Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Political Notebook: Reaction in South Bay mixed to anti-gay incident


Assemblywoman Nora Campos
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Reaction by South Bay LGBT leaders has been mixed to an anti-gay incident involving the husband of termed out state Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), who is running in a heated race for a state Senate seat.

As detailed in a May 9 letter that Enrique Arguello , the business manager for Laborers' Local 270, sent to Josue Garcia, CEO of the Santa Clara Building Trades Council, the altercation between him and Neil Struthers, the former CEO of the group who is married to Campos, occurred at the council's Casino Night event held April 29 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose.

Arguello wrote that Struthers was heard calling him a "fucking faggot" and that he engaged in "assaultive behavior" toward himself and his wife. He demanded that the council ban Struthers from attending its future events and ask him to issue an apology.

According to media reports, Struthers also used his fingers to suggest sex in response to seeing a photo of Arguello with Omar Torres , a gay man who works as an aide to San Jose City Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco and is a regional director for the California Democratic Party. The reports claimed Struthers asked Arguello if he and Torres were lovers and how their sexual relationship worked.

A police report that the Mercury News obtained listed Struthers as the victim, as he reportedly was kicked in the groin when he, Arguello, and several other attendees of the event got into a physical altercation. Arguello has said he believes he placed the painful blow.

Since the story first broke two weeks ago, both sides have accused the other of lying about the incident. In media interviews and a video she posted online, and has since taken down, Campos has blamed her Senate race opponent, Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), and state Senate President Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) of ordering Arguello to attack her husband and of bullying behavior toward her and other women.

Both Beall, who is endorsed by statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality California, and de León have denied the charges. The senators have painted the attacks as cynical campaign ploys during an election year. Media reports have also noted the bad blood between the two political camps that dates back years.

The one voice largely absent in the matter has been that of LGBT leaders in the South Bay. Their lack of public comment has not gone unnoticed by Torres, who is also an elected member of a school board in San Jose.

"There is still a stigma, especially in the Latino community, regarding one's sexual orientation. But what has been particularly disconcerting is if this had happened to other various established LGBT leaders there would be an uproar," Torres told the Bay Area Reporter this week.

Torres, 34, noted he had endorsed Beall's re-election bid months before Campos jumped into the race earlier this year.

"It is very sad that she and her husband chooses to attack a union made of predominantly immigrant families and an openly gay Latino elected official in East San Jose," he said.

Shortly after the first reports about the incident were published, gay San Jose resident Anthony Macias expressed support for Torres via Facebook. Macias, a Republican running in the race for Beall's 15th Senate District seat, called on Campos to denounce her husband's remarks, which reportedly included racist as well as homophobic comments.

"If these allegations are true, what makes this personal for me is Struthers allegedly made viciously hateful and sexually explicit homophobic remarks against Omar Torres, a local community organizer who has demonstrated nothing but hard work and dedication for our communities," wrote Macias. "Despite our political disagreements, Omar has proven himself to be a man of moral integrity and someone I am proud to call my friend."

Gabrielle Antolovich, the board president of the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center in downtown San Jose, also reached out to Torres to express support. And she sent a statement to the reporter covering the story for the San Jose Inside website, which she shared with the B.A.R.

"Now we see how homophobia gets caught in the crossfire and used as a weapon in ongoing political battles. First of all, homophobia has no place in this or any arena. Being LGBTQ, especially openly gay is fantastic and should be honored and protected – not attacked," wrote Antolovich. "Secondly, political battles need to be debates about issues: not fraught with fist fights and accusations, or homophobic or any slurs. Homophobic slurs do not just kick those named in the balls, it kicks all LGBTQs, and it hurts everyone."

Yet to comment publicly about the incident has been the South Bay's main LGBT political group BAYMEC, which stands for Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee. It has not posted any statement either to its website or Facebook page.

Neither BAYMEC President James Gonzales class=st>, nor its co-founder Wiggsy Sivertsen , responded to a request for comment by the B.A.R.'s press deadline Wednesday.


San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York

49ers throw down for LGBT North Carolinians

While in Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this week for the NFL owners' quarterly meeting, San Francisco 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York donated $75,000 on behalf of the football team to a statewide group fighting for LGBT protections.

As the B.A.R. reported on its blog late Monday, Equality North Carolina said the donation to its foundation was one of the largest it has received.

York's trip to the Tar Heel State was planned well over a year before state lawmakers adopted the anti-LGBT House Bill 2. The law not only bans local cities in the state from adopting non-discrimination laws, and repealed one adopted by Charlotte, it also requires transgender individuals to use public restrooms based on the gender assigned to them at birth.

The adoption of the law earlier this year has led to states and cities across the country, including San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Berkeley, to ban taxpayer-funded travel to North Carolina, businesses to cancel expanding in the state, and numerous entertainers to boycott performing there.

With the NFL deciding not to relocate the owners' meeting, York told the B.A.R. he wanted to use his visit to support the local efforts aimed at seeing HB 2 be repealed. He asked gay former San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty to accompany him, and the two met privately with local transgender advocates over dinner Monday night.

In a phone interview Monday afternoon, York said he wanted to "make sure the folks fighting HB 2 on the ground had the resources to continue their fight to repeal HB 2."

According to Equality North Carolina, no other NFL team has reached out to it with a similar offer of financial support.

"We at Equality North Carolina are so appreciative of the continued support of fair-minded organizations and people across the state, nation, and world, who are joining this call to action," stated Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality N.C. who was appointed to fill a vacant state House seat last month. "Our heartfelt thanks are with Jed York and the San Francisco 49ers for their support and leadership at this critical time. It is clear that leaders at the General Assembly must act quickly to salvage our state's reputation."

While the advocacy group has sought support for its calls to overturn the discriminatory legislation, Equality North Carolina has not called for a boycott of the state while HB 2 is in effect. In a phone interview Matt Hirschy, the group's director of advancement, said it would prefer to see those supportive of LGBT rights with business in the state donate to local LGBT nonprofits rather than cancel their trips, performances, or investments in North Carolina.

"A lot of people think somehow the LGBT community is encouraging a boycott. We are doing the opposite. We want people to come here and show leadership by example by investing in groups doing this work in North Carolina to make the state better," said Hirschy. "Jed can be an example to the rest of the owners there and the NFL to be more engaged in trying to repeal HB 2."

At the close of the NFL's meeting Tuesday, league Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters, when asked about the state law, "Anything that discriminates, we oppose." He added that, "We're not going to threaten a community. We're going to work with the community to make the effective changes necessary long term."

According to media reports, the owner of the Charlotte-based Panthers, Jerry Richardson, didn't speak to reporters. Team spokesman Steven Drummond told the media, "Our organization is against discrimination and has a long history of treating all of our patrons at Bank of America Stadium with dignity and respect. The Panthers have and will continue to engage key stakeholders on this important issue."

As for the team hosting an upcoming Super Bowl, York told the B.A.R. that was not up for a vote by the NFL team owners this week.

"Charlotte is not one of the sites being discussed," he said, adding that for now "there are no plans to host it there."


Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column featured an interview with gay national Democratic Party official Raul Alvillar.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail


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