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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee
Minutes of the April 20, 2004 Meeting


Committee Members Present: Commissioner Theresa Sparks, Dora Balcazar, Sally Buchmann, Chris Caldeira, David Cameron, Scott Campbell, Ben Chan, Jay Dwyer, Julie Frank, Rebecca Freund, Ted Guggenheim, Danny Kirchoff, Aidan Kotler, Nancy Lawlor, Patrick Mulcahey, Ren Phoenix, Johnnie Pratt, Jorge Romero-Lozano, Stephen Schwichow, Brooklynne Thomas, Morningstar Vancil.

Committee Members Absent: Melchor Bustamante (excused), Aleem Raja (excused), Lauren Williams.

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

Guests Present: Kenn Altine (San Francisco Chronicle).

  1. Call to Order and Roll Call:

    Julie Frank called the meeting to order at 5:40.m. Ms. Nicholson called the roll.

  2. Approval of minutes of March 16, 2004

    Stephen Schwichow moved to approve the minutes of March 16, 2004 as written. Ren Phoenix seconded. The motion was approved unanimously.

  3. Approval of letter to the San Francisco Chronicle protesting the decision to prevent a reporter and photographer who are in a same-sex marriage from writing about same-sex marriage

    Ms. Frank welcomed Kenn Altine, a senior editor with the Chronicle, who described for the committee the decision made by the Chronicle and answered members’ questions. Mr. Altine said that the decision was made because the two employees in question are journalists, and are two women who took an action (getting married) that was at the heart of a politically controversial subject (same-sex marriage). He noted that the decision was not made because of their attributes (women, lesbians) but because of an action they took (becoming a same-sex married couple). He said that this presented a conflict similar to that of a reporter who owned stock in a company who wouldn’t be permitted to write about that company. He said that the Chronicle has no problem with lesbian and gay journalists writing about same-sex marriage, and indeed they do. The difference in this case, he noted, was that the two journalists took an action that inserted them directly into the political conflict. He said that there was no question of the journalists’ integrity or ability to report objectively; rather, the desire of the newspaper is to avoid the perception that there might be a conflict.

    Mr. Altine said that the Chronicle has a written ethics policy, though he pointed out that there is no way that every situation can be described. Members asked about various possible conflicts, such as women with cancer writing about cancer, or military veterans writing about war. Mr. Altine reiterated that assignments are based on actions, not attributes. Therefore, a woman with cancer could write about cancer, and a veteran could write about war. But a journalist could not write about a political campaign if they chose to endorse a candidate or work on a campaign. He also noted that the two women could have written about same-sex marriage from a personal, experiential viewpoint, but not about the political issue itself. Ted Guggenheim said that the two women did not insert themselves into a conflict, but that they had an opportunity to get married and they did. Mr. Altine said the Chronicle needed to look at the conditions as they were at the time, which meant two women getting married during that period was an insertion into a news story. Aidan Kotler asked whether the Chronicle could write a more detailed ethics policy; Mr. Altine said he would recommend such an action to the Chronicle. Mr. Brinkin asked about Chronicle employees having been able to write about the takeover of the Chronicle by the Hearst Corporation, an obvious conflict for those employees. Mr. Altine said the ethics policy was not in place at the time, and that in the future if a similar situation occurred the Chronicle would contract with outside or free-lance reporters.

Commissioner Sparks thanked Mr. Altine for his participation and for eloquently responding to members’ questions. Mr. Altine then left the meeting. Members then discussed the draft letter and decided that in spite of Mr. Altine’s defense of the Chronicle, the expression of concern about the Chronicle’s action should still be sent by the Commissioners. Staff was directed to add language about the need for a more objective written policy. Mr. Schwichow moved that the amended letter be sent, and Ms. Vancil seconded. All members present voted Aye, except Jorge Romero-Lozano who voted No.

4. Retreat Follow-Up: Adoption of Action Plan for Current Term

Commissioner Sparks asked for a reiteration and elaboration of each element of the action plan drafted at the annual retreat on April 4, 2004. She also asked who would be volunteering for each action. The actions were summarized as follows, and the volunteers are:

  • Intersex Task Force -- preparing for the May 27 public hearing and report writing (Cameron, Kirchoff, Kotler, Phoenix)
  • Homophobia in Communities of Color Task Force – develop an outreach plan to elicit information about this issue; possibly this will be a panel rather than an ongoing task force (Lawlor, Mulcahey, Phoenix, Pratt, Thomas, Vancil, Williams
  • LGBT Immigrant Issues Task Force – social issues, mental and sexual health, discrimination (particularly of elder LGBT immigrants); task force will decide whether this will be a panel or an ongoing task force (Balcazar, Buchmann, Chan, Kotler, Phoenix, possibly Raja, Vancil)
  • Same-sex marriage public forum – will take place in February and follow format of this year’s domestic partners forum (Caldeira, Cameron, Dwyer, Guggenheim)
  • Panel: Beyond the binary – exploring definitions of sex, gender, sexual orientation beyond the binary assumption (Cameron, Phoenix, Pratt, Thomas)
  • Panel: Crystal meth in the LGBT communities – a look at this epidemic and the failure of our institutions to address it (Campbell, Dwyer, Frank, Kotler, Mulcahey)
  • Panel: Funding crisis for LGBT organizations – group will meet to decide if this is an appropriate topic for the HRC at this time (Campbell, Freund, Kirchoff, Phoenix, Schwichow, Thomas)
  • Letter: Sex-positive training modules for community organizations – the committee decided to determine whether and to whom to send a letter on the topic, rather than doing a panel (Phoenix)
  • Panel: Transgender marriage – law and politics around this issue (Buchmann, Cameron)
  • Panel: Racism in the LGBT communities – the panel will focus on a particular aspect of this issue (Balcazar, Kirchoff, Pratt, Vancil)
  • Panel: Homophobia and transphobia in the schools -- LGBT students will be invited to be panelists (possibly Bustamante, Cameron, Guggenheim, Schwichow, Thomas)
  • LGBT military issues – staff will research City’s relationships with the homophobic military and will bring results to committee to determine further action
  • Homophobia in religious institutions – staff will contact Supervisor Ammiano to see if he’s interested in resurrecting the idea of a public or private forum
  • Visibility – staff will bring ideas to the committee about how to make the committee’s activities more known to the public.

5.  Discussion of alleged employment discrimination by S.F. 49ers:

Ms. Nicholson reported that a representative from the 49ers was not available for tonight’s meeting but is confirmed for the May meeting, so this item was deferred to the May 18 meeting.

6.  Approval of letter to San Francisco Board of Supervisors encouraging support for funding the openhouse project and the siting in Hayes Valley:

Commissioner Sparks urged support for this letter, which implements a recommendation from the 2002 public hearing on Aging in the LGBT Communities. Mr. Romero-Lozano noted a mistake on the hearing date referenced in the letter. Ms. Phoenix moved to approve the motion to send the letter as amended, and Ms. Vancil seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.

7.  2004 Pride Day Planning:

Ms. Nicholson explained that the purpose of the Human Rights Commission booth on Pride Day was to acquaint the public with the services and programs of the HRC, and to assist in signature gathering for relevant petitions. She also said that it was important that there be enough volunteers for all shifts, and that it was important that volunteers show up for their shifts on time. Mr. Dwyer and Mr. Pratt asked about the possibility of sharing booth space with another organization, or giving away part of our time to another organization. Ms. Nicholson said both would be difficult as we are a City agency. Commissioner Sparks asked for a show of hands as to who could volunteer for the booth. Since few people raised their hands, Commissioner Sparks announced that the HRC would not have a booth this year. Ms. Buchmann suggested that the booth fee monies be used instead to produce literature to distribute to the public. Staff will follow up on this idea.

8.  Intersex Task Force report:

Mr. Kirchoff reported that the task force came up with a format for the public hearing. Members and staff are now busy contacting medical providers, psychologists, intersex individuals, and others inviting them to offer testimony. The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) is sponsoring two physicians who will testify. Mr. Pratt asked that there be participation from people of color. Mr. Brinkin reported that Marcus Arana had spoken to Dr. Barry Zevin, chief of the Tom Waddell Clinic, who will appear at the hearing.

9,  Staff Report:

Ms. Nicholson reported that she will be leaving her employment with the Commission in order to work as a staff attorney with the state’s Habeas Corpus Resource Center. Her last day will be April 29, 2004. She invited members to attend her going-away luncheon at noon on that date at the HRC offices.

Ms. Nicholson reported that the City’s budget deficit currently is expected to be $352 million the next fiscal year. That means that the position she is leaving will not be filled, and it could mean staff layoffs. She also reported that she and Marcus Arana trained over 150 managers from the Department of Parking & Traffic, and that the trainings were challenging for staff in that a couple of trainees had religious objections to the training.

Ms. Nicholson reported that Mr. Brinkin has been elected to the board of directors of the California Association of Human Relations Organizations (CAHRO), and that he will attend the annual conference in Burbank on April 23rd. Ms. Nicholson also reported that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the S. D. Meyers Company who challenged the City’s Equal Benefits Ordinance on religious grounds. That was the final legal challenge to this program. She also reported that the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved AB 1967, which would two persons of any gender to marry in California. The bill next goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

10. Commissioner’s Report:

Commissioner Sparks announced the appointment by Mayor Newsom of three new Commissioners – Carlotta del Portillo, Faye Woo Lee, and Pat Norman. She also announced that she has been appointed by the Board of Supervisors to the Police Commission. She said she will miss the Commission, and will especially miss working with the LGBT Advisory Committee. She described the committee as being hard-working and dynamic, and she thanked everyone for making her life and others’ lives better. Mr. Brinkin praised Commissioner Sparks for her dedication and friendship and congratulated her on being appointed as the first transgender Police Commissioner.

11. Old/New Business:

Mr. Brinkin announced that Ellise Nicholson was interested in being a member of the Committee. He recommended that the Committee ask the Commission Chair to appoint Ms. Nicholson. The Committee enthusiastically joined in the recommendation. Mr. Brinkin will make the request to Commission Chair Malcolm Heinicke.

12. Announcements:

Mr. Kotler announced that the Youth Gender Project would hold a community meeting for transgender youth on April 24, 2004 at 2:00 p.m.

13. Adjournment:

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