Political Notebook: Pelosi gives no timetable on ENDA at SF center visit
by Matthew S. Bajko
Last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) told a Castro crowd that the ban against gays and lesbians serving openly in the military would be "a memory by Christmas." She did not give a similar timeline for when a ban against LGBT discrimination in the workplace would become federal law.
Pelosi turned up at the LGBT Community Center, despite a power failure at the building, Friday, May 21 on the eve of the first Harvey Milk state holiday in California to headline her first fundraiser for Equality California, the statewide LGBT lobbying group that worked with openly gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to see the day of special significance for Milk become law. When Milk captured a supervisor seat in 1977 he became not only San Francisco's but also the state's first out politician.
Pelosi, speaking without prepared remarks, promised the more than 100 people gathered at the event that the anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, "I am quite certain, will be a memory come Christmas." Three days later the White House and congressional leaders announced they had made a deal for Congress to vote on repealing DADT (which was expected to happen today, Thursday, May 27) but the policy would not be ended until the Pentagon finished reviewing how to implement the change. [See story, page 1.]
While she expressed exasperation that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act had languished on Capitol Hill for nearly two decades, Pelosi did not make a similar pledge that the pro-gay bill would be passed this year as she insisted would happen with DADT repeal.
"Why is it even an issue when we are talking about discrimination in the workplace in this day, this age, this century? Let's get this over with," said Pelosi. "For 16 years we have had ENDA as a bill. We have had it as an idea much longer. It is long overdue."
The lack of a promise that ENDA would pass this year during the public event was in stark contrast to what Pelosi told a number of LGBT leaders during a private phone call Monday, May 17. As the Bay Area Reporter reported online last week, several participants of the call said Pelosi insisted Congress would pass ENDA this year.
"We have the speaker's assurance there will be votes on both DADT and ENDA this year. I believe this is a woman of her word," said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell , who attended the Castro fundraiser and took part in the call with the speaker. "There is no doubt in my mind those votes are going to take place given the demonstrated integrity of Speaker Pelosi."
Should DADT repeal legislation be sent to the president, who has pledged to sign it, then LGBT leaders expect to see both the House and Senate vote on ENDA sometime in June. If not, then Democrats could face a backlash at the polls this November from their LGBT constituents.
"I do think the community's expectations are high. We will see an outcry if both bills at least don't get a vote this year," said Masen Davis, executive director of the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center, who took part in the phone call with the speaker and attended the EQCA fundraiser.
Yet Pelosi, who like all House members, is up for re-election this year, is unlikely to be blamed by LGBT voters in her district if ENDA doesn't pass, said Al Baum, a gay man and Democratic donor who attended the fundraiser. Nor does Baum believe congressional Democratic leaders will shy away
"If Nancy Pelosi does not succeed in doing what she has said she will do for the nth time, I don't blame her one bit," said Baum. "If Nancy Pelosi thought her remaining speaker and the Democrats' retaining control of the House depended on going slow on our issues she wouldn't say what she is saying."
Leno also said he had confidence in seeing Pelosi deliver on her promise to pass ENDA out of the House before Congress breaks this summer.
"I am sure she would hold herself accountable," said Leno if ENDA were to fail. "She is the speaker; the buck stops with her. She knows that more than anybody. But I don't think that will be the case."
D8 chili cook-off ends in tie vote
While the candidates running to replace termed-out District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly debate whether to take part in his planned primary in July to determine whom he should endorse in the race come November, the four leading candidates running to replace termed-out District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty already engaged in their own "kitchen primary" this month.
Thankfully for the quartet, the food-based results didn't poison their campaigns' efforts to woo voters. Nor did it result in a humiliating defeat for any of the four.
In fact, there wasn't a clear winner to emerge during last Sunday's "The Great District 8 Chili for Chile Challenge!" Sponsored by the Rainbow World Fund, the event raised money to rebuild an orphanage in Santiago, Chile damaged during a magnitude 8.8 earthquake that rocked the South American country February 27.
Scott Wiener's "wiener dogs," hotdogs covered in a spicy chili, and Rafael Mandelman's chili, which he said was "just spicy enough for D8," took top honors at the event. They tied for first place with 39 points each.
Rebecca Prozan, whose secret ingredient was chocolate, and Bill Hemenger , who said he used Amstel Light beer in his chili pot, tied for a close second-place finish with 38 points each.
"I tasted everyone's chili and they were all very good – they were actually amazingly tasty," said Jeff Cotter , the fund's executive director who lives in District 8 but so far is remaining neutral in the race. "I did have a favorite but I can't reveal it. I am going to take a different look at this participant."
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reports on a gay man running for an Alameda County education post.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.