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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee

Minutes of the February 15, 2005 Meeting

Committee Members Present: Commissioner Cecilia Chung, Dora Balcazar, Sally Buchmann, David Cameron, Ben Chan, Becky Freund, Ted Guggenheim, Danny Kirchoff, Aidan Kotler, Patrick Mulcahey, Ren Phoenix, Aleem Raja, Jorge Romero-Lozano, Stephen Schwichow, Morningstar Vancil.

Committee Members Absent: Commissioner Pat Norman (excused), Julie Frank (excused), Ellise Nicholson.

Staff Present: Marcus Arana, Larry Brinkin, Domenic Viterbo.

Guests Present: M. Abdullah, Dusty Araujo, Jose P. Boer, Nancy Lawlor, Michael Mallory.

  1. Call to Order and Roll Call:

    Commissioner Chung called the meeting to order at 5:40 p.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.

  2. Approval of Minutes of January 18, 2005:

    Commissioner Chung moved to approve the minutes as written. Mr. Cameron seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

  3. Public Comments for Items Not on the Agenda:

    No comments were made.

  4. Panel: LGBT Immigration Issues:

    Mr. Chan introduced the panel and said that the presentation will cover social discrimination, legal issues, and health issues and how they impact LGBT immigrants.

    The first speaker, Dusty Araujo, is with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. He provided the Committee with the legal term for a refugee which is "an individual who is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country because of persecution, or well founded fear of persecution, on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or if they’re a member of a particular social group." He then proceeded to describe the many obstacles LGBT immigrants face when applying for asylum based on sexual orientation. He said that asylum is only granted to persons who face persecution by their country’s government or if the government is not willing or is unable to control the persecution against them; however the persecution must be countrywide. Granting asylum is a discretionary measure; the person listening to an asylum case has the ability to grant or deny based on their discretion. However, this system which the United States is currently using is not a fair, easy, or consistent system. Mr. Araujo described persecution as assassination, mental or physical torture, sexual violence including rape, false arrests or imprisonment, beatings, and blackmail. Certain countries may apply other laws to persecute an individual in the absence of laws against sexual orientation such as hooliganism or vagrancy. Also the sentences handed down may be totally disproportionate to the actions. An individual seeking asylum based on sexual orientation would find it difficult if they have not faced persecution in their homeland as opposed to someone who has. The first case of asylum granted based on sexual orientation was in 1986. The Board of Immigration Appeals ratified the decision in 1990, and it wasn’t until 1994 that asylum based on sexual orientation was officially permitted. Other countries since then had begun allowing asylum based on sexual orientation as well. People with HIV seeking asylum also face similar hurdles; a country may not be able to provide medication to those with HIV - which is not considered discrimination - but the government may choose to not provide medication which can be viewed as persecution. In 1997 there was a huge immigration reform that had a big impact on asylum based on sexual orientation in which small offences committed have became felonies. This change has affected immigrants with green cards. Mr. Araujo added that when immigrants file for asylum based on religion or political opinion they’ll have tremendous community support, but when one files based on sexual orientation, there aren’t many places to turn to because immigration in the LGBT community is not considered a priority issue. He provided the Committee members with informational brochures on his organization.

    Mr. Chan reported on the impact of immigration on immigrants’ health. He presented stories of several gay immigrants with HIV to the Committee.

    Jose P. Boer is an immigrant from Mexico. He immigrated to the U.S. hoping for a better life after being rejected by his family and persecuted by the police. He also had a partner who had passed from HIV. Mr. Boer’s family had rejected him because of his HIV status. He later met a woman whom he married believing that he had only nine months to live. He then applied for citizenship, but was rejected because he was gay. He was harassed and pressured by the INS. They also threatened to take his wife’s citizenship away if they didn’t tell the truth of their relationship. So when he lost his case, he appealed and tried to get political asylum. The INS questioned the validity of his marriage and his sexual orientation. His case will be heard on February 17 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and is his last chance to stay in the U.S.

    Commissioner Chung asked Mr. Brinkin if a letter could be written on Mr. Boer’s behalf. Mr. Brinkin asked Mr. Boer to have his attorney contact him to see if a letter from the Commission would be helpful.

    Ms. Vancil shared her experience of being an immigrant from the Philippines in 1984. While serving in the Philippine military under the Marcos regime which was entering into civil war, she made the decision to file for political asylum in the U.S. In order to become a refugee, she lived with her stepfather, a U.S. citizen, who needed to be responsible for her for the first five years in the U.S. During her first five years, her stepfather warned her that if there was any inclination of her being a lesbian, he would turn her in to the INS and, thus, she was forced to hide her sexual orientation. Also during those five years, she attended the police academy in Colorado and became a police officer. There, too, she had to conceal her sexual orientation in fear of losing her job. After her five years were over, she moved to San Francisco in order to come out. After coming out, her family turned their backs on her because of their religious beliefs. Also prior to coming to the U.S., she had a wife of 10 years in the Philippines with whom she adopted a child. She tried for three years to get her to come to the U.S., but was not able to. When trying to become a U.S. citizen, among the many questions asked of her, every other question asked of her was why she was not married.

    Ms. Phoenix distributed handouts with stories of other LGBT immigrants.

    Ms. Balcazar spoke about the social discrimination LGBT immigrants face and how they feel about being discriminated against. She reported speaking to a number of gay Latino immigrants, who 1) feel ignored when out in a social setting, such as in a bar; 2) feel that they’re viewed as exotic; 3) and who cannot develop long-term relationships with Caucasians. Her findings prove the lack of sensitivity and understanding of the cultures of LGBT immigrants. She reported that Latino LGBT immigrants have few role models who are not born in the U.S. and that most Latino role models from the U.S. tend to have Caucasian characteristics. Also, the lives of LGBT immigrants are complex in that they often don’t have family or community; they feel they cannot go back to their country because of the country’s religious beliefs, mainly Catholicism. Not only has she gathered stories of the LGBT people she has spoken to, but also to parents of LGBT people and the discrimination they also feel. She had a number of recommendations: 1) don’t assume that people who have accents, who were not born in this country, don’t have rights; 2) Latino people had populated this country long before the Europeans so don’t assume that U.S. land belongs to only those who were born here; 3) to be more sensitive to immigrants and respectful of their culture; 4) to ask the mainstream media to stop stereotyping minorities (e.g. ads for Taco Bell).

  5. Approval of recommendations for new members:

    Mr. Romero-Lozano moved to recommend five new members to the Commission. Mr. Schwichow seconded. The motion passed, with two No votes (Mr. Kirchoff and Ms. Vancil) and one abstention (Mr. Raja) due to being friends with one of the applicants. Mr. Brinkin suggested that the Committee discuss better outreach methods for next year’s recruitment at the annual retreat. Mr. Brinkin pointed out that he will email the Chair of the Commission with the applicants’ information so that he can appoint them. The new Committee members are Whitney Bagby, Cindy Dubuque, Rebecca Rolfe, Jason Stein, and Meredith Wood. Mr. Brinkin added that the Recruitment Committee wants to recommend that Nancy Lawlor be reappointed to the Committee.

  6. Approval of recommendation to Commissioners to change the committee name to "Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex Advisory Committee" (action item):

    Mr. Cameron said that since the Committee has had some education about intersex issues and since the Committee is predominantly about sexual orientation and sexual identity, it’s important to add a reference to sexual anatomy to the Committee’s name. He feels that if Intersex is added, it would be an opportune time to educate people on the issues. He said that though other LGBT organizations around the country have started adding the word "Intersex" to their names, he isn’t certain if those organizations are actually educated on intersex issues. Since the Committee has educated itself on intersex issues, he feels that it should have the word added then continue to educate the public on what it means.

    Mr. Cameron moved to recommend that the Commissioners add the word "intersex" to the name of the LGBT Advisory Committee. Mr. Schwichow seconded. However, after discussing the pros and cons of the word’s inclusion, Commissioner Chung suggested that the Committee table this issue until next month’s meeting so as to include the five new Committee members. There was Committee consensus to do so. The item will be placed on the March agenda as an action item.

  7. Planning for annual retreat:

    Mr. Brinkin reminded the Committee of an email asking each member his/her availability for several proposed days for the retreat. The proposed dates are March 19, April 2, April 16, April 30, or May 7, all of which are Saturdays. Because not all members have responded to the email, Mr. Brinkin asked those Committee members present who hadn’t responded to the email to advise their availability.

    Mr. Brinkin added that a retreat planning committee needs to be appointed in order to plan the agenda. Committee members who are interested in being part of it need to email Mr. Viterbo. The Committee unanimously chose to have lunch ordered and delivered. A restaurant will be selected then announced.

  8. Commissioners’ Report:

    Commissioner Chung has tabled this item for next month’s meeting.

  9. Staff Report:

Mr. Brinkin reported that Dr. Larry Baskin, whose comments were summarized in the Intersex Public Hearing Report, wrote to the Mayor asking to provide more balance to the report and to correct what he saw were some errors about what he and his office does. He also wants to give the Commission an opportunity to hear from intersex people who’ve had successful outcomes. The Mayor’s Office had asked staff to accommodate his request. Dr. Baskin will be given an opportunity to submit information that he’d like to have included into the report. He also will be invited to have intersex people get in touch with staff to invite them to speak at the Commissioners’ March 10 meeting or to submit written testimony or speak with Mr. Arana if they cannot attend. The inclusion of this information means a delay of the completion of the report since the Commissioners will have to approve of any changes.

Commissioner Chung said that an updated version of the draft report will be sent to the Mayor’s Office so that they can have an opportunity to review. Mr. Brinkin said that a chronology of all the solicitations made to Dr. Baskin was sent to the Mayor’s Office so that they understand that we did try to get testimony.

Mr. Brinkin said that talking points regarding the relocation of the HRC’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program will be provided to the Committee soon. He said that folks may be needed to speak when legislation is introduced and the Board of Supervisors has a hearing. Currently no new legislation has been introduced.

10. Old/New Business:

No Old/New Business was discussed.

  1. Announcements:

    Ms. Thomas announced that Translate, an open mic benefiting the Youth Gender Project, will be held at the 3 Dollar Café on Friday, February 18 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. All ages welcome to attend.

    Ms. Vancil announced that Creating Change of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force will have its first planning meeting on Tuesday, February 22, at 7:00 p.m. in Oakland.

  2. Adjournment:

The meeting was adjourned at 7:40 p.m.