Monday, June 27, 2011

Queer Democrats Warned About Threats to Reproductive Choice

Also Hear Presentation on Likely Strike by Grocery Workers


Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

PHOTOS, top to bottom:

Left to right: Vince Hall, Jenn Kish, Matt Stephens

Evan McLaughlin and Herman Ramirez

Vince Hall

Matt Stephens

Jenn Kish

The predominantly Queer San Diego Democratic Club heard two presentations at its June 23 meeting: a report on the likely strike by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) against southern California’s three largest grocery chains — Ralph’s, Albertson’s and Vons — and a warning about the potentially devastating effects of Republican and radical-Right policies against women’s rights to reproductive choice. Though the struggles of women to maintain safe and legal access to contraception and abortion may seem to have little in common with those of workers for decent pay, access to health care and other benefits, speakers on both issues noted how the radical Right has effectively linked them in the service of a paternalistic agenda that regards workers as mere cogs in a capitalist economy, and women as mere vessels for giving birth to the next generation.

The panel on reproductive choice was introduced by Jacqueline Palmer, the club’s membership chair, who said that the Republican majority in the House of Representatives “rejected the idea that people have the right to control their own bodies” when they voted overwhelmingly last February to bar all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. “In their attempts to gut Title X funding [the basic federal funding for women’s health clinics, ironically signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970], House Republicans voted to let more people die of breast and cervical cancer and AIDS. Right-wing attacks on collective bargaining rights, same-sex marriage and reproductive choice are part of a united campaign.”

Palmer’s arguments were seconded by the three speakers on her panel, who linked all those issues to the Right’s vision of America’s future and explained how they are connected. The speakers were former Assembly candidate Vince Hall, vice-president of public affairs and communications for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest; Matt Stephens, partner in the Progressive Law Group, former chair of the City of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission and board member of the San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center and the San Diego chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); and Jenn Kish, a recent graduate of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law who founded a chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice while she studied there.

Hall recalled that when he started working for Planned Parenthood in 2004, the organization was facing the first of three initiatives in California that would have required girls under 18 to notify their parents before having an abortion. All of these were sponsored and largely bankrolled by San Diego Reader publisher Jim Holman, and though Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice activists were able to defeat them at the polls, they sucked up millions of dollars these groups would otherwise have been able to spend on women’s health services. “With the election of Obama, I thought I might get an opportunity to play offense,” Hall said. “That was fleeting because 2011 has been the most challenging year in the history of our organization. The attacks have been on multiple fronts, and the attackers have been all too familiar.”

Citing three areas in which the pro-choice movement has had to struggle — “political, social and legal” — Hall said that the votes on the parental notification initiatives did not necessarily follow partisan lines. Heavily Democratic districts were as likely to support them as heavily Republican ones, Hall said — and, he added, that was equally true of the anti-marriage initiative Proposition 8. Reproductive choice and marriage equality did best, according to Hall, in “more moderate areas where people were more educated and there were more decline-to-states” — California election-speak for voters who don’t affiliate with a political party. “The elected officials from Democratic precincts are generally for marriage equality and reproductive choice, but when there’s an initiative on the ballot the dynamics change,” Hall warned.

According to Hall, the central value of the movements for both reproductive choice and Queer rights — and the principal reason the radical Right opposes both — is the concept of privacy. “We believe the government has no role in our churches and doctors’ offices,” Hall said. “The people who think they should are attempting to arrest social progress and hold us to a time when their superstitions and mantras governed our civil rights. People in this country fought very hard for abortion rights and women’s health care, including family planning and contraception. The people who are against marriage equality are also waging an all-out war against contraception in general and Planned Parenthood in particular.” Hall joked that there are now three litmus tests by which Republicans judge the fitness of their potential Presidential candidates: whether they reject the idea of evolution, how many guns they have and their commitment to defunding Planned Parenthood.

Aside from contradicting the Republicans’ repeated insistence that they believe in “limited government,” Hall argued, attacks on Planned Parenthood and women’s health care in general actually go against their stated goals of saving the government money and limiting the number of abortions. He cited a report by the Guttmacher Institute, whose Web site states its mission as “advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education,” that eliminating Title X funding for family planning clinics would result in a 34 percent increase in the number of abortions and a 37 percent increase in teenage pregnancies.

“The only way to reduce abortions is to reduce unwanted pregnancies,” Hall said. “Once there were Republicans who actually understood that, but now the Republican Party has become a suspension of the application of logic and reason. The consequences of the 2012 election are enormous. We must re-elect President Obama and [preserve] a Democratic blockade in the Senate.” Hall praised Obama for refusing to compromise when Republican House Speaker John Boehner demanded cutbacks in family planning funding, and warned that, unable to end Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, the Republicans are instead working through the states and, in states with Republican governors and legislative majorities, are pushing an agenda “ to defund Planned Parenthood, eliminate the tax deductibility of health insurance plans that cover abortions, and impose onerous new building requirements on Planned Parenthood’s facilities.”

As a result, Hall said, Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana are already turning away patients, and unless a federal judge halts the state’s new laws by June 30, they will likely have to close down altogether. “This is the most substantial dismantling of women’s health in history,” Hall said. “We provide cancer screenings and STD testing and treatment. We will never shrink from our commitment to women’s health care.” He described the Republicans and the radical Right as having an agenda not only to “end legal and safe abortion” in the U.S. but to eliminate women’s access to health care and family planning that might help them avert the unwanted pregnancies that can lead to abortions.

Civil Right or “Undue Burden”?

Many Americans believe that the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973 guaranteed women an absolute right to reproductive choice. Not true, said Matt Stephens, who in an impassioned presentation demonstrated just how limited women’s rights over their own bodies are even now, with Planned Parenthood still in existence and family planning services other than abortion still federally funded. Under Roe, Stephens explained, “Women only have the right to terminate pregnancies in the first trimester. In the second trimester it’s a ‘shared choice’ between women and the state, and in the third trimester it’s not her choice at all. This is how far we’ve come from [Planned Parenthood founder] Margaret Sanger, who said in 1916 that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy should be absolute.”

Since Roe, Stephens said, the courts have steadily chipped away at the whole idea of women’s right to reproductive choice. The key decision, he explained, was the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case of 1992, which challenged five restrictions the Pennsylvania legislature had put on women’s access to abortion. They were a so-called “informed consent” law requiring doctors to lecture women about the health risks and possible complications of an abortion; notification requirements that minors had to tell their parents before they could have an abortion, and married women had to tell their husbands; a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion could be performed; and reporting requirements for hospital and clinics performing abortions.

Though the court in Casey split wildly and no one opinion commanded a majority of the nine justices, the opinion that ultimately became settled law was written by the Court’s first female justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. It held that state restrictions on abortion were unconstitutional only if they imposed an “undue burden” on women. The opinion defined “undue burden” as “the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” According to Stephens, O’Connor’s opinion upheld four of the five restrictions in Pennsylvania’s law as not constituting an “undue burden.” The only one she invalidated was the one that married women notify their husbands — and that, she said, was an “undue burden” because of the possibility that men might beat up their wives if they heard their wives say they wanted an abortion.

In other words, said Stephens, the current Supreme Court has held that the government may do anything it wants to restrict abortion as long as the restrictions don’t put women seeking abortion at risk of being victims of physical violence. In the Court’s most recent major decision on abortion, Gonzalez v. Carhart (2007), Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion upheld a law making third-trimester dilation-and-extraction abortions — referred to in radical-Right propaganda as “partial-birth abortions” — illegal on the ground that the ban did not impose an “undue burden” on women. In that ruling, Stephens said, “Congress was given the right to decide what is medically necessary for a woman.”

Stephens also talked about how the Supreme Court’s abortion decisions potentially affect Queer rights in general and marriage equality in particular. He said that the entire legal argument for Queer rights rests on the assumption that the U.S. Constitution guarantees an individual right to privacy. Even though there’s nothing specific in the Constitution that says that, the Supreme Court in the 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut — which ruled that married heterosexuals had a constitutional right to access to birth control — said the Constitution’s guarantees of individual freedom created a “penumbral” right to privacy, a holding that was later cited as a basis for Roe v. Wade. The radical Right has consistently rejected the whole idea of a legal right to privacy as liberal “judicial activism” — and, Stephens argued, Justice Kennedy’s Carhart opinion has given the Court a precedent by which they could also limit Queer rights based on an “undue burden” test.

What’s more, Stephens said, attacks on women’s access to abortion are also attacks on women’s equality in general. “It is now accepted that women have autonomy to determine their life’s choice and their equal status, and that autonomy is dependent on her ability to control her reproduction,” he argued. “The attack on reproductive choice is not just an attack on women’s health but an attack on women’s ability to participate in society and in the workforce. When are we going to start saying this is an attack on women workers, on women’s citizenship? The legal fight only gets us so far. We have to put ourselves out and want the whole right and nothing but the right. What can you do to make sure that women get their full rights as citizens in the U.S.? That requires you to talk to your representatives, support Planned Parenthood and write letters to the editor to support women’s rights. All of us in the LGBT [Queer] community will benefit because it’s about our equal right to privacy and liberty, and it’s up to you to protect that.”

The Demographic Time Bomb

After a short presentation by Kish that was mostly a list of pro-choice organizations with which people can work on the issue, the club then opened the floor to audience questions — mostly centered around the polls showing that the younger Americans are, the more likely they are to support government restrictions on abortion rights. This has troubled a lot of pro-choice activists, not only because it suggests it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. has a stable anti-choice majority but also because it’s the opposite of the message from similar polls about marriage equality. Why would young people be more progressive than older ones about same-sex marriage but less so about women’s rights? The panelists came up with several answers to that question.

“Younger people have grown up in a different media culture in which homophobia makes no sense,” said Hall. “But they also don’t know what went on before Roe v. Wade. They don’t know that before 1973 each major big-city hospital had a special ward just for women suffering from the effects of botched illegal abortions. Voters who support marriage equality are not morally conflicted about it, but everyone has complex feelings about abortion. Younger people are more likely to say abortion should be regulated because they don’t have enough information to separate those public policy issues from their personal confusion about abortion.”

Stephens had a different explanation: he blamed the radical Right’s success in virtually eliminating fact-based sex education from schools and imposing “abstinence-only” programs. Young people, he said, “don’t have a base of information” on which to base sound public policy judgments on how to deal with sex and its consequences. “Also, we’ve lost the legal high ground, and those students don’t have the perspective that [women’s reproductive] rights should be absolute,” he added. “We also don’t educate students, including medical students, about this. Medical students don’t have access to training that includes reproductive health care, including abortion, and they need it.”

One audience member raised the point that not only do polls show young people less likely to support reproductive choice than older ones, but young women are less likely to support it than young men. Hall said that it’s precisely because the issue is more personal for young women that they’re less able to consider it as a public-policy question than young men. “We need to make young people understand that it is not about what they would decide, but it’s about what public policy should be,” Hall explained — to which long-time club activist and former San Diego County Democratic Party chair Maureen Steiner grimly joked that young men may be more likely to be pro-choice than young women simply because they think they’ll get more sex if women’s reproductive choice is guaranteed.

Hall also critiqued media coverage of the issue, particularly the annual Gallup poll, taken in May, which asks people whether they consider themselves “pro-choice” or “pro-life” on abortion. “This is a debate between two terms that no longer have any meaning, except to political activists,” he said. Hall recalled that when one reporter asked him for an interview on the Gallup poll, he asked her if she’d read the other question on the report — the one that asked, “Do you think abortions should be legal under all circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal under all circumstances?” She admitted she hadn’t, and so Hall read the results to her. In May 2011 27 percent of Gallup’s respondents answered “always legal,” 50 percent “sometimes legal” and only 22 percent said “always illegal” — so, he argued, less than a quarter of Gallup’s sample endorsed the bottom-line position of the anti-abortion movement.

Club members asked questions on a number of other aspects of the issue, including the economic stimulus effect of family-planning funding and the insulting attitude towards women underlying many anti-abortion laws — the assumption that women are too immature to make decisions about their bodies and their pregnancies without help from a paternalistic state. Jenn Kish reported that the radical-Right legislative majority in Texas is already considering bills to outlaw legal access to birth control, and longtime club member Elaine Graybill said that young people who can’t imagine what it was like when abortion was illegal also can’t conceive of a time when they wouldn’t have birth control available.

“What is at stake is privacy rights,” said Stephens. “We’ve already had specific debates on the ‘morning-after pill.’ We have to change the terms of debate. Our youth are not familiar with where we have come from. There have to be ‘Take Back the Night’ marches where women 50 and older come forward and say they terminated a pregnancy. We have to take away the moral shame we’ve been put in about sex in general and pregnancy in particular.”

The Grocery Strike Situation

The club also heard from Herman Ramirez of Local 135 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the largest private-sector labor union in San Diego County, and Evan McLaughlin, political director of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Central Labor Council, on the situation between the union and the three largest supermarket chains in southern California: Kroger, which owns Ralph’s; Supervalu, which owns Albertson’s; and Safeway, which owns Vons. In 2003 the three chains forced a labor confrontation that resulted in a 5 1/2-month strike widely regarded as a crushing defeat for the union. They had to agree to a “two-tier” wage structure so newly hired workers would be paid less than previous employees, and were hit with major cuts in health care and pension benefits.

“The core issues” of the 2003-2004 strike “were fabricated” by the chains, Ramirez said. “They were just trying to get givebacks from us on health care and pensions. This year the economic issues are real, and the companies have decided to deal with health care by just taking it away. It’s a cost shift of 80 percent to the members. We are on the road to a strike, maybe at the end of June, maybe in mid-July.” Noting that the grocery chains are nationwide companies and therefore “they’re not afraid of a strike,” Ramirez said the only real weapon the union has is to get people not to shop at the stores — and to that end he brought packets containing a list of unionized stores where people who want to support the strike can shop. Unfortunately, though the list includes drugstore chains like Rite Aid and CVS, it does not contain any major food outlets in the Hillcrest, North Park or Normal Heights areas, making it virtually impossible for people without cars to support the union.

Ramirez urged shoppers to go to the managers of local Ralph’s, Albertson’s and Vons stores and explain to them that they won’t be shopping there during a strike — or even after that if the final contract isn’t fair to workers. He said messages like that will get relayed to corporate headquarters and may have an effect on the stores’ negotiating strategies. Asked about the overall profitability of the stores, Ramirez said, “Yes, they are [making a lot of money]. The only store that’s not doing well is Albertson’s. They’ve never been able to recapture the market share” they had before the 2003-04 strike.

McLaughlin also talked about the 900-pound gorilla in the marketing world: Wal-Mart. In 2003 the grocery chains said that one of the major reasons they needed wage and benefit concessions from their workers was the threat of competition from aggressively anti-union Wal-Mart and the giant “Supercenters” they wanted to build throughout San Diego County and anywhere else that would have them. The San Diego City Council passed a bill to require an economic impact statement before Wal-Mart or any other company could build a giant store, but rescinded it after Wal-Mart successfully got enough signatures to repeal it in a referendum and the Council decided not to spend the $3 million it would cost for a special election to defend the ordinance.

Nonetheless, unionists, activists and Wal-Mart foes pushed the issue at the state level through SB 469, sponsored by San Diego-area State Senator Juan Vargas. McLaughlin announced that the State Senate has already passed the bill and it just survived its first committee test in the Assembly. McLaughlin urged club members to write their Assemblymembers and lobby in support of SB 469.

Both Ramirez and McLaughlin commented on the media coverage. In 2003-04, the grocery chains ran an effective P.R. campaign that got a majority of San Diegans to see the issues their way. Ramirez argued that labor will always be at a disadvantage with the media because “we don’t buy media time; the companies do. So it’s really difficult to get our message out. We have done interviews with the TV channels, and they’ll always edit them to put in the negative hit. When there’s a big problem with pensions, they attack the people receiving them.”

McLaughlin said that in order to win the P.R. battle, the union needs to focus on one message: health care. “A lot of people don’t have health care, or they’re losing access to it through higher co-pays or premiums,” he said. “These are 10,000 workers standing up for your access to health care.”

Eventually the club voted unanimously to “adopt” the three grocery-chain outlets in their core area — the Ralph’s in Hillcrest in the Uptown District mall (the same center where the club meets), the Albertson’s on University and Mississippi and the Vons on 30th and Howard — which means club members will join picket lines at those stores in case of a strike and the club will also educate its members and supporters about the issues and urge them not to shop there. The club also gave President Obama a “friendly incumbent” re-election endorsement and amended its platform to drop all references to supporting domestic partnerships or civil unions as alternatives to marriage equality.
UFCW Local 135 Union Stores Not Facing a Strike

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 135 has prepared this list of stores in San Diego County represented by their union that are not facing the strike the union has already authorized against the three major grocery chains: Kroger, which owns Ralph’s; Supervalu, which owns Albertson’s; and Safeway, which owns Vons, so people wishing to support the strike (if it occurs) will know where they can shop without either crossing a picket line or supporting a non-union store. Unfortunately, virtually all the grocery stores and supermarkets (as opposed to major drugstore chains like Rite Aid and CVS) on this list are in remote locations inaccessible to public transportation from San Diego’s most progressive areas, including Hillcrest, North Park and Normal Heights. What’s more, at this time this list is not available on Local 135’s Web site,; nor is the companion list of all the Ralph’s, Albertson’s and Vons outlets in the county that Local 135 included in their information packet.

CVS, 318 W. El Norte Parkway, Escondido, CA 92026
CVS, 1656 Garnet Avenue, San Diego, CA 92109
CVS, 7393 Jackson Drive, San Diego, CA 92119
CVS, 555 Broadway, Suite #1054, Chula Vista, CA 91910
CVS, 3151 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92104
CVS, 3327 Rosecrans Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92110
CVS, 683 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach, CA 92075
Food 4 Less, 500 Hacienda Drive, Vista, CA 92081
Food 4 Less, 7420 Broadway, Lemon Grove, CA 92045
Food 4 Less, 7730 Hazard Center Drive, San Diego, CA 92108
Food 4 Less, 644 N. Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025
Food 4 Less, 1320 E. 30th Street, National City, CA 91950
Food 4 Less, 4995 Shawline Street, San Diego, CA 92111
Food 4 Less, 9430 Cuyamaca, Santee, CA 92071
Food 4 Less, 5975 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92115
Food 4 Less, 444 Broadway, El Cajon, CA 92021
Food 4 Less, 312 Euclid Avenue, San Diego, CA 92114
Food 4 Less, 2420 N. Cottonwood Drive, El Centro, CA 92243
Food 4 Less, 660 Palomar Street, Chula Vista, CA 91911
Food 4 Less, 109 W. Birch, Calexico, CA 92231
Keil Market, 3015 Clairemont Drive, San Diego, CA 92117
Keil Market, 7403 Jackson Drive, San Diego, CA 92119
Lucky, 351 Wake Avenue, El Centro, CA 92244
Lucky, 350 W. San Ysidro Boulevard, San Ysidro, CA 92173
Rite Aid, 4348 Bonita Road, Bonita, CA 92002
Rite Aid, 740 Otay Lakes Road, #907, Chula Vista, CA 91910
Rite Aid, 507 Telegraph Canyon Road, Chula Vista, CA 91910
Rite Aid, 2230 Otay Lakes Road, Chula Vista, CA 91910
Rite Aid, 7224 Broadway, Lemon Grove, CA 91945
Rite Aid, 661 Sweetwater Road, Spring Valley, CA 91977
Rite Aid, 995 Tamarack Avenue, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Rite Aid, 7100 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, CA 92009
Rite Aid, 2516 Jamacha Road, El Cajon, CA 92019
Rite Aid, 1135 Avocado Boulevard, El Cajon, CA 92020
Rite Aid, 400 N. 2nd Street, El Cajon, CA 92020
Rite Aid, 415 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024
Rite Aid, 315 West Washington, Escondido, CA 92025
Rite Aid, 1855 Centre City Parkway S., Escondido, CA 92025
Rite Aid, 1331 South Mission Road, Fallbrook, CA 92028
Rite Aid, 9532 Winter Gardens Boulevard, Lakeside, CA 92040
Rite Aid, 1201 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, CA 92054
Rite Aid, 3813 Plaza Drive, Oceanside, CA 92056
Rite Aid, 463 College Boulevard, Oceanside, CA 92057
Rite Aid, 12666 Poway Road, Poway, CA 92064
Rite Aid, 1670 Main Street, Ramona, CA 92065
Rite Aid, 121 S. Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, CA 92069
Rite Aid, 9759 Mission Gorge Road, Santee, CA 92071
Rite Aid, 1363 E. Vista Way, Vista, CA 92082
Rite Aid, 427 “C” Street, San Diego, CA 92101
Rite Aid, 535 Robinson Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103
Rite Aid, 1735 Euclid Avenue, San Diego, CA 92105
Rite Aid, 4840 Niagara Avenue, San Diego, CA 92107
Rite Aid, 6939 Linda Vista Road, San Diego, CA 92111
Rite Aid, 6405 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92115
Rite Aid, 3650 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
Rite Aid, 5270 Balboa Avenue, San Diego, CA 92117
Rite Aid, 3081-B Clairemont Drive, San Diego, CA 92117
Rite Aid, 836 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118
Rite Aid, 8694 Lake Murray Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92119
Rite Aid, 6505 Mission Gorge, San Diego, CA 92120
Rite Aid, 4077 Governor Drive, San Diego, CA 92122
Rite Aid, 10631 Tierrasanta Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92124
Rite Aid, 8985 Mira Mesa Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92126
Rite Aid, 11845 Carmel Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92128
Rite Aid, 13167 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92129
Rite Aid, 3515 Del Mar Heights Road, San Diego, CA 92130
Rite Aid, 1854 Coronado Avenue, San Diego, CA 92154
Rite Aid, 165 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine, CA 91901
Rite Aid, 4455 Manchester Avenue, Encinitas, CA 92024
Rite Aid, 1411 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
Stater Brothers, 635 N. Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025
Stater Brothers, 3770 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, CA 92054
Stater Brothers, 2170 Vista Way, Oceanside, CA 92054
Stater Brothers, 1330 E. Mission Road, San Marcos, CA 92069
Stater Brothers, 780 Sycamore Avenue, Vista, CA 92083
Stater Brothers, 1451 N. Santa Fe Avenue, Vista, CA 92085
Stater Brothers, 1048 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024
Stater Brothers, 13589 Poway Road, Poway, CA 92064
Stater Brothers, 1674 Main Street, Ramona, CA 92065
Stater Brothers, 9909 Carmel Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92129
Stater Brothers, 2687 Gateway Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92009

Contact information for news on the negotiations:
Hotline number: (619) 298-7772 x171
Web site:
Facebook page: UFCWLocal135
Text messaging: Text ufcw135 to the number 37398

Monday, June 20, 2011

Big Brother Is Testing You


Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved


Reading of this article with Dr. Little’s recorded quotes available for download:

Dr. Susan Little’s complete presentation available for download:

On May 10 I attended a meeting of the Hillcrest Town Council (HTC) to hear a discussion of the current redistricting process for the San Diego City Council — only that wasn’t the main event of the evening. The main event was a presentation so dramatic and shocking I am still reeling under the outrageousness of it all. It was 22 minutes long and was delivered by Dr. Susan Little of the Antiviral Research Center (ARC) at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center, and dealt with a new, stunningly intrusive and threatening program called “Lead the Way” designed essentially to force everyone between the ages of 18 and 64 in the 92103 and 92104 Zip codes — Hillcrest and North Park, the parts of San Diego with the greatest concentration of Queer residents — to take the HIV antibody test and go on immediate “treatment” with anti-HIV medications if they test “positive.”

The program Dr. Little outlined was so broad, and its scope so sweeping, that even before she was finished I had renamed it in my head, “Big Brother Is Testing You.” It uses most of the familiar tactics of the AIDS establishment — engendering guilt, shame and fear in people who don’t “go with the program,” aggressive propaganda and unscrupulous marketing — along with some new wrinkles. The first step in the program was a series of “teaser” ads on bus shelters (why do these people always target bus shelters? Are they just available and cheap, or do they figure people who take buses in the U.S. are poor and therefore less educated and more gullible?) asking the question, “I would — would you?,” and encouraging people to visit a Web site called

The second step was to set up a testing office at the corner of Park and University, which opened the day after Dr. Little spoke at the HTC. The third step was to post, both on the bus shelters and on the Web site, the photos of what Dr. Little called “representatives from all walks of life” who live in Hillcrest or North Park and are “leader[s] in this community,” answering the initial “teaser” question with the refrain, “I would — would you?” In an example of surrealistically bad marketing, the first person ARC picked as their community role model to encourage HIV antibody testing was … Father Joe Carroll, a venerable Roman Catholic priest who’s achieved both fame and controversy as the proprietor of a series of tough-love programs for homeless people based on the principle that what they need to get off the streets is quasi-militaristic discipline and regimentation.

But it’s the fourth step in the program that takes it beyond just another annoying self-promotion from the AIDS establishment and puts it in the realm of Big Brother. Dr. Little and her staff will be sending out mobile testing vans and having people go door-to-door in randomly selected census tracts in Hillcrest and North Park to offer on-the-spot tests. “People always kind of recoil at that,” Dr. Little admitted to the HTC, but “if we [just] put banners up everywhere and advertise, and bring people in to test, we will, I think predictably, being in people who are already believers in the importance of HIV [antibody] testing. We’re actually very interested in getting feedback from people who don’t want to test. … The goal is to walk around the census block and try to approach every residential household in that region, and simply ask people to answer our questions; and then, if they want, they can have the HIV test.”

There’s a cheery little button called “say hi” on the Web site promoting the mobile test program. They’ve already set up a testing area in Old Town and at press time are scheduled for two others: in Normal Heights between El Cajon Boulevard and Meade Avenue east-west, and Wilson Avenue and 36th Street north-south; and in the heart of Hillcrest between Robinson and Pennsylvania east-west, and 6th and 7th Avenues north-south. “We will be trying to visit everyone in this area to ask you to Lead The Way!,” says their Web site, in that annoying combination of infantilism and chipperness with which medical marketers usually address their target audiences.

And Dr. Little’s objective for the program shows the kind of megalomania often associated with the AIDS establishment in particular. “The goal is that we would identify people who are infected [sic] and link them into care, so that we can (a) reduce transmission in this community, and (b) we’re trying to make this part of a multi-year project,” she told HTC — even though at present their funding, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is for only one year. “There is at least theoretically the possibility that if we could test an entire community, and provide access to treatment for those who were infected [sic], we could reduce the rate of new transmissions potentially to zero.”

The biggest problem with “Lead the Way” is that it’s based on lies. Some of them are the standard lies the AIDS establishment has been putting out for years, including the basis of the test itself. The standard test does not measure live, infectious virus; instead, it tests for antibody reactions to the nine proteins that, together, are presumed to make up HIV — though they’re also found in normal human bodies. That’s why I put [sic] above next to the statements by Dr. Little that say a positive antibody test means you are “infected.” It doesn’t. For virtually all viral infections, antibodies mean immunity. They mean you’ve been exposed to the germ and, lucky you, have developed resistance against it. That’s why doctors urge you to vaccinate: by giving you something similar to the germ they’re vaccinating against, vaccines are supposed to teach your immune system to make antibodies that will protect you if you then encounter the real deal.

For some viruses — notably herpes-class viruses — antibodies don’t always mean permanent immunity. Age, stress or other factors can weaken the immune response antibodies provide — which is why there’s currently a campaign to get older people to vaccinate against shingles, which are caused by the same herpes-class virus that causes chickenpox. But there is no virus other than HIV for which the medical establishment says, not only that antibodies don’t always mean immunity, but quite the opposite. Once you test (antibody)-positive, you’re told it’s only a matter of time before you will get AIDS and will die prematurely — unless you start highly toxic drug regimens that in the real world (as opposed to the fantasies of the AIDS establishment) are likely as not to speed your death by trashing your liver and/or screwing up your digestive system.

What’s more, there are over 60 documented causes of false-positive results on the HIV antibody test, including hepatitis, herpes, lupus, malaria and flu. (In Britain they warn you not to take the HIV antibody test for a week after having had a flu shot, lest the flu antibodies cross-react with the test and create a false positive. Alas, they don’t tell people that here.) You can also test false-positive if you’re pregnant, and the more often you’ve been pregnant before the more likely a new pregnancy is to trigger the test and make it read “positive.” And the “early” and “rapid” tests UCSD is using in Lead the Way so they can hand out results immediately are, according to their manufacturer’s Web site, 10 times as likely to generate false-positives as the tests for which you have to wait a week for the results.

Dr. Little told HTC that they’re going to guard against the possibility of a false-positive antibody test by offering them what, in the AIDS world of cutesy-poo acronyms, they call “NAT,” or Nucleic Acid Test. “That detects virus,” she said. Another lie: the NAT detects exactly what its name says it detects, the nucleic acids — either RNA or DNA — that supposedly make up HIV’s genetic core. There’s no way of knowing whether those nucleic acids are part of intact, infectious HIV, or whether they’re genetic flotsam and jetsam floating around in the bloodstream. What’s more, if you “pass” the NAT and they find what they think is HIV genetic material, they’re going to measure the “progress” of your infection with something called the viral load test, based on a technology called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). That’s supposed to tell you how many HIV’s are swimming around in your blood — but Kary Mullis, Ph.D., who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for inventing the PCR, says it can’t do any such thing.

There are still more lies behind “Lead the Way.” Dr. Little told the HTC that there was no intention to target the Queer community by picking the 92103 and 92104 Zip codes for her study area. “We are not targeting anyone,” she said. “We are specifically not even asking about risk.” She said the reason they picked the parts of San Diego with the biggest Queer populations was “if you’re going to try and demonstrate an effect, prove a principle, many people would start with that group that stands to benefit the most. … What we’re trying to do is engage a community that is affected by HIV — Gay, straight, injection drug [users], I don’t care — and get everybody to come together and say, ‘If we have the opportunity to reduce HIV in our community, we want to show that it can be done without a vaccine.’” But they’re not targeting anybody. Yeah, right.

Dr. Little also made a big deal about the confidentiality of the tests. She said that both the questionnaires administered on the Lead the Way Web site (as part of the door-to-door campaign they’ll be loaning people iPads on which to fill them out) and the tests themselves will be “encrypted and locked,” and that blood draws from the test won’t be labeled with people’s names, just identifying numbers. But according to Matt Potter of the San Diego Reader, that’s the same promise she made the last time ARC did a major testing study — and she broke it.

According to Potter’s “Under the Radar” column in the June 2 Reader, Dr. Little announced a study in November 2007 offering “free and confidential HIV testing” to people who might have recently been exposed to the virus. It may have been free, but it certainly wasn’t confidential. Both the federal government and Dr. Little’s bosses at UCSD investigated and found that every single sample from that study sent out to a private lab for testing went out with the patient’s name and address attached. There was, said UCSD’s internal audit, “100 percent noncompliance” with Dr. Little’s promise of test confidentiality. As a result, UCSD essentially put her on probation, stating that for the next two years they would “conduct random audits of all active research protocols” she was running “for compliance with approved procedures and all aspects of managing patient confidentiality.”

So “Lead the Way” is revealed as the brainchild of a megalomaniacal researcher with a history of breaking patient confidentiality, who’s asking us to trust her as she sends out staff members with test kits in vans to go door-to-door to shame people into taking a test for which a “positive” result, accurate or not, can stigmatize them forever and screw up their chances of employment, relationships and proper health care. Would I take an HIV antibody test offered by Dr. Susan Little and her minions? I sure as hell wouldn’t — and I hope everybody reading this decides that they wouldn’t either!

Over 500 Turn Out for San Diego Slut Walk

June 11 Event Targets Sexual Violence and “Rape Culture”


Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Over 500 people turned out at the San Diego Community Concourse Saturday, June 11 for San Diego Slut Walk, one in an international series of demonstrations targeting sexual violence and what organizers called the “rape culture” that allegedly encourages it. Called in response to a January 24 statement by a police representative in Toronto, Canada that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized,” the Slut Walks encourage people to attend in stereotypically “slutty” attire — skin-tight tops, short skirts, sheer dresses, tight pants and the like — to make the point that simply because a woman dresses in a way that highlights her sexuality, that does not give men the right to rape or assault her.

Slut Walk San Diego consisted of an opening rally at the Community Concourse, a march downtown along Second Avenue to Broadway, up to Fifth and then back down B Street, followed by another rally and a chance for participants to hang out and be photographed with the Slut Walk banner. The leaflet handed out to people as they arrived also offered a list of local clubs for people to party after the march, and announced a “VIP Party” at the House of Blues from 6 to 11 p.m. with a limited number of tickets available for march participants. This odd mixture of militant activism and promoting the club scene reflected the dual purpose of Slut Walk: to project a sex-positive message while at the same time taking a hard line against sexual violence and the rationalizations used by police and authority figures to treat it far less seriously than other major crimes.

Most of the participants dressed relatively normally, but a few followed the advice and attended in so-called “slut wear.” A group called the Naked Bike Riders came and stripped to the legal minimum; the women had their nipples covered but were otherwise topless. One man came dressed in a pink negligee, though he wasn’t otherwise in drag and didn’t make any attempt to look female. Another man, wearing a black sash labeled “Marsha” (as were several other participants), came dressed as an S/M slave, with a collar and leash around his neck — though no one else was holding the leash — and it was he who steered the main body of the march back to the Community Concourse after the lead marchers overshot the turning point by one block.

March organizers had arranged with the police to close Second Avenue for the walk but to stay on the sidewalk on Broadway. A woman in the march had other ideas. “Fuck the sidewalk!” she said. “I’m marching on the street!” As soon as she took to the street, the marchers behind her followed, and the police changed their plans and closed off the south side of Broadway to accommodate the marchers until they made the turn at Fifth.

The speakers both before and after the march covered a wide range of ground. At least two told their own experiences as victims both of sexual assault and the belittling attitude with which authorities frequently treat sex-crime victims. A woman identified as Foxy Lidé, a dancer who five years ago enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, told the story of how she had felt a “family bond” in the Marines until “I was raped by my platoon guide, a man whom I had considered a friend. Like 90 percent of all rape victims in the military, I didn’t report it. The first person I told was my husband — now my ex-husband — who blamed me and said, ‘How did you let this happen to you?’”

After that, Lidé recalled, she made a belated report to her superiors and discovered that the same person had raped a Navy servicewoman. She continued the training program she’d been in when the rape occurred, was assigned to duty in San Diego ¬— and then was informed that the paperwork and evidence in her case had disappeared. When three other women who’d been raped by the same man came forward, he was “administratively separated” from the Marine Corps but was not punished in any other way. “He still lives in Texas, goes to school, boasts of being an ex-Marine and had the nerve to friend me on Facebook a few weeks ago,” Lidé said.

Liz, a Transgender woman, was technically on the program representing the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (S.A.M.E.), but the story she had to tell was her own. After saying she was “pretty fucking terrified” to be speaking in public — she’s already suffered employment discrimination for being Transgender and was afraid of losing her current job — she told about her experience as the victim of a sexual assault.

“A year and a half ago, I was at a club with a friend,” Liz recalled. “I was approached by a stranger who wanted to dance with me. Then it started, an all too familiar deal: ‘You’re a guy, right?’ I said, ‘No.’ ‘Then you’re all girl — I mean, down there?’ I said, ‘None of your business.’ Then I felt a hand reach down and grab my crotch, and I realized I’d just been sexually assaulted — by a woman, a Lesbian, part of my so-called ‘LGBT community.’ [To the rest of the world] I’m a sex toy, a curiosity, a sexual deviant, a fetish, a slut. Even the court clerk who took my report thought it entirely reasonable to ask what my genitals look like.”

Echo Zinn, a former co-president of UCSD Voices for Planned Parenthood, tied in the so-called “rape culture” with current Congressional attacks on Planned Parenthood and funding for women’s reproductive health in general. He cited the New Jersey Congressmember who has introduced language on the House floor to ban private health insurers from paying for women pregnant from rape or incest to have abortions unless the rapist “used force.” He also mentioned a Congressmember from South Dakota who said he would only want insurance to pay for an abortion for a rape victim if she were “a religious, unmarried and brutally sodomized virgin,” and quoted the infamous statement from Congressmember Pete DeGraaf (R-Kansas) that women rape victims who get pregnant shouldn’t expect insurance companies to pay for their abortions because, “We do need to plan ahead for things, don’t we, in life? … I have a spare tire on my car.”

“To rape apologists, and to those who seek to strip women of control over their bodies, rape is a ‘natural disaster’ and women should ‘plan ahead’ for it,” said Zinn. “That attitude is why we need Slut Walks. People have a right to express their sexuality without having to fear that it will be used against them.”

Teen Producers’ Project Makes Immigration Videos

Congressmember Filner Promises to Show Them in D.C.


Copyright © 2011 by Leo E. Laurence for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Teenagers from 14-19 in both San Diego and Tijuana produced numerous, professional-quality videos on undocumented immigration which were recently screened at Media Arts Center in North Park. It runs the enormously successful Teen Producers’ Project, on both sides of the border.

Congressmember Bob Filner (D-San Diego), a potential mayoral candidate, has long been personally involved with the project and promised to take the amazing 2-9 minute videos to Washing-ton to be seen by Congressional committees.

The project teaches teenagers all phases of commercial-quality video production, from shooting scenes to editing and final polish. The teenagers use the same professional cameras as TV news cameramen, and their editing equipment is state-of-the-art.

About 40 teenagers are involved in San Diego, and another 15 participate in similar technical training in Tijuana. The program is managed by the Media Arts Center in North Park, which also produces the popular Latino Film Festival every spring.

Each project class costs about $7,000, with an annual budget of about $100,000, according to executive director Ethan van Thillo.

Some of the major funding sponsors include Adobe Youth Voices from the Adobe software corporation, plus banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, among others.

The Media Arts Center will also sponsor a Youth Media Technology Camp this summer for youths from 9 to 14.

“We are a bi-national culture,” Congressmember Filner said in uncharacteristically brief remarks.

He promised that the amazing short videos on undocumented immigration as seen by teenagers on both sides of the border, would be shown to congressional committees in Washington.

Filner again showed support for the DREAM Act, which would allow the children of undocumented workers to receive legal status and a path to citizenship if they attend college or serve in the U.S. military. It was first introduced in 2001, and faces an uphill struggle in our current Congress.

“There are 65,000 students (of undocumented parents) who graduate from our nation’s high schools every year, but they can’t go further (in college) without a Social Security number,” Filner explained. The DREAM Act would change that.

The Congressmember had been a “freedom rider” at the age of 18 in the 1960’s, and had marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

“These are all-American kids, some of whom have never been in Mexico,” he added.

“The border since 9/11 has become more difficult to cross because of our U.S. policies,” Filner stressed.

One American citizen and San Diego banker is a 23-year old Mexican who is doing very well and drives a nice new black sports car. However, at the border recently on returning to San Diego, he was forced into secondary inspection because an agent said “a young Mexican shouldn’t have a nice car like that.”

In one positive action, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that children of undocumented parents need not pay the much higher tuition costs of out-of-state students as before.

Photo caption:

Dramatizing the trans-border character of the Teen Producers’ Project, Congressmember Bob Filner meets with Trevor Seines, 17, of San Diego (left) and Alan Romero, 20, of Tijuana. Photo by Leo E. Laurence.

EQCA Hosts “Back to the Ballot?” Town-Hall June 3

Attendees Split on Whether to Seek Prop. 8 Repeal at Polls in 2012


Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

PHOTO: Andrea Shorter and Jason Molnar

As part of a series of meetings across the state, Equality California (EQCA) convened a town-hall at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center June 3 called “Back to the Ballot?” The intention was to provide EQCA with community input about whether they should seek to put an initiative on the ballot in November 2012 and give voters a chance to repeal Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. But the range of opinions in the room was far from the enthusiastic support such a measure would need to succeed. In a straw poll taken at the start of the program, 16 people voted in favor of going back to the ballot in 2012, six were against and 25 were undecided. When the poll was repeated at the end, only 13 were for the ballot measure, 13 were against and 11 were still undecided.

The meeting was led by Andrea Shorter, EQCA’s director of marriage and coalitions, and Los Angeles-based attorney Jason Molnar. Shorter presented a series of numbers from polls EQCA commissioned about the opinions likely voters in California currently have about same-sex marriage. Based on a sample of 900, including 150 African-Americans and 50 Asian-Pacific Islander-Americans, and with a margin of error of 3.3 percent, the poll was taken May 10-14 and showed a statistical tie: 45 percent in favor of marriage equality, 45 percent opposed and 10 percent undecided. What’s remarkable about this result is that, by comparison with a similar poll taken in 2009, more people seemed unsure about the issue: the 2009 results were 47 percent in favor, 48 percent opposed and only 5 percent undecided.

Shorter also presented results from subgroups within the original sample (though she did not explain that this increases the margin of error). She said that 59 percent of Democrats support marriage equality, along with 53 percent of nonpartisan voters and 23 percent of Republicans. “Over 30 percent of Democrats are still opposed,” she conceded, showing the “against” numbers as 32 percent of Democrats, 37 percent of nonpartisans and 69 percent of Republicans (down from 77 percent in 2009).

The poll numbers also confirmed the belief that the younger you are, the more likely you are to support marriage equality. Of voters under 30, 71 percent favored marriage equality and 24 percent opposed. In the 30-44 age range, 50 percent were in favor and 43 percent against. Among voters 45 to 64, 43 percent supported equality and 48 percent opposed. In the oldest group, aged 65 and up, 34 percent were in favor and 53 percent against. Interestingly, the numbers of undecideds also went up with age: 5 percent among voters under 30, 7 percent in the 30-44 group, 9 percent in the 45 to 64 group and 13 percent among voters 65 and older.

According to Shorter, the current poll supported the conclusion from previous polls and the Proposition 8 vote itself that religion was a stronger predictor of how people feel about marriage equality than race. Among people who attend church once a week or more, only 29 percent favor marriage equality, to 68 percent opposed and 9 percent undecided. People who attend church “a few times a month” break 42 percent in favor, 47 percent opposed and 11 percent undecided. Of people who go once a month or less, 53 percent favor marriage equality to 41 percent opposed and 6 percent undecided. People who attend church “hardly ever or never” break 65 percent for marriage equality, 25 percent opposed and 13 percent undecided.

The racial breakdowns revealed whites breaking in favor of marriage equality, 48 percent to 44 percent opposed and 8 percent undecided. Asian-Pacific Islanders are the other racial group in which supporters outnumber opponents, 51 to 41 percent, with 8 percent undecided. African-Americans break against marriage equality 53 percent to 33 percent, with 14 percent undecided, while Latinos are more closely divided, 47 percent against to 43 percent in favor and 10 percent undecided. “Frequency of worship is a stronger factor than ethnicity,” Shorter stressed, anxious to avoid some of the racist rhetoric from the Queer community after Proposition 8 exit polls revealed that it had passed by more among African-Americans and Latinos than among whites.

She also cited other poll results that gave hope for bridging the gap between marriage equality activists and religious people, especially people of color. “Latino Catholics’ support for marriage equality has increased to greater significance over the last two years,” she said. While support among all Catholics increased from 45 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2011 — a statistical tie — support among Latino Catholics jumped from 45 to 51 percent, Shorter explained. She also cited a nationwide poll by Catholics for Equality that found that 63 percent of Catholics support marriage equality. “That’s somewhat encouraging, if those numbers stand,” she said.

The Religious Exemption

Assuming, on the basis of poll results like these, that the biggest stumbling block to voters supporting marriage equality is their religious convictions — particularly the fear that their churches will be forced to marry same-sex couples whether they want to or not — EQCA put a strong religious exemption in the poll language that asked whether respondents would actually vote for an initiative to repeal Proposition 8. The question read, “Would you vote yes or no on a ballot initiative that would legalize civil marriage for same-sex couples, on the condition that clergy or religious institutions are never required to perform a marriage that goes against their religious beliefs?”

Actually, nothing in current law requires any church or minister to conduct a marriage ceremony that goes against their religious beliefs. “Many people are very confused and don’t understand the constitutional separation of church and state,” Shorter explained. As two members of the audience pointed out, the Roman Catholic Church can and does refuse to perform marriages for divorced persons, even though divorced persons may marry under civil law. But because one of the most effective tactics of the Proposition 8 campaign was to exploit that confusion and suggest that churches that don’t believe in equal rights for Queers would nonetheless be forced to marry them, EQCA put that language in their initiative proposal — and the poll favored such an initiative by 47 percent to 43 percent, with 10 percent undecided, “2 percent more support than marriage equality overall.”

However, there’s a down side to using that language. “The religious exemption causes some members of our base to oppose the initiative,” Shorter conceded. “It could be that there are folks who would prefer that churches be compliant with state law.” Indeed, some of those people were in her audience; one man responded by saying EQCA should seek a flat-out repeal of Proposition 8 with no religious exemption, and another said the only way he could support a religious exemption is if the initiative stated that that was already required by the federal Constitution.

“It’s not something that many thinking people are happy about,” Shorter conceded. “To some extent, the question was forced on us. All voting adults in the U.S. should have some conception of the separation of church and state, and in a perfect world they would. But they don’t.” She said that if the 11 percent of people who support marriage equality but oppose the religious exemption can be brought back on board, they would add to the 34 percent willing to support marriage equality with or without the exemption, and the 13 percent who would vote for it with the exemption even though they otherwise remain opposed. Then, Shorter said, the total support would be 58 percent and the initiative would have a good chance of passing.

Shorter also admitted that one of the big so-called “boogeyman issues” used to defeat marriage equality and other Queer-rights issues at the polls “is the ‘harm to children’ deal. What we are learning — not only on the campaign trail — is that we have to inoculate against that. It’s effective because it does trigger certain fears. But we also know it’s not true.”

Lack of Confidence

Judging from the audience comments during the meeting, though, EQCA is going to have a lot of trouble persuading Queer community activists that a ballot victory in 2012 is possible; or that EQCA, an organization originally formed to lobby a relatively liberal state legislature to pass Queer-friendly bills, can adjust to the very different demands of an electoral campaign. Many people in the audience talked about the money and volunteer time they spent on the No on 8 campaign, and how they felt betrayed by the strategies used by EQCA and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which led to the passage of Proposition 8 even though both sides were equally well funded.

“We made more political contributions to No on 8 than any other campaigns,” said an audience member who, like attorney Molnar, had married his partner during the 4 ½-month “window” between June 2008, when the California Supreme Court’s decision that a ban on same-sex marriage violated the state constitution, and November 2008, when Proposition 8 reversed that decision. “We had heard that the forces against 8 had hired the best ad campaigners. It was not until the very end of the campaign that we [Queer individuals and couples] were let out of the closet. People were allowed to stay in their prejudices.”

In particular, this man argued, the Yes on 8 forces were allowed to tie homosexuality to child abuse even though “95 percent of all abused children are abused by heterosexuals.” He said he and his husband were “very much undecided about whether we’d support a ballot initiative in 2012. We’re not willing to sit through another campaign unless the leadership of EQCA and HRC really takes the reins” and is willing to correct the mistakes they made in 2008.

“I worked in a megachurch ministry for eight years,” said a man originally from Dallas, Texas who pleaded with the 11 percent in Shorter’s poll to be realistic and accept the religious compromise. “’Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal would not have passed without amendments,” he said. “A lot of Americans don’t understand that there is a separation of church and state; 70 percent of Americans supported the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and we still needed an amendment. … Our fear is we don’t want people to get in our faces. Their fear is they don’t want Gay people in their faces.”

Sean Bohac of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (S.A.M.E.) said that the last time EQCA approached the community on this issue, it was to ask whether to go back on the ballot in 2010 or 2012 — and many people donated thinking there was going to be a ballot effort in 2010 and were bitterly disappointed when there wasn’t. “We did an assessment and found it would not be feasible to run in 2010,” Shorter replied. “Our position was 2012 would be more feasible. We made a commitment to ask the community, and that’s what we’re doing now in 12 different cities in California. We’re not fundraising [now] because we’re still talking to the community.”

One audience member asked indignantly why, just six months earlier, EQCA had canceled its entire door-to-door field outreach program. He argued that this had been “one of the only statewide efforts” to reach people outside of the heat of a political campaign and educate them about Queer rights in general and marriage equality in particular. This person said that not sending volunteers door-to-door had been the biggest mistakes of the No on 8 campaign and that “we lost [control of] the message” as a result.

“It was a cost factor, budget and economics,” Shorter replied. “We still have a couple of field programs in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. The funding [for a statewide operation] was just not there. You have to make choices, and that was a hard choice to make.” Asked a follow-up question on what EQCA was doing in preference to a field operation, Shorter said the group was using its limited resources to focus on its “core function” of lobbying — only fueling the doubts among many in attendance as to whether a lobbying group like EQCA is the right one to run a ballot campaign.

Even the structure of the meeting put some attendees off. Audience members were allowed one minute each to say their piece, and the people running the meeting tried to limit any one person from speaking more than once. At least two people suggested EQCA could have got more and better feedback by breaking the meeting into small discussion groups, where people would have had the chance to dialogue and exchange ideas, and having each group report to the whole body at the end.

The Legal Case(s)

Attorney Molnar reviewed the convoluted history of litigation surrounding the issue. It began in 2004, when Gavin Newsom — then mayor of San Francisco and now lieutenant governor of California — unilaterally ordered his county clerk (San Francisco, unlike any other local government in California, is both a city and a county) to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of a previously approved voter initiative from March 2002 which banned them.

Though the California Supreme Court ultimately found these marriages legally invalid, Newsom’s challenge sparked the so-called Marriage Cases, which led to the state high court’s May 2008 decision not only that the ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional but that Queers were a “suspect class” under civil rights law. “So the anti-marriage forces amended the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Molnar explained — and they got 52.5 percent of California voters to pass that in November 2008.

“It didn’t take long for some bold attorneys to challenge that proposition in federal court,” Molnar explained. The bold attorneys were Republican Ted Olson and Democrat David Boies, who had opposed each other in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case over the outcome of that year’s Presidential election, but now came together to ask the federal courts to declare Proposition 8 in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Ten months later, after an extensive trial, federal judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8 did violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the federal Constitution, but his decision was “stayed” — legal-speak for put on hold — while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard an appeal from the organization that put the initiative on the ballot and campaigned for it, “The stay is the only thing preventing same-sex marriages in California,” Molnar said.

At the time, most marriage equality activists thought the case would be resolved relatively quickly. But the case hit a snag at the appeals court called “standing.” As Molnar explained, courts will only hear a case if the people bringing it actually have a personal stake in the outcome. Ordinarily, when there’s a constitutional challenge to an existing law, the state officials responsible for enforcing the law — the governor and attorney general — will appear in court to defend it. But then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to do that, as did then-attorney general and current governor Jerry Brown. asked Judge Walker to let them defend Proposition 8 in the trial court, which he did, but he questioned whether they would have standing to do so at the appeals level.

So when the Court of Appeals took the case, they asked both the Olson/Boies team and the attorneys for to address the standing issue as well as the merits of the case — and rather than rule on either point, they decided to return the case to the California Supreme Court for a ruling on whether state law gives the proponents of a ballot measure standing to defend it in court if the government officials won’t. “If they rule they don’t have standing, the case would probably end because that would be almost impossible to appeal,” Molnar explained. “If the California Supreme Court rules that [] does have standing, it’s my opinion that Walker’s strict handling of the case would make it difficult to overrule him on the merits.”

If there’s an appeals court decision on the merits of the case, Molnar said, whichever side loses will undoubtedly appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court — which means the case will still be alive during the 2012 election cycle. “There’s no way this gets before the Supreme Court” before November 2012, Molnar said. There’s another complication: has asked the appeals court to throw out Walker’s decision invalidating Proposition 8 on the ground that Walker is a Gay man in a long-term relationship, and therefore he was biased because he might choose to marry his partner if Proposition 8 is invalidated. Asked if the case could take eight years, Molnar said, “I don’t think it would take that long. Five years is the outer limit.”

But it’s the end of the hope for a quick fix in the courts that led EQCA and other marriage equality groups to consider whether to go back to the strategy question they debated through much of 2009: whether to sponsor a ballot measure of their own and ask California voters to reinstate legal recognition of same-sex marriages. “There are couples like us who are married because we got married in that window, and other couples who want to get married and can’t,” Molnar said — a discrepancy which bothered the Court of Appeals judges in their hearing on the case.
Yet Another Gay/Queer “History” Book Perpetuates Old Myths


Copyright © 2011 by Leo E. Laurence for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

The new A Queer History of the United States (Beacon Press) is one of the most boring books I’ve ever tried to read. It’s written in a professorial style guaranteed to put an insomniac to sleep.

Who is the author? In an “Author’s Note,” Michael Bronski identifies himself as a “college professor,” among assorted other identities.

But, in a back fly-leaf that covers the hard-cover book, he’s identified only as a “senior lecturer” at Dartmouth College. Professionally, it’s a big jump to go from a lecturer to a full professor.

Apparently he’s written a bunch of other books, and I wonder if they are also boring?

This book raises serious questions of academic integrity. Critical parts of Gay history are patently false, and the author must know this. With a tear sheet of this commentary, Dartmouth College will be asked to investigate whether their principles of academic integrity have been violated by this book.

On page one there is a red flag about the rest of the book. In line one, Bronski asks “If you were to ask the average American when Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender history started in this nation … ” (italics added).

Who is this so-called “average American?” What is their demographic? Students in high school are marked off for making a reference to this unidentified “average American.” Now a “professor” is using it?

It’s almost devoid of personal quotes, which can liven up an otherwise totally boring story.

Admittedly a massive amount of research went into this book, but much more was needed to make this a credible history.

The author takes the reader back to the later fifteenth century when “the United States as a political entity will not exist for another 270 years,” as he admits. Indeed, he contends the word “homosexual” didn’t come into being for 350 years.

In this 242-page book that follows the timeline of traditional American history, Bronski perpetuates the well-established myth that Gay Liberation began with the June 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

Had he read the new, sometimes intimate book by Gale Whittington, Beyond Normal (available online at, Bronski would know that Gay Lib was launched on the streets of San Francisco two months before Stonewall, in April 1969, by the Committee for Homosexual Freedom (CHF), co-founded by Whittington and this author.

Whittington’s book was a finalist for the 23rd annual Lambda Literary Awards, so it would be hard for Bronski to claim that he never heard of it. The CHF is ignored in Bronski’s new book, raising serious challenges to its veracity and academic integrity.

One of the CHF members was Carl Whitman, who wrote a “Gay Manifesto,” as most of the New Left did in the late 1960’s. But while ignoring the CHF, he raises the importance of Carl’s writing to “the defining document of the new movement.”

The author also completely ignores the strong, published support for Gay Liberation by the nation’s most militant organization at the time, the Black Panther Party.

Whenever I write about a book, I like to say something nice about it. It’s good that Bronski includes the word “queer” in his title, continuing the community’s long struggle to redefine that word as something involving pride, without the stereotypical, denigrative meaning used by bullies in high schools and elsewhere.

Even his account of the Gay Liberation Front is inaccurate. The phrase came out of the popular San Francisco Bay Area underground newspaper, the Berkeley Barb. The author completely ignores the fundamental role of the Barb in Gay history.

Bronski seems to follow the typical line of the Gay (or “LGBT”) Establishment common today. His book sometimes reads like a photocopy of many previously published “Gay history” books out there, faithfully reproducing their mistakes.

It’s particularly disappointing to find a new book that is so inaccurate on important details. Unfortunately, many young people are going to read this thinking it’s comprehensive and accurate.

No on both points!

FilmOut Taps the Magic of Movies for Gays

Includes August Festival, Monthly Screenings in North Park


Copyright © 2011 by Leo E. Laurence for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

There’s magic and millions on the silver screen in movies; and nearly every major, diverse, cultural community (including Gays) have their own, unique film festival to showcase the best of their culture on the screen, regularly.

Gays do it – and with a hot flair – in FilmOut-San Diego.

Among some of the best locally are the annual Latino Film Festival produced in the spring by the Media Arts Center of North Park, and the annual Asian Film Festival.

In additional to a cinematic extravaganza of movies at the FilmOut-San Diego festival opening August 16, the organization also produces monthly screenings in the royal elegance of the Birch North Park Theatre on University Avenue just west of 30th Street.

It’s a perfect venue for FilmOut-San Diego. The richness of the interior of the famed theatre (ac-tually built in 1929 as part of the Fox movie-theatre chain) makes going to the movies a special event, almost like a Hollywood opening.

Unique to the movie experience in southern California, patrons can even buy cocktails at special, discounted prices at the West Coast bar, which fronts the theatre on University Avenue and includes access to the bar on the second level inside the theatre.

To add some excitement before the movie is screened, a wildly popular raffle is produced by the young staff, with a drag queen as M.C. Twenty-seven door prizes were awarded during the May screening, with a total value of over $1,000. The grand prize was valued at $400.

FilmOut produces the monthly screenings, and the annual Gay film festival with over 54 movies screened over six days. That festival this year runs August 16-18 and August 24-26.

At press time, the opening film for the festival had been chosen, but couldn’t be announced because “we have yet to sign the contracts,” explained the short, strikingly handsome and muscled festival director, Kaleb James.

“Once everything is finalized, the films will be announced on our Web site,

“The FilmOut budget for our annual August festival is about $75,000. The monthly screenings cost about $2,000 each” to produce, James added. “So far, we are running a profit.”

The festival programmer is Michael McQuiggan.

The “Pride” kickoff on July 13 will be John Waters’ 1974 Female Trouble, starring Divine. According to its synopsis on the Web site, “A spoiled schoolgirl runs away from home, gets pregnant while hitchhiking, and ends up as a fashion model for a pair of beauticians who like to photograph women committing crimes.”

Explaining which films are selected for both the monthly screenings and the annual festival, “I kinda go on the top of my head with what I think our (Gay) audiences want to see,” James stated.

The selections are usually not Gay porno. In one locally produced skin flick that had been screened, the cute, baby-faced actors started stripping off their clothes in the first few minutes of the movie. Skin was paramount and lots of it, while drama and script were missing.

Our selections “are cult films that the LGBT audiences have embraced over the years. We select the films from about 100 titles,” explained Mc Quiggan.

The machinery that keeps FilmOut-San Diego going is an army of loyal volunteers who are at every monthly screening. Those screenings are great for cruising, whether you like ’em young or old.

Somehow, the guys running FilmOut-San Diego have captured a bit of those old-time Holly-wood sparkle for their events.


“The FilmOut festival started as OutFest-San Diego, which was the same name as the festival in Los Angeles,” Kaleb explained. L.A. “was like the flagship about ten years ago. It continued under that name for about eight years.

“Then there became a division in the board here because a lot of the funds from San Diego’s fes-tival were getting diverted to Los Angeles.

“So we branched off and started our own festival known as FilmOut,” explained James. The two together have been going about 13 years.”

“FilmOut has been growing, especially this year. We have seen pretty large growth, mostly be-cause we have been doing the monthly screenings,” James said.

“We are getting larger audiences (predominantly seniors, yet a diverse crowd). We have started promoting ourselves with a lot of online marketing, (including) social-media networks.

“We are putting out ticket sales in places like GoldStar, Twitter and Facebook, things like that,” James explained in an exclusive interview. “It’s started to really grow.

“Between 300 and 600 attend the monthly screenings. We’ve actually sold out a couple shows.

The house even serves homemade, hot out-of-the-oven sweet treats on the second level of the tri-level theatre.

Some of the regulars at the monthly screenings arrive an hour early to cruise, socialize and have a drink at the movies.

FilmOut-San Diego is throwing its first annual charity event on July 9. Four comedians from L.A. are scheduled to perform.

Web site:

Photo caption:

The muscled Kaleb James serves as festival director for the monthly screenings and annual, August, film festival called FilmOut. Portrait by Leo E. Laurence.


SAN DIEGO, CA – A San Diego Summer tradition since 1987, the Spreckels Organ Society presents the 2011 Summer International Organ Festival featuring celebrated organists from around the world playing each Monday evening from June 20 through August 29, 2011 at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. The historic Spreckels Organ is the largest outdoor pipe organ in America situated at the center of one of the country’s most beautiful urban parks.

All 2011 Summer International Organ Festival concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. and are free of charge. Music loving children and pets are welcome. Light snacks, beverages and unique gifts are available on the pavilion grounds with proceeds benefiting the not-for-profit Spreckels Organ Society, helping to preserve, program and promote the Spreckels Organ as a world treasure for all people.

The Summer International Organ Festival opens on Monday, June 20 with Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego Civic Organist and Artistic Director of the Spreckels Organ Society, joined by the House of Scotland Pipe Band, the Finest City Brass Herald Trumpets and the Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral in a concert entitled “Celebration.” British-born Williams began private lessons at age five and started her formal training at the Royal Academy of Music. Awarded all major prizes for organ performance, Williams received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Manhattan School of Music and is the first woman in the country to be appointed to the position of Civic Organist.

Celebrate the opening night of the Summer International Organ Festival on Mon. June 20 with a festive Bach's Supper Taco Fiesta. A buffet of freshly made tacos by La Taquiza will begin at 5:00 p.m., served with beer, wine and soft drinks under the historic colonnades of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The event is open to the public and tickets must be purchased in advance ($30 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under). Send your name, address, e-mail, number of tickets and payment to Spreckels Organ Society, 1549 El Prado, Ste. 10, San Diego, CA 92101 before June 15. For more information e-mail Jack Lasher at or call (858) 483-1326.

Monday, June 27, brings Jonathan Ortloff, 2008 winner of the American Theatre Organ Society’s Young Theatre Organist Competition, to the Spreckels Organ. Ortloff holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester in organ performance and interdisciplinary engineering. He began piano at age 3 and organ at age 10. He made his theatre organ debut for the Rochester Theatre Organ Society in 2007 and has since performed for numerous theatre organ groups throughout the United States.

Award-winning American theatre organist Walt Strony performs a special Independence Day Celebration concert in Balboa Park on Monday, July 4. Strony has given hundreds of concerts both nationally and internationally. He has been featured organist at conventions of the American Theater Organ Society and the American Guild of Organists and in 1991 and in 1993 he was honored with the title, "Organist of the Year" by the American Theater Organ Society. He is only living organist ever to receive this award more than once.

On Monday July 11, Scott Dettra, Organist and Associate Director of Music at the Washington National Cathedral, takes the console. Dettra has performed extensively throughout the Unites States at American Guild of Organists conventions as well as concerts at the Lincoln Center Festival, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Arizona Bach Festival, the Bermuda Music Festival and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival. He holds two degrees from Westminster Choir College and also studied jazz piano at the Manhattan School of Music.

Samuel “Sal” Soria comes to San Diego on Monday, July 18. Organist at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Soria is a graduate of Valparaiso and Northwestern Universities and has twice won the American Guild of Organists National Competition in Organ Improvisation.

On Monday, July 25, the Spreckels Organ Society welcomes Austrian concert organist Helmuth Luksch to San Diego. Luksch is Principal Organist at the Main City Parish Church St. Egid in Klagenfurt, Austria as well as the Artistic Director for Kufstein, Tyrol, the world’s largest outdoor organ. Luksch studied at the Vienna Muskhochschule, is a member of the Diocesan Commission for Church Music and holds the title of Supervisor of Organs for the Diocese of Gurk. Since 1989 he has taught at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. Luksch is an active concert artist in Europe and has radio broadcasts and CD recordings to his credit. He is also a composer of works for chorus, organ, and chamber ensembles.

Christopher Houlihan is bright star in the new generation of American organists and will grace the Spreckels Organ stage on Monday, August 1. Houlihan made his debut with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra while still in college. During a year of study in France, he earned the “Prix de Perfectionnement” from the French National Regional Conservatory in Versailles and was invited to perform for the Versailles Le Mois Moliere Festival. A graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, Houlihan is currently a graduate student at The Juilliard School in New York.

Always an audience favorite, Civic Organist Emeritus Robert Plimpton returns to the Spreckels Organ on Monday, August 8 joined by Jason Ginter, timpanist and percussionist. Plimpton is nationally lauded pipe organist who serves as resident organist at the First United Methodist Church. Widely respected as an exciting recitalist, he has performed in major venues throughout the United States, including five regional conventions and two national conventions of the American Guild of Organists. His foreign concerts have taken him to Israel and Jordan, several European counties, and Taiwan. He is also in demand as an ensemble player and accompanist. He has performed with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, the San Diego Master Chorale, the Grossmont Symphony Orchestra, and the San Diego Symphony.

Jason Ginter is former Principal Timpanist of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra the Peoria Symphony and the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra. He has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Forth Worth Symphony Orchestras, is a graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and winner of the 2008 Carnegie Mellon Concerto Competition. He owns JGpercussion, a company specializing in high quality percussion products. He presently serves on the music faculty of the University of San Diego.

David Arcus, Chapel Organist at Duke University, joins us on Monday, August 15. Arcus studied at Oberlin Conservatory and received his graduate degrees at the Yale University School of Music. An active recitalist, he has performed all over Europe and in the United States in such venues as the Washington National Cathedral, London’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Paris’s St. Sulpice. Arcus is also a composer and won the 2000 Holtkamp-American Guild of Organists Competition in Organ Composition for his entry “Song of Ruth and Naomi.”

Beloved silent movie master Dennis James returns on Monday August 22 for the Spreckels Organ Silent Movie Night. This year he will perform live accompaniment to the 1924 Paramount Films classic Peter Pan, directed by Herbert Brenon. For more than thirty years, Dennis James has played a pivotal role in the international revival of silent films presented with live music. Starting as a pianist for university screenings, James now tours worldwide under the auspices of his Silent Film Concerts production company presenting professional silent film screenings with piano, theatre organ, chamber ensemble and full symphony orchestra accompaniments. Performing for films with orchestras since 1971 throughout the USA, Canada, Mexico and Europe, James is renowned for providing the most comprehensive selection of authentic silent films with live music presentations available today.

A Best of Hollywood Night performed by Civic Organist Carol Williams and friends will close the 2011 Summer International Organ Festival with a festive grand finale on Monday, August 29.

The Spreckels Organ and Pavilion were a gift from John D. and Adolf Spreckels, of the Spreckels sugar family, and were dedicated and first played on December 31, 1914. The Spreckels Organ is the largest outdoor pipe organ in America and is sponsored by the City of San Diego, The Department of Parks and Recreation and the non-profit Spreckels Organ Society who assure that this civic treasure entertains music lovers throughout the year. Afternoon organ concerts by Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego Civic Organist, and guest artists are performed every Sunday at 2:00 p.m. free of charge.

The not-for-profit Spreckels Organ Society was founded in 1988. With over 1,900 members world-wide, and governed by an all-volunteer Board of Trustees, the Society presents more than 100 free concerts a year and attracts over 100,000 people annually. For more information about the Spreckels Organ Society including a listing of upcoming concerts, visit or the Spreckels Organ Society Facebook fan page.