Political Notebook: SF supervisors set to back Matthew Shepard stamp

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday January 22, 2024
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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to pass a resolution in support of a Matthew Shepard U.S. postal stamp. Courtesy the stamp campaign committee.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to pass a resolution in support of a Matthew Shepard U.S. postal stamp. Courtesy the stamp campaign committee.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is to become the first government body to endorse the issuance of a U.S. postal stamp honoring murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard. Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman will introduce a resolution in support of the postal tribute Tuesday, setting up a vote on it at the board's January 30 meeting.

The Bay Area Reporter was first to report about the Shepard stamp effort online December 1, which would have been Shepard's 47th birthday. After reading the article, Mandelman decided to move forward with authoring his resolution.

"First of all, because we read the B.A.R. Secondly, it is a national effort to get recognition for Matthew Shepard," Mandelman told the B.A.R. during a brief phone interview January 22 about why he wanted his colleagues to endorse the stamp campaign. "He was like a number of our queeroes, someone who is as famous more for his death than his life. His legacy is one of pretty dramatic social change and advancement for queer people."

Shepard was brutally attacked on the night of October 6, 1998, tied to a fence outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and left to die. Found by rescuers and taken to a local hospital, he would succumb six days later on October 12 to the severe head injuries he had received.

"Tragic as his story is, his life is worth the recognition. He became a symbol for crimes and murders that were being committed against queer people and continue to be committed against queer people. But, for whatever reason, his story captured the public imagination and led to change," noted Mandelman.

The murder of the University of Wyoming student 26 years ago attracted intense media coverage and is one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history. It would galvanize activists across the country and led to the passage in 2009 of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

It's co-named in honor of a Black man who was tied to the back of a truck and dragged to his death in Jasper, Texas in 1998. The federal bill expanded a 1969 federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

"In light of the profound influence of Matthew Shepard's life and death on our nation's journey toward greater acceptance and equality, it is fitting and proper that we honor his memory and legacy through a commemorative stamp," reads Mandelman's resolution.

As of Monday afternoon gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, board President Aaron Peskin, who represents District 3, District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, and District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani had signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution. It is expected to receive aye votes from all 11 members of the board next week.

"I am fully confident we will have unanimous support for this," said Mandelman.

The San Francisco board had been the first county board of supervisors to back the earlier, successful effort to see a U.S. stamp be issued in honor of the late gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk. The U.S. Postal Service released it in 2014.

The International Imperial Court System, which had pushed for the Milk stamp, is also behind the Shepard stamp campaign. It is the latest effort by the philanthropic drag organization to honor significant LGBTQ individuals with postal stamps.

Gay San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, chair of the court's national stamp campaign, told the B.A.R. he expects the San Diego City Council to become the second governing body to back the Shepard stamp when it votes on its own resolution of support in February. Gay San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria is one of the campaign's honorary co-chairs, as are Dennis and Judy Shepard, who co-founded a foundation in honor of their son.

"The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has been steadfast in supporting all of our historic campaigns and usually the first government body to do so. We are especially appreciative of Supervisor Mandelman's continued leadership," said Murray Ramirez, who as the Queen Mother I of the Americas and Nicole the Great within the Imperial Court System is its titular head.

He told the B.A.R. he is planning to fly up to attend the board meeting next week to express his gratitude to the supervisors in person.

"I like that in San Francisco, we can always count on their Board of Supervisors to support the stamp campaigns," said Murray Ramirez.

The court is also pressing to see stamps be issued on behalf of other deceased LGBTQ luminaries, such as Black civil rights leader Bayard Rustin. It has also called for ones featuring drag performers José Julio Sarria, Marsha P. Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera, which Mandelman previously authored a resolution in support of that was passed by the board in 2020.

Milk club rescinds Biden endorsement

Due to President Joe Biden's support of Israel's war in Gaza against the terrorist group Hamas, the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club voted Sunday night to rescind its endorsement of him ahead of California's March 5 primary, when Democrats will cast votes for their party's nominee in this year's presidential race. The two-thirds threshold needed to do so was met among the 80 club members who cast votes at the special meeting January 21.

Milk club President Jeffrey Kwong told the B.A.R. he believes the club is the first in the Golden State to unendorse Biden over his handling of the war in the Middle East. Progressives within the Democratic Party have been incensed at Biden's unwillingness to demand a ceasefire from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Focused on the crisis in Gaza, we condemn President Biden's misguided and perilous actions, and inaction, which undermine the long-term interests of both Israelis and Palestinians. Despite officials privately suggesting a charitable interpretation of Biden's approach, the outcome is deemed a demonstrable failure," according to a statement released by Kwong.

The Milk club had endorsed Biden in October. Kwong noted its decision Sunday does not extend to the fall race, meaning the progressive queer political group could vote to again endorse Biden before the November election.

"Ahead of the March primary, we want to send a strong signal," said Kwong.

A similar effort fell short to rescind the club's endorsement of gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who is Jewish and has been out front in his support of Israel following Hamas' October 7 terrorist attack on the country. It did not reach the required two-thirds threshold to pass.

Wiener, who addressed the club Sunday night, noted to the B.A.R. that this is the first time Milk has endorsed him since his race in 2006 for a local Democratic Party committee seat.

"So I have had a very long and complicated relationship with the club. Of course, we have our disagreements, but I am grateful for the endorsement," said Wiener. "As a citywide LGBTQ elected official and a significant LGBTQ political organization in San Francisco, it is important for us to have a working relationship and collaborate. It went through a democratic process, and I am grateful for the club's support."

Kwong told the B.A.R. it partly came down to the fact that Wiener has no direct role in setting federal policy. His telling the club he opposes a local measure on the March ballot pushed by Mayor London Breed that would require people seeking city services to be drug tested also won Wiener support, added Kwong.

"I think the membership has strong opinions about Scott's position on Israel. But people realized he is a state legislator so not directly involved in that issue," said Kwong.

With a deadline before midnight Sunday to get to the printer its voter guide for the March ballot, Kwong told the B.A.R. there wasn't time for the club to also bring forward a vote on rescinding its endorsements last fall of Democratic Congressmembers Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Kevin Mullin of San Mateo.

"I think we are done, given the fact our printed voter guide is signed, sealed, and delivered," said Kwong, adding it remains to be seen if the club will continue to support the two House members come the November contests.

A Buttigieg bump for gay CA Senate candidate

Gay former West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon is receiving a Buttigieg bump in his bid to succeed termed out state Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) ahead of the March primary. Chasten Buttigieg, husband to Biden's Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, will be stumping with Cabaldon at a North Bay fundraiser next weekend.

The District 3 Senate seat sprawls across parts of Yolo, Sacramento, Contra Costa, Solano, Sonoma, and Napa counties. This is Cabaldon's second bid for a legislative seat, having lost his 2008 bid for a state Assembly seat.

His fundraiser with Chasten Buttigieg, whose "I Have Something to Tell You — For Young Adults" version of his 2020 memoir was published last year, will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, February 4, in Napa.

Co-hosted by Progressive Women of Napa Valley and Indivisible Napa, attendees are asked to make a donation of at least $100 to Cabaldon's Senate campaign online. The location of the event will then be disclosed.

People can also RSVP by emailing Amber Moran Wannell at [email protected]

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, will return Monday, January 29.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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