Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Fate of SF lesbian library prez in mayor’s hands

The fate of lesbian Library Commission President Jewelle Gomez is now in the hands of interim Mayor Ed Lee after the city’s Ethics Commission sent him a letter Monday night (July 18) asking for her removal.

The mayor has yet to disclose if he will follow the oversight body’s advice and seek to replace Gomez, the library board’s lone out LGBT member.

As the Bay Area Reporter‘s Political Notebook reported last week, the unanimous vote by the five-member ethics panel is unprecedented and marked the first time it had taken up a matter referred to it by the city’s Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.

That body found that not only had Gomez violated the city’s open meetings laws but also the Library Commission as a whole had willfully failed to allow public comment during a June 4, 2009 meeting.

Gomez (seen at left) apologized last week for her behavior both at the ethics hearing and in an interview with the B.A.R. But she also saw no need for her to step down from the Library Commission and called the enforcement action against her a personal vendetta pursued by her detractors.

In an interview this week, Sue Cauthen, the journalist and local library activist who was not allowed to speak by Gomez during the meeting two years ago, told the B.A.R. she was “very pleased” by the Ethics Commission’s decision.

“I don’t wish Jewelle evil or bad stuff, but I do think she really did scream at the top of her lungs and was bellowing. I just feel no one should be treated that way without some notice taken by the highest authorities,” said Cauthen, a member of the sunshine task force who recused herself from hearing the matter. “At the Ethics Commission Jewelle said I was assaulting her. I wasn’t assaulting anybody; I couldn’t even speak.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, July 20, 2011 @ 3:48 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Issue raised with adding NY flag to Castro’s flag pole

Looks like New York State’s flag may not be making an appearance in the Castro sky this weekend after all.

As the Bay Area Reporter‘s blog had noted Monday (July 18) the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro’s board last week unanimously approved a proposal to add an official Empire State flag below the over-sized Rainbow Flag that currently flies over the heart of San Francisco’s gayborhood.

Local gay blogger Michael Petrelis had made the request after obtaining a flag from his friend, openly gay New York State Senator Tom Duane (D), who bought an official New York flag and shipped it to San Francisco.

But Tuesday afternoon (July 19) MUMC President Steve Adams told the B.A.R. there was a problem with the plan. The specially designed flag pole does not have enough grommets to properly fly both flags.

“There is no way get the New York flag on the flag pole. We don’t have the grommets. It just won’t look right,” said Adams.

As a compromise Adams suggested a banner could be added with a message honoring the same-sex marriages set to take place in New York this Sunday, July 24. A black banner was added to the flag when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1986 to uphold the country’s sodomy laws.

“It needs to be big, though,” said Adams. “It needs to be 4 feet by 40 foot long.”

Whether organizers behind the New York flag effort will agree to that compromise remains to be seen. In an email Petrelis sent out late Tuesday afternoon he suggested it may be too late to create such a banner.

And he held out hope there may be a way to attach the New York flag still.

“There is also the possibility, IMHO, to simply use just the one clasp to hoist the NY flag. okay, it won’t look all that great, but it won’t be impeding traffic on Market Street and it will allow us to still stage a rally and flag raising ceremony,” wrote Petrelis in the email.

It remains to be seen if a deal can be worked out. One idea being floated is for people to still gather at Harvey Milk Plaza this weekend and merely hold up the Empire State flag.

Or possibly seeing if the property that houses Diesel could fly the flag on one of its various flag poles atop the building.

— Matthew S. Bajko, July 19, 2011 @ 6:44 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Castro merchants approve request to fly NY state flag in honor of same-sex marriage vote

A Castro merchants group has approved a request to fly the New York State flag this weekend in honor of the Empire State’s move to allow same-sex couples to wed.

The Merchants of Upper Market and Castro’s board last week unanimously voted to support adding an official New York State flag (seen at right) below the over-sized Rainbow Flag that currently flies over the heart of San Francisco’s gayborhood.

“With all that has gone on in California the board feels this is something we should do. We want to  show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in New York,” said banker Steve Adams, MUMC’s president.

Under the proposal, the East Coast state’s flag would be raised at noon Saturday, July 23 and be taken down the evening of Monday, July 25. Same-sex marriage becomes legal in New York State this Sunday, July 24.

Numerous judges are volunteering to work that day so they can waive a 24-hour waiting period requirement and begin marrying gay and lesbian couples immediately.

Local San Francisco blogger and activist Michael Petrelis is friends with openly gay New York State Senator Tom Duane. He requested a flag from the Democratic Manhattan lawmaker’s office in hopes it could be flown in his hometown.

Due to his fighting with MUMC over its policies on when to lower the Rainbow Flag to honor LGBT people who have died, Petrelis reached out to longtime marriage equality activist Molly McKay to be a go between with MUMC.

It is still unclear if the New York flag can be safely flown underneath the Rainbow Flag. Adams told the Bay Area Reporter Monday (July 18) afternoon that the man who handles the flag pole is still trying to figure that out and wouldn’t have a final answer until Tuesday.

“We are working on that now. I don’t have any other details on if we can get another flag on there,” said Adams. “Right now the Rainbow Flag is all we can get on there. We just need to make sure we can get two flags on there.”

Adams added that he believes “there is a way to do it. We just have to make sure we can do it, that’s all.”

According to the website 50states, New York’s flag consists of the state coat of arms emblazoned on a dark blue field. Standing to the left is the goddess Liberty, who is holding a pole affixed with a Liberty Cap. At her feet is a discarded crown, which refers to the Revolutionary War against Great Britain.

To the right of the seal is a blindfolded goddess Justice raising up the scales of justice. The symbolism is a particularly poignant one for the LGBT community, as Justice’s depiction is meant to signal that all persons deserve equal treatment under the law.

The state’s motto, “Excelsior,” signifies reaching upward to higher goals. And the shield depicts a sun rising over the Hudson highlands and ships sailing the Hudson River. The eagle rests atop a globe that refers to the Western Hemisphere.

— Matthew S. Bajko, July 18, 2011 @ 3:20 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Local youth promotes AIDS Walk after party

A local youth who grew up in the Tenderloin and is a client at Larkin Street Youth Services is promoting the first after party for AIDS Walk SF.

The annual AIDS fundraiser takes off this Sunday, July 17 in Golden Gate Park. The after party, which will also raise funds for local AIDS organizations, is set to kick off that evening.

Ukoma Pitts, 20, who is straight and black, is volunteering his promotional skills to help host the after party. Dubbed Hip-Hop, Hope & Harmony, it will feature performances and guest DJs.

Pitts is the chief researcher and handles promotion for SymbiOdyssey. He said he is helping with the after party pro bono in order to connect the public to underground music acts they may not otherwise hear about.

The after party opens its doors at 9 p.m. Sunday night and is being held at Club Six, 60 Sixth Street, a block off Market in downtown San Francisco.

The 21 and over party costs from $5 to $25. Pre-sale tickets can be bought online.

— Matthew S. Bajko, July 15, 2011 @ 3:34 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Protest planned outside SF Indian Consulate to condemn health minister’s antigay rant

Bay Area LGBTs of South Asian descent plan to hold a protest outside the San Francisco Indian Consulate next Friday, July 22 to protest homophobic remarks made recently by India’s health minister.

The solidarity rally had been planned for this past Wednesday, July 13 but was rescheduled due to the terrorist bombings that day in Mumbia, India.

The anti-gay contretemps was sparked when Indian Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad (at left) called gay sex “totally unnatural” during a July 4 speech at a national HIV/AIDS conference.

Speaking in the Hindi language, Azad said, “Unfortunately, in the world and in our country also, this disease has come where men have sex with each other, which is totally unnatural and which should not happen, yet it does. In our country, the numbers of men having sex with men are substantial.”

Azad later said he had been quoted out of context. Nonetheless, the uproar has sparked international condemnation.

Openly gay New America Media staffer and San Francisco radio host Sandip Roy wrote that Azad likely thought he could deflect criticism against the current Indian government by attacking gay men, falsing assuming he could do so with impunity.

But, as it turns out, that is no longer the case on the Indian subcontinent.

“Homosexuality is neither ‘unnatural’, nor ‘a disease.’ And it certainly did NOT ‘come to India from foreign shores,'”wrote Roy, who is on leave as an editor with New America Media in San Francisco and currently the culture editor with in Calcutta.

“Why not the gays? Mr. Azad might have thought they’d be an easy target. After all, no one ever stands up for the gays. Except that’s not true anymore,” added Roy.

Trikone, the Bay Area group for LGBT Indians and other South Asians, is organizing the San Francisco protest. It plans to submit a letter of grievance to the Consul General’s Office of Community Affairs.

The rally will take place from 9 to 10 a.m. next Friday, July 22. The local consulate is located at the corner of Geary and Arguello Boulevards.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:09 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sexy bisexual reality star helps raise money for gay GOP prez candidate at SF fundraiser

Gay GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger will receive an assist from sexy bisexual reality TV star Mike Manning (at left) at a San Francisco fundraiser next week.

The Los Angeles-based actor and director was part of the Washington, D.C. cast of MTV’s Real World that aired last year.

Karger, the southern Californian former Republican campaign strategist, is the first out person to seek the presidential nomination of a major political party.

It has been a rough slog. As the Bay Area Reporter has noted, Karger is rarely included in polling done by major media outlets on the GOP primary race. And that has caused him not to be included in major debates with the other leading contenders.

And his financial totals have been lackluster compared to his opponents. As the Advocate recently noted, Karger reported a measly $80,000 during the last three months. The presumed front-runner in the race, Mormon former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, raised $18.25 million between April 1 and June 30.

Undaunted, Karger told the national gay magazine that he is kicking up his money game this month. A Beverly Hills event later in July at the home of real estate agent Michael Libow costs $100 to $2,500 per person to attend.

The San Francisco fundraiser next Thursday, July 21 with Manning is being hosted by three of Karger’s friends: Eric Morse, Alex Davidson, and Spencer Jones.

It takes place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the home of Morse, 68 McCoppin Street #5 in San Francisco.

To RSVP visit the event’s Facebook page or send an email to

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:37 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Planning Commission approves controversial SF youth housing project in the Marina

After hearing nearly 4 hours of testimony Thursday (July 14), the San Francisco Planning Commission approved a controversial housing project for at-risk youth in the city’s Marina District.

The vote was 5-1, with Commissioner Michael J. Antonini the lone no vote. The project would house 24 youth, aged 18 to 24, at the former Edward II Inn tourist hotel located at 3155 Scott Street and Lombard.

It is estimated that up to one-third of the youth, who are either aging out of the foster care system or homeless, will be LGBT.

It now moves on to the Board of Supervisors where it is expected to pass. Five supervisors introduced the required zoning changes, and it is believed the sixth vote needed for passage on the 11-member board will be secured.

As the Bay Area Reporter reported in its edition this week, the development is being vehemently opposed by some nearby neighbors and merchants, whose concerns range from seeing property values plummet and crime increase. Others complain the site is not an appropriate location for the building and argue against seeing special zoning adopted for one parcel.

Supporters contend it is vitally needed housing stock for a population in particular need. In addition to youth who asked the planning body to vote for the project, a number of Marina and Cow Hollow residents also spoke in favor of the proposed housing.

Coincidentally, the royal monarch the building is named after is believed to have been homosexual. According to his Wikipedia page, Edward II (seen at left) lavished gifts on his male consorts and faced sodomy accusations from religious figures.

His wife, Queen Isabella, eventually turned against him and Edward was forced to abdicate his throne. His death is shrouded in mystery, and tales that a hot-poker was thrust up his anus are uncorroborated.

Monday’s (July 18) online Political Notes column will have more on the fight over the housing project.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 11:30 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Binational couple wins reprieve from judge in SF

A binational same-sex California couple facing deportation got a reprieve from a federal immigration judge in San Francisco today (Wednesday, July 13).

Alex Benshimol (on the left in this photo), 47, who’s from Venezuela, and Doug Gentry, 53, a U.S. citizen, have been fighting to stay together. Benshimol came to the U.S. in the late 1990s and overstayed his visa when it expired in 2009. The couple have been together for six years and were legally married in Connecticut in July 2010.

Judge Marilyn Teeter ruled this morning that Benshimol be permitted to remain in the country despite the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits U.S. recognition of same-sex marriages. This is the latest in a series of recent court rulings favoring same-sex binational couples.

Teeter gave the government 60 days to decide whether to drop deportation proceedings against Benshimol, according to the group Out4Immigration, which has been supporting the couple.

If the government doesn’t drop proceedings, Teeter will revisit the case again in September 2013. Her decision allows Gentry and Benshimol at least two more years together in the U.S.

Gentry said in an interview that he and Benshimol are “very happy” and “very relieved.” He said they’re “very much hoping” the government completely drops the case.

“We’re pretty confident and hopeful they’ll do the right thing,” Gentry said.

Documentation from the hearing wasn’t immediately available.

The couple don’t see moving together to Venezuela as an option. They’ve built a life in the U.S. and fear homophobia in Benshimol’s home country.

Lavi Soloway, the couple’s lawyer, said in an Out4Immigration statement, “We will continue to advocate for termination of these proceedings and a moratorium on all deportations of spouses of lesbian and gay Americans.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 13, 2011 @ 4:02 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gay-friendly LA councilwoman Janice Hahn wins open House seat

As expected Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn easily dispatched her Republican opponent in a special election Tuesday for a vacant Congressional seat.

Hahn, whose mother died Monday on the eve of the election, trounced GOP businessman Craig Huey 55 percent to 45 percent, or 41,585 votes to 34,636, according to unofficial returns.

The race had turned especially heated and nasty in the final weeks. One video circulated online compared Hahn to a prostitute, while Democratic heavyweights like former President Bill Clinton came out to see that Hahn captured the seat.

She will serve out the remainder of former Congresswoman Jane Harman’s term for the coastal 36th Congressional District seat. Harman left to run a think tank in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

The special election had drawn the candidacy of gay Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin as well as Democratic Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Both had attracted considerable LGBT support, with Bowen capturing endorsements from Equality California’s Federal PAC and openly gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

Due to the district’s heavy Democratic makeup and the state’s new jungle primary system, where the top two vote-getters move past the primary irregardless of party affiliation if no one wins a majority in the first round, it had been expected that Bowen and Hahn would duke it out for the seat.

But the wealthy Huey spent lavishly of his own money and upended those expectations by progressing to the run-off. His fiscal largess, though, did little good in the end.

As for EQCA, which threw its support behind Hahn once Bowen was out of the race, it issued a statement today congratulating her on her win.

“Congratulations to Janice Hahn on her well-deserved victory,” stated Roland Palencia, EQCA’s new executive director. “Hahn is a strong ally of our community who has fought long and hard for equal rights and vital protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. We look forward to working with Hahn as she continues the fight for equality in Congress.”

During the fight over the state’s anti-gay marriage amendment in 2008, Hahn came out against the measure, known as Proposition 8. While on the City Council, Hahn voted to make marriage equality the official position of the City of Los Angeles.

She also voted to support federal legislation prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and to support federal assistance to local governments to prosecute hate crimes motivated by bias because of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

She told EQCA that once on Capitol Hill she “will do everything I can to repeal the discriminatory DOMA and pass the Respect For Marriage Act. Marriage equality is about civil rights. It’s about whether we are going to have a just society, or whether we’re going to continue to make people second-class citizens because of who they love.

“I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with LGBT Americans in the fight for equality, respect and dignity for all,” added Hahn.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:48 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

HRC to honor gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts at SF October gala

Hunky cable news anchor Thomas Roberts will be the guest of honor at this year’s Human Rights Campaign gala in San Francisco. The lavish fundraiser for the national LGBT rights group will take place Saturday, October 22 at the Fairmont Hotel.

Roberts (seen at right) joined MSNBC in April of 2010 and became a full-time anchor in December.

He had previously worked at CNN, CBS News, and the shows Entertainment Tonight and The Insider.

He officially came out of the closet at the 2006 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention held in Miami that year. In 2007 he publicly disclosed he had been sexually molested by a Catholic priest as a teenager.

Since joining MSNBC’s roster Roberts has devoted significant air time to covering a variety of LGBT issues. Clips of his show are routinely picked up by LGBT bloggers.

He is expected to be on-hand to personally accept the 2011 Human Rights Visibility Award as bestowed by the HRC San Francisco Bay Area Steering Committee and San Francisco HRC Gala Dinner Committee.

“Thomas Roberts is a wonderful choice for this honor as he is visibly living an open and honest life every day. We look forward to having him be a part of what we expect to be a tremendous event,” stated dinner co-chair Danielle Daley. “He cares deeply about equality, and we are glad to have him alongside those who are fighting for LGBT rights.”

The 27th annual HRC SF Gala is expected to attract 700 people to the luxury hotel atop Nob Hill.

Tickets, which cost $257.25 if bought prior to October 1, can be purchased through Box Office Tickets online at or by calling 1-800-494-TIXS (8497).

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:15 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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