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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee
Minutes of the February 19, 2002 Meeting

Committee Members Present: Commissioner Martha Knutzen, Commissioner Theresa Sparks, Jason Alley, Kirsten Boyd, Melchor Bustamante, Ted Guggenheim, Jordy Jones, Dan Karasic, Lisa Scheff, Stephen Schwichow.

Committee Members Absent: Virginia Benavidez (excused), Scott Campbell (excused), Erin Farrell, YoseƱio Lewis, Jorge Romero-Lozano (excused), Gary Virginia.

Staff Present: Larry Brinkin, Yong Lee, Ellise Nicholson, Domenic Viterbo.

Guests Present: Jay Dwyer, Sheryl Harris, Marbella M..

1. Call to Order and Roll Call:

Commissioner Sparks called the meeting to order at 5:45 p.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.

2. Approval of Minutes of January 15, 2002:

Commissioner Sparks asked if there were any changes to the draft minutes. Melchor Bustamante was present at the last meeting but that this was not reflected in the minutes. Mr. Schwichow moved to approve the minutes as amended. Ms. Boyd seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

3. Public Comments for Items Not on the Agenda: None

4. LGBT Workers’ Rights Project - Sheryl Harris:

Sheryl Harris reported on her work at the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center. She reported that about a year and a half ago she started a program for LGBT workers for which she received a two year NAPIL fellowship. Ms. Harris distributed a letter summarizing the services offered. These services include legal advice and counsel and direct services as well as know-your-rights trainings. She stated that she often assists transgender people who are transitioning on the job. She distributed a sample letter that she sends to employers in such a situation informing them about legal protections for transgender employees.
Ms. Harris also noted that she works as an advocate for individuals pursuing complaints of discrimination through the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She also does legislative advocacy and policy work, including work on AB 1649. Lastly, she is currently looking for an impact litigation case that will establish that transgender people are covered under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Ms. Harris works closely with HRC staff, who often refer cases to her and vice versa. She also works closely with Shannon Minter and Courtney Joslin at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). Ms. Harris reported that the most common issue that comes her way concerns transgender individuals facing discrimination in the use of restroom facilities. She reported that she often receives calls from employers whose employees express discomfort with a transgender employee’s use of a particular restroom. Ms. Harris also noted that a lot of the sexual orientation discrimination cases concern discrimination against the partner of the employee (e.g. phone messages from the partner are not relayed to the employee). Another common problem is assumptions that gay people are pedophiles. Ms. Harris estimated that approximately 80% of her work concerns transgender individuals. The scope of her project is statewide.

Larry Brinkin reported that it is unfortunate that Ms. Harris’ project is set to end next August. Mr. Brinkin also noted that he and staff member Ellise Nicholson are currently working with Ms. Harris on forming a legal collaborative at the new LGBT Community Center that will offer legal clinics, seminars and a legal resource guide. The first seminar will take place in April or the beginning of May and will cover family issues in LGBT law.

5. Equal Benefits: Four Year Report:

HRC staff member Yong Lee presented a report on the fourth year of implementation of the Equal Benefits Ordinance. Mr. Lee first gave a brief overview of the ordinance. He explained that in 1998 the U.S. District Court limited the scope of the ordinance in two ways: 1) geographically - the court held that companies need only comply in San Francisco, where property is owned by San Francisco, or anywhere in the United States in which work is being conducted on a contract with San Francisco, and 2) regulatory/market participant - the court held that where the city is acting as a regulator, the ordinance is preempted by federal law. Mr. Lee reported that the primary instance so far where the latter exception has applied is in the context of airlines. Mr. Lee also reported that the impact of the aforementioned limitations has been minor in our enforcement efforts. Only 84 companies have chosen to limit compliance; most have chosen to comply nationwide.

Mr. Lee stated that between 1982, when the first domestic partner benefits were offered, and 1997, when the Equal Benefits Ordinance was first introduced, there were only 500 companies in the country that offered equal benefits. There are now over 4,200 companies that do. Over 31% of Fortune 500 companies now offer equal benefits, Mr. Lee reported. In addition, other jurisdictions have followed San Francisco’s lead in enacting such ordinances. Since the last equal benefits report one year ago, Oakland has added a similar ordinance. Since the San Francisco ordinance was enacted, the HRC has received about 10,000 applications. Of these, 75% have been reviewed. Of the 75% reviewed, 94% are in compliance and 6% are non-compliant. Of those in compliance, 45% offer equal benefits (the rest either have no employees or offer no benefits to employees). This translates into 3,300 companies now offering domestic partner benefits. The majority of complying companies are small (under 500 employees). Thanks to the ordinance, over 1 million employees now work at companies offering domestic partner benefits. The enrollment rate for domestic partners is estimated at 3%, which means that about 45,000 employees who did not previously have domestic partner coverage now do. 87% of complying companies are in California. Hopefully compliance will spread more evenly as more cities adopt similar ordinances.

Mr. Lee reported that 1,216 waivers have been approved this year. He explained that this number is only a small percentage of total City Contracts. The HRC is working to reduce the number of waivers by working with city departments to reduce the number of waivers requested.

Mr. Lee gave a legislative update on the ordinance. He reported that 61 domestic partner registries are available in 21 states. Some jurisdictions, such as West Hollywood, allow partners to register by mail even if they do not live or work in the jurisdiction. Mr. Lee reported that Assembly Bill 25 effected three legal changes concerning domestic partner benefits. First, California insurers must now offer a domestic partner coverage option. Second, there no longer will be state taxation of domestic partner benefits. Third, sick leave may be used to care for a domestic partner or child of a domestic partner.

Regarding the legal challenges to the ordinance, Mr. Lee reported victory in the Ninth Circuit. He stated that the Court affirmed the District Court’s decision upholding the ordinance. The Court remanded the question of whether the state domestic partner registry trumps San Francisco’s ordinance. It is not yet known whether the plaintiffs will appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Lee ended by emphasizing the significant impact of the ordinance: 49,500 real people now have real benefits. He stated that the ordinance is a model that is being replicated in other cities - hopefully Atlanta and Iowa City next.

Commissioner Knutzen commended the HRC staff for the huge amount of work and effort initially put in to implement the ordinance, especially staff member Cynthia Goldstein who heads up the project. Mr. Brinkin commented that he is grateful for the wonderful, competent staff working on this project. He stated that we strive to be more than enforcers - we want to get people to understand the importance of offering equal benefits.

6. Recruitment Committee Report:

Mr. Brinkin reported that we received twenty-two applications for membership on the Advisory Committee. The Recruitment Committee reviewed and ranked these applications, and then met to discuss them. The sub-committee decided on thirteen individuals whom it will interview next Tuesday. Mr. Brinkin reported that the sub-committee would likely accept about seven or eight new members. Mr. Brinkin read off the names of the interviewees and asked current members to call him if they have any comments about any of them. After the interviews, the sub-committee will make recommendations to the full Committee. Applications from recommended applicants will be sent out in the March packets. At the March LGBTAC meeting, the Committee will vote on whether to accept the sub-committee’s recommendations. If the recommendations are accepted, Commissioner Knutzen will present them to the Chair of the Human Rights Commission for appointment.

Commissioner Knutzen thanked the entire Committee for helping to recruit new members, and noted that everyone who applied would be a great contribution to the Committee.
7. Retreat Planning:

Mr. Brinkin stated that we need to come up with a date for the upcoming retreat and select a retreat committee. He explained that since the first meeting with new members will be April, the retreat should be in May. After some discussion, a date of May 18, 2002 was chosen for the retreat. Mr. Brinkin explained that the retreat is typically scheduled from 9a.m. to 4:30p.m., and that its main purpose is to plan for the upcoming year and to get to know one another. The job of the sub-committee will be to plan the agenda, food, and location. It will only require attending a couple of meetings. Mr. Brinkin noted that over the last couple of years we have used City College space for the retreat. Commissioner Knutzen agreed to ask former Commissioner Herman about using the space. The following people agreed to participate on the retreat committee: Commissioner Knutzen, Kirsten Boyd, and Melchor Bustamante. A meeting of the retreat committee was scheduled for 5:30 on Wednesday March 13.           

8. Planning for March Panel on LGBT Youth Issues:

It was decided to carry this issue over to the retreat and re-prioritize it for next year. There was some discussion of touring the new LGBT Center at next meeting in place of the panel. Mr. Brinkin said that staff could look into that possibility. Jordy Jones announced that the opening gala for the Center is March 3, 2002. He also announced that he is organizing an event on March 9 called "Some Kind of Queer," and encouraged members to attend.

9. Commissioners’ Report:

Commissioner Knutzen reported that at the January 24, 2002 Commission meeting it was decided that the Commission would issue a report concerning the post-September 11 hearing. The Commission also decided to prioritize addressing violence in our communities. Commissioner Knutzen reported that Yong Lee and Hadas Rivera-Weiss gave an excellent report on the HIV in the Workplace Technical Assistance Project trainings. She stated that in this report they explained the work that they do to get out technical assistance to people who face discrimination in employment because of their HIV status. Commissioner Knutzen then passed around their "HIV in the Workplace Technical Assistance Resource Guide." Commissioner Sparks added that the Commission passed a resolution endorsing the Board of Supervisors’ resolution regarding medical cannabis. The resolution declared San Francisco a sanctuary for medical cannabis. One week after the HRC resolution passed, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency raided five medical cannabis clubs in San Francisco.

Commissioner Knutzen reported that at the February 14, 2002 Commission meeting the major focus of the meeting dealt with an appeal from someone operating under the M/WBE ordinance. The initial decision went to a Hearing Officer. The Commission’s role is to listen to the Hearing Officer’s report and decide whether or not to accept it. The Commission spent most of the February 14 meeting discussing the Officer’s report. The Commission ultimately approved the recommendation of the Hearing Officer. Commissioner Knutzen reported that there has been a great deal of press about this situation, and that the Commission’s decision finalizes it as far as the HRC is concerned, but noted that the appellant maintains a right to file in superior court. Commissioner Sparks reported that the meeting was significant in that the Commission also passed the budget. Commissioner Knutzen reported that as we are in a recession and tax revenues are down, we will have to incur budget cuts. Some vacant positions will not be filled. Commissioner Knutzen also commented that the Director and key managers are working on committee structure to standardize committee work. Three staff members have been assigned to each committee. The Director is taking action to make sure that everyone understands his or her roles on the committees. The long-term goal is to have more synergism between committees, staff, mayor’s office, etc. so that what we do is most effective.

10. Staff Report:

Mr. Brinkin reported that the LGBT and HIV division has a new intern, Jordy Jones. Mr. Jones, who is a member of the LGBTAC, is a graduate student at San Francisco State University. He will be working with the HRC two days per week. Mr. Jones will focus on creating a resource guide for the transgender community and on improving the media list. He also will be available for graphic arts work. Mr. Brinkin reported that staff member Hadas Rivera-Weiss will be doing a training for all AIDS service organizations in San Francisco on HIV in the workplace issues. Mr. Brinkin announced that staff member Kabir Hypolite adopted a baby named Hanif, and that staff had a shower for him last week. Mr. Brinkin commented upon the Director’s determination to make all committees the strongest they can be. He detailed a four and a half-hour training that he conducted for all committee staffers. Mr. Brinkin noted that the Director was present for the entire training, and that her presence sent a strong message that she wants professional staffing of committees. Finally, Mr. Brinkin stated that the Director has been meeting separately with staffs of each committee. Mr. Brinkin reported that staff are updating the committee guidelines. Mr. Brinkin also reported that staff continues to work on transgender protocols and training for the San Francisco police department. There was a recent meeting between HRC staff, police department representatives, CUAV, and API Wellness. A working group will soon be starting to draft protocols and a training program. Mr. Brinkin further reported that this coming Saturday, Public Interest Clearinghouse will be sponsoring their annual Public Interest Law Day. HRC staff from each division will be present with the hope that we will recruit law students to intern with us in the summer.

11. Old/New Business:


12. Announcements:

Jay Dwyer announced that on the evening of March 8, 2002 at the new LGBT Community Center there will be an event entitled "Youthapalooza." Ted Guggenheim announced that his work recently held the first big event at The Center, with over 200 people in attendance. Commissioner Knutzen announced that Commissioner Sparks was recently elected Co-Chair of the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club. Commissioner Knutzen also reported that Virginia Harmon was recently made the permanent Director of the HRC. Commissioner Knutzen reported that this is excellent news that will result in forward movement for the HRC.

13. Adjournment:

The meeting was adjourned at 7:05 p.m.