Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Online extra: Milk screenwriter, producer endorse Herrera for mayor


Milk screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, shown here in January 2010 speaking at an early morning rally on the opening day of the federal suit to overturn Proposition 8, has endorsed Dennis Herrera for San Francisco mayor. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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As he competes against a handful of other top-tier mayoral contenders for the city's LGBT vote, City Attorney Dennis Herrera's involvement in the fight for marriage equality continues to provide dividends for his campaign.

This week both Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of the movie Milk, about the late gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, and one of the film's producers, Bruce Cohen, announced they were endorsing Herrera in the race. Joining the two gay Hollywood power players in backing Herrera is Chad Griffin, the gay political operative who co-founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

All three serve as board members of AFER, which brought forward the federal lawsuit against California's same-sex marriage ban Proposition 8. A federal district court judge struck down the ballot initiative as unconstitutional last year, and the case is now on appeal.

Herrera's office had won the state legal fight to strike down California's anti-gay marriage statutes, allowing thousands of same-sex couples to wed in the summer and fall of 2008. The legal victory also prompted the ballot box fight that year over Prop 8, which was narrowly adopted by voters.

AFER then filed suit to repeal the law on behalf of two same-sex couples denied the right to marry. And Herrera's office successfully petitioned to intervene in the federal case in order to represent the interests of California's municipalities.

In a statement Herrera's campaign released to the Bay Area Reporter, Griffin cites his working with Herrera on lining up governmental support for the state lawsuit as the reason behind his endorsement decision.

"I worked with Dennis Herrera long before the federal challenge to Prop 8. I saw him reach out to leaders across the state, and personally champion marriage equality to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, the San Diego City Council, and San Diego's Republican mayor," stated Griffin, referring to Jerry Sanders, who would later reveal he had a lesbian daughter and testify against Prop 8 in the federal case. "By the time Dennis was done, he'd won the backing of two-dozen cities and counties – representing 17 million Californians – to join San Francisco's legal fight. Dennis Herrera proved to me he's a remarkable leader, and I know he'll be a remarkable mayor."

Black pointed to his observing Herrera's "extraordinary work" both inside and outside the courtroom for why he is lending his support to elect him mayor.

"He's a true believer in equality for all, with the will and know-how to build the necessary coalitions and fight the fight to make that dream a reality," stated Black. "Researching and writing Milk was quite an education in San Francisco's political history. I know Dennis Herrera has the temperament, vision, and strength to lead my favorite city in the world into its next shining tomorrow. I'm proud to support him."

Griffin and Black will be joining gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who also has endorsed Herrera, his former boss, for a $100 per person fundraiser at a private home May 25 in San Francisco.

As for Cohen, he said he is forever indebted to Herrera's decision to pursue the marriage case. It led to his June 23, 2008 marriage to art consultant Gabriel Catone.

 "Like thousands of Californians, my husband and I are beneficiaries of the hard work Dennis Herrera and his legal team did to win the landmark marriage cases ruling in 2008," stated Cohen. "He is more than just a supporter of marriage equality and LGBT civil rights – he has been an incredibly hard-working leader from the start. And he still is today. I'm proud to endorse Dennis Herrera for mayor of San Francisco."

The trio's endorsement comes two weeks after lesbian pioneer Phyllis Lyon, whose marriage to her late partner, Del Martin, was the first to take place in San Francisco in 2008 when the same-sex marriages became legal, announced she was backing Herrera for mayor.

 Among the nine leading candidates seeking to claim Room 200 at City Hall, four appear to be splitting support from the city's LGBT community. In addition to Herrera, openly gay former Supervisor Bevan Dufty; state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and District 11 Supervisor John Avalos have all attracted sizable bases of support from gay voters.

The fight to line up LGBT votes was on full display at Thursday's annual Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club dinner. Guests were seated in the main ballroom of the Hotel Whitcomb under a giant Yee for Mayor banner, while many club members wore Avalos for Mayor stickers.

While Avalos and Yee joined the club for dinner, Herrera and Dufty worked the crowd during the cocktail hour. Also in the audience last night were two other contenders in the mayor's race: District 3 Supervisor David Chiu, who stayed for dinner, and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, who left early.

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