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New owners of Pink Sonoma venue have anti-LGBT past

by Charlie Wagner

The General's Daughter, a wedding and event venue in Sonoma, was recently purchased by owners, one of whom has posted anti-LGBT messages on social media. Photo: Courtesy the General's Daughter
The General's Daughter, a wedding and event venue in Sonoma, was recently purchased by owners, one of whom has posted anti-LGBT messages on social media. Photo: Courtesy the General's Daughter  

Controversy about Out in the Vineyard's upcoming Pink Sonoma Saturday event erupted late last week because one of the new owners of the venue has penned anti-LGBT posts on social media.

Ownership of the General's Daughter, a wedding and event space where Pink Sonoma Saturday will be held, recently changed hands.

Stacy and Ken Mattson, the new owners, have spent $80 million over the past three years purchasing 26 properties throughout Sonoma Valley, according to the Sonoma Index-Tribune.

The newspaper reported April 18 that before changing her Facebook page last week to make postings private, Stacy Mattson's posts included one in 2013 describing how the Rose Parade was "high-jacked by the gay agenda" and another in 2015 describing U.S. Supreme Court rulings on "Obamacare" and same-sex marriage as "truly horrible."

Gary Saperstein, owner of Out in the Vineyard, responded with his own Facebook post April 19. "I get to share stories of hate & discrimination on a weekly basis on my Out in the Vineyard Radio Show," he wrote. "And now it has hit close to home, in our very own backyard, in our very own city."

Stacy Mattson's missives were publicized after an earlier Index-Tribune article about the Mattson's real estate purchases motivated Sonoma food writer Sarah Stierch to discover and circulate screen shots of the Facebook posts. Adding to the furor was the fact that the couple's business partner, Tim LeFever, of LeFever Mattson Property Management, has served as board chairman of the Capitol Resource Institute, which lobbies against LGBT rights.

Saperstein decided not to cancel Pink Sonoma Saturday because the venue's previous owner had donated the space, allowing a portion of every ticket to go to Positive Images, which provides support and advocacy for LGBTQ youth in Sonoma County.

"There is no money going into the hands of the current owner," he wrote. "If there were, I would have moved and/or canceled the event."

Currently, the website for the General's Daughter displays a Human Rights Campaign logo. The venue did not confirm that the logo would remain visible by press time. Ken and Stacy Mattson also did not respond to a request for comment from the Bay Area Reporter.

But the couple did provide this statement to the Index-Tribune: "The businesses we have purchased in Sonoma have a proud history of being inclusive in terms of employees and clientele. As new owners, we have insisted that this history of inclusion continue. We also know that a truly diverse community benefits from the discussion of a broad range of ideas. We hope that all our guests, clients and employees will join in on this discussion."

The Index-Tribune noted that some have called for a boycott of businesses that operate in Mattson-owned properties.

"I understand why people would choose to boycott," Saperstein wrote in an email Tuesday, but he has friends who are LGBTQ and ally employees of the businesses that are Mattson tenants and recognizes that a boycott would affect them as well.

"It is a complicated issue, when you will not support a certain business because of the owners, knowing their staff will also pay the price. I believe everyone needs to do what is right for them," he wrote in a separate email.

Saperstein described in his Facebook post how his plans for Pink Sonoma Saturday will be an unmistakable statement of LGBTQ visibility in Sonoma.

"I have chosen to stay and have one big fabulous gay celebration for our community and allies with Pink Sonoma Saturday," he said.

"The Pride flag will be flying high as we celebrate our community here in Sonoma," he wrote.

Tickets for Pink Sonoma, which takes place Saturday, May 4, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., are $65 and available online. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.outinthevineyard.com.

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