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

Political Notebook: Pelosi Pride video elicits rebuke from local activists


Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, now speaker of the House, rode in the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1999, wearing a sticker opposed to the anti-gay Knight initiative, which went before voters the next year. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Hailed as the first time a United States speaker of the House will address an LGBT Pride event, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has recorded a taped message to be shown on a Jumbotron during San Francisco's annual celebration this Sunday, June 27.

When it was announced June 2 Pride Executive Director Amy Andre gushed in a press release that Pelosi "is dedicated to achieving equality for every American."

Since then local LGBT activists have cried foul at Pride's allowing Pelosi to deliver comments during the Pride festival unchallenged. Their ire was piqued after the speaker told reporters during her weekly D.C. press conference June 11 that she would not schedule a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a key piece of legislation the LGBT community has sought for decades, until Congress repealed the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

It was a backtracking from her reported comments made during a May 17 phone call with several LGBT leaders when Pelosi insisted she would push for votes on both ENDA and the anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy. Participants on the call, who later talked to LGBT media outlets, did not say Pelosi conditioned moving forward on ENDA only after DADT had been repealed.

"She stated in no uncertain terms that ENDA is moving," Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the Bay Area Reporter at the time.

During a Castro fundraiser May 21 at the LGBT Community Center, Pelosi herself made no mention that DADT had to be repealed in order to work on ENDA. Instead, she sounded impatient with how long the pro-gay bill has been stalled in the House, telling the crowd, "Let's get this over with."

Pelosi's Pride address became a focus at a meeting a handful of LGBT activists held Thursday, June 17 in San Francisco to discuss the state of legislation on Capitol Hill. Three people from that meeting then met with Andre and Pride board president Mikayla Connell Monday, June 21 to request either they pull Pelosi's video from the main stage lineup or offer them a chance to rebut her remarks.

"We were promised a vote," said local blogger Michael Petrelis, who attended this week's meeting. "We want ENDA movement and we want Pelosi to lead."

Although Petrelis had advertised the meeting as open to the public, the two Pride leaders refused to allow the B.A.R. to sit in on the meeting.

According to Petrelis, the Pride officials refused to allow the activists a chance to address Sunday's gathering themselves. Instead, Connell offered to read a short statement explaining their frustration with Pelosi's delay on an ENDA vote prior to introducing the speaker's video, which will be played in the late afternoon.

"They want two bullet points: what is wrong and what can be done in the future," said Petrelis.

He added that Pride also offered to send a letter to Pelosi urging her and her local staff to hold regular meetings with the LGBT community to discuss what can be done to help pass pro-gay legislation.

"It is a big start," Petrelis said when asked if he was satisfied with Pride's response.

Connell said Wednesday that she had yet to see Pelosi's video and was unsure if she would make her remarks before or after it is screened Sunday around 3 p.m. She added she was "fine" with the agreement Pride and the activists had struck.

"I will issue a call to action for Pelosi to get ENDA passed now while we still have a majority in the House and have a Democratic president," said Connell.

A transgender woman, she noted that two years ago she was "very disappointed" with Pelosi for moving a vote on a version of the bill stripped of transgender protections.

"We have to be very grateful for Pelosi and all of the work she has done for us over the years, but at the same time, no one is perfect," she said. "There are issues, especially around ENDA, and we should communicate that with Congresswoman Pelosi."

Since June 11 the B.A.R. has sought to talk to Pelosi about her video message at Pride but was told her schedule did not provide any time for an interview. Asked this week about the complaints Pride had received regarding the speaker's taped comments, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill referred questions to Pride officials.

As for where Pelosi now stands in terms of passing ENDA, he wrote in an e-mail that it remains "a top priority of the speaker, but the speaker believes that passing ENDA before DADT repeal has been finalized, jeopardizes both initiatives."

He added that, "Until then, we should encourage the Senate to develop a course for ENDA to ensure that when the House passes the legislation, the Senate can move quickly to send the legislation to the president's desk."

For the record, two years ago Pelosi turned down Pride's invitation to address the crowd during the 2007 celebration, five months after she became the first female to be elected House speaker.

This will be the first time that Pelosi has taken part (albeit by broadcast transmission) in San Francisco's Pride celebration since 2001, when she rode in that year's parade. Hammill said Pelosi is u

Senator Barbara Boxer will not be attending the Alice Club Pride breakfast this year, despite being in a tough re-election battle.
nable to attend in person this year because she will be out of town.

Pelosi first took part in the parade in 1988, one year after winning a special election to the House by defeating openly gay former Supervisor Harry Britt. According to her office, her second Pride appearance came in 1993. In all, Pelosi has been at eight of the city's Prides since entering Congress.

In the past it has been conservatives and anti-gay Republicans who have made hay out of the Democratic leader's appearances at Pride. During the House page scandal in 2006, when then-closeted Congressman Mark Foley (R-Florida) was caught sending sexually suggestive texts to underage male pages, his supporters tried to paint Pelosi as supportive of pedophiles due to her participating in the Pride Parade.

Alice Pride breakfast to feature film star

One of the featured speakers at this year's annual Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club Pride breakfast will be La Mission film star Jeremy Ray Valdez, who plays Jes Rivera, the gay son of the film's protagonist, Che Rivera. Set in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood, the movie depicts the violent reaction Rivera's father, played by Benjamin Bratt, has toward learning his son is gay.

Bratt and his brother, Peter, co-produced the movie. It is the second year in a row that the moderate LGBT political club has drawn Hollywood talent to its Pride event. Last year Bruce Cohen, one of the producers of the Oscar-winning Milk, the biopic about gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, addressed the Alice breakfast.

Other speakers this year will include openly gay California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) and state Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). Also slated to deliver remarks are San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, and District Attorney Kamala Harris, the party's nominee for state attorney general.

As of press time Wednesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, the current AG, had yet to confirm if he would attend. Brown has dropped by the event the last two years now.

The party's other major candidate this fall – Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer – will again be a no-show at the event as her schedule does not allow her to attend. With Boxer in a tough re-election battle this fall against GOP nominee Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Alice Club leaders had hoped she would make time to attend the breakfast.

"We went pretty aggressively after her to be a speaker this year because she is up for re-election and she might want to get out there a little bit more," said Alice Co-Chair Charles Sheehan. "This would have been the right place for her to come address loyal, devoted LGBT activists."

Tickets for the breakfast are still available. The cost is $65 for Alice members; $95 for non-members, and they can be purchased at the door.

The event begins at 7:45 a.m. Sunday, June 27 at Yank Sing Rincon Center, 101 Spear Street at Mission Street.

Ammiano hosts Pride party

Openly gay state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is once again hosting a post-Pride Parade party inside his state office across the street from the Civic Center Plaza. Ammiano, who is expected to easily secure a second two-year term this November, has also invited District 6 supervisor candidate Debra Walker to march with him in the parade Sunday. District 8 candidate Rafael Mandelman will also march with Ammiano.

Joining Ammiano's contingent once again will be Pride at Work and members of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. The club has already endorsed Walker, an out lesbian artist, and Mandelman, a gay attorney, in their races.

Ammiano's party will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. at the State Building, 455 Golden Gate Avenue in Room 14300. To RSVP for either the Pride contingent or for the party, e-mail

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. This week's column featured an interview with Claudia Wright, an out lesbian who lost her bid for a Utah Congressional seat Tuesday.

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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