Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Kolakowski, transgender judge, honored as icon

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski (seen at left), the first openly transgender person in the country ever to be elected as a trial court judge, is being honored as an LGBT icon today.

October is LGBT History Month. The group Equality Forum is featuring a different honoree each day on their website: The site includes videos of the icons and other resources.

“It’s an amazing honor, something that I never would have anticipated,” Kolakowski said. “I’m just glad that I can hopefully be a role model for LGBT youth and trans youth, in particular, who often don’t have role models, especially in positions like mine.”

Other icons range from actress and comedienne Wanda Sykes to Daniel Hernandez Jr., the openly gay intern who helped save the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona). Giffords was targeted in an assassination attempt in January.

Kolakowski, who’s married to Bay Area Reporter News Editor Cynthia Laird, said her winning a judge’s seat shows transgender people can be “capable, accomplished professionals in positions of prominence in the community.”

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson also honored Kolakowski on Tuesday, October 18, with a proclamation, on behalf of the board.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 20, 2011 @ 1:59 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gay Assemblyman Ricardo Lara announces state Senate bid

Gay Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) confirmed today (Wednesday, October 19) that he will seek a state Senate seat next year. Should he win, Lara would be the first out person of color to serve in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

He is the second out Democratic candidate to announce a senate bid in 2012. State Senator Mark Leno will seek re-election to San Francisco’s new lone senate seat after redistricting lobbed the city into one district rather than split it into two.

Speculation that Lara would run for senate has been building since the summer. In August the Bay Area Reporter first noted that the freshman lawmaker could opt to run for the newly drawn 33rd Senate District centered in Long Beach as it runs north into his Assembly district.

He confirmed the rumors this afternoon by issuing a statement announcing his candidacy, reported the Sacramento Bee. In it Lara stated, “We face a record jobless rate with education and health care under constant threat of deeper cuts. These challenges don’t stop at some arbitrary district lines.”

His decision pits him against his colleague, two-term Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach). But Lara could have a slight edge as the senate seat as drawn is majority Latino.

It stretches inland from the port of Long Beach to the city of Vernon, includes Huntington Park, Bell Gardens and the corruption-plagued city of Bell, note the Bee.

It is unclear how Lara’s fellow LGBT lawmakers will react to his jumping into the race. Several have already endorsed Lowenthal, including Leno, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

Gay Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles), a close ally of Lara’s, had yet to endorse Lowenthal, according to a list of her backers on her campaign site. Should Perez endorse Lara it would be the polar opposite of his position in a contested race for the Assembly seat that covers West Hollywood and Santa Monica.

There, Perez helped orchestrate Assemblywoman Betsy Butler’s (D-Marina Del Rey) move into the area. One of Butler’s main opponents in the race is lesbian candidate Torie Osborn, and her supporters are infuriated with seeing Perez support Butler’s carpet-bagging into the district.

The two state legislative races are sure to be ones to watch next year.

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 19, 2011 @ 5:18 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gay LA Assembly candidate holds SF fundraiser

Supporters of a gay Los Angeles-area state Assembly candidate are hosting a fundraiser for his campaign in San Francisco Thursday, October 20.

The event is to benefit Luis Lopez, a Latino political activist who is running for the new 51st Assembly District, which encompasses Northeast Los Angeles and East L.A.

The Silver Lake resident is in the process of moving into the district, as his current home ended up in the new 43rd Assembly District seat. He is one of three Latino Democrats running for the newly created East Los Angeles district.

Lopez is a founding board member of the Latino LGBT political action committee Honor PAC. He has been serving on the executive board of Let California Ring, a statewide educational campaign about marriage equality started by Equality California.

He aims to be the third out gay man from the Los Angeles area serving in the Assembly. He has already lined up backing from the national Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

One of the fund’s first endorsed candidates after it formed in 1991 was Bob Burke, who ran for Assembly in the old 46th Assembly District, whose boundaries overlap the current 51st District. Burke, who lost his election bid, expressed support this week for Lopez’s campaign.

“My campaign showed the potential for qualified LGBT candidates to compete in Los Angeles. Luis Lopez is a community leader who embodies the vision of the Victory Fund,” stated Burke in an email sent out by Lopez’s campaign. “He has the skills, experience, and broad base of support to win and represent all the people of East and Northeast Los Angeles.”

Local LGBT leaders hosting tomorrow night’s San Francisco fundraiser for Lopez include former San Francisco Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg; San Francisco AIDS Foundation Legislative Director Ernest Hopkins; and Miguel Bustos, the Levi Strauss Foundation’s senior program manager for the Americas.

The event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, October 20 at MLVS/Centro Social Obrero Restaurant, located at 2929 19th St. (between Alabama and Florida Streets, just east of Harrison) in San Francisco’s Mission District. There is no cost to attend but donations are encouraged.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 2:01 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

EQCA: No transition plan

A week after announcing the resignation of Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia, the statewide LGBT lobbying group still hasn’t developed a transition plan.

Palencia (seen at left), 54, had been on the job for just over three months when EQCA said Monday, October 10, that he was quitting.

At the time, EQCA spokeswoman Rebekah Orr said a transition plan would be released by Friday, October 14, Palencia’s last day with the nonprofit.

When the group failed to say Friday what they were going to do, Orr replied to an emailed inquiry from the Bay Area Reporter by saying, “The board is in the process today of connecting with staff members to discuss the transition plan. We will release a public statement on Monday.”

But as of today (Monday, October 17), there’s still no plan.

In a phone interview, Orr wouldn’t say when the organization would reveal its plans.

“The board is taking its time to make sure we get it right, and in the meantime, all of our staff is continuing to do all the work Equality California has been known for and, that we have set out to do for the year, and we’re moving forward,” she said.

When asked to explain the delay further, Orr said, “I think that we can all agree that it is better to do due diligence and to take our time to get it right than it is to have certainty without having …” She paused, struggling for words, then added, “with certainty without having gone through a deliberative process.”

Palencia’s departure is just one major staff change EQCA’s facing. Finance Director Steve Mele, government affairs director Mario Guerrero, and Marriage and Coalitions Director Andrea Shorter are also leaving. Mele’s taken a position with a congressional campaign in Nevada, while Guerrero and Shorter are being let go as part of a restructuring plan.

As far as the situation at EQCA looking chaotic, Orr would only say, “The board is working with staff to manage the organization on a day-to-day basis.”

She said the nonprofit wouldn’t shut down.

Orr said the list of board members on the group’s website as of today is current, and she’s not aware of any upcoming resignations. She didn’t know if there would be any more staff layoffs.

The restructuring effort is supposed to include bringing on a deputy and political director. Orr said she didn’t know if plans for filling that position are on hold. However, she said, “No one’s been interviewed” for the job, and “there are no interviews taking place at this time.”

Orr said last week that EQCA had $250,000 in the bank but she didn’t know whether that figure includes the Equality California Institute, EQCA’s education branch. She said the organization was expecting $100,000 in grants to come in around this week.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 17, 2011 @ 3:53 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

23-year-old pleads guilty to anti-gay attack of straight man

A 23-year-old San Francisco man charged with an anti-gay attack on another man, who was actually straight, pleaded guilty in the case this week.

Yony Medina, the defendant, is expected to receive probation as part of his sentence.

The incident began in the early morning of September 12  near Mission and Onondaga streets.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Maffei said that Walter Martinez, 23, of Daly City, Martinez’s girlfriend, and two friends were on Mission Street when Medina and his friends started taunting Martmez.

In Spanish, Medina called Martinez gay and said, “You want me to put my finger in your ass,” Maffei said.

He said that Medina then punched Martinez, who later received seven stitches above his right eye. Martinez’s girlfriend flagged down police and identified Medina to officers.

The District Attorney’s office charged Medina with assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury with an allegation of a hate crime based on perceived sexual orientation, making the charge a felony. Maffei said although Martinez isn’t gay, the two friends who’d been with him are. They were not reported as victims in the attack.

Medina pleaded guilty Wednesday, October 12 in San Francisco Superior Court. He had also been charged with battery, a misdemeanor, but that charge was dismissed.

Medina, who’s served a month in San Francisco County jail for the incident, is set to be sentenced November 9. He’s expected to receive credit for time served and three years of probation. If he doesn’t appear for his next court date, he’ll immediately be sentenced to six months in jail, according to District Attorney’s spokesman Omid Talai.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 15, 2011 @ 11:44 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Person of interest” photos released as SF police probe gay man’s death

Click on photo for larger image

San Francisco police have released photos of a “person of interest” (seen at right) in the killing of Clyde “Leo” Neville.

Neville, 51, an openly gay man who’d been living with AIDS, was found dead August 3 in his apartment at the Derek Silva Community, 20 Franklin Street.

The photos were taken from surveillance video that shows Neville and the man entering the building, which primarily houses low-income people with HIV and AIDS.

Police homicide Inspector Richard Martin said as of Tuesday, October 12, inspectors hadn’t yet located the man (seen in the above images), “but I think that will come in time.”

Martin has said it appears Neville (seen at left) was beaten to death. He’d last been seen on July 31.

The man police are looking for is “not somebody I’m saying did it for sure,” but “somebody who is a person of interest” and “just somebody we’d like to talk to,” Martin has said.

There were no signs of forced entry and Neville’s body was found partially clothed. Martin’s said it’s possible Neville was killed after hooking up with somebody, but he hasn’t offered much more detail.

Neville was a longtime client of the Black Brothers Esteem program offered by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. BBE, which is designed to address issues such as HIV, poverty, and substance use, recently held a memorial for Neville.

Tony Bradford, director of the black men’s group, said he’d known Neville for nine years. He described him as “well-liked” and “a really free spirit,” but said, “It’s those free spirits that people prey upon.”

Bradford said Neville “definitely had Internet connections,” referring to meeting other men on sites such as Adam4Adam and Craigslist. He said “dating safely” has been one of the topics members of the black men’s group discuss, “and really, the biggest thing we try to talk about in Black Brothers Esteem is really loving yourself. … Sometimes, if you’re not feeling good about yourself, you’re bringing home the wrong kind of folks.”

Neville’s family members have said he had problems with alcohol, and Bradford said he also used methamphetamine. He said Neville had “demons,” but he’d planned to enter a recovery center.

“He’d decided to change his life and go in another direction,” Bradford said. “I’m not sure what happened that weekend, if it was one last blowout.” He said he didn’t have any idea who the killer could be.

Bradford said that other BBE members were “saddened’ by Neville’s death.

“When someone dies or someone’s murdered, the rest of the brothers who are HIV-positive start to think about their own mortality,” he said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the San Francisco Police Department homicide unit at (415) 553-1145 and ask for Inspectors Martin, Cunningham, or Warnke. People may also call the anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to 847411. Type “SFPD” and then the tip.

The case number is 110 620 063.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 4:56 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Police searching for missing SF man

San Francisco police are searching for a man who, according to his partner, hasn’t been seen in more than a week.

Dan Dibble, 46, said he last saw Mark Marvin, 39, (seen at left) last Thursday, October 6 at about 4 p.m.

Dibble, a bartender at the Twin Peaks bar in the Castro, said that as he prepared for work, “We kissed each other and said, ‘I love you, I love you.’ That was the last we saw of each other.” He said he’s not aware of anyone who’s seen Marvin, his partner of 17 years, since then.

“He seemed happy that day,” Dibble, 46, said. He said when he returned to their home in the 200 block of Divisadero Street at about 2:30 a.m., Marvin wasn’t there. He thought that maybe Marvin had gotten drunk and stayed at a friend’s house.

Dibble filed a missing persons report with the San Francisco Police Department on Saturday, October 8. The next day, he found Marvin’s black BMW station wagon at Baker Beach.

He said Marvin hadn’t taken anything with him, and he hasn’t found any notes that his partner left behind.

A few months ago, Dibble said, Marvin had another incident. He said that in late June, Marvin had a fight with his boss, and had gone to the Marin Headlands with a gun. When a friend found him there, the gun wasn’t loaded, Dibble said.

“I don’t know what he was trying to do,” he said of that incident. He said that Marvin had sent some “cryptic emails to friends that made them worry.”

Dibble said that Marvin had had “a little drug problem, but it wasn’t anything hard. It was more like prescription medications. … He got off those.”

He said that after the gun incident, Marvin spent just over a month at The Meadows rehab in Wickenberg, Arizona. Dibble said that there, Marvin was treated for psychological problems and addiction to the painkiller Oxycontin.

“I thought that was all in the past,” Dibble said.

Then, in September, Dibble said, Marvin’s boss lowered his wage and made Marvin sign a new contract.

“He wasn’t happy about that,” Dibble said.

He said that Marvin’s wallet, money, and keys were in his car Sunday, and the doors were locked.

“Honestly, I’m not sure at this point” what happened, Dibble said. “I would hate to think he took his own life or anything.”

He said the police have been “kind of slow.” He said they came to the house today (Friday, October 14) to pick up a piece of Marvin’s clothing.

Dibble said that he appears to be a suspect now.

“They asked me if I did it. … I said, ‘No,’ but I wanted to say, ‘Did what?’ It kind of threw me off,” Dibble said.

San Francisco Police Sergeant McAuliffe, who wouldn’t give her first name, told the Bay Area Reporter that the investigation is open and “We’re working on it 24/7.” She declined to answer further questions.

Dibble said that Marvin was “a sweetheart. He was my baby. … I could probably count on one hand how many times we fought. He wasn’t violent at all. He was a good kid … is a good kid. I’m assuming he’s still around.”

“I just want him back,” Dibble said. “It’s very frustrating.”

Marvin is 5 feet 7 inches, with brown hair and brown eyes, and weighs 135 pounds.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call McAuliffe at the SFPD missing persons unit at (415) 558-5508 or the operations center at (415) 553-1071 .

The report number is 110 811 212.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 14, 2011 @ 5:46 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Senate confirms lesbian judge to federal bench

The Senate voted Thursday to confirm the nomination of lesbian attorney Alison Nathan to serve as a federal district court judge.

The roll call vote was 48-44, thus securing Nathan’s (right) appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan. No Republicans voted for her confirmation; no Democrats voted against her.

Nathan’s was one of three judicial nominations considered by the Senate Thursday and one of two “non-consensus nominees.”

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) spoke in opposition to Nathan’s confirmation, saying she is too supportive of examining foreign law and not supportive enough of the death penalty. He said her willingness to review the values behind foreign law is Nathan’s strategy for finding law to reach a result that U.S. law would not support.

“Her record,” said Sessions, “evidences an activist viewpoint. … She has the real potential to be an activist judge.”

During her confirmation hearing, Nathan said foreign law would have “no relevance to my interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.” But she acknowledged that there is “an important debate” on “what role the Supreme Court’s reference to foreign law is playing in the Court’s decision. …” She has also written that the three-drug protocol for implementing the death penalty inflicts “severe pain,” violating the 8th Amendment’s guarantee that the federal government will not inflict “cruel or unusual punishment.”

Republican Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma hinted strongly in July that they would likely oppose Nathan’s confirmation on the floor of the Senate. Both cited what they saw as Nathan’s lack of experience with litigation, and Coburn suggested she would been an “activist judge.”

On the Senate floor Thursday, Coburn did not speak. But Grassley, ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, reiterated Republican criticism of Nathan, noting the American Bar Association suggests “at least 12 years’ experience in the practice of law” and “substantial courtroom and trial experience” for judicial nominees.

Nathan, 39, “graduated only 11 years ago,” said Grassley, and has been practicing law for only eight years.

The ABA standards also note that there is merit in “experience that is similar to in-court trial work – such as appearing before or serving on administrative agencies or arbitration boards, or teaching trial advocacy or other clinical law school courses. …” This similar experience, say the ABA guidelines, “may compensate for a prospective nominee’s lack of substantial courtroom experience.”

But Grassley said he had other concerns about Nathan, including her position on the 2nd Amendment, the death penalty, the reference to foreign law in examining U.S. law, and what measures may be used in the war on terror.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that, while the ABA’s committee on judicial nominations did not vote unanimously that Nathan is well-qualified to serve as a federal judge, the majority did. And Nathan’s rating, he said, “is equal to or better than the rating received by 33 of President Bush’s confirmed judicial nominees.”

Nathan is counselor to the New York State solicitor general and, prior to that, served as a special assistant to President Barack Obama. Nathan clerked for now-retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, as well as 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Betty Fletcher.

She is a former assistant professor of law at Fordham University, a former associate of the Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr law firm, and a former fellow at New York University Law School.

So far, the Senate has cleared two of Obama’s four openly gay judicial nominees. In addition to Nathan, the Senate has confirmed Paul Oetken, also to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Obama’s most recent openly gay nominee, Michael Fitzpatrick, a nominee for the federal district court in Los Angeles, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee October 4. A committee vote on his nomination is expected in the coming weeks.

But federal appeals court nominee Edward DuMont has still not received even a committee hearing. A committee staffer said Republicans are still “reviewing” his qualifications.

With her confirmation, Nathan becomes the third openly gay judge in that federal district – along with Deborah Batts and Oetken. She becomes the fourth openly gay federal judge in the country – along with Emily Hewitt of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Batts and Hewitt were both appointed by President Bill Clinton.

Filed by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, October 13, 2011 @ 11:54 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Equality California adds Bay Area field manager

Equality California has hired a field manager for the Bay Area.

The statewide lobbying group brought on Angie Coleman-Levy, 26, (seen at left) as it launches “The Breakthrough Conversation,” a public education campaign on LGBT issues. The organization’s also getting ready for a possible repeal referendum on the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act.

The act, signed into law in July, requires that California school students learn about LGBTs’ historical contributions to the state. Anti-gay activists have until Wednesday, October 12, to turn in more than 500,000 signatures to put their repeal effort before voters in November 2012.

Coleman-Levy, who started in the position September 20, said her main task is “building the volunteer base in the Bay Area,” since “We don’t have a very big base right now.”

So far, her efforts have involved phone banking, and going to the Castro Street Fair to recruit volunteers, she said. The group plans to have one to two actions a week.

“I can’t do anything without people around me to help me do it,” Coleman-Levy said.

She said that people who volunteer now would be helping with data entry.

However, Coleman-Levy said, “The biggest thing is finding out what people want to do.”

She added, “Depending on what happens with the FAIR Education Act, we’ll be doing some door-to-door canvassing,” as well as street campaigns where volunteers approach people on city sidewalks.

Coleman-Levy previously ran the fundraising office for Grassroots Campaigns Inc., a company that EQCA’s used to help with its canvassing efforts in recent years.

She wasn’t involved in the No on Prop 8 campaign, which was unsuccessful in its efforts to defeat California’s same-sex marriage ban in 2008, and she didn’t contribute financially to the effort. She said that she was in Ohio and working on national campaigns during that time, including that of President Barack Obama.

Coleman-Levy, who declined to state her salary, is straight, but she has gay family members, including her brother.

She explained why working on LGBT issues to her, saying, “I think it’s ridiculous that I have some rights that he doesn’t.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 10, 2011 @ 1:31 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man accused of anti-gay hate crime in attack on roommate

A San Francisco man face felony hate crime-related charges after threatening to kill his roommate and calling him a “fag,” according to law enforcement officials.

The District Attorney’s office arraigned the 57-year-old man, whose full name hasn’t been released, this week. Stephanie Ong Stillman, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office, said the defendant’s last name is Guern, but she couldn’t immediately provide the first name.

According to police, the incident occurred at about 7 a.m., Tuesday, October 4, in the 300 block of Seneca Avenue. The address is in the Ingleside neighborhood.

A 911 operator heard a man yell, “I’m going to kill you!” according to a police summary. When officers arrived at the scene, they found the victim, 47, bleeding from the mouth.

The victim, whose name hasn’t been released, told officers that he’d come out of his room and asked Guern, his roommate, “How are you feeling today?”

Guern responded by punching him the face, the victim reported. He said the strike knocked him to the ground. Guern then jumped on his chest, began punching him in the face again, and said, “I’m going to kill you!” according to police.

The victim reported that Guern said he was going to kill him “because of his sexual preference,” according to police. A downstairs neighbor who called the police said that she’d heard what was happening “but did not know who said what,” the incident summary said.

In an interview, Ingleside Police Station Captain Daniel Mahoney said, “I think [Guern] called him a fag.” It’s not clear whether the victim is actually gay.

As the victim was describing the incident to police, Guern allegedly walked out of the house yelling and demanding the officers’ star numbers.

It took police a couple of tries to get him in handcuffs, according to their summary. He wouldn’t give officers his side of the story, they said.

The victim was treated at the scene. His injuries weren’t life threatening and he refused to go to the hospital, police said.

Guern’s been charged with assault likely to cause great bodily injury and making criminal threats, both felonies. The charges carry allegations of a hate crime based on sexual orientation, according to Stillman.

Mahoney said he couldn’t provide much more detail on the incident and referred questions to the police hate crimes unit.

Hate crimes Sergeant K.C. Choy wouldn’t share many details from the case, including what was said during the incident or whether the victim is gay. She also wouldn’t provide a copy of the full police report or  disclose any of Guern’s name.

A hearing related to Guern’s bail, which has been set at $175,000, is expected Wednesday, October 12. Stillman didn’t know who Guern’s attorney is. Assistant District Attorney Michael Maffei is prosecuting the case.

A date for the preliminary hearing is expected to be set Wednesday, October 19.

Asked about police using the term “sexual preference,” which many LGBTs find offensive, in their report, Mahoney said, “That’s just semantics.” Mahoney himself used the phrase “sexual orientation” when discussing the case. In their summary, Ingleside police referred to the incident as the “best arrest of the day.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 7, 2011 @ 5:55 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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