Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Online extra: Political Notes: Pride ceremony returns to CA Assembly


Retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr will be honored by the state Assembly during its Pride ceremony. Photo: Courtesy Keith Kerr
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Three years after the state Assembly's inaugural (and until now only) Pride ceremony, state lawmakers will once again mark LGBT history and honor leaders within the community from throughout California at a noon ceremony today (Monday, June 22).

Openly gay freshmen state Assemblymen Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and John Perez (D-Los Angeles) decided to revive the Pride celebration and are hopeful their Republican colleagues will behave more cordially this time toward the seven honorees than the GOP Assembly members did back in 2006.

"Last time the Republicans made a big stink and some of them walked out," said Ammiano.

That year then-Assemblymen Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) put together the first such ceremony in the Legislature, mirroring celebrations hosted by the Assembly's Latino, black, and Asian members.

To their astonishment, the Assembly Republicans refused to allow the celebration to start on time.

"Some of the Republicans could not contain their disrespect. And so rather than take their seats on the Assembly floor so the ceremony could begin, they perpetuated a prolonged Republican caucus off the floor," recalled the openly gay Leno, now a state senator.

[The Senate does not hold similar floor ceremonies. Senators will be on hand for the annual opening of the LGBT Legislative Caucus' Pride exhibit on the second floor of the Capitol Rotunda tonight at 5 p.m.]

The rude behavior afforded to the Pride honorees had nothing to do with why the ceremony was only held once, said Leno. Rather, his decision to run for higher office against a sitting senator and fellow member of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, Carole Migden, turned his attention away from planning a second ceremony.

With the changeover last year in sitting Assembly members, Leno doubts today's event will draw the same juvenile tactics from the current GOP lawmakers.

"I think the newer members are a little more mature and familiar with the 21st century," said Leno.

At today's ceremony, titled "Yesterday's Progress, Tomorrow's Promise," those being honored include Los Angeles-based artist Ivy Bottini, the first out lesbian to serve on the California Commission on Aging; Catholic priest Father Geoffrey Farrow, who came out not only as gay but against Prop 8 last fall and was removed as pastor of the St. Paul Newman Center at the Cal State Fresno campus; transgender activist Miss Major; and former Black Cat bar owner Jose Sarria, who was the first out gay man to run for public office in America when he sought a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961.

Also receiving his first public award related to his LGBT activism is Keith Kerr, 75, a retired brigadier general of the California National Guard and a retired U.S. Army colonel. He was drafted into the Army in 1953 and served in the 513th Military Intelligence Group in Germany. He left in 1985 and then joined the guard, where he was stationed out of the Presidio and was the commanding general for the northern command of the state reserve.

In 2003, Kerr became one of the highest ranking, openly gay military officers when he agreed to be profiled in the New York Times in opposition to the anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that restricts LGBT service members from serving openly among the ranks.

Kerr resides in Santa Rosa but lived in San Francisco for 30 years, and for 28 years, was with his now-deceased partner, the Reverend Doctor Alvin Gomer, who was an Episcopal priest and licensed psychologist. Kerr's brother, Wendell, who lives in Cupertino, will join him in Sacramento today.

Prior to his coming out in the newspaper, Kerr said, "We had never discussed my sexuality on my side of the family. Although, certainly, my brother and his wife and two nephews and their wives had to be aware of it. I sent them an e-mail before the story came out and wrote that I hoped it would not be an embarrassment. They wrote back with wonderful messages of support.

"They had figured it out a long time ago," added Kerr, who also taught at City College in San Francisco and became the school's dean of instruction.

Kerr said he believes he will see President Barack Obama lift the military ban within his first term in office.

"Let's say I am patient with him. I realize he has a lot on his plate," said Kerr.

And he said his day won't be spoiled by any Republican shenanigans under the state Capitol's dome.

"I am not going to let it bother me if it happens. What, only 22 percent of the electorate nationwide identify as Republican, so they are rapidly becoming insignificant," said Kerr. "They are living in the last century."

San Diego gay paper calls out state commish, gay councilman

San Diego's Gay and Lesbian Times is calling for the resignation of Doug Manchester from the California Travel and Tourism Commission. And if the hotel owner doesn't resign on his own accord, the weekly gay paper is calling on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to fire him.

The Republican governor appoints members to the state oversight body for two-year terms. Among the commissioners are openly gay appointees such as Chip Conley, owner of the San Francisco-based boutique hotel chain Joie de Vivre, and Joe D'Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The San Diego hotelier's term is set to expire this December. Manchester, of course, donated $125,000 to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. His support of the anti-same-sex marriage measure led to a boycott of his two hotels he owns in San Diego, the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the Grand Del Mar. He has reportedly lost $7 million since the start of the boycott last summer.

In an attempt to end the boycott Manchester offered to donate $25,000 toward an effort supporting civil unions and lend $100,000 to cash-strapped LGBT agencies. The latest group to pull out of a Manchester hotel, the American Association of Justice, is now meeting in San Francisco next month.

Californians Against Hate, a group started to fight Prop 8 last year, immediately backed the paper's call for Manchester's resignation June 11. And Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, told the Bay Area Reporter last week that if Manchester does remain on the travel commission, he should not be reappointed to another term.

"I think he probably damages the state's ability to attract people. To have an owner of a hotel who was a lead funder to eliminate rights hurts tourism to and the economy of the state," said Geoff Kors , EQCA executive director. "That, combined with his anti-union behavior, should result in his not being reappointed. Of course, we would be very happy if he chose to resign."

Last week the GLT then went after another local leader in a scathing editorial, and reminiscent of the Philadelphia Gay News' broadside of Obama last year, ran an empty page where its interview with out Councilman Carl DeMaio was to have run.

DeMaio, a Republican who became the first out gay man elected to San Diego's City Council last summer, had told the paper on two occasions that he would give it an interview on his first six months in office. It was to run alongside the paper's interview with Todd Gloria , a Democrat who became the second out gay man elected to the council when he won a runoff election last November.

Yet DeMaio's director of communications, Erica Mendelson, nixed the interview, leading to the blank space in the paper and some harsh words from its editors in the June 18 editorial. It wasn't the first time DeMaio has ran from talking to the gay press, as he declined interviews with the GLT , as well as the B.A.R. and others, during his campaign last year.

"Internalized homophobia or not, DeMaio, as a public figure, is behooved to give the press – all press, including gay press, access to his views and commentary on what he's doing in office," wrote the paper in its editorial. It added that, "Needless to say, we are very disappointed that our city's first elected gay male city councilmember has declined to speak to the GLBT community. We are similarly dismayed that he's proven to not be a man who keeps his word – or only does so when it is convenient for him."

Newsom finally has a reason to stay home

Jet-setting gubernatorial candidate Mayor Gavin Newsom finally has a reason not to depart on another campaign barnstorming visit elsewhere in the state this weekend, as he is expected to march in the 39th annual San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration & Parade this Sunday, June 28.

It will be the mayor's third appearance so far this year at a California Pride event, as he was a grand marshal at Long Beach Pride in May and marched in L.A.'s Pride Parade last weekend.

Tomorrow [Tuesday, June 23] Newsom will preside over the annual rainbow flag raising ceremony at City Hall. The event is open to the public and begins at 5 p.m. with a reception to follow on the mayor's balcony inside the City Hall Rotunda at 5:30.

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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