by James Patterson
People who have tried to become a member of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee have raised questions about the process, citing delays and a change in the online application that makes it more cumbersome.
Some who have become members joined so that they can have a voice and a vote at the Pride Committee's annual general meeting in September and because of their dissatisfaction with the board's handling of the Bradley Manning controversy.
Members of San Francisco Pride receive voting rights 60 days after their application is accepted. Members vote on candidates for the board, the Pride theme, and community grand marshals, according to Pride's website.
In response to community complaints about the Pride Committee's slow processing of new membership applications, CEO Earl Plante said that staff was "diligently working" to catch up with applications and that "technical difficulties" during a recent transition have been addressed. The online application process has been changed to "streamline [it] overall," he said.
At a recent community forum at Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco – held to discuss the board's retraction of Manning's grand marshal honor – some speakers expressed their frustration to Plante about the Pride Committee's handling of new membership applications. Plante agreed to look into the matter.
According to an email from Plante, he has reviewed membership processing issues and his staff is "working diligently to get caught up on registrations."
"Any new membership requests are entered in as timely a manner as possible – within the average – a one-two day period," Plante said.
Plante also said the Pride Committee does not have a membership director.
"We have an administrative assistant," he said, "who is inputting membership presently."
Retired San Francisco resident Herschel Dosier, who attended the community forum, asked Plante about his new membership application. He said Plante told him membership application processing was slow because the Pride Committee had only two volunteers working on them.
Another issue raised by community members involved e-packets for new Pride members. Plante provided the Bay Area Reporter with an email response from his unnamed administrative assistant on e-packets. "If the prospective members did not receive their packet it could be because they didn't provide an email, in which case I sent the packet through snail mail."
Change in process
The application process itself is also an issue with some community members. At present, the application is a PDF that one must print, sign, date, and return. San Francisco Pride's website asks applicants to "Fill out the application and send it to the San Francisco Pride office at 1841 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103."
Applications may also be faxed to (415) 864-5889, according to Plante.
"This is a new membership form and it was only introduced in the last three weeks or so," former Pride board president Joey Cain said in an email. The previous method for completing and submitting an application "was an online form," Cain said. "As far as I know there was no announcement to the community that the form was changed."
Cain, who has been critical of the Pride board's actions regarding Manning, has his suspicions about why the membership process was suddenly changed from an online form to a printable PDF.
The change took place, Cain said, "in the middle of the Manning controversy when we were organizing people to sign up as members of Pride."
"I think it was done to make the process harder in order to try and discourage people from becoming members," Cain said.
There is anecdotal evidence that not all the initial online members are being recognized. Jason Victor Serinus, a freelancer for the B.A.R. 's arts section, called Tuesday to report that he completed an online application before the process was changed to PDF. He had just called the Pride office, he said, and was told that there is no record of his membership.
Serinus said that he will send in the printable form and make a paper trail by scanning the form and the envelope. He said that he was inspired to become a member as a result of Pride's handling of the Manning matter.
"This whole thing of making it more difficult to become a member is so reminiscent of the Republican Party making it harder for people to register to vote," Serinus told the B.A.R.
Plante did not directly answer a question about whether the Pride Committee has received a recent influx of new members. He did say that the online process was adjusted to PDF to "streamline [it] overall."
The Pride Committee's bylaws call for an annual general meeting.
"Our next annual general meeting will be in September and an agenda will be forthcoming," Plante said.
Pride's website states the meeting is scheduled for September 15.
People now applying for membership in San Francisco Pride will find they must do so again in November. The bylaws state, "Any member who has joined at any time in the preceding year will be subject to renewal on November 12 notwithstanding the fact that they may have just recently joined."
About renewing membership, Plante said, "Most members renew at the annual general meeting in September, but have until the November  deadline as that [is] when we close that year's records of date at our November members planning meeting."