Pelosi honored at Alice Pride breakfast

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday June 28, 2023
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Congressmember Nancy Pelosi, left, greets state Senate candidate Lisa Middleton at the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club Pride breakfast. Photo: Bill Wilson
Congressmember Nancy Pelosi, left, greets state Senate candidate Lisa Middleton at the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club Pride breakfast. Photo: Bill Wilson

It was both a celebration and a call to action at the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club's annual Pride breakfast June 25 as speakers touched on the community's victories but remained cognizant of the current backlash underway, particularly against trans people and drag artists.

Congressmember Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the former House speaker, received a standing ovation as she addressed the crowd at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. Dismissing the word "tolerant" when talking about what Pride means, the powerful ally, whose first speech on the House floor in 1987 was about the AIDS crisis, said Pride instead means respect.

"We draw strength from our LGBTQ+ community," she said, adding that activism on HIV/AIDS "is what democracy is about."

Pelosi, who hasn't said whether she will seek reelection in 2024 after leaving the speaker's position in January, offered a list of accomplishments during her two stints as House speaker (2007-2011 and 2019-2023). Those included passing the Affordable Care Act, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, repeal of the military's anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, and passing the Respect for Marriage Act.

She also said that President Joe Biden was the first "at his level" to come out in support of same-sex marriage when he served as President Barack Obama's vice president in 2012. Last December, Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.

The Respect for Marriage Act repealed the discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act" that was passed in 1996 but had key provisions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 (Section 3, U.S. v. Windsor) and 2015 (Section 2, Obergefell v. Hodges). Not only does it require federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages nationwide but also mandates states must recognize such unions performed in other states. The act includes protections for religious liberty.

Pelosi encouraged people to keep up their activism.

"Know your power in all of this," she said, adding that politicians such as herself "can only do so much with our inside maneuvering." Change also takes agitation from the outside, she said.

Pelosi received the Anna Damiani "Show Up No Matter What" Award from the Alice club's co-chairs, Iowayna Pena and Mawuli Tugbenyoh. Damiani was a lesbian longtime club member and former state legislative aide who died in February 2022.

San Francisco drag laureate D'Arcy Drollinger makes her entrance at the Alice club Pride breakfast. Photo: Bill Wilson  

Other speakers
Others who addressed the audience both praised the LGBTQ community and reminded people of the stakes both now and in the 2024 elections.

San Francisco's drag laureate D'Arcy Drollinger thanked the city for creating the post and Mayor London Breed for appointing her to it. Drollinger was named drag laureate in May and is the first person in the world to hold the title, though it's expected she will soon have a counterpart in West Hollywood, California. Drollinger referenced the efforts of conservative politicians to ban drag performances in other parts of the country.

"I will help celebrate and elevate the art of drag," she said of her reign, which will be for 18 months. She talked about the importance of people being their authentic selves.

"And by that fabulous self we can inspire everyone," Drollinger said. "We can change the world by making our lives better."

For her part, Breed accused conservative leaders "of trying to write off LGBTQ kids."

"They have 'Don't Say Gay,' we light up the pink triangle," Breed said, referring to the law in Florida that prohibits teaching about LGBTQ topics and gender identity in public and charter schools through the eighth grade.

"They go after drag, we create the first drag laureate position in the world," Breed said.

Despite all the challenges, Breed said, "the city is doing amazing things. Our values ring true. What we do in San Francisco has extraordinary impact for LGBTQs all over the world."

U.S. Senate race
Two of the three Democratic candidates vying to replace U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) were at the breakfast. Feinstein earlier this year said she would not seek reelection. Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) addressed the audience and rode in the parade with Pelosi, who has endorsed him in the race. Congressmember Katie Porter (D-Irvine) also attended the breakfast. The third candidate, Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) was not on hand but had supporters working the room.

During his remarks, Schiff made light of the fact that congressional Republicans censured him last week in a party-line vote for his role in investigating former President Donald Trump while serving as chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

"So how was your week?" Schiff asked, going on to list meetings with constituents he had, other routine matters, "and got censured."

Schiff, a straight ally, said the LGBTQ community "has shown remarkable resilience and determination." He also mentioned how rights are under attack both by the U.S. Supreme Court and MAGA extremist Republicans.

"Two-thirds of the LGBTQ community report discrimination. The transgender community continues to face alarming violence," Schiff said. "These injustices demand our attention."

In a brief interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Porter, also a straight ally, said she was happy to be at the breakfast.

"I'm proud to be here," she said, adding the community is going through "an incredible fight."

"Today is a day to celebrate and have resolve," she added. "I'm excited by the energy in this room to continue the fight for equality."

Local leaders
Local political leaders were on hand as well. Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who has formed an exploratory committee to raise funds to run for Pelosi's congressional seat if she does not seek reelection, thanked her for helping to turn around the fight for federal funds for AIDS when she went to Congress. During her remarks later, Pelosi acknowledged Wiener's comment thanking straight Democratic state legislators who support LGBTQ-related bills even though they come from more conservative parts of California. She made a similar comment about House members who come from more conservative districts and states.

Wiener talked about the current political and social environment that includes school boards banning books and state lawmakers passing — and Republican governors signing — anti-LGBTQ legislation.

"When I look at where we are today ... it scares the crap out of me," he said.

He alluded to a comment Schiff made, "but I'll say it in a gay way," said Wiener. "Whenever we see these people and the garbage that spews out of their mouths, we say, 'grrl, we've seen this before.'"

Gay state Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) talked about the importance of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 that is expected to be on the 2024 general election ballot to repeal Proposition 8 that defines marriage in the California constitution as being between a man and a woman. Voters adopted it in 2008, and though a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013 invalidated it, there is concern that the current conservative majority on the court could issue a new decision once again outlawing same-sex marriage as a federal right. The "zombie" Prop 8 language remains in the state constitution and this amendment, should voters pass it next year, would remove it.

On Monday, June 26, the Assembly passed ACA 5 and it now heads to the Senate. Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights group, stated in a news release the measure passed with bipartisan support. Once it passes the Senate, it will head to the 2024 ballot. Governor Gavin Newsom does not need to sign it. (Wiener co-authored ACA 5 with Low.)

"Galvanize and get engaged," Low said of working to pass ACA 5 at the ballot box. "Everything is at risk."

The reason for the Prop 8 repeal goes back to last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion in Dobbs, suggested that other precedents, including on same-sex marriage, contraception, and state sodomy laws, are also ripe for reconsideration. With the 6-3 conservative supermajority now on the high court, LGBTQ activists, legal experts, and others are concerned marriage equality could be next.

Wiener introduced Lisa Middleton, a trans woman who's on the Palm Springs City Council and is running for a state Senate seat next year.

"One thing we have not done is elect a trans person to the legislature and we're going to change that," Wiener said.

Middleton, who used to live in San Francisco, said she was glad to be back for Pride weekend.

"It's been nearly 30 years since I came out ... and moved to San Francisco," she said.

She added that while she expected to hear "some hate and rejection," today's climate is much more.

"I am appalled to wake up 30 years later and hear what I hear every single day," she said of the anti-trans vitriol. "We're going to win this fight but children will have to endure it."

San Francisco Supervisors Joel Engardio and Rafael Mandelman spoke at the Alice club Pride breakfast. Photo: Bill Wilson  

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman was excited to have another gay member of the Board of Supervisors with him on the podium. Joel Engardio, who represents District 4, was attending his first Alice breakfast as an elected city leader. (The third gay supervisor, Matt Dorsey, who represents District 6, arrived late due to a previous commitment.)

"Now I'm just another gay county supervisor," Mandelman quipped.

Engardio said he helped marry same-sex couples at City Hall on June 23 and noted it's been 10 years since same-sex marriage was legalized in California after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal appeals court ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional in June 2013.

Bishop Yvette Flunder, who is same-gender loving, delivered the invocation at the start of the breakfast. She lifted up Black and Brown people "killed by those who our tax dollars pay for" and held up "hearts for the LGBTQ community."

Alex Randolph, a gay man who's chair of the Alice club's finance committee, announced that the breakfast raised over $150,000.

"We'll be able to clap back against transphobia," he said.

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