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

California support for same-sex marriage at record high

More Californians support same-sex marriage than ever before, according to data released Wednesday night (September 25) by the Public Policy Institute of California.

According to the group’s report, 61 percent of adults and 64 percent of likely voters favor marriage equality. “Strong majorities” of Democrats (76 percent) and independents (67 percent) support allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 53 percent of Republicans oppose it, researchers said in a news release.

Also, for the first time, a majority of people ages 55 and older (55 percent) are in favor of marriage equality.

“Support continues to be higher among young Californians,” according to researchers, but the data on older adults is significant in that they’ve been one of the biggest roadblocks to achieving marriage equality.

The report, Californians and their government-September 2013, comes just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that backers of California’s Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban didn’t have standing to defend the law. The court’s decision cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in the Golden State almost immediately.

The report’s findings are based on a survey of 1,703 California adult residents from September 10-17. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 26, 2013 @ 4:46 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gay sheriff’s lieutenant in DV case back in custody

Vincent Calvarese in a July 2012 booking photo (Photo: San Francisco Police Department)

Vincent Calvarese in a July 2012 booking photo (Photo: San Francisco Police Department)

A gay San Francisco Sheriff’s Department lieutenant who’d pleaded no contest to a domestic violence charge is back in custody after skipping a court hearing this week.

In a plea bargain reached in May, Lieutenant Vincent Calvarese, 49, entered his plea to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge just before his trial was about to start. A no contest plea is similar to a guilty plea.

The charge stems from a July 2012 incident in which Calvarese got into an altercation with a man who’s claimed that he and Calvarese had had an exclusive dating relationship.

Susan Fahey, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department, said Thursday, September 19 that deputies arrested Calvarese Wednesday on a $75,000 bench warrant.

A judge issued the warrant Tuesday after Calvarese failed to appear in court, according to San Francisco Superior Court records. Calvarese also hadn’t shown up for at least one of the domestic violence classes a judge had ordered him to attend as part of his sentence, as KTVU indicated on its website Wednesday night.

Calvarese was arrested at a location on 17th Street, which is where he lives, but Fahey declined to say where exactly the arrest was made.

“We had contact with him, and we were aware of the warrant, so it was our duty to arrest if we had contact,” said Fahey. She declined to say what had initiated the contact. 

Fahey said that medical personnel determined that Calvarese should be taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he remained in custody as of Thursday afternoon. She couldn’t say exactly why he’d been hospitalized.

Calvarese was placed on unpaid leave Wednesday, said Fahey. His next court date is Monday to discuss his nonappearance this week.

In an interview Friday, Erin Dervin, Calvarese’s attorney, said, “I have no idea” why he didn’t appear in court this week and added, “I couldn’t tell you that if I did know.”

Dervin, who declined to discuss Calvarese’s medical issues, also said, “I don’t know officially what’s going on in terms of his probation accountability issues. I expect to know more on Monday.”

Rhab Boughn, compliance and public records officer for the San Francisco Fire Department, said that department personnel were dispatched to a medical call at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Calvarese’s address. Boughn said a fire engine and an ambulance responded to the scene, which is standard procedure for such a call, but he couldn’t provide more details without Calvarese’s authorization or a subpoena.

During the fight last summer, Calvarese allegedly followed the victim and pushed and punched him. At one point, he pushed the victim against a wall and punched him repeatedly. The victim suffered welts and similar injuries, but pushed and punched back. Based on video and witness accounts, however, Calvarese was the aggressor, authorities said.

Calvarese has repeatedly declined the Bay Area Reporter’s requests for comment over the past several months. The victim, who’s also declined to talk about the case, didn’t respond to a phone call or text message Thursday.

The incident occurred at what was then known as Gold’s Gym, 2301 Market Street. The gym is now Fitness SF.

Under the agreement, Calvarese was sentenced to three years of adult probation, 150 hours of community service, 52 weeks of counseling, and has a stay-away order from the victim. Assistant District Attorney Ilana Jacobs prosecuted the case.

In May, Fahey said Calvarese had been back at work “for some time” and had been assigned to administrative duties with no public contact. She noted the disciplinary process would be overseen by the undersheriff and not Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who pleaded no contest to a similar charge in his own domestic violence incident in 2012.



— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 20, 2013 @ 1:29 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF group highlights LGBT-related unsolved homicides

A volunteer safety group in San Francisco has begun highlighting LGBT-related unsolved homicide cases on its website, hoping to help find the people responsible for the deaths.

Castro Community on Patrol has been working with inspectors at the San Francisco Police Department for several months to find information in the cases, the oldest of which is from 1974.

A 1975 article in the old San Francisco Sentinel newspaper detailed the murders of two Tenderloin residents.

A 1975 article in the old San Francisco Sentinel newspaper detailed the murders of two Tenderloin residents.

Especially with the cases that are decades old, “The hope is that people who were closeted back then and who were reluctant to talk to authorities are at a point where they may recall knowing this person,” and are able “to bring in some new evidence for the investigation,” said Greg Carey, the group’s patrol chief. Carey is also a member of the SFPD Chief’s LGBT Advisory Forum, where several community members meet monthly with police officials.

With the some cases being almost 40 years old, many of the people who may have known what happened to the victims are likely dead.

“The inspectors we’ve worked with have fairly good evidence to work from, but they don’t have the one piece that really identifies a suspect,” said Carey. He added whether the cases are “old or new, it’s often just one more piece of information the inspector needs to tie these things together.”

In July, Herman Rodriguez posted on an online comment on a Bay Area Reporter story involving Joseph Rodriguez, 30, a.k.a. Lisa Yancey, who was found stabbed to death in his Tenderloin apartment in February 1975.

“I am glad they are still looking for these folks,” Rodriguez said. “Joseph Y Rodriguez was my Gay Uncle, as my nephews and niece call me, he was my Guncle. He had a family. He mattered and still does. Even if the killer is dead, it would bring answers to questions.”

In the 1974 case, Stig Lennart Berlin, a 37-year-old gay man, was found stabbed to death in his Tenderloin neighborhood apartment.

Clyde "Leo" Neville (Photo: Courtesy Anthony Harris)

Clyde “Leo” Neville (Photo: Courtesy Anthony Harris)

The most recent case involves Clyde “Leo” Neville, 51, who was found gagged and beaten in his Hayes Valley apartment in August 2011.

CCOP plans to add more cases to its website. One homicide victim who doesn’t yet appear on the site is Mariah Qualls, a 23-year-old transgender woman who was found dead of a blunt force injury to the head in her North Beach residential hotel room in December 2009. A $75,000 reward has been available in the Qualls case since 2011.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 19, 2013 @ 1:11 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gay SF nonprofit leader moving to Oregon

287Mike Marshall, a gay man and well known nonprofit leader in San Francisco, is relocating to Oregon and stepping down from the environmental group he has overseen since 2009.

The organization Restore Hetch Hetchy, which has long fought to dismantle San Francisco’s water reservoir inside the boundaries of Yosemite National Park high in the Sierras, publicly announced this morning (Monday, September 16) Marshall’s decision to resign as its executive director due to his pending move.

Last fall, city voters rejected a ballot measure pushed by Restore Hetch Hetchy that would have forced the city’s Public Utilities Commission to drain the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in the national park and store the water elsewhere. Following the ballot box defeat, Marshall pledged that the group would spend the next two years determining its next steps in seeing the Hetch Hetchy Valley be environmentally restored.

In the email from the group, signed by board chair Roger Williams, it noted that Marshall has led it “with passion and dynamism” for the past five years but that he has decided “to leave San Francisco this fall to start a new chapter in his life with his family in Portland, Oregon, and has stepped down as the leader of our organization.”

Marshall had informed family and friends back in June that he and his partner, Rob Ert Bennett Walker, were moving to Portland, Oregon and that he planned to leave San Francisco prior to Thanksgiving.

To ensure a smooth transition, the restore group said Marshall would remain as a consultant through October, when he would be replaced by water policy expert Spreck Rosekrans, its director of policy for the last 18 months.

“As sad as we are that Mike is leaving, we feel extraordinarily lucky that Spreck is taking the reins as Restore Hetch Hetchy continues to build on the past year’s momentum with new initiatives on multiple fronts,” wrote Williams. “No one is better suited to take our campaign to the next level of success than Spreck. Not only is he a founding director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, but he is also a renowned conservation and restoration leader with a track record of success in the many battles he has fought in California and the West.”

Williams credited Marshall with attracting “unprecedented” national media coverage for the group’s water policy fight, increasing the budget 300 percent, and securing more than $300,000 in pro bono legal and communications services.

Prior to his work with Restore Hetch Hetchy, Marshall served as the executive director of Under One Roof, a retail store that funnels profits to local AIDS agencies, from 2005 through 2006. Previous to that job, he was the interim director of the LGBT Community Center.

As the Castro Country Club, a sober center in the heart of the city’s gay district, struggled to remain in its building in 2011 and 2012, Marshall served on its advisory board.

In 2000 he oversaw the losing battle against Proposition 22, the statewide ballot measure that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. In 2007, as it was gearing up for another ballot box fight over same-sex marriage, the Equality California Institute hired Marshall as a consultant for its Let California Ring public education initiative around the issue.

— Matthew S. Bajko, September 16, 2013 @ 12:30 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Accountability slate leads in disputed SF Pride board vote

An election observer told the Bay Area Reporter Sunday, September 15 that most of the people running on an accountability slate were the leading vote-getters in the race for seats on the San Francisco Pride Committee board, but a quirk in the bylaws may mean that it’s mathematically impossible for anyone to win.

Tensions flared among members during an hours-long vote count, and an ambulance was called after board President Davace Chin apparently collapsed.

The San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee Annual General Meeting took place Sunday afternoon at the W Hotel. It attracted 145 voting members, about 20 percent of the eligible voters. The main order of business was election of seven new board members among 14 candidates. The meeting, which consisted of brief statements from the candidates, ran smoothly until vote counting began.

(Pride Chair Davace Chin, shown at an August meeting, apparently collapsed at Sunday's vote. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

(Pride Chair Davace Chin, shown at an August meeting, apparently collapsed at Sunday’s vote. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

As election officers and observers began certifying the eligibility of signed ballots, lengthy delays occurred. Board secretary Lou Fischer ran into difficulty trying to conduct a meeting by randomly selecting items on the agenda, which members had never approved.

Fisher intended to skip most agenda items and announce winners of the election by 5:30 p.m. Then members would enjoy a reception with winners. This proved impossible as vote counting went on until after 10.

Election officers, counters, observers, and SF Pride officers became embroiled in a dispute over interpreting the organization’s bylaws. Upon looking at the vote results, Fischer immediately declared there had been no winners.

Pandemonium erupted as arguments began among all involved and the candidates. Interim Pride attorney Julius Turman, who conducted the meeting, herded the group to a private location to further discuss the bylaws and election results.

Pride members Sue Englander and David Waggoner attempted to access the private location, but were directed away by Turman and treasurer David Currie. Waggoner said he had been told to leave the area or he would be escorted out by security.

Paul Quick, an election observer, shared his vote totals with the B.A.R. and said the accountability slate, minus Kevin Bard, had been elected along with Pride board incumbent Justin Taylor. The accountability slate includes Gary Virginia, Jose Cital, Joey Cain, John Caldera, Marsha Levine, and Jesse Oliver Sanford.

Sanford is the candidate former SF Pride CEO Earl Plate tried to force from the race with a threatening email. Days after Plante’s email became public, he resigned under pressure from the board.

Quick’s vote tallies are based on a reading of the election rules. He said it was a fair outcome based on the voting. If the vote totals hold, it would be seen as a repudiation of SF Pride’s board of directors and its problematic leadership of the organization over the past five months.

As the night wore on so did the patience of the remaining members, which included all members of the accountability slate. The group brooded for more than an hour on the likelihood SF Pride’s decision would be an outcome of no winners.

Around 11 p.m. Chin came forward, not to give election results, but to read a statement explaining that according to bylaws dated August 7, 2012, there were no winners. He was shouted down and Turman pulled him away from the angry crowd who followed them with shouts of “Reform!” and “Amazing!”

Members appointed a chair from among themselves and proceeded to announce the election of most of the accountability slate and Taylor. They no longer recognized Chin’s position and Chin had to ask the member chair if he could speak.

Before Chin could speak, he said he was dizzy and collapsed. Caldera, a former Navy hospital corpsman and a member of the accountability slate, joined others to help Chin. Turman called for an ambulance. Around 11:50 p.m. Chin was stretchered out of the building to the awaiting ambulance. As of Monday morning his condition was not known.

For the few remaining members who were present, Taylor announced that SF Pride would have to address the election outcome at a later time and date.

The dysfunction of the meeting and the dramatic climax had many members saying that Supervisor Scott Wiener, a critic of SF Pride’s governance structure, would act quickly to bring professional management to the organization.

“It’s inevitable,” said one member who did not want to be identified.

While voting for board members was fraught with problems, selecting SF Pride’s 2014 theme was a success. Ron Anderson submitted the winning theme, “Color Our World with Pride.”

The B.A.R. will have more on the board vote in Thursday’s edition.

–Reported by James Patterson

— Cynthia Laird, @ 9:05 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

St. James director stepping down

Naomi Aikers

The longtime executive director of a San Francisco nonprofit that offers medical and social services to sex workers announced this week that she’s stepping down from the position.

Naomi Akers said in an email distributed Thursday, September 12 to “community members, allies, supporters, and stakeholders” that she’s leaving the top post after seven years. However, she added that she’d join the board of directors of the “fabulous and one-of-a-kind clinic.”

Akers, who wasn’t available for comment Thursday afternoon, didn’t offer many specifics on why she was quitting, but she said, “It is not easy to leave, and yet it is time. It is time for new blood, new vision, and new leadership. I am so excited about the opportunities!”

She said she’d been with the clinic for 11 years and said, “I have learned and accomplished so much” during that time.

“I was blessed to meet and work with some of the most inspirational and passionate people,” said Akers. “I have forged wonderful friendships with so many of you who are amazing and tireless advocates on behalf of harm reduction, sex work, LGBTQQ rights, human rights and anti-oppression work locally and globally.”

Akers, who serves on the city’s entertainment commission, will head St. James until her replacement is hired and trained. She said that she hopes to be working with the new executive director “for quite some time” as a member of the board, “where I can continue my love of advocacy for sex workers around the world.”

The job announcement, which lists compensation at $60,000 to $70,000, says, “The PRIMARY function of the ED is fundraising and leadership. The ED is responsible for raising the money to keep our clinic happening, to make payroll (for the ED as well as other staff) so HUSTLE is a must!!”

IRS data for the 2010-11 fiscal year, the most recent information available, list Aikers’ compensation as $61,138, well below what leaders of many LGBT-related nonprofits in San Francisco make. The agency’s total expenses that year were $537,421.

Stephany Ashley, who served as programs director at St. James before becoming a legislative aide to Supervisor David Campos last year, said in an interview that she considers Akers “one of my mentors.”

“She embodied the peer-based spirit of the clinic,” said Ashley, who said that Akers started working with the agency as a community member and then became a volunteer before eventually working her way up to the nonprofit’s top position.

“She’s just one of the few people who really knows the community and knows the clinic inside and out,” said Ashley, who still volunteers with St. James. She added that Akers “has been a really fierce advocate for justice for the sex worker community.”

Ashley left Campos’s office after this year’s city budget was hammered out. She considered applying for the executive director job at St. James herself but decided against it because she’s considering going to graduate school for a creative writing degree, and the clinic needs someone “who’s really in it for the long haul,” and can stay for five to 10 years.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 13, 2013 @ 5:02 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

[Updated]: Alleged Pink Saturday face kicker headed back to SF

[Update]: The man charged with kicking a robbery victim in the face shortly after this year’s Pink Saturday celebration is now a fugitive, who has been listed as a fugitive, is expected to return to custody in San Francisco soon.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge John Allen issued a bench warrant last week for Christopher Porter-Bailey, 23, of Oakland, after he failed to appear in court.

But at the time of his missed hearing, Porter-Bailey was in the custody of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department for a previous theft case, and he’s expected to be released to San Francisco authorities soon, Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, said Friday (September 13) [End update].

Porter-Bailey had appeared at other hearings, including his arraignment in late July, when he pleaded not guilty to felony assault and other charges. But despite having been ordered to appear at a Friday, September 6 hearing, Porter-Bailey, who was free after posting $200,000 bail, failed to show up. “No sufficient excuse” was offered, according to court records, which list his status as fugitive.

Allen ordered the bench warrant, forfeited the previous bail, and set the new amount at $400,000.

Shortly after this year’s Pink Saturday street party, which every year draws thousands of people to the Castro on the eve of the Pride parade, the San Francisco Police Department released a video of a man kicking a woman in the face just after she’d been robbed and asked for the public’s help in finding him.

In late July, police identified Porter-Bailey as the alleged face kicker in the June 30 incident and arrested him. According to court testimony, the incident occurred outside the Mint karaoke lounge, 1942 Market Street.

Police have said a group of suspects robbed the victim, a 28-year-old San Francisco woman, of her purse, which contained her cellphone. At least two of the robbers knocked her to the pavement. Porter-Bailey kicked the woman so hard that she lost consciousness, according to police.

Porter-Bailey, who’s also known as “Mustafa,” pleaded not guilty July 29 to felony charges of second-degree robbery and assault. Both counts carry an allegation of causing great bodily injury. He also pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of battery with serious bodily injury.

Spokespeople with the SFPD declined to discuss Porter-Bailey Friday (September 13), referring questions to the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.

Reached by phone, Ruth Edelstein, the attorney representing Porter-Bailey, said she wasn’t available to discuss the case.

A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for Porter Bailey indicated she doesn’t know where he is and said, “He doesn’t live here anymore.” She declined to talk about him, and hung up the phone.

According to court records, Porter-Bailey was already on felony probation after being convicted in April of grand theft from a person. That case was in Alameda County Superior Court.

On July 16, Superior Court Judge Andrew Y.S. Cheng held two people who had been with Porter-Bailey to stand trial on charges stemming from other incidents that occurred early June 30.

Cheng found there was sufficient evidence to hold Johnay Davis, 20, and Julian Williams, 22, both of Oakland, to answer on two counts of second degree robbery, a charge of attempted second-degree robbery, and an allegation of causing great bodily injury. During Davis’s preliminary hearing, she was identified as the person who robbed the woman of her purse outside the Mint and helped Porter-Bailey attack her.

Additionally, Cheng held Williams to answer on another attempted second-degree robbery charge.

The next court date for Davis and Williams is October 9 for a pre-trial conference and to set a date for jury trial. Both are in custody.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:10 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Updated: SF Pride board retracts self-serving endorsements

[Updated 9/13/13, 6:45 p.m.] Late Friday afternoon, a letter from the San Francisco Pride Committee to members retracted an earlier letter whereby the board members seeking re-election endorsed themselves.

The letter, from Pride board President Davace Chin and Pride’s interim attorney Julius Turman, said in part that the previous 9/12/13 email sent 24 hours prior, “was sent in error and, accordingly, the email and its endorsement message are hereby retracted. We sincerely apologize for this error.

“SF Pride, as an organization, has not and will not make any endorsement of any candidate for its board.”

The letter went on to provide the names of all the candidates running, including those who have been endorsed by San Francisco Pride Members for Democracy, Accountability, and Transparency. Those candidates have been sharply critical of the current Pride board’s operation and decisions made this year.

“We are working diligently to ensure that the board of directors’ election will be conducted fairly, impartially, and with the utmost professionalism. We wish the very best to each of this year’s candidates on their campaign,” the letter concluded. End of update. Original post below.]

Just days before members are set to vote for new board members, incumbent board members sent out their own slate list of endorsed candidates – themselves.

The move raised questions from some board candidates who were not included, since it was sent out on Pride letterhead to the entire membership.

“Recently you received several emails from a group that identifies themselves as SFPMDAT [San Francisco Pride Members for Democracy, Accountability, and Transparency]. Their recent email included a slate of candidates they endorse for SF Pride Board of Directors,” the SF Pride slate letter states. “Pride is a membership-driven organization and while we welcome participation by all of our members, we have received multiple inquiries from other general members about this slate and wish to clear up any confusion.”

The letter continues, “The slate you may have received is not an official endorsement by the current board members of SF Pride. We welcome you to come to our [Annual General Meeting] on Sunday, September 15. There are many good candidates that are running and we hope that you can come, listen to the candidates and make your own decision.”

The letter then listed the slate of incumbent Pride board members Kirk Linn-Degrassi, Pam Grey, Shaun Haines, Justin Taylor, and Javarre Wilson. It also included Community Advisory Board member Rochelle Fortier Nwadibia, who is running for a seat.

The seven-member SFPMDAT slate consists of Kevin Bard, Joey Cain, John Caldera, Jose Cital, Marsha Levine, Jesse Sanford, and Gary Virginia.

(Gary Virginia raised questions about Pride's election process. Photo: David Curan)

(Gary Virginia raised questions about Pride’s election process. Photo: David Curan)

Neither newly installed interim CEO Lisa Williams, who previously served as board president, nor newly appointed President Davace Chin, signed the email. Chin denied any knowledge about it. Williams left a Board of Supervisors hearing Thursday, September 12 and was unavailable to comment.

In response to the Pride board candidates’ self-endorsement, Virginia sent a scathing email to Williams, Chin, Pride attorney Julius Turman, and Supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener saying it “jeopardized” his candidacy. He also questioned why he was not considered for SF Pride’s endorsement.

Virginia further questioned the fairness of Sunday’s election as incumbent board members seeking re-election will conduct the election and determine the outcome.

Virginia is seeking written answers to seven questions concerning the San Francisco Pride Committee’s unusual self-endorsement before the Sunday election.

“At this point, I’m considering seeking legal counsel to see if any California laws have been violated,” he stated in the email.

Sunday’s Annual General Meeting takes place at 2 p.m. at the W Hotel, 181 Third Street. Registration begins at 1:30.

– Reported by James Patterson

— Cynthia Laird, @ 9:59 am PST
Filed under: News

Santa Clara County condemns Russian anti-gay laws

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 4.35.17 PMAhead of a visit by a Russian delegation of public safety officials, Santa Clara County supervisors have condemned the Eurasian country’s leaders for adopting several anti-gay laws.

The policies curb the rights of LGBT people, noted gay Supervisor Ken Yeager, including a law that imposes large fines on Russian citizens who provide basic LGBT information to minors or hold pride demonstrations. Foreigners found in violation of the law could be jailed for up to 14 days before deportation.

“This is problematic since Russia will be serving as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games,” wrote Yeager, who is serving as president of the South Bay county’s Board of Supervisors this year, in an email he sent this afternoon to constituents. “In response, I asked the Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution condemning these new laws and urge the U.S. government to also strongly condemn these laws and work with the International Olympic Committee to ensure that participants and spectators of the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are kept safe from unfair government sanctions and violence.”

The passage of the resolution comes amid calls for the county to suspend its sister county relationship with Moscow. As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a story last month, American cities that have sister city relationships with Russian cities are being asked to suspend those ties due to the anti-gay Russian laws.

Rather than stop working with their Muscovite partners, Santa Clara County officials opted to adopt the resolution, which passed unanimously at the board meeting Tuesday, and sent  letters to the appropriate Russian officials to explain the reasoning behind the vote.

“These anti-LGBT laws are especially disheartening in light of Santa Clara County’s history of friendship and cultural exchange with the people of Russia through its Moscow Sister County Commission,” wrote Yeager. “However, the county plans to use that relationship to foster further dialog.”

Next week, a Russian delegation of police officers, social workers, and other people who work with youth will be visiting the South Bay to study juvenile justice issues, noted Yeager, “building on prior successful visits to study our foster care system.”

County staff will use the exchange, added Yeager, as an opportunity to educate the visiting guests about the importance of protecting the dignity and safety of LGBT people, especially youth.

“Afterword, I will ask the Moscow Sister County Commission to open a dialog with the local LGBT community so they can find ways to use citizen diplomacy to further influence this issue,” he wrote.

— Matthew S. Bajko, September 12, 2013 @ 4:48 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

LGBT survey results show Stoli has reason to worry about boycott

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 3.04.12 PMA new survey of LGBT consumers shows that vodka brand Stolichnaya has reason to worry about the boycott of its products due to anti-gay Russian laws.

Done by gay-owned Community Marketing, Inc., a gay and lesbian marketing research firm that is based in San Francisco, the annual survey asked respondents to write from memory the name of a brand they were currently boycotting.

Seventy-five percent of those who answered the question wrote down fried chicken fast food outlet Chick-fil-A. Among the 6,050 gay and bisexual men who answered, the number who said they were avoiding the Atlanta-based chain was 76 percent; among the 2,150 lesbians who filled out the question it was 73 percent.

The company found itself the focus of a boycott last year by LGBT people due to its funneling profits to anti-gay groups and homophobic comments by CEO Dan Cathy, who warned that legalizing same-sex marriage would bring God’s wrath.

“The Chick-fil-A numbers are remarkable. We’ve never had a company poll this poorly ever, so it is really interesting,” David Paisley, CMI’s senior research director, told participants on a conference call this week held to discuss the findings in the 7th Annual LGBT Community Survey, which was released in August.

It is conceivable that Stolichnaya will be at the top of the list in the 2014 survey, as the European company that owns the spirit brand has been the focus this summer of a national boycott effort focused on Russian vodka brands due to several anti-gay laws adopted by Russia.

SPI Group, Stoli’s parent company, is based in Luxembourg and bottles Stoli in Latvia. But it buys grain alcohol from Russia, and until 2010, had marketed the vodka as being Russian.

The company has waged a public relations counter offensive against the boycott calls, pointing out its ownership information and stressing its support of LGBT rights. In July it posted on its website an open letter from CEO Val Mendeleev to the LGBT community that decried “the recent dreadful actions taken by the Russian Government.”

Paisley suggested such steps could work in the company’s favor, as he noted that the number of LGBT consumers who said they avoid shopping at Walmart was 50 percent less this year than in the 2012 survey.

“They are having an impact in the LGBT community with their work last year,” said Paisley.

The Arkansas-based retailer last November for the first time publicly disclosed its resource group for LGBT employees and noted that the company’s e-commerce headquarters in San Bruno, south of San Francisco, held a “Coming Out” event.

More recently it announced it would offer benefits to the same-sex partners of its LGBT employees.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 4:18 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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