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

CA LGBT group condemns anti-gay incident in San Jose

EQCA's Rick Zbur Photo: Courtesy EQCA

EQCA’s Rick Zbur Photo: Courtesy EQCA

Late this afternoon, a statewide LGBT advocacy group condemned what it called a “hate speech” incident that occurred recently in San Jose and involved the husband of termed out state Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), who is running in a heated race for a state Senate seat.

Equality California called on the individuals and organizations involved in the reported incident to publicly take a stand against hate speech, provide leadership to ensure civil political and public discourse, and encourage their associates to do the same.

The 260-word statement from EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur, however, did not name the lawmaker, her husband, or anyone else involved in the incident, which reportedly occurred April 29 during a fundraiser held by the the Santa Clara Building Trades Council at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose.

EQCA’s statement came after the Bay Area Reporter’s Political Notebook reported in today’s issue how reaction by South Bay LGBT leaders has been mixed in the weeks since the first media reports on the anti-gay incident were published in mid-May.

According to various accounts, Neil Struthers, who is married to Campos, called Laborers’ Local 270 business manager Enrique Arguello a “fucking faggot” at the event. Struthers also reportedly used his fingers to suggest sex in response to seeing a photo of Arguello with Omar Torres, a gay man who works as an aide to San Jose City Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco and is a regional director for the California Democratic Party.

The reports claimed Struthers asked Arguello if he and Torres were lovers and how their sexual relationship worked.

Both sides have been political opponents for years and have accused the other of lying about the incident. In media interviews and a video she posted online, and has since taken down, Campos has blamed her Senate race opponent, Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), and state Senate President Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) of ordering Arguello to attack her husband and of bullying behavior toward her and other women.

Both Beall, who is endorsed by EQCA, and de León have denied the charges, painting them as cynical campaign ploys ahead of the June 7 Primary election.

As the B.A.R. column noted, few LGBT leaders in the South Bay have spoken out publicly about the incident. One who did was San Jose resident Anthony Macias, a gay Republican running in the race for Beall’s 15th Senate District seat.

The day of the first media reports about the incident, Macias via his Facebook page called on Campos to denounce her husband’s remarks. More recently, Gabrielle Antolovich, the board president of the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center in downtown San Jose, reached out to Torres to express support.

The South Bay’s main LGBT political group BAYMEC, which stands for Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, has not posted any statement about the incident either to its website or Facebook page.

In his first media interview about the incident, Torres told the B.A.R. he found the silence from his fellow LGBT leaders troubling. Had the comments been directed to more “established LGBT leaders there would be an uproar,” contended Torres.

Because EQCA is an LGBT civil rights organization fighting for equality and social justice, it said in its statement that it “take reports of hate speech very seriously.”

The organization defined anti-LGBT hate speech as “a form of violence that demeans and traumatizes members of our community” and “a form of psychological abuse that impacts self-esteem and contributes to high rates of depression and suicide, including rates of attempted suicide four times higher for LGBT youth than for the general public.”

Zbur added that not responding to hate speech when it occurs is tacit approval of discrimination that can result in additional violence against LGBT people.

“It is important that organizations and community leaders stand up against hate speech when it occurs and when reports of incidents occur,” stated Zbur. “The importance of civility in public life and political discourse is an important value that all our leaders should affirmatively embrace and promote.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, May 26, 2016 @ 4:00 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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