Ammiano to pen memoir
by Matthew S. Bajko
With 15 months to go before he is termed out of the state Legislature's lower chamber, gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is already preparing for life out of public office.
Next December, when his successor for the Assembly District 17 seat is sworn in, will mark the first time since 1990 that Ammiano has not held an elected office. That year he was elected to the San Francisco school board, and four years later, he won a seat on the Board of Supervisors.
In 2008, Ammiano won his first term in the state Assembly. Last year he won re-election to his third and final two-year term; Ammiano has endorsed gay San Francisco Supervisor David Campos's bid to succeed him in Sacramento.
In a recent interview with the Bay Area Reporter , Ammiano said after the Assembly he is planning to pen a memoir of his life and is looking at teaching at the college level.
"I am going to be writing a book," said Ammiano, 71, a former schoolteacher. "I am also looking at a number of options including university life."
Nor has he ruled out another political campaign. He may seek a state Senate seat in 2016 when gay Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is termed out of office.
"There is the possibility of running for state Senate, but that would be in two years," he said. "We will just see what evolves in the next year or two."
Ammiano said the book – part memoir, part political analysis – would retell "the journey I have been on in this city. San Francisco has been tremendously supportive."
A New Jersey native raised Catholic, Ammiano moved to the city in the early 1960s when he enrolled at San Francisco State University to earn a master's degree in special education. Ammiano then taught English in South Vietnam through a Quaker program but left in 1968 shortly after the Tet Offensive launched by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese against the U.S. military and its allies.
A decade later he became the first public schoolteacher in the city to come out of the closet. Ammiano played a key role in the 1978 defeat of the anti-gay Briggs initiative, which would have banned LGBT people from working as schoolteachers in the state.
He worked closely on the No on 6 campaign with the late gay Supervisor Harvey Milk, who would be assassinated just weeks after the electoral defeat of the homophobic ballot measure. Later, while on the school board, Ammiano pushed through a number of pro-gay initiatives aimed at protecting LGBT students.
The same year he won a supervisor seat, in 1994, Ammiano's longtime partner, Tim Curbo, died due to AIDS complications a few days prior to the election. A stalwart progressive voice on the board, which he led as president for a number of years, Ammiano pushed for the adoption of a domestic partners ordinance, which required city contractors to provide benefits to the partners of their LGBT employees, and the adoption of universal health care in the city.
He nearly became the city's first openly gay mayor in 1999 with his surprise write-in campaign that fall. After forcing the incumbent, Mayor Willie Brown, into a runoff, Ammiano came up short in his bid for Room 200 at City Hall.
Since joining the Legislature, Ammiano has focused on immigration issues, prisoner issues, marijuana reforms, and LGBT rights. His landmark bill requiring California schools to provide equal access to programs and facilities to transgender students based on their gender identity is currently awaiting Governor Jerry Brown's signature.
In addition to his educational career and political life, Ammiano is a stand-up comic who has made deft use of his humor during his time at City Hall and in Sacramento.
He has a daughter, Annie Jupiter-Jones, whose mothers are Diane Jones and former Health Commissioner Roma Guy, and three granddaughters.
The various chapters of his life provide ample fodder for an autobiography.
"It has been a rich life in terms of my career as a teacher and then as a school board member. Even before that, as a stand-up comic to my time in Vietnam and now in Sacramento, there is a lot there," said Ammiano of the vast array of experiences he can mine for a memoir.
In the meantime, Ammiano is busy planning his fall wedding to his current partner, Carolis Deal. The men are trying to determine such logistics as the location for their ceremony and the invite list.
"Yes to the dress," joked Ammiano when asked about his upcoming nuptials.