Recent Comments


    In the News: 12.15.2017

    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    2016 State Legislative Report: Anti-LGBTQ Legislation Spread Nationwide

    A recent Human Rights Campaign study found 202 anti-LGBTQ bills were filed in 34 states—that’s 76 percent of states that had legislative sessions this year. These bills ranged from attempts to turn the clock back on marriage equality to bills creating a license to discriminate against same-sex couples with taxpayer dollars to protecting those who peddle the discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” Of the record 202 anti-LGBTQ bills filed, 55 of those bills directly target transgender people. Anti-transgender bills passed this year include the infamous HB2 in North Carolina, which mandates discrimination against transgender people in publicly-owned facilities at the same time it overturned LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, among other provisions; H.B. 1523 in Mississippi, which allows individuals and businesses to cite religious belief about marriage or gender identity as a legal reason to refuse service to LGBTQ people, single mothers, unwed parents and others; and a non-binding legislative resolution passed in Oklahoma in opposition to the guidance issued by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education related to discrimination against transgender students in schools.

    Changes Abound at Openhouse, Including New Executive Director

    2016 has been a remarkable year for Openhouse. The founding vision and purpose of the agency, to create long term affordable housing options for LBGT seniors, is coming to fruition with the opening of 55 Laguna. This building, combined with the housing development that will begin construction in 2017, provides 119 units of LGBT welcoming senior housing—the first in San Francisco and one of the largest developments in the nation. With the opening of these buildings, they will continue to expand services to reach 3,000 seniors annually, and affect many thousands more through training and advocacy. On February 13, 2017, Dr. Karyn Skultety be taking the helm of Openhouse as its next Executive Director. She currently serves as the Vice President of Health Services at Institute on Aging. She has built a career providing innovative solutions and services for aging adults. Her vision, leadership, and ability to build effective strategic partnerships will serve Openhouse well as it expands services to meet the needs of aging LGBT community members.

    Scott Wiener Sworn in to California State Senate

    Scott Wiener was sworn in as a California State Senator, where he will represent Senate District 11, including all of San Francisco and parts of Northern San Mateo County. Wiener was elected to serve a four-year term, and he succeeds Mark Leno. Wiener previously served for six years as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Senator Wiener was joined on the floor of the swearing in by family and friends, including his parents, aunt, sister, brother-in-law, and nephews. He was also joined by the City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, SEIU Local 87 (private sector janitors) President Olga Miranda, and nightlife community leader Joe Carouba. Senator Wiener celebrated his swearing-in with the community he will serve at the Swedish-American Hall in San Francisco on December 5. The California Constitution requires that the Senate be organized on the first Monday of December. The Legislature will reconvene for 2017 on January 4, after the holidays.

    Heavily Gay District 8 Will Likely Be Without a Supervisor Until January

    With Scott Wiener vacating his current role of San Francisco District 8 supervisor, it falls on Mayor Ed Lee to appoint a replacement to fill Wiener’s shoes. In an effort to ensure that his appointee can serve the maximum amount of time possible, the Examiner reports that Lee may end up taking his time to fill the role. With Wiener’s seat officially vacant, this would leave the district without representation until at least early January. It comes down to this: Under City rules, anyone appointed after January 8 could serve up to ten years in office. That would break down as the remaining two years of Wiener’s term plus two additional terms assuming he or she won reelection in 2018 and 2022. In many ways, this path would echo the one taken by Mayor Lee himself—he was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to take over from Mayor Gavin Newsom after promising not to run for election when his term ended. He broke that promise, and is in the process of serving his second term.

    Vigils for Oakland Ghost Ship Fire Victims Held in Castro and Oakland

    In the wake of the December 2 Oakland Ghost Ship fire, which left at least 36 dead and many more missing, two vigils were held in the Bay Area. The first I attended in the Castro at Harvey Milk Plaza on December 5 at 5:30 pm. We brought candles and fresh flowers to lay on the large rainbow quilt stretched out on the concrete. A rainbow ribbon had been strewn through the banister. We left tags with names and ages of the victims. Small signs sent blessings and remembrances. One sign stood out and said it all: “Trans Lives Matter,” since many of the victims and survivors were transgendered. People said prayers, cried, hugged each other, and stood or knelt down in awe and reverent silence. A second vigil for victims of the Ghost Ship fire was organized in Oakland that night at 8 pm at Lake Merritt, hosted by a group called Raver Remembrance.

    Pacific Center in Berkeley Offers Help for Those Grieving Oakland Fire Tragedy

    The Medical Director for Alameda County Behavioral Health came by the Pacific Center office asking for their help because he thought perhaps half of the missing people had ties to the local queer community. “We know of one current Pacific Center client and one partner of a former intern here who are on that list, and we suspect there will be many others with ties to Pacific Center,” said Executive Director Leslie Ewing. They will have an ongoing, no cost, grief and trauma support group there every Saturday at 11 am, which started Saturday, December 12. They have committed to continue those groups throughout 2017. If family/loved ones need a space to hold a memorial, they will provide it at no charge. “Licensed therapists who want to help at the official family support center should contact rather than our clinical people so that they may focus on the work they must do,” Ewing added. Pacific Center for Human Growth’s mission is to provide mental health and wellness support programs for the LGBTQQI 2-Spirit communities. They are located at 2712 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley CA 94705.

    Congress Passes Annual Defense Bill Without Anti-LGBTQ Amendment

    After the U.S House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), HRC noted that the final version of the legislation did not include a House-passed provision that would have dramatically expanded religious discrimination with taxpayer funds and undermined President Obama’s executive order prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in federal contracting. The provision—proposed by Representative Steve Russell (R-OK) under the guise of so-called “religious liberty”—had been previously included in the House version of the bill, but not in the Senate version. Conferees did not include it in the conference report. “While we won this battle, the threat to fairness and equality remains. Now is the time for all of us to double-down on our work,” stated HRC. “The next administration and members of Congress should look at the lesson learned in North Carolina, where anti-LGBTQ discrimination cost Governor McCrory his election. Seven in 10 voters across the nation—including 55 percent of those who voted for President-Elect Trump—support the Equality Act’s non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The federal government should never be in the business of creating taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.”

    New Survey Shows Need to Protect Transgender Youth from Conversion Therapy 

    San Francisco-based National Center for Transgender Equality released the findings of the U.S. Transgender Survey, the largest survey of transgender people in the United States. Conducted in 2015, the anonymous, online survey examines the experiences of 27,715 adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as three U.S. territories and U.S. military bases overseas. Among the findings is that 18%—nearly one in five—of transgender people who had contact with a medical professional about their gender identity reported that the professional tried to stop them from being transgender. Transgender people who had these negative experiences were also more likely to experience psychological distress, to have attempted suicide, run away from home, been homeless, and have engaged in sex work than those who did not have the experience. The survey also found that 14% of transgender individuals—more than one in 10—who disclosed their transgender identity to their family were sent to a professional to stop them from being transgender.

    North Carolina “Bathroom Governor” Pat McCrory Reluctantly Concedes to Democrat Roy Cooper

    North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory conceded the gubernatorial race to Democrat Roy Cooper in a stunning outcome for an election that held few bright spots for Democrats. Having previously protested the votes in 50 counties, ultimately, in a video message, McCrory said, “Despite continued questions that should be answered regarding the voting process, I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken and we now should do everything we can to support the 75th governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper.” McCrory’s defeat was first and foremost a referendum on the disastrous anti-LGBTQ law he signed into law earlier this year that made North Carolina a pariah to business and sporting events alike. Within weeks of McCrory signing the law, PayPal announced that it was scrapping a planned expansion into the state, providing the first in a string of perpetually negative headlines for the Tar Heel State throughout the rest of the year.

    Openly Gay George Takei Inducted into California Hall of Fame

    George Takei and seven others were inducted into the California Museum’s California Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Sacramento. Takei—a second-generation Californian best known for his activism and acting, including the roles of Lt. Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek and Sam Kimura in Allegiance—joins 96 other individuals, whom the California Museum calls “legendary people who embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.” In addition to acting, Takei has advocated for LGBTQ issues, been involved in politics, and chairs the council of governors at East West Players. He also developed the musical Allegiance, which was based on his experience in a Japanese-American incarceration camp during World War II. “To be inducted to join the inspiring trail blazers in the arts, industry, academia, sports and political affairs is an honor beyond words,” Takei said in a statement.

    Donald Trump Tweets New Attack on the First Amendment, Threatens Exile for Flag Burners

    “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” tweeted President-elect Donald Trump. Many of us protesters in the early days of ACT UP used to burn the flag in the Castro as a demonstration against the government’s ignorance about AIDS. State laws against flag burning were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1989, and a 1990 decision confirmed the same applies to federal law. Flag burning as a means of protest is considered protected speech under the First Amendment. Several attempts have been made to introduce a constitutional amendment against flag burning. The last of these failed to pass the Senate by a single vote in 2006. However, Trump’s proposed penalty isn’t just ridiculous, it’s impossible. In rare instances, a naturalized citizen can be stripped of citizenship (the process is called “denaturalization,” and it’s mainly invoked for those who falsified information when applying for citizenship). Citizens born in the United States can’t have their citizenship revoked against their will.

    Walmart Settles Class-Action Suit Alleging Anti-LGBT Bias

    “Making Change at Walmart (MCAW),” the national campaign to change Walmart into a more responsible employer, along with Pride at Work and UFCW OUTreach, a constituency group dedicated to building mutual support between the UFCW’s International, regions, and locals and the LGBT community and their allies, released a statement as the company announced a settlement in the Cote et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. class-action lawsuit, which accused the company of discriminating against employees who were married to same-sex spouses by denying their spouses health insurance benefits: “Actions speak louder than words, and until now, Walmart’s actions regarding LGBTQ workers’ and their spouses’ health benefits were discriminatory and hurtful. We are pleased to hear that Walmart has admitted wrongdoing in Cote et al. v. Walmart Stores, Inc., and that they have agreed to abide by anti-discrimination policies, and to make those who have been discriminated against whole. It is our hope that Walmart accepts how wrong they were so that not one more Walmart worker will have to experience such injustice and bigotry.”

       The Castro’s 2016 Santa Skivvies Run Raises Funds for AIDS Foundation

    Castro denizens stripped down to their running shoes and their most festive undies for the 2016 edition of the Santa Skivvies Run. A fundraiser for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the one-mile fun run raised tens of thousands of dollars for free HIV testing, prevention, and support services, and brought out a variety of creative skivvies and other costumes. Drag queen Suppositori Spelling kicked off the festivities with a performance and countdown. Santa Claus made a surprise cameo. The run began, turning past the Noe-Beaver mini-park up toward Castro Street. The course continued down 18th Street, in front of Moby Dick. Volunteers ensured runners didn’t veer into oncoming traffic. Revelers headed back toward the finish line, where refreshments and a packed house awaited at Lookout.