Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 49 / 7 December 2017
 

Yee’s vote against transgender health benefits likely to haunt his mayoral campaign

State Senator Leland Yee (pictured at left) has officially entered the race to be San Francisco’s next mayor. And already his vote against transgender health benefits while a San Francisco supervisor is being raised to question his ability to represent the city’s LGBT community should he capture Room 200.

Wednesday morning (November 10) the Democratic lawmaker filed paperwork to form an exploratory committee for the mayor’s race, which will allow him to begin raising money for his campaign.

He joins three other declared candidates: outgoing openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty; City Attorney Dennis Herrera; and Silicon Valley businesswoman Joanna Rees. Openly gay State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is also exploring a possible mayoral run but has yet to create a committee to start fundraising.

Yee made history four years ago by becoming the first Chinese American to serve in the state Senate. At the time he told the Bay Area Reporter it was a victory for all communities who have faced discrimination.

“The kinds of discrimination the LGBT community has lived through is exactly the same type of discrimination my community has had to face,” said Yee, who easily won a second term in the Senate in the November 2 election.

During his time in Sacramento – he was an assemblyman for four years – Yee has been a strong ally of the LGBT community. He scored a 100 percent the last two years on Equality California’s scorecard.

In 2006 while in the Assembly, Yee saw to passage the campaign ethics law AB1207, whose aim was to end antigay rhetoric in political races and reduce homophobia’s influence in election outcomes.

In 2008 he applauded the state Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex couples to wed.

Yet Yee’s attitude toward LGBT rights has not always been so supportive. While a San Francisco supervisor he voted against adding transgender health benefits to the insurance coverage provided to city employees. He was only one of two members of the board to be opposed to the legislation.

During his first senate run Yee apologized to local transgender activists and said that his vote was wrong.

“What I said was that when I looked at the issue [in 2001] I was really focusing on the financial issue,” Yee told the B.A.R. at the time. “Had I known the pain I caused the transgender community on that particular vote, I would have never voted the way I did.

“To that extent I was sorry my vote caused the pain that it did,” he added.

Nevertheless, the vote is likely to haunt him during next year’s mayoral campaign. Backers of at least one other declared candidate have already begun a whisper campaign about Yee’s initial stance.

And don’t be surprised if it pops up on mailers targeting LGBT voters next fall.

— Matthew S. Bajko, November 11, 2010 @ 5:15 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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