Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 16 / 17 April 2014

Breaking: Orr leaving EQCA

Equality California spokeswoman Rebekah Orr is leaving the statewide LGBT lobbying organization next week, Orr confirmed today.

The departure of a communications staffer would typically be a minor development, but Orr has essentially been the only public face of EQCA since October 2011, when former Executive Director Roland Palencia abruptly resigned. Palencia had joined EQCA just three months beforehand.

The organization has an interim executive director, Laurie Hasencamp, but she rarely speaks to the media and it’s never been clear what exactly she’s doing with the organization.

Orr said she’s joining Goodwin-Simon Strategic Research, a firm that’s worked closely with EQCA.

EQCA spokeswoman Rebekah Orr (Photo: Rex Wockner)

“For quite some time, I’ve wanted to work more on the research side of communications work, and I had the opportunity to do that with Amy Simon, and so that wasn’t an opportunity I felt like I could pass up,” Orr said. Her last day with EQCA will be Friday, August 10.

Orr said her replacement hasn’t yet been selected.

EQCA also appears to be nowhere near choosing a new executive director.

“The board is in the same position it has been in,” she said.

EQCA’s board of directors “would like to bring someone on as soon as possible, but it doesn’t have a specific timeline. … The board is going to take whatever time it needs to make the right choice,” she said.

It is unknown how many candidates have applied for the ED position or how many have been interviewed.

“I’m not in a position to say how many people are being interviewed,” she said.

Candidates are being vetted “on a rolling basis as applications come in,” she explained. “At some point, the search committee will make some recommendations to the full board about a set of candidates to interview … or even to hire.”

Orr has recently said that EQCA’s finances are improving, but the group appears to have struggled to find direction after the 2011 departure of longtime Executive Director Geoff Kors. EQCA dodged a bullet last month when anti-gay groups failed to gather enough signatures to force an initiative on the November ballot to repeal the state’s new law mandating that public schools have curriculum about historical contributions of LGBT and disabled Americans. Had the initiative been on the ballot, it would have meant the likelihood of an expensive statewide campaign at a time when many LGBT organizations throughout California are struggling financially.

Asked why EQCA doesn’t just shut down, Orr laughed and said, “Really? Isn’t there work to do? Isn’t there work to do for the LGBT community in California? I mean, the organization has been experiencing a lot of challenges, but the reality is it’s considerably more stable today than it was a year ago.”

She pointed to current EQCA-backed legislation such as Senate Bill 1172, which would outlaw so-called reparative therapy designed to turn gay people straight.

But now that Orr is leaving, it’s unclear who will step in to help organize supporters of SB 1172 and other gay- and AIDS-related legislation and make sure that news about such legislation is disseminated.

[Updated 8/6/12: Orr said Monday that while she supervises EQCA's social media work, it is and will continue to be managed directly by Shaun Osburn, deputy director of online communications. As for organizing supporters for various legislative work. Orr said that will be a team effort.

"Alice Kessler works to secure witnesses to provide testimony at bill hearings and secure letters of support from key individuals and organizations for each bill," Orr said in an email Monday. "Our communications team creates online action alerts, emails, videos, infographics, and other social media to drive letters to legislative offices."

Additionally, EQCA's field staff "goes out into the community and talks to voters every day about the legislative work we are doing and collects postcards in support of our work, which are then delivered to legislative offices," Orr added.

Supporters may also work with EQCA to call or visit legislators, she said.

EQCA is not the only organization supporting SB 1172, which is expected to be voted on in the Assembly later this month. Co-sponsors include the Courage Campaign; the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Gaylesta, a group made up of LGBT therapists.]

- Reported by Seth Hemmelgarn

— Cynthia Laird, August 2, 2012 @ 1:14 pm PST
Filed under: News

De La Fuente to challenge Kaplan for Oakland council seat

Seeking to “put to rest” rumors and speculation, Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente announced this afternoon that he will challenge incumbent councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, an out lesbian, for the city’s at-large seat.

De La Fuente has represented District 5, which includes the Fruitvale and Glenview neighborhoods, for 20 years. At a news conference on the steps of City Hall called to make his announcement, De La Fuente suggested that with three new members set to be elected in November, the City Council could be reinvigorated. And he could continue to represent Oakland by winning the citywide council seat.

City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente announces his candidacy for the at-large seat. (photo:Elliot Owen)

“Three new councilmembers will be elected in November and I can tell you we need that change,” he said.

There are open seats in Districts 1, 3, and, with De La Fuente’s announcement, District 5. Two gay men, Sean Sullivan and Alex Miller-Cole, are running among several candidates in District 3, which includes Jack London Square and West Oakland.

Kaplan, the council’s only gay member, was thought to have a smooth path to re-election in November. But that was upended this month when rumors started swirling that De La Fuente would give up his seat and seek the at-large position.

Taking questions from reporters after his prepared remarks, De La Fuente insisted he was not running against Kaplan, and was not seeking to oust her because she is gay.

“I hope people go back to my record,” he said. “I was the first to support domestic partners. I’m not running against anybody.”

De La Fuente said the top issue is public safety. Oakland’s police force has shrunk in recent years as the city has struggled with budget deficits. De La Fuente said that the council should authorize new tools. Those include gang injunctions, which have been obtained in parts of the city but which remain very controversial; curfews; and anti-loitering ordinances.

“Crime and violence are major issues,” he said. He said that the current City Council has been “stuck on philosophical debates” while murder and violent crime continue rising all over the city. As of Monday 63 people have been killed in Oakland, according to his statement.

De La Fuente was joined at his news conference by City Councilwoman Desley Brooks and former at-large councilman Henry Chang. Oakland school board member Noel Gallo, who is running for De La Fuente’s Fruitvale seat, was also in attendance. De La Fuente said he endorses Gallo in that race.

Kaplan fired off her own news release Thursday morning touting the endorsements of Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Nurses Association, and the Sierra Club.

“Oakland is on the rise,” she said in the statement. “And I’m looking forward to continuing our work to get illegal guns off the streets, create jobs in our city, and revitalize our neighborhoods.”

Kaplan will host a breakfast fundraiser with local business leaders Wednesday, August 1 from 8 to 10 a.m. at Miss Pearl’s, 1 Broadway in Jack London Square. Tickets start at $75. For more information, visit

— Cynthia Laird, July 26, 2012 @ 3:04 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

SF vigil for Texas teens shot near Corpus Christi

Organizers are planning a vigil in San Francisco for Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. at Jane Warner Plaza Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro after two out lesbian Texas teens were shot over the weekend in a park outside Corpus Christi

Local organizer Jason Haas phoned the Bay Area Reporter Tuesday afternoon with information about the June 27 vigil. Haas said people are asked to bring signs and flowers. He also said that local leaders have been invited to attend.

Mary Christine Chapa and Mollie Judith Olgin

According to a report in the Dallas Voice, Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, was found dead and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, was rushed to a hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery and was listed in stable condition Tuesday.

The lesbian couple had been together about five months. They were found by visitors to Violet Andrews Park in Portland, Texas at about 9 a.m. Saturday, June 23. Both had gunshot wounds to the head from a large-caliber handgun, the Voice reported.

Police believe the shooting happened around midnight Friday. Portland Police Chief Randy Wright told MSNBC that investigators believe the shootings were committed by a third party but are unsure whether they are related to the young women’s sexual orientation

— Cynthia Laird, June 26, 2012 @ 3:49 pm PST
Filed under: News

Breaking: 9th Circuit refuses further review of Prop 8

The full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused Tuesday (June 5) to review a panel’s decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

The refusal means almost certainly that proponents of California’s ban on same-sex marriage will soon file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

With last week’s 1st Circuit decision striking a core section of the Defense of Marriage Act also heading to the nation’s highest court, it is now likely the Supreme Court will have two major same-sex marriage cases on its docket in October. The 9th Circuit case, if accepted, would ask whether states can ban same-sex couples from obtaining a marriage license; the 1st Circuit case, if accepted, would ask whether the federal government can refuse to recognize marriages licensed by states to same-sex couples.

The three-paragraph order stated that the request for a full court review “failed to receive a majority of the votes” of active judges. It also noted that the mandate would be stayed for 90 days to enable proponents of Prop 8 to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Accompanying the order was a dissent from three circuit court judges. It said the refusal for appeal “has silenced” a “respectful conversation” about the same-sex marriage issue. It called the 2-1 panel decision striking Prop 8 a “gross misapplication” of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Romer v. Evans. In that case, the Supreme Court said states could not pass laws that excluded gays from protection just because gays are an unpopular group.

The panel decision, said the dissenters, “have now declared that animus must have been the only conceivable motivation for a sovereign state to have remained committed to a definition of marriage that has existed for millennia.”

Proponents of Prop 8 filed the 9th Circuit full court appeal, asking it to overturn a decision by a three-judge panel of the circuit in February. That panel decision found that California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the federal constitution by stripping from same-sex couples a right they had (to marry) prior to passage of Prop 8. In order for a limited en banc (full) panel of 11 judges to have heard the appeal, at least 14 of the circuit’s 26 active judges would have had to say another review is warranted.

Attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

The case is Perry v. Brown, led by famed conservative attorney Theodore Olson and preeminent liberal attorney David Boies and organized and funded by the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
In that case, two same-sex couples sued after being denied marriage licenses once the voter-approved constitutional ban on same-sex marriage went into effect.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled, in August 2010, that banning same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses violates the federal Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. He agreed to delay enforcement of the decision, pending an appeal by Yes on 8 attorneys to the 9th Circuit.

In February, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit, in a 2-1 vote, upheld Walker’s decision. But in doing so, the panel explained that Prop 8 improperly removed from a group of citizens (gays) a right they already enjoyed (marriage). The California Supreme Court had ruled, in May 2008, that the state constitution required that same-sex couples be able to obtain marriage licenses the same as straight couples. But in November of that year, voters approved Prop 8, amending the state constitution to explicitly ban the recognition of same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples who had been allowed to wed between June and Election Day 2008 remain legally married in California, but other same-sex couples could no longer marry.

While attorneys and activists uniformly called the February 7 panel decision a major victory, the decision did stop short of saying that same-sex partners, like straight partners, have a “fundamental right to marry.” Instead, it said Prop 8 deprived same-sex partners only of the “right to use the designation of ‘marriage.’” If it had ruled same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry, said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund’s legal director Jon Davidson, “the marriage laws of 44 states would have been cast into doubt …” And by rendering such a relatively narrow ruling, said Davidson and others, the panel reduced the likelihood the U.S. Supreme Court would take the case.

“The fundamental right to marry, as protected by the U.S. Constitution,” said Williams Institute legal scholar Jenny Pizer, “has to have the same contours throughout the country. So a decision concluding that same-sex couples have the same fundamental right as different-sex couples would call into question all the marriage restrictions states currently impose.”

- Reported by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, June 5, 2012 @ 10:22 am PST
Filed under: News

Obama, Pelosi issue Pride statements

President Barack Obama today issued his annual proclamation declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month just as Pride parades and festivals get under way in cities across the country.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) also issued a Pride Month video ( in which she recounts the “dark days” of the Stonewall riots and other setbacks, noting that progress has been made since then.

In his proclamation, Obama starts out by noting that ordinary Americans “have led a proud and inexorable march toward freedom, fairness, and full equality under the law.”

President Barack Obama, shown in Redwood City last month, issued a Pride Month proclamation Friday. (Photo: Lydia Gonzales)

“The LGBT community has written a proud chapter in the fundamentally American story. From brave men and women who came out and spoke out to union and faith leaders who rallied for equality to activists and advocates who challenged unjust laws and marched on Washington, LGBT Americans and allies have achieved what once seemed inconceivable. This month, we reflect on their enduring legacy, celebrate the movement that has made progress possible, and recommit to securing the fullest blessings of freedom for all Americans,” the proclamation reads.

Obama also describes how his administration has worked to broaden opportunity, advance equality, and level the playing field for LGBT people and communities. That includes passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; action to end housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and expanding hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones. And of course, Obama mentions the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy that had prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

The proclamation also makes note of Obama’s historic statement last month that he supports marriage equality for same-sex couples.

“And because we must treat others the way we want to be treated, I personally believe in marriage equality for same-sex couples,” the proclamation states.

The proclamation calls upon the country to “eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.”

In her video message, Pelosi also mentions recent achievements such as the repeal of DADT, which “took its rightful place in the dustbin of history.”

“President Obama made it the policy of his administration to no longer defend the shameful Defense of Marriage Act,” Pelosi added.

Pelosi noted that more needs to be done, including ending workplace discrimination.

“We must protect and preserve the rights of all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation,” she said.

— Cynthia Laird, June 1, 2012 @ 3:41 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Breaking: Court rules DOMA unconstitutional

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the core part of the Defense of Marriage Act, barring federal recognition of marriages of same-sex couples, is unconstitutional.

The panel said that, under simple rational review of the law, the same-sex couples seeking to overturn DOMA, “cannot prevail.” But, the panel also said that the principles of equal protection and federalism implicated together by DOMA “require a closer than usual review based in part on discrepant impact among married couples and in part on the importance of state interests in regulating marriage.”

The panel decided that an earlier 1st Circuit decision on a case challenging “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” “has already declined” to grant “suspect classification” to laws based on “sexual preference.” And the panel said it was neither empowered nor willing to “create such a new suspect classification for same-sex relationships.”

But citing Romer v. Evans and other U.S. Supreme Court precedents, and noting that the denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples married in Massachusetts “does burden the choice of states … to regulate the rules and incidents of marriage,” the court said Section 3 cannot stand.

-Reported by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, May 31, 2012 @ 8:38 am PST
Filed under: News

Rally for Brandy Martell Sunday

Friends of Oakland murder victim Brandy Martell will gather for a rally in downtown Oakland on Sunday, May 13.

Martell, a transgender woman, was shot as she sat in her car with friends at 13th and Franklin streets in Oakland on April 29. As of this week, Oakland police continue to investigate the case but no arrests have been made.

Starr Britt held an image of Brandy Martell at a memorial Wednesday in downtown Oakland. (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

Tiffany Woods, program coordinator of the TransVision program at Tri-City Health Center in Fremont, said the rally will be held in the amphitheater at Frank Ogawa Plaza, near the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway, from 6 to 8 p.m. Woods will be among the speakers at Sunday’s rally.

Woods knew Martell, 37, who had done some volunteer peer education work for TransVision. She also helped at the Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Oakland last November.

Family and friends mourned Martell at two memorial services earlier this week.

Friends who were with Martell in the early morning hours of April 29 have said that they were approached by two men, who talked with them and then left. Apparently one of the men later returned, at around 5 a.m., and shot Martell, the friends said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Oakland police homicide unit at (510) 238-3821 or the dispatch office, (510) 777-3333.

— Cynthia Laird, May 11, 2012 @ 10:51 am PST
Filed under: News

Romney rushes to contain damaging story of anti-gay ‘prank’

Just one day after President Barack Obama’s big announcement that he supports the legal right of gay couples to marry, Republican nominee-apparent Mitt Romney is scrambling to contain an unexpected revelation.

A close friend of Romney’s, when the two were attending a private boarding school outside Detroit during their high school years, says Romney forcibly held down and cut the hair of a fellow student despite the student’s screams for help.

Mitt Romney

The Romney friend, Matthew Friedemann, told the Washington Post, in a story published May 10, that the victim of the attack had tears in his eyes and was screaming for help when he, Romney, and several other students tackled the non-conforming student whom many presumed to be gay.

The Post said four of the other students who participated in the attack confirmed it. One recalled it as “vicious.” Friedemann said Romney organized and led the attack.

Asked about the Post story, Romney told Fox News Radio Thursday that he didn’t recall the incident but added, “I certainly don’t believe that I … thought the fellow was homosexual.”

Although he didn’t remember the incident, he characterized the attack as a prank, acknowledged that it might have gone “too far,” but said he considers himself to be “a very different person” now.

The victim of the 1965 attack, according to the Post, was John Lauber, who died in 2004. In high school, Lauber had grown his hair long, bleached it, and wore it in a style that it draped over one eye. That, according to Friedemann, led many students to presume Lauber was gay.

Friedemann said Romney saw Lauber’s hairstyle and said, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong!” A few days later, said Friedemann, he found Romney leading a group of students into a room where Lauber was. Friedemann said Romney and the group grabbed Lauber, pinned him to the floor, and enabled Romney to cut his hair.

The Post got confirmation of the attack from five of the students who participated in it.

Alex Shriver, a Romney campaign spokesman, on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, blew off a question about the incident, calling it a “temporary media distraction, with sort of questionable timing.”

But the Post found another fellow student of Romney’s, Gary Hummel, who was gay at the time and recalled Romney mocking him with “Atta girl!” whenever we spoke out in class.

- Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, May 10, 2012 @ 11:27 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Bay Times plagiarizes BARtab listings

In journalism, one of the first things writers learn is not to plagiarize from other writers. Writers’ works should be their own, or at the very least attributed to the original source. That’s true whether covering city hall or writing calendar listings. Plagiarism is a fire-able offense, as many a reporter has learned.

This week, the Bay Area Reporter became aware that the SF Bay Times was cribbing the calendar listings from BARtab, our monthly nightlife publication. BARtab editor Jim Provenzano spends a lot of time writing the listings, adding his creative flair and making them unique. That’s what a good writer does, even with something that can seem mundane, like calendar listings.

Bay Times publisher Betty Sullivan (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

What caught our eye was the sheer number of identical listings that appeared in the April 5 edition of the Bay Times – and that whoever compiled the listings (Robert Fuggiti is the byline listed) even managed to copy Jim’s typos. That was evidence enough for us to fire off a letter to Bay Times publisher Betty Sullivan, asking her to immediately cease and desist.

Here’s one example:

From the April 1, 2012 edition of BARtab:
Bijou @ Martuni’s
Enjoy an Easter-themed musical cabaret show post-sisters in the Park, with Molly Gazay, Robb Huddleston, Nikki Arias, hostess Trauma Flintstone and accompanist Alan Choy. $5. 7pm. 4 Valencia St. at Market. 241-0205.

Here’s the April 5, 2012 Bay Times:
Bijou @ Martuni’s. Enjoy an Easter-themed musical cabaret show post-sisters in the Park, with Molly Gazay, Robb Huddleston, Nikki Arias, hostess Trauma Flintstone and accompanist Alan Choy. $5. 7pm. 4 Valencia St.

Readers should note the typo – not capitalizing the word “Sisters” that appeared in Jim’s BARtab listing. And yet there it is again in the Bay Times, along with the word-for-word description of the event. The only difference is that Jim includes a phone number, the Bay Times listed a website. That is not enough of a distinction to make the work one’s own.

Listings from April 9, April 10, April 11, and April 12 are all the same, with the exception of one for April 9 that was given a different title. The listings for April 13 are different. The listings for April 14 include two (La Bota Loca and Frolic) that are identical to BARtab. A recent review has determined that plagiarism has occurred in the previous three consecutive issues.

We sent Sullivan the letter. She responded that she would look into it. Then today she called us and said she was sorry about the situation.

“I will take every step to correct it,” she said. “I was surprised by it and am sorry about it.”

We’re appreciative that Sullivan has pledged to rectify the situation and look forward to next week’s Bay Times calendar being BARtab-free.

— Cynthia Laird, April 12, 2012 @ 12:52 pm PST
Filed under: News

SF DA: Won’t seek death penalty in cases

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon told reporters today that he would not seek the death penalty “in any case.”

The issue was raised by the Bay Area Reporter during a Q&A with reporters at a biannual press breakfast Gascon hosted at Delancey Street Restaurant.

SF DA George Gascon (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Earlier this month, defendant William Payne pleaded not guilty to the 1983 murder of Nikolaus Crumbley. During a court appearance February 2, Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart said that the murder charge against Payne could be altered to reflect that it occurred during the course of sodomy, which would make Payne a candidate for the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

At the time, Swart said he did not know if the DA’s office would alter the charge but said that if it became a capital case it would go before a committee in the DA’s office. The decision to seek the death penalty would ultimately be made by Gascon.

Thursday, Gascon was asked about the Payne case.

“We’re not going to be seeking the death penalty,” Gascon said.

Asked to clarify if he was just referring to the Payne case, Gascon said his office would not seek the death penalty “in any case.”

“It would be life without parole,” he said of the severest penalty his office would seek in applicable felony cases.

During his 2011 election campaign, Gascon said that he’s “not a believer” in the death penalty but did not specifically rule out applying it in cases.

The B.A.R. will have more on the Payne case in next week’s edition.

— Cynthia Laird, February 16, 2012 @ 3:53 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

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