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Inforum panel talks Trump and LGBT rights

by Sari Staver

Panelists Mia Satya, left, Matt Haney, and Rick Welts<br>listen to remarks by retired Judge LaDoris Cordell at a March 29 Inforum event.<br>Photo: Sari Staver
Panelists Mia Satya, left, Matt Haney, and Rick Welts
listen to remarks by retired Judge LaDoris Cordell at a March 29 Inforum event.
Photo: Sari Staver  

An imminent shake up in President Donald Trump's inner circle was among the predictions by a panel of San Francisco LGBT leaders and others, who appeared at a recent Commonwealth Club Inforum event.

Rick Welts, a gay man who's president of the Golden State Warriors, said he "would not be surprised to see a real shake up," among the president's top staff, noting that he has friends who know Trump's daughter, Ivanka, who just took an unpaid position in her father's administration.

Welts said that his friends "feel Ivanka has a moderating influence" on the president.

"I hope she has a voice in her father's ear," Welts said at the March 29 event, held in downtown San Francisco.

But panelist Mia Satya, a transgender activist and delegate to last year's Democratic convention, responded, "I'm not holding my breath," though she acknowledged that Welts' friends may know Ivanka Trump "better than I do."

Welts and Satya were responding to a question from moderator LaDoris Cordell, a lesbian who's a retired Santa Clara County Superior Court judge, who asked panel members their opinions on "who is running the show" at the White House and whether there is anyone who can "put the brakes" on the administration's streak of anti-LGBT actions.

In the weeks since Trump became president, the administration has rescinded on protections for trans students. The Department of Health and Human Services quietly omitted questions about LGBT senior services. Trump also nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, who is very conservative, to the U.S. Supreme Court, and many of his Cabinet secretaries have anti-LGBT views.

"If you turn on the news," said Matt Haney, an ally who's president of the San Francisco Board of Education, "you wonder if anyone is in charge."

"The president appears to enjoy playing golf" more than working, he said.

The administration's recent move to eliminate LGBT people from the census is "absolutely shameful," added Haney.

While some LGBT groups reported that the 2020 census will not count LGBT citizens, gay longtime demographer Gary Gates, Ph.D., told the Bay Area Reporter last week that the government was never going to include that information â€" either in the 2020 census or the next American Community Survey.

Gates said that the content for the 2020 census has been "fixed" for more than a year already.

Not including LGBTs in the census and the American Community Survey could have "devastating effects" on the ability to meet the needs of LGBT citizens, Haney said.

"Transgender people are used to being second- or third-class" citizens and "being erased" from social media, added Satya.

Welts contrasted the current blitz of anti-LGBT actions with the "joyous time" he experienced when he and his partner were invited to the Obama White House for a gay Pride celebration.

At that event, then-President Barack Obama recounted the eight years of progress in advancing LGBT rights but cautioned the attendees that it "could be reversed" quickly and urged the group to continue to be vigilant. Apparently, said Welts, "the rights we won will need to be won again."

Cordell, calling Vice President Mike Pence the "most anti-LGBT and anti-female person to ever work in the White House," said she suspects the president may defer to the vice president about LGBT issues.

Panel members also discussed their concerns about the anti-trans bathroom bills, which affect access to sex-segregated public facilities based on an individual's gender as listed on their birth certificate.

Satya, who was raised in Texas, got used to not using the restroom for as long as 10 hours while she was in school, to avoid harassment. Eventually, she developed serious medical problems and had to have surgery, she said.

"We know it wasn't about bathrooms but about our right to exist," she said, referring to House Bill 2 in North Carolina that prohibited trans people from using restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

North Carolina lawmakers repealed HB 2 last week and Democratic Governor Roy Cooper signed it, but LGBT advocates said the new law is not a full repeal. Mainly, many are upset that there is a three-year ban on local non-discrimination ordinances, continuing a climate of hostility toward LGBTs.

Cordell asked the panelists for their 60-second message that could change the world.

Welts suggested people "Live up to our Pledge of Allegiance."

Haney said he'd like "teachers to be paid like NBA players" are.

Satya called for universal health care.

And Cordell suggested the phrase, MNT, which stands for "make necessary trouble."



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