LGBTQ officials celebrate Pride at renamed Oakland airport

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Monday July 1, 2024
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East Bay LGBTQ leaders and allies toured the fire department that's located at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport June 28. Photo: Cynthia Laird
East Bay LGBTQ leaders and allies toured the fire department that's located at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport June 28. Photo: Cynthia Laird

The roar of jet engines and planes taking off and landing at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport were among the highlights for about two-dozen East Bay LGBTQ and allied officials as they got a tour of the facility June 28 during a Pride Month event.

The Port of Oakland, which operates the airport, provided the tour, dubbed Out at OAK. It was co-sponsored by Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization.

In May, the Port Commission voted to change the name of the now-former Oakland International Airport to include the geographic reference to San Francisco Bay, which it and its runways abut. Oakland airport's new name is already on a giant screen that greets people when they enter the roadway leading to the terminals and parking lots.

The city of San Francisco has filed a lawsuit over the rebranding, saying the new name infringes on San Francisco International Airport's name and could confuse passengers. SFO is located across the bay in San Mateo County.

Queer Port Commissioner Jahmese Myres told the Bay Area Reporter that her tenure so far has been good. The paper spoke with Myres last fall after the Port of Oakland offered a similar tour of the port to LGBTQ leaders and allies.

"We voted on the new name of the airport. It's been interesting to be part of so many decisions," said Myres, the first out woman to serve as a port commissioner.

Myres was appointed to the commission last July by Mayor Sheng Thao. She declined to comment on the recent FBI raid of Thao's home that is apparently in connection with California Waste Solutions, which has the recycling contract with the city. The residences of CWS owners David Duong, and his son, Andy Duong, were also raided, as were the CWS offices. Authorities are reportedly looking into a trade trip Thao and about 50 other politicians took to Vietnam last summer that included the Duongs and Danny Wan, a gay man who is executive director of the Port of Oakland. Wan did not attend the Out at OAK event.

Michael Colbruno, a gay man who also serves on the port commission, likewise declined comment.

A FedEx plane prepares to depart while a Southwest plane waits its turn at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport June 28. Photo: Cynthia Laird  

Bus tour
During a bus tour that went near the main commercial runway, airport operations manager Matt Davis noted that Southwest Airlines is the airport's largest tenant. It operates out of Terminal 2 and uses part of Terminal 1, he said. Other airlines that have flights out of Terminal 1 include Hawaiian, Delta, and Alaska. FedEx and United Parcel Service operate cargo flights out of the airport as well.

The group stopped by the fire department that is located on site. Oakland firefighters are contracted by the airport to work at the station. The airport pays for all the equipment, which includes six giant firefighting vehicles. The trucks carry either 1,500 or 3,000 gallons of water on board, and some are equipped with a Snozzle (a long device) to fight fires that may occur inside an aircraft.

Firefighter Jordan Tolbert explained that there are six personnel on duty all the time, and all are also either EMTs or paramedics. "A lot of what we do is medical," he said.

Captain Curtis Thompson said that he loves his job and the diversity of the city.

"Oakland has over 120 spoken languages," he said.

In addition to medical calls, firefighters are summoned if there is a suspected bird strike on a plane, or other incidents, Thompson said.

Back in a conference room for a short program, Shay Franco-Clausen, a lesbian Black Afro-Latina woman who is the political director for Equality California, noted that Assembly Bill 1955, which would prohibit public school officials from outing students to their parents without their permission, had been sent to Governor Gavin Newsom. As the B.A.R. reported online last week, gay Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) used the gut-and-amend approach to rewrite his AB 1955 to insert the language banning the forced outing of transgender students by state public school officials unless doing so was needed to protect the youth from self-harm.

The bill, titled the SAFETY Act for Support Academic Futures & Educators for Today's Youth Act, then sailed through the Legislature. EQCA has called on Newsom to sign it into law as soon as it reaches his desk and has been urging its members to call the governor's office in support of his signing AB 1955 into law.

In a July 1 email, EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang, a gay man, noted, "Our opposition is overwhelming his office with hateful anti-LGBTQ+ calls, so we've got to make sure our voices are being heard. Call Governor Newsom's office today at 916-445-2841 and leave a message asking him to sign the SAFETY Act into law ASAP!"

At Friday's event Franco-Clausen also mentioned the Freedom to Marry initiative that will be on the November ballot. It seeks to remove the "zombie" Proposition 8 language that remains in the state constitution even though the 2008 anti-same-sex marriage law was overturned by the courts. That led to the resumption of same-sex marriage in the Golden State in 2013.

"Freedom to marry will be on the November ballot," she said. "Tell everyone. We can't do it alone."

EQCA is a leader of the campaign, along with the national Human Rights Campaign and other groups.

Craig Simon, aviation director of the airport, mentioned expansion projects that were underway, as well as more immediate concerns, such as renovating all the restrooms.

"It's way overdue," he said. "We're trying to improve the look and feel of the airport."

Simon's first official day as the permanent aviation director was July 1. He had served in an interim capacity and has worked at the airport since 2012 in various jobs.

Colbruno pointed to the importance of having out members on the city's boards and commissions. He's the second gay male to serve on the airport panel; Michael Lighty was the first. And he noted he was former mayor Jerry Brown's last appointment to the planning commission, where he served prior to joining the port.

Myres said that the port has been doing "groundbreaking work in social responsibility to benefit our community."

Toast to Moore, WoodThe program concluded with a heartfelt toast to longtime Oakland organizers Peggy Moore and her wife, Hope Wood, who were both killed in a traffic collision May 10 in San Diego County. Brendalynn Goodall, an elected member of the Alameda County Democratic County Central Committee, knew both women and continues to mourn them.

"They were coming home from a concert and another car was coming across their lane and crashed," Goodall said. "It's still hard to get my head around that."

Goodall said she met Moore 26 years ago.

"We checked in regularly," Goodall said. "When she walked into a room she lit up that room with her laugh and smile."

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