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

Political Notebook: SF gays celebrate Obama's swearing-in


Memphis Larose, left, with Road Dawgz, an artistic program for homeless youth, talks about the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama with Paulie Shrek and Tiffany Ross of Children of Lesbian and Gays Everywhere at the LGBT Community Center party Tuesday evening. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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In private homes and at public plazas, the Bay Area's LGBT community came together Tuesday morning to watch history being made as President Barack Obama was sworn-in as the nation's first African American president.

For many the moment not only brought a new dawn for America but hopes that long-stalled gay rights bills would finally be passed by Congress and signed into law by the new commander in chief.

"I think there is hope for all of us," said Anna Damiani, a longtime aide to openly gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who watched the inauguration with 40 friends gathered at lesbian-owned wine bar Cav. "It's a new world. I don't expect everything will be different tomorrow but things will be different. They already are."

Leno spent his morning with the predominantly African American community of Marin City in the North Bay at a local neighborhood center and later stopped by several parties in San Francisco Tuesday night to celebrate.

"As has been the Obama experience, it was letter perfect," he said of the new president's speech. "He struck many right notes, a very appropriate theme, and America is cheering for his success, which as he points out is our success."

Sydney Leung, a co-owner of the Endup nightclub, stopped by the opening party at the new Bar on Church, which owner Greg Bronstein and his team worked day and night over the last week to have ready in time to coincide with the inauguration. Leung, a gay man who immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong, said he was overjoyed at seeing the son of an immigrant to America become the nation's leader.

"Seeing someone who is a minority become president of the United States really speaks about the great things about democracy in America," said Leung.

Staffers and tenants of the LGBT Community Center saw Obama take his oath of office on a television screen in the building's lobby. Later Tuesday night, the center collaborated with several LGBT organizations to throw a party, drink a champagne toast to the new administration, and watch a live feed of the inaugural balls.

"I think we are excited that he is looking at values of inclusion, fairness, and diversity," said Rebecca Rolfe, the center's executive director, noting that within minutes of Obama's becoming president the White House Web site listed an LGBT civil rights agenda. "We will be watching him to see him put those in action."

Community organizer John Newsome, an openly gay black man from Washington, D.C., met up with 20 friends at a private home to watch the historic moment. He said he is hopeful there will be "speedy passage" of gay rights legislation, from repeals of the Defense of Marriage Act and the military's anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy to enactment of a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and hate crimes laws.

"We now have more friends in Washington than we have ever had before," he said.

Even the few sour notes over the inaugural weekend, from HBO not airing the openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson's prayer at Sunday's concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial to California pastor Rick Warren, who opposes same-sex marriage, giving the invocation at the swearing-in ceremony, couldn't dampen the joy many LGBT people felt Tuesday.

"What a day! What a day! What a day!" said Andrea Shorter, an out lesbian and leader within the Bay Area's black LGBT community. "It took us a long time to get here."

Shorter led the 100-plus people gathered at the center's event in a pledge to fight for marriage equality in California "against all enemies – foreign, domestic, Mormon, and otherwise – to make sure that we win."

"Change is going to come. We are just at the tip of the iceberg," she said.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion.

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) 861-5019 or e-mail

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