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

New chief of staff an ‘internal advocate’

President Barack Obama announced today that White House senior adviser Peter Rouse will take over as his chief of staff, replacing Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel is leaving his post to launch a campaign to run for mayor of Chicago. The change is effective immediately.

Rouse (pictured at right), for many years, worked for former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle (D), a strong supporter of equal rights for gays. He joined then Obama’s Senate staff after Daschle lost his re-election bid in 2004.
Daschle told the Washington Post’s that Rouse “has an amazing capacity to bring disparate people together and create unity in a level of cooperation and chemistry that is remarkable.”

“Unlike the forceful Emanuel,” said the Post, “Rouse is described as a compromiser who is ‘completely ego-free,’ in the words of President Obama.”

Democratic activist David Mixner has blamed Emanuel for blocking progress on LGBT issues in the Clinton White House. He had a falling out with Emanuel over President Clinton’s willingness to consider separate facilities for gay service members.
He said Emanuel essentially ignored him when he tried to get Clinton’s help to secure permits for the 1993 National March on Washington for gay civil rights.

Mixner was not available for comment Friday, but in an interview with political blogger Bil Browning in March, Mixner said he thinks Emanuel has continued to be “gun shy” around gay issues in the Obama White House, with an attitude of “don’t touch the gay community early.”

Emanuel, Mixner said, “didn’t learn the lesson about being prepared.”

“He just said that we were toxic and I think we have enabled them to believe that,” said Mixner. “… I think Rahm has brought that attitude into the White House on a lot of issues – health care, gays and lesbians …”

In his press conference Friday morning, Obama kidded that Emanuel and Rouse have two “different styles.” Emanuel is widely characterized as bullish advocate for the president’s agenda. Rouse is seen as more cooperative.

Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said nothing is known about Rouse’s attitudes on LGBT specific issues.

“But there’s plenty of folks that think great things of him,” said Sainz, “and think he’s thoughtful and responsive.”

Democratic activist Hilary Rosen said she doesn’t think the changing of the guard will open doors any wider for LGBT activists.

“Rahm leaving doesn’t change the policies the White House pursues or the president’s commitment to making progress on our issues,” said Rosen. “But it is true that Pete has long been known as someone who is an internal advocate for us and will make sure that the president has the best options when it comes to moving a civil rights agenda.”

- by Lisa Keen

— admin, October 1, 2010 @ 10:13 am PST
Filed under: Politics

Chronicle columnists out Prop 8 trial judge

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the federal Proposition 8 trial, was outed Sunday, February 7 in the San Francisco Chronicle.

In their Matier & Ross column, Phil Matier and Andy Ross write that Walker (right), who was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, “has never taken pains to disguise – or advertise – his orientation.” The column is “exclusive” to the paper’s Sunday print edition and won’t be online until Monday.

The column states that Walker, 65, offered a “no comment” when asked if he had any concerns about “being characterized as gay.”

Matier and Ross talked to several gay San Francisco politicos and lawyers, none of whom believe Walker’s being gay will influence how he rules in the case now before him, known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, two same-sex couples denied the right to marry in the Golden State, tried to show during the 12-day trial last month that there is no rational basis for Prop 8 and that it harms same-sex couples and their children.

Evidence in the case is now being reviewed before Walker hears closing arguments, likely to take place sometime in March.

The columnists wrote that Walker’s orientation is an open secret among those involved in the Prop 8 case.

Openly gay State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) told the columnists that Walker’s background is a nonissue. “It seems curious to me,” Leno told the paper, that when the state Supreme Court heard a challenge to Prop 8, the justices’ sexual orientation “was never discussed.”

A federal judge who is friends with Walker called the columnists to state that Walker does not want people to think he “wants to conceal his sexuality.”

“He has a private life and he doesn’t conceal it, but doesn’t think it is relevant to his decisions in any case, and he doesn’t bring it to bear in any decisions,” said the judge, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the Prop 8 trial.

For their part, defenders of Prop 8 told the paper that they have no plans to make an issue of Walker being gay.

“We’re not going to say anything about that,” Prop 8 general counsel Andy Pugno said.

Walker himself drew the ire of gay rights activists back in the 1980s when, as a private attorney, he represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in its successful effort to bar the San Francisco Gay Olympics from using the word “Olympics.” The quadrennial event is now known as the Gay Games.

— Cynthia Laird, February 7, 2010 @ 8:50 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Milk club changes bylaws to allow for co-chairs

The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club voted to change its bylaws Tuesday night, and for the first time in its history, it will now allow for co-chairs to be elected rather than having one president.

The city’s more progressive queer political group has tried to dump its one-person-as-titular-head structure for several years. But the proposals never garnered the two-thirds vote needed to pass. This time the measure surpassed the 66 percent threshold, said club officials.

The Milk club did not, however, completely abandon having one president. The club could still choose to elect one person to oversee it, or it can decide to elect two co-chairs, so long as the duo is one man and one woman.

The more moderate Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club has long had a co-chair structure so that there is always a man and a woman leading the club. In alternating years it elects either the male co-chair or the female co-chair who then serve two-year terms.

The last time the Milk Club had a female president was in 2002, when Debra Walker held the presidency. The lack of gender parity in its top position led some club members to push for the change in its leadership structure.

It is unclear just what effect the new rules will have on whom the club elects to lead it in 2010. In January the current president, Rafael Mandelman, plans to step down after serving in the post the last two years, and as of now, no one person or team of two club members has mounted a campaign to oversee the club.

Next year is a crucial election year, as voters in San Francisco will elect a new Democratic County Central Committee in June and in November vote for supervisors in even numbered districts, including District 8 in the Castro and District 6 in the South of Market area, where queer candidates will likely be top vote-getters.

The June election is especially crucial, as the DCCC decides whom the local Democratic Party endorses in the November general election. In 2008 progressives claimed a majority of DCCC seats and helped to then elect a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors.

The Milk Club played a key role in those elections, and progressive leaders will be looking for the club, and in large part its president (or co-chairs) to help achieve similar victories next year.

— Matthew S. Bajko, November 25, 2009 @ 11:18 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Magnet to host first D8 Town Hall

Magnet, the gay men’s health center in the Castro, next week will play host to the first town hall with the major candidates running for District 8 supervisor.

All four of the well-known out candidates competing to succeed termed out Supervisor Bevan Dufty in 2010 have agreed to attend the event. Dufty, who is running for mayor in 2011, will also be on hand at the public’s first chance to meet and greet the wannabe supes contenders. The town hall will run from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, October 27.

The get together comes one night after the board of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club is set to vote on a contentious proposal to suspend its bylaws and do an early dual endorsement for D8 candidates Rebecca Prozan and Scott Wiener.

The idea to split Alice’s nod between the two former co-chairs of the club is roiling the more moderate LGBT political group and has incensed the campaign of Laura Spanjian, another past Alice co-chair.

Along with shutting Spanjian out of the competition for Alice’s endorsement, the proposal would also block former Alice board member Rafael Mandelman from the endorsement process altogether. Wiener’s and Prozan’s backers say they have the votes needed to push through the dual endorsement, but Spanjian’s supporters have been hitting the phone lines to try to stop it in its tracks.

The Alice board meets behind closed doors, so it will be interesting to see if the internal club dispute spills out into the open Tuesday night.

That same evening the more progressive Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club is set to vote on whether to give its endorsement in the D8 race to Mandelman, its current president. Considering none of the other candidates plan to be at the Milk Club meeting, which starts at the same time as the town hall, it is a safe bet that Mandelman has the endorsement locked up.

Magnet is located at 4122 18th Street, while the Milk Club meeting takes place at the Women’s Building at 3543 18th Street.

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 22, 2009 @ 10:37 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics

SF Supe Daly denounces homophobic caller

After the Bay Area Reporter‘s Political Notebook reported last week that a gay man who publicly opposed a change to the city’s sanctuary city policy received a homophobic phone message, liberal San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly contacted the paper to denounce the hate speech.

The anonymous caller left the diatribe on the answering machine of Colin Gallagher, who had spoken out against legislation that would restrict city officials from reporting illegal immigrant youth who are arrested to federal immigration authorities until after they are convicted of their crimes.

The unidentified male caller contacted Gallagher at home and left him a message that both attacked Gallagher and praised Daly, who supports the policy change introduced by openly gay Supervisor David Campos.

Following the publication of the column in the October 15 edition of the B.A.R, Daly e-mailed to say he was surprised to see his name come up in the item and denounced the caller for using hate speech in a policy dispute.

“As you know, I have prided myself on my work on behalf of San Francisco’s LGBT community and immigrant communities. I truly believe that peoples’ liberation struggles are interdependent,” wrote Daly. “I also take this opportunity to denounce the homophobic comment reported in your column, as I denounce the many racist and anti-immigrant comments that I have received.”

At their meeting Tuesday, October 20 the Board of Supervisors passed Campos’ legislation by a mayoral-veto-proof majority of 8-2, with Supervisors Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd opposed. Supervisor Michela Alioto Pier was excused to attend a funeral, while openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty, a mayoral candidate in 2011, provided the vote needed to block Mayor Gavin Newsom’s veto threat.

But the mayor’s spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle that the policy change is unenforceable and will be ignored by the mayor.

“The Campos bill isn’t worth the paper it’s written on – it’s unenforceable and he knows that,” Ballard told the daily paper. “We are not going to put our law enforcement officers in legal jeopardy just because the Board of Supervisors wants to make a statement.”

To read the rest of the Chronicle’s coverage of the policy dispute, visit

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 21, 2009 @ 2:42 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Milk Day bill clears Senate

Just a few days shy of what would have been Harvey Milk’s 79th birthday, the state Senate on Thursday, May 14 passed legislation that creates Harvey Milk Day in California in honor of the state’s first openly gay elected official.

SB 572, authored by state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), cleared the Senate with a 24-14 bipartisan vote. The bill designates May 22, Milk’s birthday, as a day of special significance in California. It would not be a paid holiday.

“Harvey Milk is an inspiration to Californians who believe in fairness and equality,” Leno said in a statement. “He fought for many of the issues we value today, including access to education, public transportation, affordable housing, and the environment. Harvey Milk gave his life for what he believed in.”

Milk, who represented the Castro while on the board, was assassinated along with then-Mayor George Moscone by ex-Supervisor Dan White in November 1978. The City Hall killings shocked the city. Next week, May 21, is the 30th anniversary of the White Night riots, when people angrily took to the streets after a jury convicted White of manslaughter instead of murder.

SB 572 is sponsored by Equality California and co-authored by 22 members of the Legislature, including out lawmakers Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), and Assemblymen Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and John Perez (D-Los Angeles).

The bill now goes to the Assembly, where it will be heard in committee.

— Cynthia Laird, May 14, 2009 @ 3:26 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

No on 8 weekend challenge

Go to for a weekend fundraising challenge for No on 8! Brian Devine will match all contributions up to $1,000.

— Cynthia Laird, October 10, 2008 @ 7:56 pm PST
Filed under: Politics

Peskin ousts gay Dem Party chair

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin emerged the victor tonight (Wednesday, July 23) in his battle to oust Scott Wiener, the openly gay chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party.

Peskin will now oversee the Democratic County Central Committee, a little noticed panel that exerts control over which candidates receive the local party’s endorsements.

By a vote of 18-16 a majority of DCCC members voted at their meeting to replace Wiener with Peskin, who is termed off the board this year. Peskin won with help from gays on the committee. Susan Leal, former Public Utilities Commission general manager, served as proxy for Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) and voted for Peskin. Supervisor Tom Ammiano also voted for him.

Elected to the DCCC in the June primary, Peskin surged to victory with the help of a progressive majority he helped elect to the local Dem panel. He needed 17 votes to claim the chairmanship.

Supervisor Chris Daly, who also won a seat on the body last month, had threatened to campaign against any members of what was known as the “Hope slate” who did not vote for Peskin in future races.

With control of the board up for grabs this fall, progressives had made the race for DCCC chair a priority, as who the Dem panel endorses usually goes on to win their races. The supervisor races could also be key in who replaces Peskin as board chair next year, and in 2011, who opts to run to replace Mayor Gavin Newsom.

— Matthew S. Bajko, July 23, 2008 @ 9:19 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Lesbian judge receives ‘Woman of the Year’ honor

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donna Hitchens has joined the ranks of “Woman of the Year” honorees from the 13th Assembly District. Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) nominated Hitchens for the award in recognition of her groundbreaking work to improve the accessibility of the legal system for low-income families and children.

In a statement Monday, March 10, Leno pointed to Hitchens’s help establishing coordinated youth services and a mandatory training program for juvenile court attorneys as well as her work in helping to establish the court’s Family Law Self-Help Center. He also praised Hitchens for working closely with the Child Trauma Research Project and the University of California, San Francisco forensic psychiatry program to see that such things as neutral custody evaluations are available to families with limited means.

Curiously, the openly gay Leno failed to mention in his release that he had chosen an out lesbian for the award, or that in 1977 – fresh out of Boalt Hall School of Law – Hitchens helped co-found the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The statement does point to Hitchens working “tirelessly to improve low and moderate income people’s access to the courts and to improve services for at risk youth exposed to violence at home and in the community.”

Leno called Hitchens “one of those extraordinary individuals we rarely come across in our lifetimes,” and added that, “She has put her time and talents to use for those that need them most – foster youth, young people exposed to violence and low-income families. She has touched the lives of so many throughout the Bay Area, I was proud to honor her today.”

Since being elected to the Superior Court in 1990, Hitchens has served as presiding judge, a trial judge in the civil and criminal divisions, and as supervising judge of the Unified Family Court. She is a former member of the Judicial Council and the Advisory Committee on Access and Fairness in the Courts and currently chairs the Science & the Law Education Committee.

For the past seven years, she has chaired the San Francisco Safe Start Initiative, aimed at improving services to young children exposed to violence in the home and in the community. She received the 2001 Benjamin Aranda Access to Justice Award for her efforts to improve access to the courts for low and moderate income people and the 2002 Judicial Officer of the Year Award from the Family Law Section of the State Bar of California.

Hitchens’s partner is San Francisco Superior Court Judge Nancy Davis.

— Matthew S. Bajko, March 10, 2008 @ 1:32 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Yeager praised for obesity bill

The California Association of Nutrition and Activity Programs has awarded Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager its inaugural California Advocate for Nutrition Award for his work in fighting obesity.

When Yeager served on the San Jose City Council, he convinced his colleagues to pass a measure that required the city to offer more healthy food options in its city-operated vending machines. Under the policy, vending machines in city libraries are only stocked with snacks and beverages that don’t contain trans fats and that are low in sugar, saturated fat and sodium.

Half of the food and drink choices in all other city-operated vending machines must also be healthy options.

“People regularly underestimate the number of calories they consume on a daily basis,” Yeager said in a release last week announcing he had won the award.

“Having more healthy options in vending machines helps our residents make better choices and prevent obesity, heart disease and diabetes.”

Since being elected to the county board in June 2006, Yeager has continued to battle against the bulge for his constituents. He recently ensured that the county would consider healthy eating options when drawing up new contracts for the vendors operating the county’s several cafeterias.

The cafeterias, which serve thousands of county employees, jurors from the Hall of Justice, and residents each week, are currently in the process of revising their menus.

— Matthew S. Bajko, January 25, 2008 @ 5:41 pm PST
Filed under: Politics

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