Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Harris wins AG race as city supes prepare to seek new mayor, DA job opens

Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley  conceded the race for the state’s top law enforcement office today (Wednesday, November 24). His rival, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, is holding off on declaring victory, but the concession likely makes her the state’s next attorney general.

Cooley’s concession should be good news for LGBTs. It also adds a new twist in San Francisco, as the city’s supervisors search for an interim mayor and the DA job becomes vacant.

“While the margin is extremely narrow and ballots are still being counted, my campaign believes that we cannot make up the current gap in the vote count for Attorney General,” Cooley said in a statement issued by his campaign today. “Therefore, I am formally conceding the race and congratulate Ms. Harris on becoming California’s next Attorney General.”

Cooley and Harris had switched  leads frequently as votes continued to be counted weeks after Election  Day, November 3. As of Tuesday night, Harris had 4,376,509 votes, or 46 percent of the total. Cooley had 4,324,924 votes, or 45.5 percent.

Brian Brokaw, a spokesman for Harris’s campaign, said in a statement, “District Attorney Harris thanks District Attorney Cooley for a spirited campaign and looks forward to working together on the critical public safety challenges facing California. The counties continue to tabulate votes, and District Attorney Harris believes it is only appropriate to wait until all the votes are counted before making a public declaration.”

Brokaw stated that Harris will hold a press conference Tuesday, November 30, the deadline for counties to report final counts to the secretary of state.

Cooley’s concession should provide some relief for marriage equality advocates.

Harris,  an advocate for LGBTs, has said the state’s “precious and few  resources” shouldn’t be wasted on defending the state’s same-sex  marriage ban, Prop 8. The measure, which was passed by voters in  November 2008, is now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Cooley  had said he would defend it, which Jerry Brown, the state’s current  attorney general and governor-elect, and present Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger  had declined to do.

Their positions could doom the defense of Prop 8, as  the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has questioned whether the  measure’s backers have standing to defend it.

The attorney general also gets to decide ballot language, which could make a  difference if marriage equality advocate attempt to repeal Prop 8 at the ballot box.

Also today, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors have settled on a process for selecting the next mayor. Gavin Newsom, who’s mayoral term is set to expire in November 2011,  has been elected as the state’s next lieutenant governor, so his current job will be open in January.

According to the Chronicle, the first person to get six of the 11 supervisors’ votes will complete Newsom’s term. No supervisor can vote for himself, the paper said, adding that if they don’t agree on somebody, Board President David Chiu will be acting mayor “until and if” an interim mayor’s selected.

That adds some intrigue to who will replace Harris, as Chiu is seen as a possible successor to her.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 24, 2010 @ 12:13 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Speaker Perez posts video message to gay teens as he urges UC officials to address bullying issues

The openly gay speaker of California’s Assembly posted a video message to gay teens online today (Wednesday, November 24) telling them to remain hopeful about their futures. Assemblyman John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) is also urging higher education officials to address anti-LGBT bullying on campuses throughout California.

Perez is the first of the state’s LGBT lawmakers to add a video to what is known as the “It Gets Better” campaign on YouTube, created by gay Seattle journalist and parent Dan Savage. He started it this fall in reaction to a slew of news reports on LGBT teens committing suicide.

In his video, titled “It Absolutely Gets Better,” Perez talks about his coming out to his family one Thanksgiving holiday while a student at the University of California at Berkeley. He said he was lucky because his family accepted his being gay.

“The rash of suicides we’ve seen in the past year have been nothing short of heartbreaking in every sense of the word. The particulars are the same in every case, where the kid felt so lonely and isolated and had no hope for the future to the point where they felt the only answer was taking their own life,” stated Pérez in a release announcing his participation in the video project. “The It Gets Better series is a way for each of us who struggled with the same issues to reach out to the kids and let them know how wonderful and special and not alone they are. I chose to do this video now because with the holiday season approaching it’s more critical than any other time of the year to send the kids a message of hope.”

Following the suicide of a Rutgers University student whose roommate allegedly simulcasted on the Internet his having sex with another male student, Perez this week also sent a letter to officials at both the UC and California State University systems asking them to review their policies and programs for protecting all students and providing them with safe learning environments.

As speaker Perez serves as a UC regent and a trustee of the state university system. He has requested that both oversight panels discuss what their current policies are regarding student privacy and how the various campuses responded to the incident at Rutgers.

“California’s institutions of higher learning have taken steps to promote a safe and inclusive campus environment, but we need to ensure that every measure is taken to protect young people. I have asked for the UC and CSU leadership to review the conditions on campuses throughout California to ensure that we are taking those steps, and will be working closely with them in my capacity as a UC Regent and CSU Trustee. The safety and well being of our students must be their highest priority,” stated Perez.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:06 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF LGBT Center receiving $100,000 from AT&T

San Francisco’s LGBT Community Center is receiving $100,000 from AT&T to support technology for the community through a new center initiative.

The funding will provide the center with a user-friendly website and mobile access, building-wide Wi-Fi and broadband Internet, and a technology upgrade to improve computer access in the organization’s CyberCenter.

Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and San Francisco Supervisors Bevan Dufty and David Campos will be among the speakers at a November 30 event at the center, 1800 Market Street, in honor of AT&T.

“The Center is so pleased to celebrate AT&T’s investment in the community,” Rebecca Rolfe, the center’s executive director, said in a statement. “Their support is a perfect example of how corporate partnership with the center can help connect our diverse community to opportunities, resources and each other to achieve our vision of a stronger, healthier, and more equitable world for LGBT people and our allies.”

The event is, in the center’s Ceremonial Room on the fourth floor, is from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The program and check presentation begin at 6.

Besides Leno, Dufty, and Campos, other speakers will include Rolfe; Ken McNeely, president of AT&T California; and Ashley Pereira, a former center youth intern.

Light refreshments and drinks will be served.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 23, 2010 @ 1:49 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Boxer, Feinstein urge DADT repeal

California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, spoke at press conference today, supporting repeal of the military’s  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prohibition of gays serving openly.

“This is a no-brainer,” Boxer said. “People are fighting for our country. They’re heroes. They’re stars. And for absolutely no reason they find themselves tossed out of the military. No reason, other than something that has nothing to do with their ability to protect this nation.”

Feinstein noted thousands of people have been discharged “not because they didn’t excel at their jobs, but because of their sexual orientation.

“This law is unconstitutional, and the Senate should take action before the Supreme Court and make the record crystal clear that we agree,” she said.

Senator Harry Reid, (D-Nevada), the Senate majority leader, has called for a vote on repeal after Thanksgiving. Republicans blocked repeal earlier this fall. It’s far from certain that the measure – part of a larger military funding bill – will pass in the next two months before the current session of Congress ends.

There will be even more Republicans in the Senate in January, although Democrats will still be the majority there.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 18, 2010 @ 4:10 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Oral arguments in Prop 8 appeal to be on live TV

C-SPAN has been granted permission to televise oral arguments in the federal Prop 8 appeal live December 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is in San Francisco, announced today.

The hearing is set to begin at 10 a.m.

Additionally, KGO-TV Channel 7 will be allowed to tape the proceedings for later broadcast, the court said.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled in August that California’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, had tried to allow cameras in his courtroom when he heard the case. But Prop 8 backers had protested the idea, claiming their witnesses would be harassed if they appeared on TV.

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled against allowing the district court case to be televised.

The oral arguments next month isn’t set to include witnesses.

C-SPAN will serve as the pool-feed for all media organizations that submit an application.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 17, 2010 @ 5:33 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF human rights agency dismissive of claims by gay ex-cruise worker

The case of a gay San Francisco man who’d complained to San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission that he’d been fired from a local ferry company because of his orientation isn’t holding water with the agency.

In November 2009, Hornblower Yachts Inc. and its subsidiary Alcatraz Cruises apparently terminated Vincent Atos, 47, claiming he’d been overly flirtatious with other workers.

Atos has countered that he was fired because of his sexual orientation and because he’d tried to organize a union.

In a November 4 letter to Atos, Thomas Willis, manager of the commission’s discrimination complaints unit, the agency’s investigation “found that you were terminated for inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace.”

The letter said that Alcatraz Cruises’ human resources director got a complaint in October 2009 alleging that Atos had offered to give another cruise worker a blow job to help him out of a bad mood.

The worker had also reported that Atos had been heard several times before talking about blow jobs and saying that he enjoyed working with “young boys.” Atos had also been heard to say, “I just like hanging out in the shower with the boys,” the commission’s letter said.

Willis also reported the investigation found that Atos had “continuously pressured and harassed another male employee about ‘coming out'” and that he’d outted the man against his will.

One person had told the commission that Atos had been warned to tone down his flirtatiousness with male coworkers, according to Willis’s letter, which also said that Atos hadn’t complained about discrimination against him until he was fired.

Atos provided the Bay Area Reporter with a copy of Willis’s letter.

In an e-mail to the B.A.R., Atos said he was “very disappointed” with the investigation and called it “sloppy and narrow minded.” He said the commission had ignored the “sexually charged” work environment, which even the people who’d complained about him had taken part in.

“One of the main complainants against me is [a] supervisor who sent pornographic images to workers and even brought his laptap (sic) to work to view porn,” wrote Atos, who plans to appeal the decision and said he’s “considering other options to seek justice.”

Willis’s letter said that Atos’s case was closed, and the commission wouldn’t take any further action on it.

But in a phone interview, Theresa Sparks, the commission’s executive director, said, “We’re not done with the process yet.” She said Atos had 15 days from the time he received the letter to file an appeal to her.

“This was an administrative decision, not a director’s finding,” she said, meaning “it’s a lower level finding based on a preliminary investigation.”

Sparks said she could either validate the administrative finding, open an entirely new investigation, or overturn the initial finding.

Atos had also complained to the National Labor Relations Board, but a regional officer dismissed his claims in June.

Hornblower spokeswoman Tegan Firth said Atos’s case was “a private employee matter, and we just don’t comment on employee matters.”

Atos’s supporters are standing by him.

Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said the union’s confident a “deeper and more thorough examination” by the commission would show “salty, sexual” behavior and conversation at the cruise operation was “widespread.”

“It was only the openly gay and open union supporter who was fired for … participating along with everyone else in that kind of behavior,” said Merrileef.

David Waggoner, co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic club, said in an e-mail that Atos’s claims had been “extensively” researched by supporters, and it was “clear that Vincent was summarily fired within weeks of his union activity on the pretext that he was flirting with co-workers.”

He wrote, “When straight co-workers could view porn in the workplace with impunity, we can only conclude Vincent’s termination was a result of discriminatory and disparate treatment. We are disappointed the HRC apparently ignored this disparate treatment.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 5:17 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Supreme Court leaves DADT in effect

In a move that did not catch anyone by surprise, the U.S. Supreme Court today denied a request from attorneys for Log Cabin Republicans to vacate an order that enabled the military to continue enforcing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals had, on November 1, granted the Department of Justice a stay of a lower court’s injunction against enforcement of DADT. Log Cabin filed a petition, asking the high court to vacate the stay, which had been in place since October 20 – first as a temporary stay, then as a permanent stay until the federal appeals court can address DOJ’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that DADT is unconstitutional.

The two-sentence order issued Friday indicated that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is responsible for disposition of such requests from the 9th Circuit, referred Log Cabin’s request to the entire bench. The order did not indicate a dissent by any of the justices but did indicate that the court’s newest member – Justice Elena Kagan – recused herself from the decision.

Log Cabin attorney Dan Wood said he would now ask the 9th Circuit to expedite consideration of the government’s appeal. A 9th Circuit panel is scheduled to hear arguments in the case in February and a decision is not likely until April or later. DADT will remain in effect during that time, absent some action by Congress to repeal the law sooner.

The Senate is expected to take up repeal language with the defense authorization bill, perhaps as early as Wednesday (on a motion to break the current Republican-led filibuster). But even if the Senate does approve the repeal measure, it still has several more potentially difficult hurdles to clear: a House-Senate conference committee vote, votes again in the House and Senate on the committee’s final version of the legislation, and – assuming President Barack Obama would sign it – a certification process and 60-day waiting period that could put the measure back before Congress yet again.

Meanwhile, Log Cabin Republicans has begun goading the White House over the lawsuit and repeal measure, criticizing DOJ for opposing its request to end the stay and claiming that the Obama administration has not dispatched anyone to press for passage in the Senate.

“President Obama remains far from the front lines of the fight for legislative repeal while commanding his lawyers to zealously defend ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in court,” said Log Cabin Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper. Cooper (pictured at right) said Log Cabin this week “conducted meetings with numerous Republican senators potentially in favor of repeal, all of whom are waiting for the president’s call. The White House has been missing in action on Capitol Hill, undermining efforts to repeal [DADT] in the final session of this Congress, potentially leaving the judiciary as the only solution for our brave men and women in uniform.”

Notably, Kagan’s recusal from the order at this point hints that she would likely recuse herself from the case once it reaches the high court on the merits. Her recusal would set up the possibility of a tie vote in the high court, thus limiting the 9th Circuit’s decision – whatever it is – just to the states covered by the circuit court.

– Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, November 12, 2010 @ 2:59 pm PST
Filed under: News

Union Square die-in planned to address bullying

A die-in is planned for tonight (Friday, November 12) “to show that homophobia, whether it’s expressed by bullying, legislation, preaching or the media, does kill,” according to organizer Kelly Rivera Hart.

The action, which begins at 6, will be the first in a string of die-ins meant to promote Safe Schools legislation that’s currently stalled in Congress.

Participants will meet at the center of Union Square and are asked to bring signs with the names of youth that have committed suicide after bullying.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania high school student Brandon Bitner, 14, reportedly walked in front of a tractor trailer after years of being called “faggot” and other names. Several other teens across the country have also committed suicide recently, apparently as a result of anti-gay bullying.

At the sound of a whistle tonight, everyone will lay down, the names of queer youth who have killed themselves will be read, and the those who have “died” will shout the names back. Everyone will get up the next time the whistle’s blown.

Hart asked in a Facebook post that people comply with any police requests to disperse.

“This is not an action to get us arrested, this is an action to get the crowd educated,” he wrote.

Visit this Facebook page for more information.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 11:11 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yee’s vote against transgender health benefits likely to haunt his mayoral campaign

State Senator Leland Yee (pictured at left) has officially entered the race to be San Francisco’s next mayor. And already his vote against transgender health benefits while a San Francisco supervisor is being raised to question his ability to represent the city’s LGBT community should he capture Room 200.

Wednesday morning (November 10) the Democratic lawmaker filed paperwork to form an exploratory committee for the mayor’s race, which will allow him to begin raising money for his campaign.

He joins three other declared candidates: outgoing openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty; City Attorney Dennis Herrera; and Silicon Valley businesswoman Joanna Rees. Openly gay State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is also exploring a possible mayoral run but has yet to create a committee to start fundraising.

Yee made history four years ago by becoming the first Chinese American to serve in the state Senate. At the time he told the Bay Area Reporter it was a victory for all communities who have faced discrimination.

“The kinds of discrimination the LGBT community has lived through is exactly the same type of discrimination my community has had to face,” said Yee, who easily won a second term in the Senate in the November 2 election.

During his time in Sacramento – he was an assemblyman for four years – Yee has been a strong ally of the LGBT community. He scored a 100 percent the last two years on Equality California’s scorecard.

In 2006 while in the Assembly, Yee saw to passage the campaign ethics law AB1207, whose aim was to end antigay rhetoric in political races and reduce homophobia’s influence in election outcomes.

In 2008 he applauded the state Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex couples to wed.

Yet Yee’s attitude toward LGBT rights has not always been so supportive. While a San Francisco supervisor he voted against adding transgender health benefits to the insurance coverage provided to city employees. He was only one of two members of the board to be opposed to the legislation.

During his first senate run Yee apologized to local transgender activists and said that his vote was wrong.

“What I said was that when I looked at the issue [in 2001] I was really focusing on the financial issue,” Yee told the B.A.R. at the time. “Had I known the pain I caused the transgender community on that particular vote, I would have never voted the way I did.

“To that extent I was sorry my vote caused the pain that it did,” he added.

Nevertheless, the vote is likely to haunt him during next year’s mayoral campaign. Backers of at least one other declared candidate have already begun a whisper campaign about Yee’s initial stance.

And don’t be surprised if it pops up on mailers targeting LGBT voters next fall.

— Matthew S. Bajko, November 11, 2010 @ 5:15 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Housing project related to LGBT seniors still coming, agency director insists

Construction on a housing development welcoming to LGBT seniors in the Lower Haight still has not begun, but the head of a key agency involved with the project insists the development will still happen.

Openhouse, the San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to LGBT senior housing issues, has planned for years to build affordable senior housing at 55 Laguna Street.

In a March 2009 e-mail, Seth Kilbourn, Openhouse’s executive director, wrote, “We hope to begin [construction] by fall 2010.”

But this week’s newsletter from Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi mentioned murals that are being painted on boundary walls near the site. The mural project would seem to indicate that no major construction would be happening at the site, which is near the LGBT Community Center, any time soon. Mirkrarimi had been instrumental in helping the project along.

In a phone interview today (Thursday, November 11) Kilbourn said, “I am not familiar with any murals going up on any walls.”

Kilbourn said, “We are still engaged in discussions with the master developer and the University of California, which owns the site, to proceed with development. Those discussions are ongoing, and we hope to have a more detailed development timeline very shortly.”

AF Evans, the project’s development company, announced last March that they’d filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But the company had said they’d continue working with Openhouse. At the time, Kilbourn said in a statement that the development would be “minimally impacted.”

Art Evans, the development company’s CEO, had stated, “Our filing will not affect our efforts on the project.” A Chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a reorganization plan in order to survive and pay creditors over time.

Kilbourn said today that the developer is still AF Evans, in partnership with Wood Partners. Wood Partners is fairly new to the project, but Kilbourn wouldn’t say what the arrangement between the two companies is.

“That’s between AF Evans and Wood Partners,” he said. “I couldn’t comment on that.”

Asked if Wood Partners joined the project as a result of AF Evans’s bankruptcy last year, Kilbourn said, “They were brought in to take a look at the private development part of the project, and they have decided to take on that part of the project.”

As far as when construction would begin, Kilbourn said, “Discussions are ongoing. I can’t really give a time line right now.”

Reminded today about the fall 2010 construction start that had been hoped for, Kilbourn asked, “What was going to happen this fall?” He said he was sure there’d been a miscommunication.

“Development in San Francisco takes a long time,” he said. He added that discussions with the developers and the Mayor’s Office on Housing are continuing.

“We are very encouraged about the progress, and will have a more definitive development plan very shortly,” said Kilbourn. He said he couldn’t be more specific on the timeline.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors essentially cleared the way for the development, which would include at least 88 units of affordable senior housing, in April 2008, after a process that went on for more than four years. Housing activists and elected officials had pushed for more affordability in the project. The site for the development housed the former UC Berkeley Extension campus.

Kilbourn said the design plans for the housing development haven’t changed.

For more information about the project, visit

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 4:15 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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