

A New Jersey Senate bill that would’ve legalized same-sex marriage failed today. The vote was 20-14.

Outgoing Democratic Governor Jon S. Corzine said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed” by the move.

“Denying any group of people a fundamental human right because of who they are, or whom they love, is wrong, plain and simple,” stated Corzine (pictured below).

“As was the case when Americans faced legal discrimination on the basis of their race or gender, history will frown on the denial of the basic right of marriage equality.”

Steven Goldstein, chair of the lobbying group Garden State Equality, said in a statement that the state legislature has “defaulted on its constitutional obligation to provide same-sex couples in New Jersey equal protection,” as unanimously mandated in 2006, when the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples should have the same legal and financial rights as other couples.

Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund have announced they’ll go back to court to obtain marriage equality.

Referring to current New Jersey law, Kevin Cathcart, Lambda’s executive director, said in a statement, “There is enormous, heartbreaking evidence that civil unions are not equal to marriage, and we will be going back to the courts in New Jersey to fight for equality. Too many families are at risk.  We cannot wait any longer.”

Republican Governor-elect Chris Christie, who opposes same-sex marriages, is expected to take office later this month.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 7, 2010 @ 3:32 pm PST
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