Election Results Herald New Era In Long Beach Politics

garcia_slateThe election deciding the next public officeholders for Long Beach, Calif., have indicated a significant challenge to the status quo of longtime local politics. In the hotly contested race for city mayor, polls showed leading support for Robert Garcia, the current vice mayor and owner of local media site and newspaper the Long Beach Post. In a runoff election on June 3, Long Beach voters will have the opportunity to shatter new records and prove that the city is ready for representation that reflects its dynamic and diverse community. If elected, Garcia would be the first openly LGBT as well as first Latino mayor of Long Beach, a city that with nearly half a million people is the seventh-largest in California.

Garcia’s victory in a race packed tightly with other Democrats is further evidence that the political tides are turning towards a younger and more engaged generation of leaders. Garcia’s campaign impressed many when he surged ahead of powerful and deeply connected favorites in the California political machine, such as Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal – who received the endorsement of Gov. Jerry Brown –  and Long Beach City College Trustee Doug Otto. While Garcia’s sexual orientation did not really pose an issue in a city with a prominent LGBT community, the seasoned and well-funded heavyweights the 36-year old campaigned against is a testament to his forward-thinking agenda and strong record helping to improve the port city as vice mayor.

Heading into June, Garcia will now face off against Damon Dunn, a real estate investor and former NFL player who is a relative newcomer to Long Beach. The next mayor’s leadership chops will be put to the ultimate test, as they take the reins of a city that is still recovering from a tepid economy and rough-edged reputation. Garcia’s success would signal that a leader’s effective community stewardship and commitment to core values are taking far greater priority with voters over who they happen to love.

Jose Sarria dies at age 90

SarriaWW2uniform-196x300Jose Julio Sarria, a San Francisco LGBT activist who made history as the first openly gay man to seek political office, passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

Sarria, a World War II veteran who rose to fame in San Francisco’s drag scene in the 1950s and 1960s, ran for San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961 and placed ninth in a field of 30 candidates. He later founded the Imperial Court System, which has since grown into the second largest LGBT charity organization in the world.

“Today’s out elected officials owe much to trailblazers like Jose Sarria, who braved discrimination and persecution in order to live an authentic life,” said Chuck Wolfe, President and CEO of the Victory Fund. “As the first openly LGBT person to seek elected office, he paved the way for a generation of leaders who have made a huge impact on our country.”

Out state lawmakers fight for transgender rights

tomammianoOpenly gay and lesbian state lawmakers are spearheading efforts in multiple states to pass laws protecting transgender people.

In California, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (pictured) is fighting to protect California’s transgender students from discrimination in schools. Last week, he introduced legislation that would grant students the right to use public school bathrooms and participate on sports teams that match their expressed genders, according to  the Associated Press.

Discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is already illegal in California, but Ammiano’s bill would be the first in the country to specifically address transgender students’ right to use the restroom and join the sports team that corresponds with their gender identity.

Just next door, Nevada law does not currently protect people from discrimination based on gender identity. Pat Spearman, an openly lesbian state Senator, introduced a bill Monday that would make Nevada the next state to include gender identity in its hate crimes statute.

Sen. Spearman, who said she was the victim of an attack when she was 21, emphasized the importance of adding gender identity to existing hate crimes laws. “Whenever crimes are committed by perpetrators and they are clearly committed only on the basis of a particular aspect of that person’s characteristics, then I think justice requires us to act,” she told a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Las Vegas Sun reported that supporters from the community filled the room, overflowing into the hall. No one present opposed the bill.

In Maryland, openly gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno and ally state Sen. Jamie Raskin have proposed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013, which would add gender identity to the list of protected identities under the state’s hate crimes statute. The measure died in committee in 2012, but supporters are confident that the important bill will pass this year.

“Many of the most vulnerable people in the LGBT community are left with no legal protections in our state laws,” Sen. Madaleno said. “I come before you today as the sponsor of Senate Bill 449 with my good friend from Montgomery County and ask you to fix this omission and ensure that all Marylanders, including my transgender sisters and brothers, are afforded protection under our anti-discrimination laws.”

Governor O’Malley told the Washington Blade last week that he is “absolutely” reaching out to lawmakers to urge them to pass the bill.

Photo: Sacramento Bee

Legislation would end Scouts’ tax exemption in Calif.

lara221An openly gay California state senator has proposed a bill that would strip tax exempt status for youth organizations that openly discriminate.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara introduced the “Youth Equality Act” Tuesday in the midst of the nationwide debate over the Boy Scouts of America’s controversial anti-gay policy. If it passes, the legislation would revoke the tax exempt status of youth organizations (including student groups organized through private and public schools) who discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians,” said Lara. “SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws.”

Supporters of the bill say they recognize it directly targets the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policy, particularly as the organization’s national leadership debates the rule throughout the coming months. The Board of the Boy Scouts is expected to reconsider its anti-gay policy in May.

“I thought it was necessary for California to make sure we don’t condone the discriminating practices of youth groups like the Boy Scouts of America,” Lara said. “We’ve given the Boy Scouts ample time, and they’ve chosen not to address this issue.”

The bill would require a two-thirds vote in the state legislature to pass.

San Francisco airport may be renamed to honor Harvey Milk

Harvey-Milk_PhotoCredit_RexFeaturesSan Francisco International Airport could soon become Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport, making it the first airport in the world to be named after a LGBT person.

David Campos, an openly gay member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, is sponsoring a charter amendment that would prompt the name change. The Associated Press reports that five of Campos’ colleagues must agree to add the proposed name change to the November ballot for voters to approve.

Campos believes the name change would provide an important learning opportunity for the millions of travelers who pass through the airport each year. “The idea that millions of people can learn about Harvey Milk and what he represented is very moving,” he told the AP.

According to the AP, 68 countries with flights in and out of SFO still punish homosexuality by law. Stuart Milk, Harvey’s nephew, emphasized the impact of the name change for many international LGBT travelers: “For young gay people in an illegal place looking up at a monitor and being able to point to this international airport named after an LGBT advocate, it gives them the green light to authenticity. It’s a major representation that (they) are being celebrated somewhere in the world in a high-level way.”

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on the amendment in the coming weeks.

David Campos has served as a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors since his election in 2008.

Photo: Rex Features