Political Notebook: Log Cabin California hires new ED
by Matthew S. Bajko
Log Cabin California has hired a former chairman of its political action committee as its second California director and western field director. James Vaughn oversaw the gay Republican group's PAC over a decade ago and will take over the statewide position on December 4.
Vaughn, 42, replaces Jeff Bissiri , who is stepping down after two years. Unlike Bissiri, who moved to Sacramento full-time to man a downtown office close to the Capitol, Vaughn plans to work out of his home in Laguna Hills in Orange County. He said he plans to periodically travel to the Capitol to lobby legislators â€“ he spent Tuesday and Wednesday of this week making the rounds there â€“ but wants to focus more on building the group's membership, connecting members to lawmakers, and identifying candidates to run for public office.
Most Republican legislators returning to Sacramento next week are die-hard conservatives who have opposed many LGBT-related bills. Yet Vaughn said there are some policy areas where Log Cabiners can build relationships with these lawmakers, such as lowering taxes.
"I will be forging bonds with them on those issues because we are not going to turn back the clock on the gains we have made in the gay and lesbian community, even if the Republicans take control of the legislature someday," said Vaughn. "This is more a matter of securing our rights by continuing to work with Republicans to help them understand what it means to be gay and lesbian and introduce them to gay and lesbian people."
He said he also plans to work closely with the legislature's LGBT caucus, made up of five Democrats, on issues such as marriage. He met this week with caucus consultant Eric Astacaan as well as Daniel Zingale, a Democrat and the openly gay chief of staff to the state's first lady Maria Shriver. As for Shriver's husband, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his chief of staff Susan Kennedy , a lesbian and Democrat, Vaughn had no meetings planned as of yet. He did meet with other members of the governor's staff.
A main priority for Vaughn will be getting more LGBT Republicans elected to public office. He identified the central coast area as a prime spot where an openly gay or lesbian member of the GOP has a chance of winning an election.
"Part of the political development I want to do is start getting our members appointed to judgeships, running for school board and in city council races, building up their experience so they have the credibility to run for state Assembly or statewide office," said Vaughn.
Vaughn and his partner of four years, Kevin Broadwater , also a Republican, left the D.C. area for California over a year ago after Broadwater took a new job. Vaughn, who joked he was the "trailing spouse," grew up in Corona, California in Riverside County. He laughed when asked, as a Republican, if he feared incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "San Francisco values."
"Not at all. I am a centrist on many things," he said. "The problem with the Republican Party is their definition of family. And I think both sides can look and find commonalities. The gay community is running on a conservative platform, talking about stable marriages, raising children, and defending their country. Those are as conservative Republican values as you can get."
Log Cabin announced Vaughn's hiring Monday, November 27 at a fundraiser in Los Angeles where Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry received the group's American Visibility Award. Cherry, an out gay man and Republican, was unavailable for an interview. Responding to a question at the event, Cherry said he had modeled the show's Republican character, Bree Van De Kamp, after his mother and that he wanted to "inject a little bit of Republicanism" into television.
Author chronicles lesbian movement
Former San Francisco resident Marcia M. Gallo returns to town next week to discuss her new book Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement. The book is the first to chronicle how the Daughters of Bilitis began over 50 years ago in the San Francisco living room of pioneers Phyllis Lion and Del Martin and grew into a major voice for gay rights.
Gallo, 55, a lesbian social justice activist who teaches the history of sexuality, U.S. history, and American studies at Lehman College in New York City, spent 10 years interviewing 36 former members of the DOB, as well as a dozen others with knowledge of the group, for her book.
"One of the things that strikes me over and over again is they had the courage at a time when a lot of people were full of fear. They had the courage to be themselves, regardless of what society said about them," said Gallo. "All the authorities in society said they were sick or sinful or we were criminal. They said, 'No, we are not. We are regular people who love the same sex and we deserve the rights everybody else deserves.'"
The group, through its activism and a magazine it published, had a political impact, said Gallo, in that it helped Americans see lesbians as real people and not in stereotypical forms. She also said the Daughters were influential in getting politicians to address the gay community.
"They put a face to the lesbian. Lesbians had been viewed as the mean matron in jail or reformatory or she was this sort of very sexy cover girl on paperback novels," said Gallo. "The Daughters put a variety of faces of lesbians out there in the world when those kinds of images didn't exist. Politically, they helped create the very idea of lesbian and what lesbian identity is."
A defining moment for the group, which Gallo said many LGBT people have never heard of, took place in San Francisco years before Stonewall would awaken a national gay rights movement. The DOB and the pro-gay Council on Religion and the Homosexual threw a New Year's Day Ball in 1965 at California Hall on Polk Street. Prior to the costume ball, the organizers received verbal agreement from the police that the party would not be raided.
Yet on the day of the ball the police showed up with bright lights and photographed party attendees as they arrived. A skirmish ensued and police made several arrests, including a straight housewife and Herb Donaldson, a gay man who went on to become the first openly gay judge in California.
"It became such a big deal the ACLU took the case. The charges were dismissed but it brought such a glare of publicity to the way gay people were treated. The ministers couldn't believe it," said Gallo. "It was like San Francisco's Stonewall. It really was one of the times when people said the way things have been has got to change and you can't treat us as second-class citizens anymore."
Gallo's discussion takes place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 7 at the GLBT Historical Society, 657 Mission Street, Suite 300 in San Francisco.