Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Kim cites LGBT rights for pledge silence


San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim has refrained from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance since high school, citing the lack of rights granted to LGBT Americans as part of the reason behind her decision.

When she served on the city's school board, Kim did not join in recitation of the pledge at the start of meetings. Now that she is representing District 6 on the Board of Supervisors, the freshman member has maintained her policy of refusing to join with her colleagues at the beginning of board meetings in saying the pledge.

Her silence made headlines locally last week when the San Francisco Examiner brought attention to the fact that Kim is alone among the 11 supervisors not to say the pledge. Kim told the newspaper that she doesn't because the words "with liberty and justice for all" are not yet reality in America.

In an interview this past weekend with the Bay Area Reporter, Kim went further in explaining why she doesn't join with her colleagues and the public in saying the loyalty oath to the American flag. While the board's Rules of Order require the board president to lead the recitation of the pledge, it does not require individual supervisors to say it.

"It was a personal decision I made in high school. Every time I stand, I get a chance to reflect on how the work is so important," said Kim, the first Korean American to serve on the board.

Kim said her stance is similar to the one taken by Will Phillips, an Arkansas boy who garnered national news attention in 2009 when he refused to recite the pledge with his then fifth grade class because of laws banning LGBT people from marrying or adopting children.

"There are many examples in our country where we are still trying to move forward to that ideal we espouse. A great example is marriage equality," said Kim, 33, a civil rights lawyer and community activist. "There are so many civil rights issues we are still working on in this country. It is not just LGBT rights but also communities of color, immigrants, and women. That is why I am so committed to public service. I do want to be a part of helping our nation achieve those ideals."

She also wants to disprove a refrain she heard from many non-Asian District 6 residents during last year's campaign, that she would only focus on the Asian American community while in office.

"When I was campaigning, people would say, 'Oh, you are Asian. You are not going to care about our issues.' I heard that a lot actually," said Kim.

With Ed Lee now the city's first Asian American mayor, Supervisor David Chiu serving a second term as board president, and the board having four Asian American members for the first time, Kim believes the quintet of city leaders will break down such stereotypes.

With the city's Asian American community coming into such political power, Kim said she sees it as "an opportunity for Asian Americans to show leadership on a number of issues, whether they affect the African American community, the LGBT community, or the Latino community. It is something I want to demonstrate."

The city and board is well positioned to transcend "identity politics," added Kim, where "if you are LGBT you only care about LGBT issues or if you are Asian you only care about Asian issues. We can move beyond that and build coalitions; that is my hope."

She is working with several of the people who ran against her for the supervisor seat to bring forward their concerns. Kim and Debra Walker, an out lesbian on the city's Building Inspections Commission, are looking at how to address bed bug infestations in the city's affordable and SRO housing stock.

She has also met with Glendon Hyde, whose drag persona is Anna Conda, to discuss his proposal to locate a safe injection site for intravenous drug users somewhere in District 6 as well as host an elder street fair.

"Harm reduction is so important. Research has shown it is one of the most effective ways to address addiction," said Kim, who also would like to appoint Hyde to a city commission.

Kim is also backing the nomination of lesbian former Supervisor Leslie Katz to the city's Port Commission. Concerns about former Mayor Gavin Newsom's appointments of both Katz and businessman Michael Kim late last year to the oversight body have caused their nominations to languish.

As chair of the board's Rules Committee, Kim controls when to bring those nominations forward. She told the B.A.R. this week that she intends to calendar Katz, who would be the first out Port Commissioner, for Thursday, February 17.

"As a former supervisor she understands public service and representation within the entire city. She will do an amazing job outreaching to neighborhood groups on port issues," said Kim. "I am looking forward to having someone on the commission I can work closely with, particularly with the America's Cup coming to District 6 and District 3."

Kim has yet to meet with officials of the city's Pride Parade and festival and was unaware of the fiscal problems and staff turnover organizers of the West Coast's largest LGBT event have been facing over the last six months. But she pledged to offer whatever assistance she could to the nonprofit committee.

"I will definitely reach out to the Pride Committee. It would be tragic if we didn't have one of the biggest events happen in San Francisco this year," said Kim.

But she stopped short of endorsing suggestions that the city agencies still owed money for services rendered at the 2010 event forgive those debts. Some have pointed to the city's financially assisting the LGBT Community Center in restructuring its debt last year as setting a precedent for other nonprofits in need of economic assistance.

Kim said she would prefer seeing the city first establish clear guidelines for how to deal with such situations before taking any action.

"If we are going to move forward, we have to develop consistent practices and standards when we do these bailouts or forgiveness of expenses. We still have a very large deficit we are facing this year," said Kim. "I am very open to proposals around this. But we need standards to decide when we do this so we treat all groups the same."

As for how to solve the city's own budget deficit this year, Kim plans to host hearings throughout her district to gather public input. She is also planning a town hall with the mayor to elicit feedback.

The hope this year, said Kim, is for the board and mayor to work together on solving the budget problems without having to go through the add-back process, where community groups facing cuts have to send their staff and clients to City Hall and ask the supervisors to "add back" their funding.

"The mayor is ready to listen to community concerns. He is hoping we won't have to go through the add-back process because we will have a much better community process for input. That would be great; we will see if we can do that," said Kim. "I want to, as much as possible, have what we cut come from the community to prioritize."

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