Global, National, State and Local Happenings

zoeAs we enter the holiday season, there is a lot happening at global, national, state and local levels that I want to share with you this month.

On the global stage, December 1st marks the 26th annual observance of World AIDS Day. Although we live in this terrible pandemic 365 days a year, World AIDS Day singles out one day for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. In San Francisco, there will be a World AIDS Day Forum titled Getting to Zero in San Francisco: How Close are We? This event will be taking place at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center on Monday, December 2nd from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. I hope many Bay Times readers will attend to get the latest news on the city’s progress against HIV/AIDS and learn about innovative programs aimed at getting us to zero new HIV infections. Experts from UCSF, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Project Inform, SFGH and community members will participate in this interactive Town Hall Forum.

In national news, the Governor of Oklahoma would rather deny straight military spouses the opportunity to sign up for federal benefits than allow same-sex military spouses the same benefits. Sounds crazy, right? Well, the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act DOMA resulted in service members with same-sex spouses becoming eligible for federal benefits. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) announced in November that state-owned National Guard facilities would no longer allow any married couples to apply for spousal benefits, regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite-sex. Now, all couples must apply for benefits at federal National Guard installations rather than Oklahoma National Guard bases – a trip that could be hundreds of miles for some families. This seems to me like the ultimate cutting off of the (straight) nose to spite the (gay) face.

At a state level, there is a storm a-brewing over the recently signed AB1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, allowing transgender students in California K-12 schools to use the facilities and play on the sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. San Francisco has had such a policy in place for over ten years, but this would be the first time a state enshrined these protections into state law. Right-wing activists and key Proposition 8 backer Frank Schubert have been collecting signatures to put an initiative to repeal the law via a ballot measure in 2014. To qualify the repeal measure for the ballot, supporters needed to submit 504,760 valid signatures from currently registered California voters from a majority of the state’s counties. Shubert’s group, Privacy for All Students (sic), said the coalition turned in 620,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office in early November.

That seemed like a pretty safe margin for error, but an initial assessment of a random sampling of signatures is returning just 75 percent authenticity, which is “significantly below the average needed to qualify,” according to the Washington Blade. If fewer than 95 percent of the needed signatures gathered are deemed valid in the random sample, the measure will not appear on the 2014 ballot. Even if that becomes the case, the fight will not end there. Experiencing a series of defeats on same-sex marriage in CA and many other states, these homophobic groups have made the vilification of transgender youth their raison d’etre (and fundraising) not just here in CA but across the country. This issue will not go away, and we as a community need to fight off these attacks head on. You can stay up to date on this issue thru Equality California’s website www.eqca.org and the National Center for Lesbian Rights www.nclrights.org.

And finally, on a local front, an annual tradition is coming our way on December 14th & 15th – the Dance-Along Nutcracker: Nutcrackers of the Caribbean, put on by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band! This annual San Francisco tradition will take place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts – details for times and tickets can be found at www.tickets.ybca.org. I am excited to be an honorary host for this event and hope you can come join the fun!

Zoe Dunning is a retired Navy Commander and was a lead activist in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She currently serves as the 1st Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party.