Political Notes: Amid retirement talk, Pelosi hits the LGBTQ gala circuit

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday April 10, 2023
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Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) waves a gavel to the crowd at last year's San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) waves a gavel to the crowd at last year's San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter

As speculation builds that Congressmember Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) could opt to retire rather than run for reelection in 2024, the former House speaker is making the rounds of the LGBTQ gala circuit this spring. Numerous nonprofits are honoring the powerful and history-making lawmaker in what could end up being her swan song term.

This Friday, she will be in Los Angeles to pick up an honor from UCLA's LGBTQ think tank the Williams Institute. Later in the month Pelosi will be feted by three different LGBTQ organizations in San Francisco, with two of the events being held on the same Saturday night.

She will also accept an award from the city's main housing provider for LGBTQ homeless and formerly foster care youth in early May. And more honors are likely to come throughout the year as additional LGBTQ groups and nonprofits host their own fundraisers.

Pelosi's office did not respond to the Bay Area Reporter's request for comment for this story. In a statement accepting the invitation to receive the Health Justice Champion Award from the San Francisco Community Health Center at its annual gala fundraiser Saturday, April 29, Pelosi praised the nonprofit service provider for being a "vital lifeline" for so many of the city's residents, particularly those who are transgender or LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islanders.

"Our community is grateful to SFCHC for its transformative mission, ensuring that San Franciscans have access to quality health care services," stated Pelosi. "As we celebrate SFCHC's many accomplishments, let us renew our pledge to continue caring for our most vulnerable families, with dignity, justice, and respect for all."

The first woman to lead Congress' lower chamber, Pelosi this year passed the speaker's gavel to her Republican counterpart from California's Central Valley, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), after the Democrats lost their majority following last November's midterm elections. Having won a special election in 1987, Pelosi moved up her party's ranks and first became speaker in 2007, serving until 2011.

She retook the speaker's gavel in 2019 until stepping off the dais in January, as she also handed over the duties of leading the House Democratic Caucus to her younger colleague Hakeem Jeffries of New York. It raised suspicions that the 83-year-old Pelosi is now serving her final term.

While Pelosi has not definitively said she won't seek a 19th full two-year term, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has launched an exploratory committee to run for Pelosi's House seat if she does call it quits. Pelosi's daughter Christine is also reportedly interested in running to succeed her mother. The filing deadline for candidates seeking positions on next year's March primary ballot is in early December, though an announcement from Pelosi likely could come much sooner.

Her political future is sure to be top of mind among the cocktail party chatter at the various pricey events where Pelosi will pick up more accolades from the LGBTQ organizations. She has long been a champion of LGBTQ rights and made caring for those living with AIDS and HIV prevention funding a top priority from her first day serving in the House.

Galas galore

Now referred to with the honorific "Speaker Emerita," Pelosi is to receive the Lifetime Impact Award from the Williams Institute at its annual update and gala reception April 14. Tickets start at $85.

"The Williams Institute is honored to present Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi with the Lifetime Impact Award in recognition of her decades of leadership working for LGBTQ+ equality, including leading bills that allow LGBTQ people to openly serve in the military, provide justice for LGBTQ victims of hate crimes, and enshrine marriage equality in federal law," it stated in announcing this year's award recipient.

The event at the Shapiro Courtyard at the UCLA School of Law begins at 5:30 p.m. It follows a half-day conference the think tank is holding this Friday that will examine the spread of LGBTQ+ misinformation in academia, the media, and policymaking.

Openhouse, the San Francisco-based provider of LGBTQ senior services, will present Pelosi with its Marcy Adelman and Jeanette Gurevitch Founders' Award during the agency's annual Spring Fling gala Sunday, April 23. It also celebrates the nonprofit's 25th silver anniversary year.

It is honoring Pelosi "for her over 35 years of service representing San Francisco in Congress. Notably, she was one of the early supporters of HIV/AIDS advocacy efforts, pushing for the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and providing housing opportunities for people living with AIDS. Beyond her HIV advocacy, she fights to lower costs, grow paychecks, and create jobs."

Tickets for the brunch event start at $325. The doors open at 11 a.m. inside the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel at 757 Market Street.

Saturday, April 29, Pelosi will be celebrated at concurrent fundraisers in the city. Statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California will present Pelosi with its Vanguard Leadership Award at its San Francisco Equality Awards dinner. Tickets for the event start at $250 for young professionals and $500 for other individuals.

The EQCA gala begins at 6 p.m. at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel at 999 California Street in the city's Nob Hill neighborhood above Union Square.

"I think that Nancy Pelosi is perhaps the most beloved figure we have. She's just been an organic part of the LGBTQ community from her first day in the House when she stood up and talked about being sent to Congress to fight the AIDS epidemic and so many other members of Congress were telling her she is destroying her career," said Bevan Dufty, a gay man who serves on the board of the regional transit agency BART.

Dufty is once again co-chairing the local EQCA dinner and, for the first time, he is sharing the hosting duties this year with state Controller Malia Cohen. The two are both former San Francisco supervisors.

Also a member of the committee that oversees the San Francisco Democratic Party, Dufty told the B.A.R. that he had not heard anything about when Pelosi may make her decision to retire or not. He isn't surprised to see so many LGBTQ groups choose to honor her this spring.

"As Speaker Emerita we can take some of her time that otherwise would have been dedicated to setting the national agenda and selecting the Democratic Party's agenda," said Dufty. "The beauty of it is she just loves representing San Francisco and she is going to spend time in our city as she says thank you and we thank her. I think she is tremendously grateful of the support for her in San Francisco, just as we are tremendously grateful for her brilliance and tenacity."

And added Dufty about the talk surrounding her political future, "it is her decision."

At the same time as the EQCA event, the San Francisco Community Health Center's 36th anniversary gala will be taking place that evening not too far away inside the grand ballroom of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco at 5 Embarcadero Center in the city's financial district. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets cost $350 per person.

Gay ABC7 Mornings anchor Reggie Aqui will serve as the host. The agency is also honoring transgender San Francisco Health Commissioner Cecilia Chung, the senior director of the Transgender Law Center, with its Community Impact Award for her many years of advocacy and service.

"We are thrilled to honor Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and transgender advocate Cecilia Chung for their unwavering support and commitment to HIV and LGBTQ communities," stated Lance Toma, a gay man who is the agency's longtime chief executive officer. "It is because of the long-standing support of these two preeminent leaders that we have been able to serve thousands of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in San Francisco. It is champions like them who inspire our work."

At its annual Paving the Way gala being held Sunday, May 7, in the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park, Larkin Street Youth Services will present Pelosi with its Anne B. Stanton Award in recognition of her "leadership and advocacy for youth." The event begins at 11:30 a.m. and tickets start at $500.

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

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