Political Notebook: Gay Republicans endorse Tony Hall for SF mayor
by Matthew S. Bajko
Tony Hall, the most conservative of the top 11 candidates seeking to become San Francisco's next mayor, has secured the number one endorsement from the local Log Cabin Republicans' chapter.
The gay GOP group voted last week to endorse the former supervisor and city administrator after hearing a last-minute pitch from interim Mayor Ed Lee during its August 24 meeting. Lee, whose integrity has been attacked for dropping his pledge not to seek a full term, won Log Cabin's third place endorsement.
Rounding out the ranked-choice voting nods is former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who secured a second place endorsement from Log Cabin. Although none of the three candidates are GOP members, the gay political club can endorse anyone regardless of their political affiliation in nonpartisan races.
Alioto-Pier and Lee are both Democrats, while Hall brags he is a "lifelong registered independent." He has been a lone voice attacking both of the pension reform measures on the November ballot as falling short of solving the city's looming benefit obligations for city employees.
Log Cabin chapter President Dan Brown said Hall's long tenure working in various departments at City Hall and his economic policy stances swayed the club's members to pick him.
"I think our members feel, anyway, out of the candidates in the race he is the one who aligns most closely with most of our issues in terms of business, economy, jobs, hiring, etc.," said Brown.
The gay GOPers are now the second LGBT political group to snub former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, the only gay candidate among the mayoral race's top-tier of candidates. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club also overlooked Dufty in the race, voting last week to endorse Supervisor John Avalos for first place.
This Tuesday, September 6 the progressive political group is expected to give a dual second-place endorsement to City Attorney Dennis Herrera and state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). The club initially had planned not to dilute its endorsement in the mayoral race but changed course last week at its August 23 meeting and approved a proposal to hold a vote on the second place nods.
The more moderate Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club will vote this month on a proposed endorsement ranking of Herrera first, Dufty second and Lee third at its September 12 meeting. Dufty, though, is fighting to secure Alice's first-place nod.
Electing San Francisco's first gay mayor didn't play into Log Cabin's decision-making process in terms of whom to endorse for mayor, said Brown.
"There wasn't too much of an issue over many social issues since there aren't any anti-gay candidates certainly running for city government in San Francisco, so we were more focused on the other issues," said Brown.
As for the district attorney race, Log Cabin gave a sole endorsement to former prosecutor and defense attorney Bill Fazio , the only candidate in the five-person race who accepted an invite to speak to the group.
And in the sheriff's race former police union head Chris Cunnie secured Log Cabin's number one endorsement. Sheriff's Captain Paul Miyamoto won the group's second place endorsement.
"There was only a one-vote difference. Had Chris not gotten into the race, Paul would have been our only endorsement," said Brown.
Rainbow flag to be lowered
The gigantic rainbow flag flying over the Castro will be lowered for two days this month, which will mark a first since it was installed on November 8, 1997.
Responding to community requests, the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro has decided to fly the flag above the Castro Muni station at half-mast beginning on the morning of September 11, to honor Mark Bingham, a local gay man, and the other victims of the terrorist attacks that occurred 10 years ago that day.
"As I understand it, the president has ordered all flags lowered to half-mast that day, so we will lower ours for Mark and the other LGBT individuals who passed away," said MUMC President Steve Adams.
MUMC will keep the flag lowered through September 12 to honor Project Open Hand founder Ruth Brinker, who died last month. Her memorial service will be held that evening at City Hall.
It remains to be seen if MUMC's decision will have any impact on the ongoing controversy surrounding when to lower the LGBT community's iconic symbol in order to honor the deceased.
The flag flap was sparked earlier this year when the Castro business group, which pays for and oversees the flagpole at Harvey Milk Plaza, at first refused to lower the rainbow flag to honor the death of gay Ugandan activist David Kato. MUMC eventually reversed course and did fly the flag at half-mast during a February rally.
MUMC also faced criticism in March when it declined to lower the flag following the death of actress and AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor. Last month the dispute flared up again when MUMC failed to find a way to raise a donated New York state flag to mark the start of same-sex marriages in the Empire State.
The arguments show no signs of abating. It heated up this week with MUMC's suggestion that activists erect a second flagpole in front of the city's LGBT Community Center.
MUMC's board also informed local blogger Michael Petrelis , one of the most vocal critics of having the merchants in charge of the flagpole, it had denied his requests that it fly an American flag below the rainbow flag on Veterans Day, November 11 and lower it to half-mast on World AIDS Day, December 1.
MUMC said it cannot fly two flags on the pole and cited flag protocol – the Stars and Stripes is not supposed to fly beneath other flags – in rejecting the first proposal. As for the second suggestion, MUMC said the flag is a symbol of hope that should only be lowered on rare occasions "and only in the case that someone widely recognized as a local LGBT hero dies."
It did say it is looking at affixing a red ribbon to either the flag or pole on World AIDS Day. And it suggested Petrelis and others work with the LGBT center to erect a flagpole in front of the Market Street building "for the purpose of political action and awareness."
The center's executive director, Rebecca Rolfe, said the building can't support a flagpole on its roof. But she said she is willing to discuss possibly putting one in front of the facility.
"We do have capacity to hang flags off the side of the building, but that doesn't resolve the issue of half-mast," she said.
Petrelis has called on the city to take back control of the flagpole, while at least one member of MUMC criticized the group for its latest decisions. Antiques dealer Isak Lindenauer , who had asked the flag be lowered for Taylor and Brinker, became so frustrated about the flag controversy that last week he posted a lengthy letter in his storefront window.
This week Lindenauer called MUMC's suggestion that a second flagpole be built "both a dodge at best and divisive in the extreme."
"This flag is made up of the blood of our martyrs and the hopes and dreams of all of us who have dared to speak our names as free gay men and women," wrote Lindenauer in an email sent to Castro leaders. "I know you can do better. I trust and believe and hope we can all do better. Please reconsider using this flag, which belongs to the world, for more than just our 'village.' It takes a village first. Yes. We have done that. Now let us work to use this flag for the good of the whole world."
Adams said he plans to announce the September lowering of the flag at this morning's (Thursday, September 1) MUMC meeting. It likely won't be the last time the gayborhood's merchant group addresses the issue.
LGBT bills head to governor
Several LGBT bills are headed to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature this month.
The state Assembly Tuesday, August 30 adopted a bill that would allow the state's judicial nominees to self-identify as LGBT. It is aimed at ensuring the LGBT community is properly represented within the state court system. It is unknown how many of the roughly 1,600 justices are LGBT because no agency tracks such information.
State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) introduced SB 182, known as the Judicial Applicant and Appointment Demographics Inclusion Act, and the state Senate passed it in July.
The Gender Non-Discrimination Act, or AB 887, is also expected to land on Brown's desk for his signature. The Senate passed the legislation Tuesday and it now heads back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote, likely to take place this week.
While California anti-discrimination laws already define "gender" to include a person's gender identity and gender expression, AB 887 explicitly enumerates gender identity and expression as protected categories in a number of state codes to provide clarity to those who are victims of unlawful discrimination as well as for business owners, employers and other entities required to comply with the anti-discrimination protections.
"California has been fortunate to have laws protecting our workers and students from discrimination for several years," stated Masen Davis , executive director of the Transgender Law Center. "Unfortunately those rights have been hidden, making it hard for employees to know they are protected and for employers to know their responsibilities. The Gender Non-Discrimination Act brings our rights out of the closet and brings California one step closer to achieving its potential."
Brown has not signaled his intentions but both bills are likely to become law.
Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, will return Monday, September 12.
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