Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 37 / 14 September 2017

Still Fighting: Alice's platform

Guest Opinion

Eric Lukoff
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The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club was formed under a different name in 1971 to shake up the Democratic Party establishment. In 1972, when Jim Foster became the first openly gay man to address a Democratic National Convention, he called for a "gay plank" to be added to the party platform.

The fight for LGBT rights in San Francisco was a long and difficult struggle by previous city activists and leaders; their persistence and strength made our own reality possible: The city currently has at least six openly LGBT elected officials serving in a variety of roles. Every candidate running for office, at every level, must be an avowed champion of LGBT rights to even be considered by voters. And the city has two – two! – LGBT Democratic clubs that maintain the respect of LGBT and non-LGBT voters alike. We are truly humbled by the work of our predecessors.

Forty-five years after Foster's speech, it has never been a better time to be openly gay in San Francisco. By and large, our city – and most of our state – has unequivocally embraced LGBT rights.

But we cannot be complacent. Not when San Francisco has the highest level of inequality in California. Not when our LGBT seniors are being evicted and forced out of their own community. Not when our LGBT youth are living on the streets in record numbers. Not when our transgender peers face disproportionate rates of suicide and violence. Not when African-Americans, who are 5 percent of our city's population, account for 53 percent of inmates in our jail. Not when our Muni and BART stations have become overflow shelters for our most vulnerable and sick. Not when our teachers can't afford to live here.

Basic LGBT rights in San Francisco have been fully embraced by our party and most of our elected leadership for quite some time. But now we need to go beyond the basics. We must find new ways to fight for our community – and other communities with which we are in solidarity.

In July, Alice's membership voted overwhelmingly to adopt a policy platform, which lays out the club's position on various major issues facing our city and state. The document is the culmination of months of hard work by our policy committee, as well as our entire board of directors. We researched, reached out to community stakeholders, and solicited ideas from other organizations and thought leaders on these issues.

The result is a consensus-oriented document that articulates our shared values and offers bold, but realistic, solutions to the challenges we face in San Francisco and throughout California. The platform is not comprehensive; we intentionally started with just four issues: healthy communities, criminal justice, homelessness, and housing. Here are some highlights:

Our healthy communities plank calls for California to adopt a single-payer health care system. It also supports safe injection sites, an increase in mental health hospital beds, mandating a third-gender option on state and local government forms, and other important health initiatives.

Louise Fischer

Our criminal justice plank advocates for the elimination of money-based bail, which perpetuates a cycle of incarceration. We also call for restorative justice models as an alternative to prison, and the prohibition on the use of a person's immigration status in on-the-record legal proceedings unless necessary and relevant.

In our homelessness plank, we promote a housing-first approach and advocate for increased rental subsidies, more supportive and transitional housing options, and additional Navigation Centers throughout the city. We also reject policies that criminalize homelessness and advocate that bathrooms, showers, and other hygiene services be readily available and accessible 24/7.

Our housing plank balances support for market forces with dramatic increases in affordable housing. We call for the expansion of statewide rent control to all cities, support for streamlining the approval process of new housing construction, prioritizing affordable housing development. We support the construction of middle-income housing, but reject the premise that low-income housing stock must be reduced to achieve this goal. We also hope to ease the shortage of rental properties by disincentivizing landlords from keeping vacant rental units off the market.

We don't have all the answers, but we are committed to advocating for solutions that we believe will make a difference. Our platform will also serve as the foundation of our candidate questionnaire in our endorsement process, and we will hold elected officials accountable to it.

You can read our platform in its entirety at our website, We hope you will find the document speaks to our mission and values, even if you don't agree with every idea.

Please consider joining us at an upcoming Alice event and help to fight for our community in ways that those who came before us could never have imagined. We are humbled to be walking in their footsteps, and we are proud to carry on their work.


Eric Lukoff and Louise Fischer are co-chairs of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, the oldest LGBT Democratic club in the country.

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