Issue:  Vol. 45 / No. 41 / 8 October 2015

Senate passes ENDA

The Senate Thursday (November 7) approved the flagship piece of legislation that the LGBT community has fought for over the past 19 years and more.

The 64-32 vote marked the first time the Senate has approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The only other Senate vote, in 1996, failed on a vote of 49-50.

ENDA seeks to add language to the federal Civil Rights Act to prohibit employers from taking adverse employment actions against employees or job applicants based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” It applies to employers with more than 15 employees but exempts some employers based on the degree to which they are involved in religious activities.

(Senator Tammy Baldwin. Photo: Chuck Colbert)

(Senator Tammy Baldwin. Photo: Chuck Colbert)

While the bill is not as comprehensive as the original legislation introduced by the late Representative Bella Abzug in 1974 and championed by the late Senator Ted Kennedy beginning in 1996, it is considered to be both a critical step toward securing equal rights for LGBT people and a powerful symbolic asset.

The major hurdle now is the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeatedly said he would not bring ENDA to the floor for a vote, saying he does not believe the legislation is necessary and that it would lead to frivolous lawsuits.

That looming hurdle did not dampen the enthusiasm of senators praising the Senate for its passage of the bill.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), who took the lead on ENDA in the Senate after the death of Kennedy, praised Kennedy’s leadership and that of others in both political parties.

“From the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to our battles over slavery, our battles over gender discrimination, race discrimination, we have fought to capture that vision of equality and liberty and opportunity and fairness embedded in our founding documents and our founding vision,” said Merkley, at a press conference after the first two votes were secured. “We’ve taken a huge stride today in that direction.”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who championed the bill in his Senate committee, said, “Today is an historic day.” He noted that the Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1994.

“Now, we have sort of finished the trilogy,” said Harkin, who also praised Merkley’s leadership on ENDA.

“We wouldn’t be here without Jeff Merkley,” said Harkin. “He spearheaded this whole effort.” And Harkin called out Senator Tammy Baldwin’s (D-Wisconsin) involvement “instrumental.”

The passage of ENDA came after the Senate first rejected an amendment to dramatically expand the number of employers who could claim a religious exemption to ENDA. The amendment, introduced by Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), needed 60 votes to pass.

Section 6 of the original bill stated, “This act shall not apply to a corporation, association, educational institution or institution of learning, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

On November 6 the Senate approved, by voice vote, an amendment from six Republican senators led by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to ban state and local governments from “retaliating against religious groups that take action only permissible because of the religious exemption clause” in ENDA. While LGBT groups were not enthusiastic about the Portman amendment, they didn’t oppose it.

But nearly every LGBT group and supporter opposed the Toomey amendment. It sought to expand the exemption to include entities “managed by a church or religious organization, officially affiliated with a particular religion, or [that] teach a curriculum directed toward propagating a particular religion.” It would also apply to organizations with “both religious and secular functions.”

Speaking on behalf of his amendment Thursday morning, Toomey said ENDA “makes a strong stand” for equality. But he said religious freedom is also an important value. He said he thinks his amendment “strikes an appropriate balance.” He said he was concerned the courts have not been consistent in recognizing which religious institutions should enjoy the religious exemptions that currently exist in the Civil Rights Act.

Harkin spoke in opposition to Toomey’s amendment, saying that changing the existing language of the Civil Rights Act will call into question language that employers are already familiar with and know how to comply with. He said the Toomey amendment “officially affiliated with a particular religion” to discriminate.

“This is a new term that is undefined in the text of the amendment and could lead to thousands of pro-profit businesses being allowed to discriminate,” said Harkin. He said an employer might be considered “affiliated” simply by receiving a newsletter from a religious group. “It threatens to gut the fundamental purpose of ENDA,” said Harkin.

Baldwin, the Senate’s only openly gay member, said the current religious exemption in ENDA is a “very carefully negotiated bipartisan” exemption. She urged the Senate to reject Toomey’s amendment.

The Senate did so, by a vote of 43-55.

The Senate then voted 64-34 to approve a procedural motion to close debate on ENDA. (All roll call votes are available on the Senate website approximately one hour after they are recorded.)

ENDA supporters were clearly hoping for a robust vote in support of the underlying bill and were heartened that not one senator, over the course of four days of allotted debate time, spoke in opposition.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) did express concern about the addition of language to protect people on the basis of gender identity. Flake indicated he had prepared an amendment that did not make it to the floor, but suggested that his concerns were addressed.

“When I voted for ENDA in the House in 2007, it did not contain the provisions with regard to gender identity,” said Flake. “Those added provisions have concerned me in terms of potential costs of litigation or compliance. I still have concerns, and I hope that as we work through the process and this bill moves onto the House that we can find ways to make sure that employers can implement these provisions in a way that is reasonable and proper.”

Thanking Baldwin for working with his office on “these issues,” Flake said, “I have a better appreciation for what needs to be done and what we can do with this legislation as it moves through the process.”

Baldwin, speaking at the press conference after the first two votes were taken, said “For folks, like myself, in the LGBT community, the opportunity to be judged in the workplace by your skills and qualities, your loyalty, your work ethic, is an important pronouncement for this nation.”

She talked also about the “symbolic impact” of the vote.

“When we something is wrong and it shouldn’t be done,” said Baldwin, “that sends a powerful message to prevent discrimination in the first place.”

“This is a really tremendous milestone,” said Baldwin, “a day I will never forget in my service in the Senate.”

– Reported by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, November 7, 2013 @ 12:58 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Board prez and Assembly candidate David Chiu ties the knot

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President and state Assembly candidate David Chiu got married over the weekend, according to a post on his Facebook page.

(David Chiu and his new wife, Candace Chen. Photo courtesy Chiu's Facebook page.)

(David Chiu and his new wife, Candace Chen. Photo courtesy Chiu’s Facebook page.)

“On Sunday [October 20], Candace and I were married at Calvary Presbyterian Church in a ceremony surrounded by our family and friends,” Chiu wrote. “I am so happy to be starting our life together. Thanks so much to all of you for your love and support.”

Chiu married Candace Chen, whom he met seven years ago. According to media reports, the two were friends for awhile and she was a volunteer on his 2008 supervisorial campaign.

Chiu is running for the 17th District Assembly seat against his board colleague, gay Supervisor David Campos.

With the two Davids, both Democrats who serve on the local party’s oversight body, often voting similarly on policy issues at City Hall, it is likely that voters will be swayed by other factors, such as race and sexual orientation, in determining which of the two to back, the Bay Area Reporter‘s online Political Notes column reported this week. Campos, 42, would not only maintain LGBT representation in the seat, he would also be the first Latino to represent San Francisco in the state Assembly.

A victory by Chiu, 43, would mark the first time that Asian Americans represented both of the city’s Assembly districts. Last fall Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) won election to the 19th Assembly District covering San Francisco’s western neighborhoods.

— Cynthia Laird, October 24, 2013 @ 12:03 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Breaking: Frank wants interim Senate post

It looks like former Congressman Barney Frank isn’t quite ready to leave Capitol Hill after all.

Barney Frank, who retired from the House of Representatives this week, is interested in the interim Massachusetts Senate seat. (Photo: Rudy K. Lawidjaja

One day out of retirement as a member of the House of Representatives, Barney Frank said today that he has asked Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to appoint him as the interim senator to replace John Kerry, who is expected to be confirmed Secretary of State later this month.

Frank, a gay Massachusetts Democrat, told MSNBC’s Morning Joe talk show panel on that he would like to serve as U.S. senator from Massachusetts for the several months before a special election chooses Kerry’s replacement.

Host Joe Scarborough, racing to close off the eight-minute free-for-all “exit interview” with Frank, asked: “Former Congressman Barney Frank, would you consider possibly being future Senator Barney Frank if the governor calls you and says …”

“Yeah,” said Frank, before the question was fully out of Scarborough’s mouth.

” … fill in for a few months?”

“A month ago, a few weeks in fact, I said I wasn’t interested,” said Frank. “It was kinda like you’re about to graduate and they said you’ve got to go to summer school. But that [temporary fiscal cliff] deal now means that February, March, and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial …”

“So, you’d consider it?” interjected Scarborough.

“Yes, in fact, I’m not going to be coy, it’s not anything I’ve ever been very good at, but I’ve told the governor that I would like, frankly, to do that because I would like to be a part of that.”

President Barack Obama nominated Kerry December 15 to replace retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Patrick said, at a press conference December 21, that he would not name anyone to the seat until after Kerry is confirmed. But that process is not expected to take long because Kerry appears to have widespread support from his Senate colleagues in both parties.

Other names being tossed around the rumor mill as potential interim senators include Mike Dukakis, a former Democratic governor of Massachusetts, and Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Frank has the advantage of still having a residence and staff in Washington.

Meanwhile, former Senator Scott Brown, a Republican who held the Kennedy seat until he was replaced by newly sworn-in Senator Elizabeth Warren this week, is expected to run for the Kerry seat. And, at the moment, Democrats in Massachusetts appear to be coalescing behind Representative Ed Markey, who has announced his bid for the Kerry seat.

Frank, 70, who just retired after more than 30 years in Congress, said he is not interested in running for the Kerry Senate seat.

– Reported by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, January 4, 2013 @ 10:28 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Breaking: High court delay ‘not unusual,’ Prop 8 attorney says

Marriage equality supporters on the West Coast were up early this morning, awaiting a possible decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether to accept for argument the federal Proposition 8 case, but when the court posted its list of cases at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time, there was no mention of that case or several others involving the Defense of Marriage Act.

One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case said that the delay was “not unusual.”
The U.S. Supreme Court once again delayed indicating whether it will hear one or more of 10 petitions before it concerning same-sex marriage.

Attorney Theodore Olson (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

Many legal observers expected to learn Monday that the court refused to hear an appeal concerning Prop 8 and an appeal concerning Arizona’s law banning equal benefits for the domestic partners of gay state employees. Both a federal district court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that Prop 8, passed by California voters four years ago, is unconstitutional. The appeals court put a stay on its decision pending review by the Supreme Court.

But when Monday’s orders list appeared, neither those cases nor any of the eight petitions concerning the Defense of Marriage Act were on it.

[Updated: Later in the morning, the Supreme Court website indicated the justices have rescheduled – or re-listed – all 10 petitions for its next scheduled conference meeting, Friday, December 7.]

Veteran Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston speculated recently that the announcement of a decision not to take up the Prop 8 case could take longer than usual because some justices might be writing dissents from the court’s decision not to review the lower court decision.

Four justices must agree to hear a case in order for it to be taken up for review by the Supreme Court.
A decision not to take up the Prop 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, will mean that same-sex couples will again be able to obtain marriage licenses in California within just a few days – a major development legally and politically. Officials in San Francisco and Los Angeles have been actively preparing for what they expect to be thousands of same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses, since November 2008 when a voter approved initiative amended the state constitution to stop allowing same-sex marriages in the state.

It would also mean that California, the most populous state in the nation, would become the 10th state, plus the District of Columbia, to enable same-sex couples to marry. That adds up to 28 percent of the U.S. population living in a jurisdiction where same-sex couples can marry.

Of equal concern is how the court will eventually decide to take up the appeals of decisions from three U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal that have struck down DOMA as unconstitutional. The high court could potentially take none, but most legal experts say it is almost certain to accept one or more of the five cases.

In a less visible case, the court has also been asked to hear a case from Arizona, Brewer v. Diaz, challenging a state law that bans equal benefits for gay state employees and their domestic partners.

Gay legal activists are studiously resisting the temptation to speculate about the amount of time the court is taking to decide whether to take any of the cases.

The justices were first scheduled to discuss the cases in conference in late September. That conference was re-scheduled for mid-November and then re-scheduled again for November 30.

Theodore Olson, part of the high-profile legal team that has been successfully challenging Prop 8, said Monday that it’s “not unusual for complex cases to be re-listed,” or be discussed by the justices in more than one of their private conferences.

[Updated: The court could conceivably issue an orders list on any of these cases Friday, following its conference meeting, or next Monday as part of its routine orders list issuance.]

The court could conceivably issue another orders list any day now. It is next scheduled to discuss cases Friday, December 7, and, if it takes one or more of the marriage-related cases, it would likely issue an orders list on Friday. The court’s calendar suggests that, if one or more of the cases is accepted for review, it will likely be argued in late March but could be argued as late as April 24.

– Reported by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, December 3, 2012 @ 8:36 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Come out for Kaplan Saturday

Out at-large Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan is having a fundraiser for her re-election campaign this Saturday, October 27 at the Bench and Bar in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. The event, dubbed “Coming Out for Kaplan” is a happy hour reception with LGBTQ and allied supporters.

Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

Kaplan is in a tough battle for a second term on the Oakland City Council, as District 5 Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente is also running for the at-large seat, having decided to forgo what would have been an easy re-election in his Fruitvale district.

Several notable LGBT community leaders have signed on as hosts for the event, which takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. at 510 17th Street (at Telegraph). They include former California state Senator Sheila Kuehl, Berkeley City Councilman Darryl Moore, United Democratic Campaign co-director Michael Colbruno, and retired Navy Commander Zoe Dunning, who is an elected member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. The East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, which endorsed Kaplan, is also a host for the event and several of its members are expected to attend.

The happy hour party will include entertainment by comedian Karinda Dobbins and DJ Luna will be spinning. Christiana Remington will serve as emcee.

Tickets range from $16 for one ticket or $50 for two tickets to a maximum of $700 for six tickets. To purchase tickets online, visit To RSVP email or call (510) 463-4WIN.

— Cynthia Laird, October 25, 2012 @ 3:21 pm PST
Filed under: Politics

School board candidate lands big endorsements

Richard Fuentes, an openly gay Oakland resident who’s running for a seat on the city’s school board, this week announced three big endorsements for his campaign.

At a fundraising brunch Sunday, August 26, at La Borinquene Mexican Delicatessen, Fuentes told the crowd that he has been endorsed by Oakland Teachers Association. He also introduced the president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, Barry Donelan, who said that his group has endorsed Fuentes.

Candidate Richard Fuentes (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

On his Facebook page today, Fuentes posted that he received the endorsement of the East Bay Young Democrats.

Fuentes, 30, works as a legislative aide for Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who was at the event and praised him as the type of leader the financially strapped school district needs.

“He’s committed to education, in this case obviously, schoolchildren,” De La Fuente said. “I’m 100 percent behind Richard.”

He added that Fuentes, who was 26 when he interviewed for the council staff job four years ago, has grown while working at City Hall and that the school district faces many challenges with which Fuentes can help.

“He’s running to move them forward,” the councilman added.

For his part, Fuentes told the audience that as the president of the Hoover Elementary School Site Council and a leader in the school’s PTA group, he has worked to transform the school. Wanting to get students off the street and into classrooms, Hoover now has a truancy center, Fuentes said. He also has a science and technology initiative and is “very focused on teacher retention.”

“We laid off no teachers” at Hoover, he said, referencing the school board’s decision earlier this year to close five campuses.

During his remarks, Donelan said that the police officers union does not usually get involved in school board races.

“What we’re looking for here is leadership. The OPOA unequivocally endorses Richard for school board,” Donelan said.

Fuentes is challenging incumbent Jumoke Hinton-Hodge in District 3, which includes the West Oakland neighborhood. His platform includes reducing the drop-out rate and increasing classroom funding.

Fuentes’s boyfriend is Sean Sullivan, who is running for the District 3 City Council seat. De La Fuente is locked in a race for the council’s at-large seat against lesbian incumbent Rebecca Kaplan.

— Cynthia Laird, August 30, 2012 @ 10:58 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics

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

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

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

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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