Poultry market worker accused of anti-gay slur
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The San Francisco Human Rights Commission is investigating the use of an anti-gay slur by the employee of a live poultry market.
An animal advocacy group founded by a gay man has been working to draw attention to the market.
Andrew Zollman, founder of LGBT Compassion, said the incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday, August 1 at the poultry market. The stand is one of many operations that frequently set up shop in United Nations Plaza. The market's name is Raymond Young's Live Poultry, according to Zollman.
He said that he and others have been going to Young's poultry market since March to protest animal abuse and other alleged rule violations. He said problems include market employees taking food stamp tokens in exchange for live animals, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn't allow. USDA rules prohibit trading food stamps – now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits – for live animals.
He said on the day the incident occurred, a market employee had been threatening group members, "getting in our faces," and telling them to go away.
Zollman, 43, said a volunteer had told the market employee to stop yelling at Zollman, who was filming activities at the market, so the employee started yelling at the other volunteer.
In the video of the incident, a woman working at the market, who Zollman identified as Tina Young, approached and said, "They're gay anyways ... They probably have the HVI [sic]."
The LGBT group and the poultry market have a history of exchanging accusations. According to Zollman, recent actions include him pressing charges of physical assault that were eventually thrown out by the district attorney's office.
Assistant District Attorney Seth Steward, a spokesman for the office, couldn't confirm that.
Zollman also pointed to an attempt by market worker Christina Ly to get a restraining order against another activist. Court records indicate the request was denied without prejudice.
The incident this month marked the first time Zollman said he'd heard anti-gay remarks made at the market.
Regarding the food stamp allegations, according to the USDA, San Francisco County officials visited the market twice, investigated the situation, and corrected the practice. Eileen Shields, a spokeswoman for San Francisco's health department, couldn't provide information Tuesday, August 17 regarding the poultry market.
Ly, who denied violating any government rules, was working at the market on Sunday morning, August 15, but Young wasn't. Ly, who has seen the video on YouTube, said Young is pregnant and attributed the anti-gay remarks to Young's hormones.
"To me, it was a prejudiced thing to say," said Ly. "I told her not to say it anymore." She indicated Young is taking at least a temporary leave from the market because of her pregnancy, and because she's going to school.
Ly also said Young had told her she'd been called a "dumb Asian." She didn't specify when that had happened. Zollman denied the claim.
Zollman said this week that he's in the process of filing a complaint with the city's Human Rights Commission over the anti-gay slur.
Theresa Sparks, executive director of the commission, said last week that a complaint had been filed and her agency is investigating.
"We've just initiated it, and I really can't give you any information at this point, because it's confidential, now that we're investigating it," Sparks said. She said the investigation would take at least a couple of weeks.
Sparks is also running for supervisor in District 6, which includes the UN Plaza area.
James Keys, another candidate for D6 supervisor and a person living with AIDS, said, "To actually say that a person has HIV or AIDS because they're gay is another stereotype, and to damn somebody like that. ... I really wouldn't wish HIV or AIDS on another person," although he said having AIDS has "helped me to become a stronger person."
Keys, who said he hadn't heard about the slur, said he hopes the incident marks an opening for a dialogue between the two sides.
Current District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly did not respond to a request for comment.
Sparks said if the commission finds there has been discrimination, they can forward the case to the Board of Supervisors and the mayor's office. She said discrimination would be a violation of any contract with the city, and the contract could be suspended or vacated entirely. She said she didn't know who the market has a contract with, and whether they have a direct contract with the city or they have an intermediary contract.
She also said that as director of the HRC, as a candidate for supervisor, and as a citizen of San Francisco, "We cannot and will not tolerate discrimination, period, and that goes for everybody in District 6, and that goes for everybody else in the city."
Sparks said although she has seen the video, "right now, [the case involves] an allegation."
Asked about her reaction to seeing the video, Sparks said, "I really felt sorry for the chickens."