Issue:  Vol. 46 / No. 25 / 23 June 2016
 

Queer, trans groups in SF criticize proposal on homeless people’s tents

Photo: Dan Brekke/KQED

Photo: Dan Brekke/KQED

Queer and transgender community members are criticizing San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell’s proposal to stop homeless people from staying in tents on the city’s sidewalks.

Citing survey data that show almost 30 percent of the local homeless population identify as LGBT, longtime queer activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca and others said in a news release that Farrell’s initiative would “make it even more difficult for queer/trans and all homeless people to survive and get off the streets” and would “further criminalize homeless people who already face fines and jail time from anti-panhandling and sit/lie laws.”

The statement, signed by Coalition on Homelessness, Communities United Against Violence, El/La Para TransLatinas, and others, also said that the proposal “plays into the homeless bashing” favored by neighbors and merchants in the Castro, Haight, and other neighborhoods, “where scores of homeless queer/trans youth and adults have sought refuge.”

“There is no pride in homeless-bashing neighborhoods or ballot initiatives,” the groups said. “Already, police have begun sweeps of the homeless in the Castro in preparation for this weekend’s queer and transgender celebrations. Are not queer homeless youth who flee here from homophobic families and schools throughout the country members of our community?”

San Francisco Police Department spokespeople didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the “sweeps” allegation.

The queer and trans advocates’ news release also pointed to laws that were passed in the 1960s and 70s to restrict gay men’s access to parks and even stop them from walking or sitting “on the streets.”

“We call on the Board of Supervisors, members of the queer and transgender communities, and concerned people of San Francisco to speak out against this initiative and to join with us in saying that we will not allow homeless queer and transgender members of our community to be swept off the streets, banned from having a tent, fined or arrested for sitting or lying on a sidewalk or stopped from using any public space that every person in this city has a right to,” the groups said. “Our people need housing, not jail cells, house keys not handcuffs.”

Farrell’s proposal is supported by gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, along with Supervisors Katy Tang and Malia Cohen.

In his own news release Tuesday, when he submitted his “Housing Not Tents” initiative for the November ballot, Farrell said, “It is not compassionate to allow human beings to live in tents on our streets – it is both dangerous and unhealthy. The answer to homelessness is housing, not tents.”

The initiative would mandate that shelter or housing be offered to people who are living in an encampment before it’s removed.

A majority of voters have to support “Housing Not Tents” for the initiative to become law.

The city would have to provide 24 hours notice, in writing, of the intent to remove the encampment. Everyone staying in the encampment would need to be informed “of a specific available shelter or housing opportunity.”

The Department of Public Works would store each person’s property for up to 90 days.

Farrell anticipates that expected money for homeless housing, Navigation Centers, and homelessness programs will provide ample housing and shelter opportunities for his proposal to succeed.

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, June 24, 2016 @ 4:51 pm PST
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SF supe secures remaining $2.5 million for Getting to Zero

Supervisor Scott Wiener. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Supervisor Scott Wiener. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Gay San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter today (Friday, June 24) that he’s secured another $2.5 million for the city’s Getting to Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate new HIV infections in the city.

Advocates had asked Mayor Ed Lee for $3.1 million to support the initiative, but Lee had included only $600,000 in the budget he proposed in June. The city’s fiscal year starts July 1.

In a text message to the B.A.R. today, Wiener said, “I was able to obtain the entire $2.5 million for Getting to Zero. In combination with the mayor’s $600,000, we fully funded the entire $3.1 million budget package. … We worked closely with the GTZ consortium” and HIV/AIDS Provider Network to ensure the money’s there, he said.

“We had to fight hard keep it intact,” Wiener said. Supervisor Mark Farrell, chair of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, “absolutely had the LGBT community’s back in helping us move this forward.”

The city has a two-year budget cycle. The $3.1 million is for the first year.

In a news release, Wiener said, “The Getting to Zero Consortium and HAPN have been working diligently over the last year to develop key initiatives to sustain San Francisco’s momentum in its effort to become the first place to achieve the UNAIDS goals of zero new HIV transmissions, zero HIV deaths, and zero stigma. While we had formulated a very strong and innovative plan to attain those goals, the funding to implement the plan was lacking. We have now addressed that lack of funding through the city budget.”

The $600,000 that Lee proposed is meant to expand access to PrEP in underserved communities throughout San Francisco.

In 2014, Wiener became the first elected official to disclose publicly that he takes PrEP.

“We want to thank Supervisor Wiener for his leadership in obtaining this $2.5 million investment – an investment that will save lives,” stated Lance Toma, HAPN co-chair and member of the GTZ Consortium steering committee. “We are also grateful to Mayor Lee and Supervisor Farrell for their support. These funds are critical for strengthening our citywide response to ensure people newly diagnosed with HIV get on life-saving medications within 48 hours and addressing HIV-related stigma.”

Toma, who’s also executive director of San Francisco’s Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, added, “Even more critical, we will be able to expand our core medical and support services infrastructure to retain and re-engage those with the highest needs in care and on HIV treatment.”

Brett Andrews, executive director of Positive Resource Center, which provides services including benefits counseling for people living with HIV, said, “Retaining and re-engaging people with HIV in care is essential to maintaining their health and preventing deaths from HIV, one of the three Getting to Zero goals. We salute the vision and foresight of the board, most notably Supervisors Wiener and Farrell, in ensuring adequate funds are available to support our historic work.  It can be very difficult at times to keep people with HIV in care. Many are confronted with a host of issues. In addition, keeping people in care saves the city money in the long run since typically patients off treatment spiral downward and often end up in the ER with full blown AIDS.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 3:26 pm PST
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Pride honorees withdraw from parade, festival

Two grand marshals and an honoree of this weekend’s San Francisco Pride parade have withdrawn from the event, citing increased police presence following the mass shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub.

Community grand marshal Janetta Johnson, organization grand marshal Black Lives Matter, and honoree St. James Infirmary announced their withdrawal Friday, June 24.

(SF Pride grand marshal Janetta Johnson has withdrawn from this weekend's Pride activities. Photo: Courtesy SF Pride)

(SF Pride grand marshal Janetta Johnson has withdrawn from this weekend’s Pride activities. Photo: Courtesy SF Pride)

“In light of the recent announcement that Pride participants would be subject to increased policing, metal detectors, and discretionary admittance, several grand marshals and awardees of the ‘racial and economic justice’ themed event are withdrawing from participation in the Pride parade or Civic Center activities because of the unsafe conditions created for our communities by law enforcement,” a news release stated.

“In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting that took the lives of dozens of queer, trans and gender non-conforming people of color, many people in our community are afraid,” the statement read. “For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic vigilante violence and the threat of police violence. We had a tough decision to make, and ultimately we chose to keep our people safe by not participating in any event that would leave our communities vulnerable to either.”

SF Pride and city officials held a news conference Monday where they announced the security changes ahead of this weekend’s events, including metal detectors and bag checks for people entering the festival area at Civic Center Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26.

The screenings are in response to the June 12 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were fatally shot and 53 were injured, SF Pride Executive Director George Ridgely said at the news conference with the mayor, police, and other city officials.

Johnson, executive director of the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project – an organization by and for trans, gender non-conforming and intersex people in prisons, jails, and detention centers – announced her decision to withdraw from the parade at the Pride media party Friday.

“While I am thankful for this honor, and grateful to Pride for bringing our work to the front this year, the decision to add more police to Pride does not make me, or my community, more safe,” Johnson said.

While honorees recognized the increased concerns about safety in light of the Orlando tragedy, several argued that a greater police presence would increase the likelihood of violence against queer and trans people of color.

“In the Bay Area, and the rest of the country, black communities experience real fear and terror at the hands of homophobic vigilantes and law enforcement, and we work every day to find solutions. We know the militarization of large-scale events only gives the illusion of safety. We are choosing to do the real work of building safe communities,” said Shanelle Matthews, a member of Black Lives Matter, who also announced their withdrawal from the parade.

The St. James Infirmary, which was slated to receive the Heritage of Pride Award at the main stage on Sunday, echoed the concerns of the grand marshals.

“LGBT sex workers are often victims of violence and exploitation at the hands of police,” said Executive Director Stephany Ashley. “The increased police presence at Civic Center, as well as the ban on shopping carts and items typically belonging to marginally housed and homeless people, will only make pride less safe and accessible to our communities. These policies do not reflect the theme of racial and economic justice which we sought to march under proudly.”

SF Pride officials did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

It is unclear what effect the new security measures will have on attendance this weekend.

Vick Germany, a self-identified butch dyke and co-president of Dykes on Bikes, said she has heard that some people will not be attending because of concerns about safety.

Dykes on Bikes, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will lead the Pride parade as usual.

– Sari Staver contributed to this report.

— Cynthia Laird, @ 2:01 pm PST
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Apothecarium moves forward with SF Castro, Marina pot dispensaries

An artist rendering shows the proposed interior for the Apothecarium's new Marina location.

An artist rendering shows the proposed interior for the Apothecarium’s new Marina location.

The Apothecarium is moving forward with its plans to open new medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco’s gay Castro district and Marina neighborhood later this year.

Despite vehement opposition to its proposed Lombard Street location from the Cow Hollow Association, the Apothecarium prevailed Wednesday night in beating back an appeal of its permit for the Marina location by the neighborhood group. The city’s Board of Appeals deadlocked 2-2 on the matter, meaning the permit appeal was denied.

The Apothecarium, which opened its first location near the intersection of Market and Church streets five years ago, won approval from the city’s planning commission last fall to open at 2414 Lombard Street. According to the dispensary, 2,650 of its patients live in the Marina area.

It expects to begin construction on the space within the next 60 to 90 days, depending on how fast city officials sign off on the needed permits, and is planning to open by the end of this year.

“It was a long, arduous process with formidable opposition, but we made some great friends in the neighborhood along the way,” stated Apothecarium co-owner Ryan Hudson. “We’re looking forward to opening in the Marina and serving the 2,700 patients that we already have in the northern part of town. We’d like to thank all of our friends, customers and supporters who turned out to tell their personal stories in support of our application.”

Construction is already underway at the Apothecarium’s new location on upper Market Street. In April it won approval from the planning commission to move into the shuttered Shanghai Restaurant space at 2029 Market Street.

Unlike with its Marina site, the Apothecarium’s relocation of its Castro location had broad community support, including from the residents who live in the condos in the new building. At 5,207 square feet it is five times the size of its current location, at 2095 Market Street, allowing more room not only for the staff but also to ensure customers no longer will have to wait outside during peak times.

The plans call for 2,858 square feet accessible to patrons. Architect Vincent Gonzaga worked with local interior design firm Urban Chalet to maintain the Apothecarium’s current neo-Victorian look but with a contemporary twist for the new space.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in March, an investment group bought the space for an undisclosed amount at the end of 2015. (One online listing had it for sale at a cost of nearly $4.2 million.) It then signed a 10-year lease with the Apothecarium, which includes multiple long-term options to extend it.

The dispensary hopes to open there later this summer.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:45 pm PST
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CA health officials again advise gay, transgender, and HIV positive people to get meningococcal vaccine

meningococcus-meningitis_702685California health officials are again advising gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender people and HIV positive individuals, to get vaccinated against meningococcal disease after another outbreak was reported in Los Angeles.

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis and can cause meningitis and bloodstream infections (sepsis). Although rare, meningococcal disease is serious and potentially fatal.

Symptoms begin a few days after exposure and may include fever, chills, vomiting, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, rash, nausea or vomiting, and generalized muscle pains. Anyone who develops these symptoms, especially those with HIV, should immediately seek medical care, warn health officials, by calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room.

Since the beginning of May, nine meningococcal disease cases have been identified in men living in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, most of whom were gay or bisexual men, according to the California Department of Public Health.

One patient has died as a result of the infection, according to an advisory the CDPH issued this morning (Friday, June 24). Six of the cases are known to be caused by a particular strain (serogroup C) of meningococcal bacteria and one other case is awaiting serogroup confirmation.

“We are concerned that gay and bisexual men in Southern California may be at increased risk for meningococcal disease,” stated CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “We encourage men who partner with other men to be aware of the risk of meningococcal disease and consider getting vaccinated.”

As San Francisco is set to celebrate Pride this weekend, and welcome an influx of visitors from Southern California and other locales, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health issued its own advisory recommending that HIV-positive people, gay men and other men or transgender people who have sex with men get vaccinated.

“Here in San Francisco it is Pride week, with lots of visitors from around the state, the country and the world coming to town to celebrate,” stated Dr. Naveena Bobba, deputy health officer for the City and County of San Francisco. “There will be many parties and festivities. We encourage revelers to consider the meningococcal ACWY vaccine as a way to take charge of their health. The vaccine is widely available and very effective in preventing this disease from spreading.”

According to health officials, gay men and other men or transgender people who have sex with men who have close or intimate contact with multiple partners, or who regularly visit crowded venues such as bars or parties, or who vape or smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, hookahs or illegal drugs may be at increased risk of meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted from person-to-person through close personal contact involving secretions from the nose and throat. Smoking or being around smokers increases the risk of transmission.

HIV-infected people are particularly at increased risk of contracting meningococcal disease, noted health officials. Because of this increased risk, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended this week that all HIV-infected persons aged 2 months and older be routinely vaccinated with the meningococcal vaccine that protects against serogroups A, C, W and Y disease (MenACWY).

The advisory about the deadly disease has become a near yearly occurrence since 2012, when a meningitis outbreak infected a dozen men who have sex with men in New York City that year. In December of that year, San Francisco public health officials encouraged gay men planning to travel to New York City to get vaccinated.

In 2013 reports of the death of a gay West Hollywood man who contracted meningitis raised fears about an outbreak on the West Coast. But at the time, San Francisco reported no cases and did not advise gay and bi men traveling to the Los Angeles area to be vaccinated.

That changed in 2014 after Los Angeles County authorities reported eight confirmed cases of invasive meningococcal disease, half of which were in gay and bi men. Los Angeles’s health department recommended vaccination for all local gay and bi men, while San Francisco’s health department advised gay and bi men, as well as transgender women, to get vaccinated if they expected to have close or intimate contact with gay or bi men from Los Angeles.

Last year ahead of Pride weekend, health officials released a warning about a cluster of invasive meningococcal disease cases in Chicago.

In San Francisco vaccination is available to everyone through their primary care providers, at the health department’s Adult Immunization and Travel Clinic and at many pharmacies. San Francisco residents who cannot access those options can get vaccinated at San Francisco City Clinic.

Protection usually begins seven to 10 days after vaccination.  All HIV-infected adults should receive two doses of vaccine, eight to 12 weeks apart. Gay men and other men or transgender people who have sex with men, and who are not HIV-infected, should receive one dose.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 11:40 am PST
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Obama names Stonewall National Monument

As expected, President Barack Obama on Friday named Christopher Park, across the street from the Stonewall Inn in New York City, as a national monument, making it the first official LGBT historic site.

(The Stonewall Inn.)

(The Stonewall Inn.)

The designation was made via presidential proclamation June 24. It will create the first official National Park Service unit dedicated to telling the story of LGBT Americans, a fact sheet from the White House said, just two days before the one-year anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Additionally, the designation comes ahead of New York City’s Pride festival this weekend.

A ceremony will be held Monday, June 27 in New York City that will include Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, and White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett.

The Stonewall Inn itself was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000, making it the first LGBT site to be so named.

The Stonewall riots, which occurred June 28, 1969, are considered the birth of the modern gay rights movement. That night, the bar was raided by the New York City Police Department to enforce a law that made it illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to “homosexuals.” Customers and their allies resisted the police by refusing to show identification or go into a bathroom so that a police officer could verify their sex, and a crowd gathered outside, the White House statement read. As word spread, the gathering grew in size and a riot ultimately ensued. Within days, Stonewall galvanized LGBT communities across the country, with LGBT activists organizing demonstrations to show support for gay rights.

LGBT groups were quick to praise Friday’s national monument designation.

“Thank you, President Obama, for this historic designation of Christopher Street Park by the Stonewall Inn as a national monument,” said a statement from the National LGBTQ Task Force. “This is a great tribute the courage, leadership, and action of the LGBTQ community in our continuing quest for full freedom, justice and equality. Trans and gender non-conforming people of color led the riots at Stonewall nearly five decades ago — and it is a cruel irony that today these folks face some of the highest levels of poverty, homelessness, discrimination and violence in our community.”

The National Park Service Conservation Association also praised the move.

“There are places in America so powerful, they helped shape our nation’s history and culture, and must never be forgotten,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “Stonewall Inn, and the area surrounding this historic site, is one such place. Thanks to President Obama, Stonewall is protected and its story will be told for generations to come.”

Two-thirds of America’s more than 400 national park sites are dedicated to cultural and historic significance, the Park Service said. Some are focused specifically on the struggle for civil rights, including the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York, which tells the story of the fight for women’s civil rights, and Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, which tells the story of the fight for African-American civil rights. And now, after more than 45 years since the uprising, Stonewall National Monument will tell the story of the LGBT community’s struggle for civil rights.

“Today’s historic designation reaffirms the administration’s commitment to preserving special places that define who we are as a nation and that better reflect our diverse and evolving population, added Pierno. “Adding underrepresented stories like Stonewall’s within the National Park System is critical. Today’s designation will forever honor the events at Stonewall that have come to mean so much for so many people, and will continue to inspire many for years to come.”

The association praised Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D) and Chuck Schumer (D), New York state Senator Brad Hoylman, New York state Assembly member Deborah Glick and New York City Council member Corey Johnson for their leadership on the project.

“I am thrilled that today, the events of the Stonewall uprising take their place in history and in the National Parks System as the civil rights watershed it was,” Nadler, a longtime ally, said in a statement. “Honoring and memorializing Stonewall – which helped launch the modern LGBT civil rights movement – will allow America to hear and remember the stories of all of the brave individuals who stood up for justice and equality for all at Stonewall. Thank you everyone who lent their voices to this effort and especially to NPCA for all of their advocacy and leadership.”

The Interior Department was also pleased with the designation.

“This designation ensures that the story of the courageous individuals who stood up for basic rights for LGBT Americans will be forever told, honoring their sacrifice and inspiring our Nation towards greater tolerance and understanding,” Jewell said in a statement. “The tragic events in Orlando are a sad and stark reminder that the struggle for civil rights and equality continues – where who we love is respected and honored – on our march toward a more perfect union.”

The 7.7 acre site includes Christopher Park, which the National Park Service now owns, at the intersection of Christopher Street, West 4th Street, and Grove Street directly across from the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn itself, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising.

The bar, while remaining a privately owned business, will be included in the interpretation for telling the full story of Stonewall, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.

There is the possibility that a visitor’s center or museum will be erected nearby or on the site to explain the story of Stonewall. For now, Park Service rangers will be stationed in the park this summer to help interpret the site for visitors.

“The Park Service will go through a process for deciding how the park will evolve over time. It takes about three years to go through that process,” explained Cortney Worrall, the conservation association’s northeast regional director. “They will be having conversations with the community, LGBT leaders, and people interested in making sure this park becomes a place for interpretation and history.”

To coincide with the president’s designation, the National Park Foundation launched a fundraising campaign Friday to raise approximately $2 million for the new park. The effort is part of the foundation’s $350 million Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

The money will go toward having dedicated National Park Service rangers, a temporary ranger station, and visitor center at the site. It will also pay for research and materials, exhibits, LGBTQ community outreach, public education, and scholar engagement.

“The National Park Foundation is honored to support and jumpstart critical projects at Stonewall National Monument to help ensure that the ongoing LGBTQ fight for civil rights is highlighted in a way that inspires people to reflect on how the story of the Stonewall uprising relates to their lives,” stated Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, which serves as the official charity for the national parks. “As we move from the National Park Service’s first century into its second, we couldn’t be more proud to be part of a national park community that is committed to telling a more complete American story.”

The foundation will also help establish a local Friends Group to provide ongoing philanthropic support to the new monument. To donate to the campaign, visit www.nationalparks.org/Stonewall.

A video released by the White House about the Stonewall National Monument can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywtvJyXDWkk.

– Matthew S. Bajko contributed to this report.

— Cynthia Laird, @ 9:31 am PST
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Orlando memorial planned for SF Pride parade

The memorial at 18th and Castro streets for victims of the Orlando, Florida massacre. (Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn)

The memorial at 18th and Castro streets for victims of the Orlando, Florida massacre. (Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn)

A walking memorial to victims of Orlando, Florida’s Pulse nightclub massacre will be one of the first groups people see in San Francisco LGBT Pride parade Sunday, June 26.

Organizers plan to have 49 people carrying enlarged photos of those who were fatally shot June 12 at the gay club’s Latin night after Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire around 2 a.m. Besides the 49 people he killed, he also left 53 injured. Mateen himself was killed by police. His motives haven’t been determined.

The photos will show each victim “in a happier time,” along with their name and age, said organizer Richard Sizemore, 29, of San Francisco.

The memorial will be the fourth group in the parade, and the first that’s marching. They’ll be behind the Dykes on Bikes motorcycle club and two other groups that will be on scooters and bicycles, Sizemore said (because of safety precautions, nobody’s supposed to walk in the parade in front of anything that rolls).

For Sizemore, who identifies as queer, the shooting “struck close to home.”

He’s originally from Melbourne, Florida, which is about an hour away from Orlando, and he used to go to Pulse on Saturday nights. The bar was especially attractive for him because it was an 18 and up bar, and he wasn’t yet 21.

“It was always just so vibrant and fun,” Sizemore said, recalling the club’s dance floor, drag shows, and bar where it was possible to lean and have a conversation. “It was like a really big neighborhood bar.”

He said he’d met one of the victims, but only “in passing.”

“It’s still very jarring,” he said. “Those were my formative years,” when one is “just coming out into the world, feeling yourself out, feeling the community out, and making friends.”

Sizemore said he got the idea for the memorial when he saw on Facebook that friends of his were posting updates about people who’d been at the club.

“It was so hard,” he said, because he thought, “I can’t do anything for my friends. There’s nothing I can do to comfort them.”

But then, “It dawned on me that in two weeks we have our Pride parade,” Sizemore said.

He decided people could “stand in solidarity” with the victims and their loved ones at the event “and reach out and say, ‘We’re here. We love you. We’re thinking about you.”

Sizemore also wants to “remind people why we have Pride still. Stuff like this, even today, is still happening. … We still have so far to go. We’ve lost these children in the prime of their lives.”

Putting together the memorial and seeing the time and other contributions that people are making “has been really uplifting,” he said.

PS Prints is providing the images of the victims for free.

“It would have cost us $2,000 otherwise,” he said.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have also been supporting the gathering.

Sister Agnes Dei’Afta Tamara said the message she hopes to send is “United we stand, divided we fall.”

“As a queer community, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, we know that few others will,” she said.

When Sizemore brought his idea to the Sisters just three days after the Orlando attack, she added, “I don’t think there was a person in the room who wasn’t firmly behind what he wanted to get accomplished. … I think we are still very affected by this as a community and as individuals, so we were very interested in helping” with the parade memorial.

Sister Roma said, “It’s important because we want our LGBT brothers and sisters in Orlando” to know that the local community stands with them, and to show that “The LGBT community is strong in numbers and in fortitude. We’re brave, and we will not be silenced. We will not hide. We are marching, and we are celebrating Pride with extra pride this year.”

People who want to participate in the memorial should contact Sizemore by Friday evening at richbrvd1987@gmail.com.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, June 23, 2016 @ 5:43 pm PST
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Bill removing ‘husband,’ ‘wife’ from CA codes heads to governor

Supreme Court Proposition 8 plaintiff Kris Perry, left, feeds a piece of wedding cake to her wife Sandy Stier during a community reception held in September of 2013  (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Supreme Court Proposition 8 plaintiff Kris Perry, left, feeds a piece of wedding cake to her wife Sandy Stier during a community reception held in September of 2013.
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Legislation that changes the terms “husband” and “wife” to the gender-neutral term “spouse” in more than a dozen sections of California code is headed to the desk of California’s governor.

The state Senate today (Thursday, June 23) voted 33-0 to approve Senate Bill 1005 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara). The Legislature’s upper chamber had approved the bill in April, but after Assembly members amended it, it needed to come back for a concurrence vote by the senators before heading to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown.

The term “spouses” will also include registered domestic partners under the bill. The Assembly, which passed the bill last Thursday, June 16, made a few tweaks to those sections of the legislation, thus necessitating today’s second vote on the Senate floor.

“It’s fitting to close out Pride Month by sending this bill to the governor for his signature. By removing outdated language from the state code, the law will now accurately reflect the rights of registered domestic partners and same-sex married couples in California,” stated Jackson. “This helps ensure the equal and fair treatment of all couples in California.”

This Sunday, June 26, will mark the third anniversary since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to stand a lower court ruling invalidating Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban voters adopted in 2008, leading the way for same-sex marriages to resume in the Golden State. Sunday, which coincides with this year’s San Francisco Pride parade, also marks the one-year anniversary since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all 50 states must allow same-sex couples to wed.

Jackson’s legislation follows on the heels of a number of code language clean up bills that gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) passed in previous years. Jackson introduced it not only in response to same-sex couples being able to legally marry in the state, but also in recognition of those couples, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, that have decided to remain in, or enter into, registered domestic partnerships.

“Marriage equality has been California law since 2013, but that reality has not reached all parts of California code that affect same-sex married couples and families, or those in domestic partnerships,” stated Rick Zbur, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality California. “This bill simply requires that California statutes uniformly reflect and respect the fact that marriage equality is the law of the land.”

SB 1005 is the first of five pieces of LGBT-related legislation to secure final approval in either the state Assembly or Senate before being sent this summer to Brown for his signature.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:03 pm PST
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Sisters share SF Pride parade judging duties with activists

Sister Hellen Wheels awards California Attorney General Kamala Harris the "Most Outrageous Individual" award at the 2015 Pride parade for her support of equal marriage. (Photo courtesy of Sister Merry Peter.)

Sister Hellen Wheels awards California Attorney General Kamala Harris the “Most Outrageous Individual” award at the 2015 Pride parade for Harris’ support of same-sex marriage. (Photo courtesy of Sister Merry Peter.)

San Francisco’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have announced that they’ll be sharing the role of LGBT Pride parade judges with other community activists in order to support the 2016 Pride theme, “For Racial and Economic Justice.”

In a news release this week, Sister Merry Peter, who for the past five years has helped organize volunteers for the parade, said the charitable nuns group is “proud to share parade judge service with remarkable Bay Area activists leading the daily struggle for justice.” This year’s parade is Sunday, June 26.

Referring to the June 12 massacre at a gay Orlando, Florida nightclub in which 49 people were killed and 53 were injured, Sister Peter said, “The tragic shootings at Pulse Nightclub make clear the urgent need to stand against violence, overcome hatred and unite in creating and sustaining welcoming, safe, and just communities for all.”

She added, “As your pride judges we stand in solidarity with Orlando and dedicate our service to celebrating the joy, resilience and power of our communities. As you pass by our table, we hope you will see your own courage and beauty reflected and amplified in our smiles, cheers and applause.”

Judges will include Mahnani Clay, ‘a queer black mother’ who was formerly incarcerated; Reverend Daigan Gaither, a Sister and hospice volunteer who co-founded the San Francisco Zen Center‘s Queer Dharma Group; Ericka Huggins, a Black Panther leader who’s developed programs for women and children with HIV; Edwin Lindo, one of the Frisco5 hunger strikers who’d called for former police Chief Greg Suhr’s firing; Jenna Rapues, a Filipina American transgender woman who works to combat health disparities among trans people and others; Lisbet Tellefsen, an activist who co-founded Ache, the longest running black lesbian journal of the 1980s; and Reverend Diana Wheeler, a former night minister with San Francisco Night Ministry and a saint of the Sisters.

Also judging the parade will be Sisters Chola de Dah, Guard N O’Pansies, Merry Peter, Phyliss With-Litaday.

The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Market and Beale streets and ends at Market and Eighth streets.

If you want to see this year’s San Francisco Pride parade live, you will have to venture down to Market Street to view it in person.

For the first time in more than two decades a live broadcast of the parade will be unavailable, either online or on cable television.

Visit www.sfpride.org for more information.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 11:47 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Appeals fight heats up over Castro-area marijuana dispensary’s proposed Marina location

The Apothecarium would like to open a location on Lombard Street in the city's Marina district.

The Apothecarium would like to open a location on Lombard Street in the city’s Marina district.

A fight over a Castro-area medical marijuana dispensary’s proposed Marina location is heating up on the eve of a hearing that could halt the project, with the opponents being accused of using homophobic language.

The Apothecarium, which opened its first location near the intersection of Market and Church streets five years ago, won approval from the city’s planning commission last fall to open at 2414 Lombard Street despite vocal opposition to its plans. According to the dispensary, 2,650 of its patients live in the Marina area.

Both the Cow Hollow Association, a neighborhood group, and District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, who represents the area at City Hall, object to having a marijuana dispensary operate at that address. Among their reasons for doing so, they have cited its being across the street from the Edward II housing complex for transitional age youth as well as its proximity to a nearby martial arts studio for children.

“Medical marijuana dispensaries do have a place in San Francisco, but do not belong next to a children’s martial arts studio and directly opposite of Edward the Second who houses formerly homeless transitional aged youth,” Farrell told the Bay Area Reporter in an emailed statement.

An online petition against the Apothecarium’s planned location had attracted 263 signatures as of early Tuesday afternoon. The Cow Hollow Association has appealed the planning commission’s decision, and the city’s Board of Appeals is set to take up the issue at its meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, June 22).

The appeal seeks either to have the permit be overturned, or if the board rejects that request, to then restrict sales at the medical cannabis dispensary, or MCD for short, to only those age 25 or older and restrict the hours of operation, thereby “minimizing the exposure to children in the neighborhood.”

The Cow Hollow Association’s board, in an email to its members urging them to attend the hearing, wrote, “There is no ‘necessity’ or other commanding reason why an MCD must be sited at 2414 Lombard. There are many delivery services and it appears that there have been and are other possible sites.”

The planning commission did impose a restriction barring the Apothecarium from serving clients aged 18 to 20 at the Marina location.

“My client has also promised the city (now found as conditions of approval) that they will not offer home delivery or allow service to persons under 21 years old to create ‘protections’ that appellant felt are needed. These conditions have never before been required of any dispensary in the city, but were accepted in the spirit of compromise,” wrote Brett Gladstone, an attorney and partner at Hanson Bridgett LLP, who is representing the Apothecarium, to the appeals board.

Email language provokes outcry

Language the Cow Hollow Association used in an email urging people to attend tomorrow night’s hearing has provoked an outcry from the Apothecarium’s backers. In a statement emailed to the B.A.R., Apothecarium spokesman Michael Colbruno specifically cited the phrasing: “The marijuana store owners have implored and transported their supporters (many customers of their store in the Castro) to come from all over the city to urge that such a store be opened in our neighborhood.”

Colbruno, who is gay, accused the association of using what he deemed a “keep gays away” argument.

“Members of the LGBTQ, as well as people in communities of color and religious minorities, have heard these innuendos before and we fully understand the message,” stated Colbruno. “This coded language has no place in our public discourse and needs to be called out for what it is: homophobia.”

He also criticized Farrell for opposing the Apothecarium’s moving into the Marina, tying it to the supervisor’s earlier opposition to the Edward II housing project opening at its Lombard Street at Scott location, as the B.A.R. noted in a 2011 article.

“Supervisor Farrell’s actions to deny the Apothecarium’s approval at the Planning Commission last November and his opposition to locating the Edward II transitional youth facility make this the third time since the beginning of 2011 that Supervisor Mark Farrell has joined CHA in opposing facilities to meet the needs of the sick or less privileged,” stated Colbruno.

The release also quoted Daniel Bergerac, a gay man who is president of the Castro Merchants group and also operates a location of his MudPuppy’s Tub and Scrub business in the Marina.

“Years ago, when my husband was dying of AIDS, I had to get his medical cannabis on the street. This stigma around gay men and their medicine was so strong especially
in some neighborhoods,” stated Bergerac. “You would think we would have moved beyond these issues by 2016, but clearly we are still fighting them.”

Leaders of CHA did not immediately respond to the B.A.R.‘s request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Farrell, in his emailed statement, harshly attacked Colbruno for implying his objections to the proposed dispensary had anything to do with the owners or anti-gay animus and called on him to “immediately rescind” his “baseless statement.”

“The claim of the Apothecarium’s paid lobbyist, Michael Colbruno, that I am opposing the proposed location on Lombard Street because the owners are LGBTQ  is outrageous and has no basis in truth whatsoever – Michael Colbruno should be absolutely ashamed of himself for making this accusation. I am and will always be an ally of our LGBTQ community and my life and record on the Board of Supervisors proves this without a doubt,” stated Farrell.

He added that, “Mr. Colbruno has a vested, paid interest in seeing this project through, and apparently is willing to do whatever it takes even when he knows his accusations are false. Mr. Colbruno’s desperate and baseless attacks are an attempt to pad his checkbook further.”

Housing agencies voice opposition

In a twist from when they were battling Farrell and Cow Hollow residents, Larkin Street Youth Services and Community Housing Partnership, which oversee the Edward II housing project, are now allied with them in opposing the proposed Apothecarium location, citing concerns for “the health and safety” of the residents there, who are aged 18 to 24 and include LGBTQ youth.

In a letter to the planning commission, signed by the two nonprofits’ executive directors, the agencies contended that, “similar to safety zones established around schools and other programs for minors, we believe that MCDs should not be located within close proximity of housing programs for youth.”

In a statement issued to the B.A.R. Apothecarium co-owner Ryan Hudson refuted the claims that its presence in the Marina would have a negative impact on nearby youth or facilities that cater to youth.

“The Apothecarium in the Castro has successfully operated for five years across the street from a church that hosts programs for youth at risk for addiction. We are also across the street from a martial arts studio that serves children. Both have written letters saying we are good neighbors,” stated Hudson. “The notion that dispensaries are a danger to children has been proven false by 20 years of legal cannabis in San Francisco. Children are on every block of our city. Those who suggest dispensaries cannot safely co-exist near children, are really suggesting there should be no medical cannabis dispensaries in our city. They are also fear-mongering.”

The appeals board has received numerous letters in opposition of the Apothecarium,  resulting in a 74-page PDF the body posted online. It has also received numerous letters in support of the dispensary, compiled in a 126-page PDF.

Among the 600 letters of support for the Apothecarium, including 140 from the immediate neighborhood, is one from state Controller Betty Yee, who contended the dispensary “should be viewed as a valuable addition to any community, as they have proven to be a model dispensary, having been cited by planning staff as the ‘gold standard’ among operators in San Francisco.”

Yee also informed the appeals board members that it is important for the city “to avoid clustering” MCDs in only a “handful of neighborhoods, primarily focused in SOMA and the Mission,” since medical marijuana users live throughout San Francisco.

“No person who is using cannabis to treat cancer, PTSD or debilitating pain should have to travel across town (often on public transportation) to access their medicine,” argued Yee.

The Board of Appeals hearing is set to begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Room 416 at City Hall, however, the Apothecarium’s permit is listed as the final agenda item so it could be some time before the issue is taken up by the oversight body.

— Matthew S. Bajko, June 21, 2016 @ 3:24 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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