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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee

Minutes of the March 16, 2004 Meeting


Committee Members Present: Commissioner Theresa Sparks, Dora Balcazar, Sally Buchmann, Melchor Bustamante, David Cameron, Ben Chan, Jay Dwyer, Julie Frank, Rebecca Freund, Ted Guggenheim, Danny Kirchoff, Aidan Kotler, Patrick Mulcahey, Ren Phoenix, Johnnie Pratt, Aleem Raja, Jorge Romero-Lozano, Lisa Scheff, Stephen Schwichow, Brooklynne Thomas, Morningstar Vancil, Lauren Williams.

Committee Members Absent: Chris Caldeira, Scott Campbell (excused), Nancy Lawlor (excused).

Staff Present: Larry Brinkin, Virginia Harmon, Ellise Nicholson, Domenic Viterbo.

Guests Present: Commissioner Haig Baghdassarian, Joe Caruso, Bill Kirkpatrick, Dylan Vade.

  1. Call to Order and Roll Call:

    Commissioner Sparks called the meeting to order at 5:43.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.

  2. Welcome & Introductions

    Commissioner Sparks welcomed the new members along with Commissioner Haig Baghdassarian, Director Virginia Harmon, and the Mayor’s LGBT Liaison and Director of Neighborhood Services Joe Caruso.

  3. Introduction of HRC Director Virginia Harmon and Mayor’s LGBT Community Liaison Joe Caruso

    Mr. Caruso encouraged members to participate in City government and to contact him with any questions or concerns. Mr. Caruso stated that the Mayor is concerned about the underrepresentation of transgender people in San Francisco government, and encouraged transgender members in particular to consider serving on City commissions. He emphasized his openness to hearing members’ concerns and thoughts. He stated that Mayor Newsom is looking toward equalizing the rights of same sex couples. He also noted that Mayor Newsom is to be sainted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at their Easter celebration.

    Director Harmon thanked both new and continuing members for their valuable services. She noted that members are important in informing the work of the Commission, and that some of the most exciting work the Commission does comes through this committee. She said that it is an exciting time for the LGBT community. Although steps forward could mean we experience some backlash, it’s nonetheless a hopeful and exciting time for us. The work of the committee is incredibly important at this time. Director Harmon encouraged members to contact her with any questions, concerns, or issues.

  4. Approval of Minutes of March 16, 2004:

    Mr. Schwichow moved to approve the minutes as written. Jorge Romero-Lozano seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

  5. Public Comments for Items Not on the Agenda:


  6. Presentation by the Transgender Law Center:

    Dylan Vade expressed his excitement about talking to the committee, and stated he is a former HRC intern, and several committee members (Danny Kirchoff, Lauren Williams and Johnnie Pratt) are Transgender Law Center (TLC) board members. Mr. Vade stated that TLC focuses its work in three areas: 1) advice and counsel; 2) educational workshops; and 3) policy work. With regard to advice and counsel, that includes keeping the public updated on transgender rights and related laws, counseling clients, sometimes writing letters on clients’ behalf, mediating disputes, and sometimes representing clients in court. TLC provides educational workshops for transgender and gender nonconforming people, as well as TG101 and sensitivity training for service providers. Finally, they conduct policy work trying to effect changes in law regarding transgender rights. For example, TLC recently worked with the HRC on the compliance guidelines to prohibit gender identity discrimination. Another example is their work on AB196, which passed last August. They also are working actively on the issue of safe bathroom access. Mr. Vade stated that he is located in the LGBT Community Center, and his co-director, Chris Daly, works out of the CUAV building. Their website is Mr. Vade encouraged members to feel free to call or come by anytime.

  7. Action Item: Approval of Letter to SF Board of Supervisors encouraging their support for the Federal Domestic Partner Health Benefits Equity Act (Senate Bill 1702), which would extend the tax exclusion for employer provided health insurance to domestic partners of employees.

    Larry Brinkin explained that the letter concerns a federal bill that would eliminate inequity in taxation of health benefits for domestic partners. Currently, if employees add a spouse onto their health plan, they do not have to claim that benefit as income for tax purposes. However, if an employee adds a domestic partner, they do have to claim it on their taxes as part of their income. This bill would eliminate that inequity such that employees would no longer have to claim their domestic partner’s health benefits as imputed income. The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate. Stephen Schwichow made a motion to approve the letter with a couple of clarifications that staff will change before submitting to the Commission. Jay Dwyer seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

  8. Action Item: Approval of Letter to SF Board of Supervisors encouraging their support for California Assembly Bill 1967, which would give same-sex couples the right to marry in California.

    Larry Brinkin presented the letter, which was introduced by Mark Leno. Ren Phoenix made a motion to approve the letter as written. Sally Buchmann seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

  9. Intersex Task Force Report:

    Aidan Kotler reported that at the last meeting, the Intersex task force discussed a plan for the upcoming public hearing, including what issues to address, speakers to invite, and what the next steps are in terms of planning and preparation. He added that a reporter from the Sacramento Bee came to the meeting, listened, and asked questions. The date of the hearing is set for May 27, 2004 at 4:30p.m. in Room 416 of City Hall.

  10. Homeless Queer Youth Project Report:

    Ms. Nicholson reported that she has been attending the Youth Housing Initiative Meetings spearheaded by Supervisor Dufty, and that it looks as if the project is going forward. Currently, they are negotiating with the landlord to secure approximately 8 units in a single residence occupancy hotel (SRO) in the Castro. Patrick Mulcahey has been involved as well, and updated the Committee about the progress of the project. He commended Supervisor Dufty for his skill at negotiating with various entities and individuals to get the project going. He added that service providers and other interested adults are meeting with the youth for dinner at Most Holy Redeemer every Monday night at 5:30p.m. They are seeking adults who will commit to a youth as a mentor. Becky Freund discussed the Minneapolis GLBT Host Homes Program, which screens families and places youth into homes, thus providing a level of stability and care that is absent from shelters and hotels. Aidan Kotler suggested that youth be involved in the planning and execution of the Youth Housing Initiative, and stated that the Youth Gender Project provides a good model of a youth-led agency. Ellise Nicholson stated that she and Larry Brinkin will be meeting shortly to discuss implementation of the Committee’s recent position paper on the needs of queer homeless youth in San Francisco.

  11. Report of the Retreat Planning Committee:

    Larry Brinkin stated that we chose the date of April 4, 2004, for the retreat based on member availability. He stated that members will receive packets soon containing homework for the retreat. Members reviewed the draft agenda. Aleem Raja requested that we consider doing more ice breakers due to the large number of new members. Members informally approved the draft agenda.

  12. Commissioners’ Report:

    Commissioner Sparks reported that all City departments are facing budget cuts, including the HRC. She said that the Mayor recently appointed three new commissioners. They will be sworn in tomorrow, March 17, 2004 at 4:00p.m. at City Hall. Commissioner Sparks stated that she is hoping that one of the three will be assigned to and/or interested in co-chairing this committee. All three commissioners will be invited to our next meeting and to our retreat.

10. Staff Report:
Larry Brinkin reported that last year the HRC participated in a joint conference with the German government. Part II of that conference will take place in Berlin from June 7-11, 2004, and will focus on the issues of fighting the right, immigration, and LGBT issues. Mr. Brinkin reported that the Commission has been doing a lot of work on the same sex marriage issue, including fielding numerous calls regarding marriage and domestic partner benefits. We have been working hard on these issues, including meeting with the Mayor’s Office and the Health Service System. Mr. Brinkin stated that two interns are scheduled for this summer – Tara O’Neill from Hastings Law School and Steven Benolkin from Boalt Hall School of Law. A third intern will be joining us for the fall semester. Next month at the April committee meeting, we will discuss Pride Day and whether or not we want to have a booth. Committee members and department staff would need to staff the booth. Other options are to march in the parade or do nothing. Staff has conducted a number of trainings lately. Marcus Arana recently conducted trainings at SF City College and spoke at UC Berkeley. Both Mr. Arana and Ellise Nicholson conducted six trainings for the Department of Parking and Traffic. Hadas Rivera-Weiss and Yong Lee will be conducting a know-your-rights training for the Stop AIDS Project.

  1. Old/New Business:

    There was some discussion of the SF Chronicle decision to prevent Rachel Gordon and her partner from reporting on same sex marriage because they got married. Sally Buchmann stated that she wants to discuss the issue of the UN delegate who opted out of the discussion on domestic partnerships.

  2. Announcements:

    Sally Buchmann announced that a couple of weeks ago the SF Labor Council wrote a resolution in support of marriage equality, which passed unanimously. Ms. Buchmann is working to get a similar resolution from the SEIU. Steven Schwichow announced that member Scott Campbell is at UCSF Medical Center recovering from a successful bone marrow transplant. Morningstar Vancil stated that she underwent her last chemotherapy three weeks ago and is still in remission. Ben Chan reported that KPFA is producing a series on queer youth issues and is actively soliciting input from the community. The contact is Aidan Kotler reported that grand marshal polling for Pride is going on this month. Also, April 17 and 18, 2004, the Transcendence Gospel Choir and the Gay Men’s Chorus will be performing a joint concert at Mission High School. Jay Dwyer reported that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Easter in Dolores Park is coming up, and they will be sainting people, including Mayor Newsom. They will use the money raised to give out grants to non-profit organizations. Danny Kirchoff reported that Horizons Foundation has started a fund in honor of Gwen Araujo. Commissioner Haig Baghdassarian stated that today is his last day as a commissioner. He has served for three years. He echoed the sentiments of Mr. Caruso that worlds have been expanded, indirectly and directly, by the work we’ve done. He added that his grandparents are survivors of the Armenian genocide, and eighty-nine years later are still struggling to get reparations. He added that the gay marriage issue is important because it’s a basic fundamental right that we take for granted. Decades before the Armenian genocide, the government began to take rights away from them. When society makes distinctions about which sectors of the population deserve fundamental rights and which do not, it is a scary situation. He finished by stating how impressed he is by the work of this committee and thanked members for allowing him to take part.

  3. Adjournment:

    Meeting was adjourned at 7:37 p.m.