Conversations with the Mayor of Hillcrest – LGBT Weekly Thu, 11 Feb 2016 22:57:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mayor Filner book author has two faces Thu, 04 Feb 2016 22:31:33 +0000

It is well known in political circles that I was a longtime supporter and friend of Bob Filner – from School Board, to City Council, to Congress and to the Mayor’s Office. “Team First Lady” was indeed my idea and civic leader Nancy Chase was my co-chair.

In past columns of mine, I have stated that many of us – his friends, supporters, staff and Democratic leaders for decades accepted the fact that Bob could be crude, sexist and yes a complete asshole. But he was “our” Bob. Many looked the other way when it came to Bob because of his long record of fighting for the civil rights and equality of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, gays and working families. I have taken my responsibility in this column for not speaking out more and accepting things as they were. I’ve learned a lot about sexual harassment – more than I ever knew.

But shame on Lee Burdick who was on Bob’s mayoral staff from the first day to the end and now writes a book called Bob Filner’s Monster. Well Ms. Burdick, you, Vince Hall and others then were Frankenstein’s doctors as you also turned the other way and ignored his conduct. You, Ms. Burdick, give attorneys an even worse reputation with your two faces and “I found Jesus” like bull. This author, this empress has no clothes … period. Her book should be used for toilet paper.

Would you have a beer with Lori Saldaña?

Almost all of San Diego’s mayors have been nice individuals who were friendly, outgoing and had great people skills. Jerry Sanders stands out; Murphy was a gentleman; Hedgecock had a good sense of humor; Golding had a great smile and O’Connor opened up City Hall once a month to anyone who wanted to talk to their mayor. San Diegans love to like their mayors and when it comes to Kevin Faulconer you would not just like to have a beer with this guy but a whole damn keg!

Well, sad to say, most Republican and Democratic leaders I’ve talked to have told me that they definitely would not have a beer with mayoral candidate Lori Saldaña.

Mayor Parker to keynote Harvey Milk Breakfast

When Annise Parker was first elected mayor of the fourth largest city in America – Houston, Texas she made world headlines because she was a proud out lesbian. I first met her when she was the city controller of Houston. She is a dynamic civil servant and leader who cares about all people.

I am proud to say she will be the keynote speaker of the annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast Friday, May 20. As always, this event will be a sellout with over 1,000 people. Contact The Center for your table reservations today!

Who is a future Fourth District supervisor?

Ron Roberts will go down in history as one of our county’s most popular county supervisors. Respected and, yes, loved by many community leaders. He was just once again elected chairman of the board and is termed out. So of course there is already talk on who will follow him. Among Democrats being mentioned are Kevin Beiser and Susan Quinn and many party activists are hoping to encourage Nathan Fletcher to run who is busy with his Veterans Foundation and causes. Tony Young, who is now an Independent, is also mentioned. The only Republican who would actually have the best GOP chance is Lorie Zapf who is half Latina and interestingly would be the only person of color in this race.

Keep your eyes on them all. For right now it is early but then the early bird will get the worm.

And San Diego’s new labor boss is …

Lorena Gonzalez was one of the best labor leaders in San Diego history. She took names and kicked ass; a true “Iron Maiden” and a tough lady who ruled in a mostly man’s leadership world. Now some other San Diegan women are looking to follow in her high heels. Among them I hear, Carol Kim, Dale Kelly Bankhead and Laurie Coskey. Now to me the one that comes close to Lorena Gonzalez’ DNA … and that is …?

Police Officer Meyer did San Diego proud

Seems that radical demonstrations did not only shut down an LGBT Jewish reception at the annual Creating Change Conference in Chicago but also a workshop on improving police relations with speakers Latina activist Carolina Ramos and respected openly gay San Diego Police Officer Daniel Meyer. About 80 demonstrators forced Officer Meyer to leave the conference shouting him down and refusing to have dialogue about how to improve police and community relations; the workshop was shut down. Officer Meyer to his credit, in an ugly and threatening situation handled himself outstandingly. He did our city, the police department and his LGBT community proud.

As a past national board member of The LGBTQ Task Force I apologize to Officer Meyer as well as Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman for what he was subjected to which was totally unacceptable. I am glad to report that The LGBTQ Task Force leadership also reached out to this outstanding police officer to convey their regret and offer support of him.

LGBT San Diegans Fernando Lopez, Carolina Ramos, Ricky Cervantes and Connor Maddocks stood with Officer Meyer during this ugly ordeal and we should be proud of all of them, and I thank them for their solidarity.

Needless to say The Task Force is taking a serious look at both incidents and changes will be made so this never happens again.

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One of the American sailors seized by Iran was gay Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:17:11 +0000

Iran made international headlines when it seized two Navy boats and 10 American sailors after the ships supposedly drifted into Iranian waters. As you know, the ships and their crew were released days later. Well, the sailors were based in San Diego and during the ordeal I was contacted by one of the sailor’s partner and he was, needless to say, very upset and worried. He only calmed down when he saw his partner was alive on Iranian television. The problem was that his gay sailor was in the closet and had not put his partner on his emergency contact list or death notification, so while the sailor’s family was kept informed, the partner was not. Well, he finally got a call from his released partner and he wants this situation taken care of as the Navy boyfriend asked him to marry him!

Boycott the Chargers … Hello Raiders!

Chargers fans, can we talk? Remember that scene with Cher in the movie Moonstruck? Well “snap out of it!” Dean Spanos and the Chargers leadership don’t care about you. It’s all about the money. Forbes estimates the value of the Chargers at $1.5 billion, but if they move to Los Angeles that will likely increase to nearly $3 billion. What is unacceptable is their mind game playing and double talk. I say stop supporting the Chargers and boycott their games. Let’s welcome the Raiders to America’s Finest City. Star War’s Darth Vader has always been one of my personal heroes!

The National LGBTQ Task Force’s very big mistake

task forceAs a former National Board member of the National LGBTQ Task Force (America’s oldest gay civil rights organization), my phone started ringing off the hook when the Task Force announced they were canceling “A Wider Bridge Israel Reception” at the upcoming annual Creating Change Conference in Chicago. This is a respected LGBT organization and I met some of its leaders at the home of City Commissioner Bruce Abrams last year, and the International Court System even presented them with a $1,000 donation.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time making calls to Washington, D.C. and the Task Force leaders. The good news is that many other activists and LGBT leaders also lobbied to undo this unacceptable decision and the Task Force listened and uncancelled the reception Tuesday morning.

Now let us all move on and continue to support the most progressive and diverse LGBT national organization in the U.S.A. And trust me, I am sure the Task Force leadership learned from this big mistake – the worst in its history!

About the Atkins/Block debate

Toni Atkins

Toni Atkins

About 150 people showed up on a freezing rainy night for the first debate between Marty Block and Toni Atkins. Our hosts were the La Mesa Foothill Democratic Club. Block seemed to think that he was definitely going to get their endorsement as he has lived in the neighborhood and has been a member of the club for decades. He even bragged that he knew the names of the founders, but at the end of the debate the club voted and it was a tie vote.

While Toni Atkins talked about her accomplishments as the first San Diegan to be elected as the Speaker of the State Assembly, Block tried to impress the crowd with a story about how Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon asked him to be his desk buddy and sit next to him during the Capitol Senate sessions. No, I’m not making this up; you can ask anyone who was at the debate.

The bottom line is that this race is about proven leadership and a nice guy with an average record who just keeps his senate seat warm. This is why a vast majority of Democratic leaders in San Diego have endorsed Toni Atkins for Senate.

Endorse the San Diego Citizens Police Review Board

I 100 percent support the efforts to empower the Citizens Police Review Board and feel that this is long overdue. While I have confidence in our Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and the department, things are not perfect and it has been proven that there are bad cops everywhere, including racist and homophobic ones. In my experience as the chair of the first Chief of Police’s Advisory Board and dealing with police officials since the 1970s, I firmly believe that the empowerment of a Citizen’s Police Review Board is a good thing for all communities and should include subpoena power.

Mayor Faulconer’s State of the City address

Kevin Faulconer

Kevin Faulconer

The Balboa Theatre was packed for the popular mayor’s annual speech which was well received. He focused on the improvements in our neighborhoods, the homeless and the education of our city’s youth. It was a strong speech which included perfect Spanish.

The mayor seemed relaxed and down to earth and these usually boring presentations included some good humor, thank goodness.

One suggestion I do have for Mayor Faulconer and his recent endorsement of Marco Rubio for president. You could most certainly teach Rubio how to take a drink from a water bottle in public, at a podium during a speech like a man and not like a clumsy kid as Rubio so famously did. Just saying.

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About the San Diego gay parolee killed by police Thu, 07 Jan 2016 20:22:57 +0000

For the last year national media attention has focused on cities around the country and the shootings and killings of American citizens, mostly African Americans, by police. Some of these shootings have rightfully resulted in police officers being charged with murder, but most importantly it has shined a bright spotlight on many police departments’ racism and discrimination problems, especially in Chicago and some Southern cities where corruption and racism have been going on for decades, including homophobic and anti-LGBT incidents. I myself participated in an early Black Lives Matter demonstration because some of these murders of black men by police officers in other cities have indeed outraged me, including the bias and discrimination within our justice system when it comes to Americans of color and the poor.

The LGBT community should never forget that our very own civil rights movement began over police brutality and harassment at the Stonewall Inn in New York and that in the 1960s and ‘70s almost every LGBT community in any city was subjected to police harassment and brutality including San Diego. To this day, many LGBT murders/killings remain unsolved across the nation because they were always a very low priority. In the 1960s and ‘70s I helped organize anti-police demonstrations in both Hollywood and San Diego and along with other local LGBT activists have kept my eyes on and been interacting with police officials for decades.

So when last Friday on New Year’s night a 30-year-old gay man was shot and killed by a San Diego police officer, over a domestic violence call, my phone starting ringing all weekend by concerned LGBT leaders. But you see, San Diego is not like other major cities and our police department is one of the best in the nation, especially under our city’s first woman police chief.

I immediately called Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman and also Assistant Police Chief Terry McMans (homicide department) and talked to them about the shooting and they answered all of my questions. Because of the ongoing national media attention on police shootings many Americans immediately jump to conclusions before getting all the facts and it seems at times all police officers and departments are painted over as murderers and racists.

Joshua Adam Sisson

Let me tell you about this police shooting in Hillcrest last Friday night. 30-year-old Joshua Sisson was a felony prison parolee who had an arrest warrant out for him. He had a very violent record and was in prison for “attempted murder.” Last Friday night he choked his boyfriend and attacked him with a big kitchen knife. His boyfriend managed to call the police and he fled on foot. When a lone 13-year veteran police office tried to stop Mr. Sisson and told him to drop the knife, he refused and aggressively started going after the police officer and was shot. In time we will have a coroner’s report to inform us if he was likely on drugs or drunk. This man had a violent criminal past and was trying to kill his boyfriend.

San Diego’s police department is in my opinion one of the very best in the nation and has an outstanding record of community outreach including with the LGBT and people of color communities. It is one of the first to have an LGBT Advisory Board and to recruit and welcome LGBT police officers.

Our LGBT community has one of the best relationships with the San Diego police, and that is why their police contingent gets one of the highest cheers and applause at our annual Pride parade. I am very glad that Mayor Faulconer and our City Council are working on getting our police officers a long overdue pay raise as San Diego has one of the lowest salaries in the nation.

Yes, there are always some “rotten apples” in any police department, but I am proud of our police chief and officers and have full confidence in this department.

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Chargers should just leave … Now! Thu, 24 Dec 2015 21:18:29 +0000

Several years ago I wrote a column that predicted that the Chargers football team would end up in Los Angeles as that is really where their owner would like them to move. Well, many of you got very upset and emailed your criticisms. I have never understood why so many San Diegans would be so crazy over such a losing football team that has never ever won a Super Bowl.

The Chargers came to San Diego around the 1960s from Los Angeles and now who cares if they want to return to an area with more money, stars, businesses, etc. The owners of the Chargers have for the last few years lied and strung us along, making San Diego look like idiots. They never had any intentions of staying in San Diego and have never really cared about their loyal fans. Our mayor has done his very best to try to keep the Chargers in San Diego, but he and other public officials have been used and abused by this uncaring and mind-game playing team.

The Chargers have never earned San Diego’s loyalty as the owners are backstabbing, two-faced lying businessmen and they should just pack up already and move to the city of smog and crime where they came from.

As for me, I will stick to my two favorite sports: boxing and bullfights.

The Republican’s civil war

The Republican Party’s race for the presidency has become one big mess and probably the most negative campaign in the history of politics. Now it’s a civil war between the establishment and party leaders against the extreme right wing and I don’t think it’s going very well, but they control the Congress and most of the states governor’s offices.

None of the Republican presidential candidates support marriage equality and do not seem to really care about the votes of the people of color communities, nor a woman’s right to control her own body. But although the Republican Party is going through its own mini civil war, they could still win the election as a majority of Americans are very afraid of terrorists and attacks on our homeland and when people are scared anything can happen.

Merry Christmas!

When it comes to the holidays I have never been that excited or a big fan. To me Christmas is a religious day when Christ was born and now it has become too commercial and the real meaning of it is gone. Christmas time is also full of depression for many people so do watch out for each other.

Thank you for your support of our annual “Toys for Kids” toy drive.

Merry Christmas to all, and God bless.

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The Ward vs. Bernal debate Thu, 10 Dec 2015 21:36:22 +0000

Anthony Bernal

This past Monday night at the Globe Theatre there was a public debate between Third City Council District candidates Chris Ward and Anthony Bernal. The event was sponsored by the Police Officers Association, San Diego LGBT Weekly, Hillcrest Town Council, Gaslamp Association, North Park Business Association, San Diego Chamber of Commerce and other community groups.

It was very noticeable when you entered the Globe that there were two tables which displayed each candidate’s campaign material. The Chris Ward table had about five volunteers behind it handing out material, while the Bernal table did not have one single volunteer throughout the entire event.

The candidates were asked questions about the convention center, police department, the homeless problem, sidewalks, the parking problem etc., and it seemed that they actually agreed on all the issues. It was good to hear that both Ward and Bernal supported the expansion of the convention center, a minimum wage increase and support our police officers and their needs as many are leaving San Diego for more greener and welcoming pastures.

What really stood out in this debate was that Chris Ward was more knowledgeable about the issues by far and definitely had more government experience. One of the most telling moments of the debate was when Anthony Bernal stated that part of the reason homeless numbers are on the rise was due to state legislation AB109 and voter-approved Prop. 47. Ward immediately corrected Bernal that there was no evidence in criminal justice statistics that proved the Bernal statement. When the debate moderator gave Bernal a chance for rebuttal of Ward’s correction of the facts, he quietly declined.

Chris Ward

Chris Ward, who recently became a father to a beautiful little girl, is chief of staff to a state senator and oversees a staff of 12 people. He also serves on more community and non-profit boards than his opponent, and has received the endorsements of almost every major public official including former Third District Councilmembers Chris Kehoe and Toni Atkins. Ward has been the clear front runner since he announced his candidacy.

Anthony Bernal is a really nice guy who is on the staff of Councilman Todd Gloria, who has not endorsed him and, word is, wisely staying out of this race although 95 percent of the LGBT leadership has endorsed Ward, who is the only gay candidate. Anthony’s mother was a farm worker and his father worked in a grocery store, and he was the first in his family to proudly graduate from high school, but he is not ready to be the next Third District Councilmember following the last three who have been citywide leaders and two were voted “interim mayors.” Someday Anthony Bernal could be an effective and strong public official, but not now.

During the debate I sat with long-time civic leader Nancy Chase and City Commissioner Bruce Abrams. We all three agreed on the following grades for the debate: Chris Ward B+; Anthony Bernal C: and we also rated the moderator who was Thom Senzee: C-.

Support the “Toys for Kids” drive

In 1975 the LGBT community led by the Imperial Court came up with over 600 gifts for the Marine’s “Toys for Tots” drive. They refused to accept toys from “homosexuals” so we homos started the “Toys for Kids” drive, which has gone on to this day for over 40 years and donates toys for children living below the poverty line. So please donate toys; there are boxes all over the community. If you would like further information on the “Toys for Kids” drive please call 619-254-6372. Thank you.

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The power of the LGBT dollar! Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:58:11 +0000

Every study has shown the major influence of LGBT spending power and the impact of LGBT Americans. A recent Nielson Study showed 10 percent more shopping trips are made by gay consumers than straight customers; 48 percent more money is spent by gay households on wine than straight households; 31 percent more money is spent on candles and incense by gays than straights; 43 percent more money is spent on computer and electronic products by gays than straight households; 27 percent more money is spent on fresheners and deodorizers by LGBT households than straights; 32 percent more money is spent on men’s toiletries by gay men than straight; 19 percent more money is spent on coffee by LGBT people than straights. $4,135 is the additional amount of money on average that LGBT households spend at retail stores over their straight peers in 2014. That is 7 percent more.

Alano Club vs. “Pot Store”

When I heard that a marijuana store had opened up right on top of The Alano Club (an LGBT alcohol and drug recovery organization) I thought that the person who told me this story had just smoked a joint himself, but sure enough when I drove by The Alano Club there now on the second floor was a newly minted marijuana store!

Sure enough, soon I got a call from some understandably upset club board members who asked for my help and of course I met with them one afternoon at the club. And yes, at times you could smell the scent of marijuana coming down from upstairs. There have also been reports of some unsavory people beginning to hang around.

First of all, what a jerk could the buildings landlord be to rent out the top floor to a weed business knowing that their long time tenants were The Alano Club. What a complete ***hole! Well, of course our hard working councilman Todd Gloria was on this case immediately as was our police chief, Shelly Zimmerman.

It took some months, but finally the pot shop was closed down because of some shady doings and very warranted police citations and yes some arrests.

Let me make it very clear, I support the legalization of marijuana (2016 State ballot) but now even more clearly I understand the concerns of some neighborhood leaders and schools, etc. This should have never happened. The Alano Club and pot shops should all be in a totally different business area. A big thank you to Todd Gloria and Chief Zimmerman and when it came down to The Alano Club vs. the Pot Store … Thank goodness the club one!

Mayor Kevin Faulconer presents 28 turkeys for the Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner at The Center

Mayor Kevin Faulconer presents 28 turkeys for the Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner at The Center

Boston strong

This year I have travelled to Houston, Denver, San Francisco (three times), New York, Phoenix, Corpus Christi, Surrey (Canada), Salt Lake City, New Mexico, Kentucky, Boise, Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), Indiana, Portland, Washington, D.C. (five times) and numerous cities in California. This past weekend I returned to the beautiful and historic city of Boston. The end of my travels and speech making for the year. I have always loved Boston, it’s the home of the Kennedy Presidential Library and such historic sites as The Boston Tea Party! And of course some of the best seafood in the country – Legal Seafood and B&G Oyster I highly recommend.

I had the honor of presenting awards to Councilwoman Michelle Wu, former Councilman Carl Sciortino, Jonathan Scott of Boston’s own Victory Programs and Scott Gortikov (Freedom to Marry). My host was local top fashion designer and businessman, Daniel Faucher.

I always love taking in Boston’s many grand historic buildings and churches, especially the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, home of Cardinal O’Malley.

The LGBT community of Boston is a very large one and well organized. I was truly humbled and surprised with two very special honors. The Town Council of Braintree, Mass. gave me a city proclamation making me an “Honorary Citizen” (thank you President Thomas Bowes) and The Imperial Court of Massachusetts named their LGBT Student Scholarship after me. For once, I was speechless!

Christmas Wreath Auction

The biggest fun and fabulous holiday charity event is coming up Monday, Dec. 7. Yes, the annual Christmas Wreath Auction at the award winning Martini’s on Fourth restaurant and nightclub.

It’s always a great event with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Eddie Conlon GLBT Youth Fund that makes such a difference in the lives of our young people in need. Thank you Martini’s on Fourth and see you all there Dec. 7!

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Chief Kolender: A friend of our community Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:22 +0000

Bill Kolender

Bill Kolender followed a police chief who was known to be racist, sexist and homophobic. Bill changed the police force toward what it is today. Chief Kolender was the first to reach out to our community and appoint a “Gay Liaison.” I attended the first meeting of a police chief and gay and lesbian activists and soon we became friends. I asked him once why he seemed to understand discrimination and bias and he laughed and said, “You do know I’m Jewish.”

We established a good relationship from around 1976 to his retirement as sheriff, and a few years ago he was honored at the Nicky Awards.

I will never forget a crazy incident with the son of the then publisher of the Union Tribune … yes, David Copley, that I helped him with, but that’s for my book!

Chief Kolender made the first real police outreach to the Latino, gay and black communities. He was a good man and a true leader of people. Susan Jester and I attended his memorial.

LGBT veterans honored

Five years ago I went to The Center and Dr. Delores Jacobs and asked them to support my project for a wall honoring LGBT San Diego veterans, and the rest is history. The fifth annual presentation of the 2015 inductees on the Benjamin F. Dillingham III and Bridget Wilson LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor drew the biggest crowd ever. Congratulations to the co-chairs of the Veterans Advisory Council, Evelyn Thomas and Jacqueline Atkinson, who along with their hard-working council members did an outstanding job. Keynote Speaker Kathleen Hansen, USN (Ret.) really moved all of us in attendance and Sen. Chris Kehoe was also a special guest of honor.

Congratulations to the 2015 inductees: Mitchel Cantell, USA; Diane M. “Semo” Cimochowicz, USN; Alberto Cortez, USN; Phyllis A. Daugherty, USAF; Camille Emily Davidson, USAF; Jackie K. Jackson, USN; Lester Lefkowitz, USA; Trent Lozano-Osier, USN; Gordon K. Wahl, USAF; and Donna F. Walker, USN. They also gave some of the most moving remarks and shared their personal histories. It was one of the most prideful events I’ve ever attended.

Thank you to the staff of The Center, especially Benny, Amber, Carolina and Rebekah.

LGBT Democrats celebrate 40 years of activism

San Diego Democrats for Equality (formerly the San Diego Democratic Club) celebrated their 40th anniversary at the Prado Ballroom with a Saturday brunch. For over four decades this club has been greatly responsible for our LGBT community’s civil rights and equality advances in San Diego.

I may not always agree with this club’s political stands, but they very much have earned and deserve our respect and admiration for their leadership and activism. Long-time community activist Maureen Steiner was rightly honored. Special guests were three speakers of the California State Assembly (past and present) Antonio Villaraigosa, John A. Perez, and of course our current speaker and future state senator, Toni Atkins. Congratulations to all the members and President David Warmoth, Will Rodriguez Kennedy, Craig Roberts and all of the current officers.

Sitting at my table were long-time friends, past club Presidents Doug Case, Larry Baza and Stephen Whitburn. Laura Finks looked smashing by the way.

S.D.H.D.F. Awards Gala a five-star event!

The 2015 Aston-Brooks Awards Gala put on by the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation was most certainly the event of the year… fabulous and flawless! Outstanding live entertainment, great honorees: Wilson Cruz, Kurt Cunningham and Bishop Carol Bean. Cruz gave the best acceptance speech! (Well, he is one of my sons.) The food was absolutely the best I’ve had all year and let me tell you I’ve been to countless gala dinners.

Take a bow San Diego Hilton Resort and Spa. Bravo to James Vasquez, Jerry Strayve, Drew Liam Jack, John Brown and all of the S.D.H.D.F leadership board and wonderful volunteers.

27th annual Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner

The Imperial Court de San Diego will once again host the 27th annual Scott Carlson Dinner at The LGBT Center. Everyone is welcomed, especially those living with HIV-AIDS, cancer, seniors, the homeless, families, youth and those finding themselves alone on this special day. A big thank you to Ben Dillingham, The Rob Benzon Foundation, Hillcrest Pharmacy, Sarah and the staff at the Redwing, Human Dignity Foundation, S.D.B.G.A., Mayor Faulconer, One San Diego, Robert Gleason, A.M.F, Nick Moede of Rich’s and Todd Gloria. Donations and volunteers are still needed. For more information, please call: 619-862-8654.

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31 San Diegans gathered in Portland for Imperial Court 50th Gala Thu, 29 Oct 2015 20:28:34 +0000

Last weekend LGBT Royalty and friends from all over the United States, Canada and Mexico gathered in Portland, Ore. for a historic event: the 50th Anniversary of the International Imperial Court System (ICS), which now has chapters in over 68 cities in these great nations.

The elegant Governor’s Ballroom of the Sentinel Hotel hosted the “Golden Jubilee State Dinner and Gala” which drew such VIPS as: the Reverend Troy Perry (founder of the Metropolitan Community Church); Dennis and Judy Shepard (founders of the Matthew Shepard Foundation): Cleve Jones (founder of the Names Project and the AIDS Quilt); the Honorable Toni Atkins (speaker, California State Assembly); the Honorable Michael Connolly (Legislative Assembly, Canada); Stuart Milk (founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation); and Dustin Lance Black (Academy Award winner for the movie Milk); and many other elected officials and LGBT leaders from throughout the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico.

The Imperial Court System (I like to call it the gay Shriners or Elks of the Americas) was founded in 1965 by World War II veteran Jose Julio Sarria, who in 1961 became the first openly gay candidate to run for public office. Jose died in 2013 at the age of 91, and had named me “heir and successor” as the “titular head of state” and next year will mark the 10th anniversary of my assuming the role and the “throne.” Soon after her death, I established the “International Jose Julio Sarria Scholarship” and announced a $90,000 endowment for this international LGBT student scholarship program at the gala.

I had the honor of presiding over this historic event, and I was equally honored that 31 San Diegans travelled to Portland for this “State Dinner.” Among them were: Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Councilman Todd Gloria, City Commissioner Robert Gleason (chair, Regional Port Authority); City Commissioner Bruce Abrams (chair, International Foreign Affairs Commission); Benjamin F. Dillingham (County Veterans Board); Sherman Mendoza (owner, The Caliph) Big Mike Phillips (president, Board of Directors of the Imperial Court de San Diego); Tom Dickerson (Emperor XL and former Mr. San Diego Leather); Mikie Too and Toni Saunders (Emperor and Empress XLII of the Imperial Court de San Diego) Empress V Morgana; Empress VII Jimmy Mountain; Empress XXV Roxie Bleu; Empress XLI Pearl; Empress XXXIII Lala Too; Empress XXXVIII Regina Styles and many other LGBT San Diegans, including Russell Roybal, now the deputy director of the N.L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force in Washington, D.C.

Of the many official sponsors of the International Imperial Court’s 50th Anniversary Gala was the historic Stonewall Inn for New York City!

El Centro and Oceanside

LGBT Californians are indeed living all over the Golden State and recently I attended two events in the cities of El Centro, and Oceanside.

The new “Imperial County Valley LGBT Resource Center” opened its doors for LGBT citizens of Imperial County and I had the honor of being asked to be a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony, and emcee the official event. Imperial County is about 90 percent Latino and there are no gay bars there, but certainly a very large and united LGBT community as this event brought forth a large crowd, including local government officials.

San Diego Pride’s very own Fernando Lopez (an El Centro native) was a keynote speaker and gave a rousing speech. It was so great to see this community come together and open their own LGBT Center. Congratulations to Rose Diaz, Eve Murguia and the entire board of directors.

I have been coming to Oceanside since the 1970s and have seen the struggles to organize the LGBT community … not anymore! North County has become a very well-organized and visible LGBT community and this year I traveled up there to help celebrate their annual Pride Festival, which for the second year was held in downtown Oceanside and attracts thousands. I had the honor to introduce Speaker of the State Assembly Toni Atkins who gave the keynote address.

Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood is one of the best public servants in North County and he told me recently he suffered two strokes, but is doing better. You’re the best mayor and thank you for your support of the LGBT community.

Creating Change Conference in San Diego?

The National L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force’s annual Creating Change Conference for LGBT activists, leaders and organizers has been drawing over 4,000 attendees these past two years and it may return to San Diego. (We hosted its 10th anniversary.) A local committee has formed to lobby the Task Force to bring this national LGBT conference of thousands back to San Diego in 2018, 2019 or 2020. Next year’s 28th annual conference will be held in Chicago.

Kurt Cunningham Celebration of Life

The Kurt Cunningham Celebration of Life will be held at The Center Sunday, Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. All are welcome. For more information, visit

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My son, Kurt Cunningham Thu, 15 Oct 2015 19:00:35 +0000

Kurt Cunningham | Photo: Big Mike

Many of us in the LGBT community are blessed to have “two” families, one we were born into, and the one we have chosen. For those of us who have been rejected by many in our blood family, our chosen LGBT family has taken a most important position and meaning in our lives. Like many of you, I have felt the rejection of parents, grandparents and almost my entire family, but God has blessed me so very deeply with an LGBT family and friends almost my entire life. They have sustained me in my darkest hours and brought me joy, laughter and comfort. Some have become my sisters, brothers, and yes, some have become my sons and daughters and grandchildren.

Let me tell you about one of my beloved sons, Kurt Cunningham. I met him in his twenties when one day he pulled up in his car while I was walking to the Hillcrest Post Office and made a big mistake of offering me a ride and telling me how much he liked my weekly column in The Update. Kurt told me that he wanted to get involved in our gay community and the rest is history.

He started getting involved in different causes and projects and especially loved the Imperial Court. He started his involvement with the Court as a “prince” and wore uniforms and tried to fight off the “queen” growing inside him, but she soon took over and he told me one day that that his new drag name was “Summer Meadows” and he wanted to run for Empress. Of course he was elected and I gave him the royal symbol of the “Peacock Empress” which was the symbol of Empress I Tawny Tan, who had died of AIDS. Kurt’s mother stood right beside her son during his crowning. She was his rock; she showed him unconditional love and was his best friend. I will never forget when Kurt told me one Mother’s Day that he had two mommies and a few years ago when his mother passed he told me that he now only had one mommy and from that day on I reached out to him even more.

Kurt was upfront about his depression, mental illness and thoughts, and yes, about his attempts at suicide. He was upfront about his drug addiction struggle. Because of my own battles with depression and drug addiction, he would many times reach out to me and open up.

For a very long time Kurt battled depression. I remember visiting him in a hospital’s mental ward and he was there giving comfort to another patient! You see, throughout his decades of depression and loneliness, he was always still helping other people with their problems, always extending his hand in friendship and support. Yes, Kurt knew he wasn’t perfect and would sometimes get angry and lash out, but the noble deeds and caring this Peacock Empress, friend, brother, son and community activist did were endless. He was open about living with HIV-AIDS and devoted a lot of his time and talent to HIV-AIDS causes. He started a scholarship fund for handicapped people and loved our LGBT Center, volunteering at the front desk.

And Kurt Cunningham truly loved his LGBT family and friends and you all know who you are. He would tell me about all of you and your adventures and social outings. You will never know how much joy, laughter and meaning you all brought to his struggle to live. If it weren’t for you, we would have lost him years ago. Yes, it is true that Kurt left a seven page letter after his suicide … he was tired and could not fight any longer and none of us could have stopped him once his mind was made up.

But Kurt doesn’t want us to give up on each other but to reach out more to each other. He challenges us all to make more of a focus and education in our community on mental illness, depression, alcohol/drug addiction and suicide. The recent suicides of five San Diego transgender teens really got to him and he felt we were all letting down our youth and not doing enough for them.

Although my son Kurt Cunningham could not continue the fight for himself anymore, he demanded that we continue the fight for those who are suffering depression, alcohol/drug addiction and mental illness.

Sunday, Nov. 1 at our LGBT Community Center let us come together to celebrate Kurt Cunningham’s life and try to grant him his wish of a more loving and caring community.

You will always have a place in mommy’s heart … rest in peace, my son.

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Marty Block broke his word. Atkins for Senate Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:01:18 +0000

Former Speaker of the Assembly Willie Brown with current Speaker Toni Atkins

If you look up the words “integrity” and “honesty” in the political dictionary, you would probably find a picture of Toni Atkins right next to these two words. Atkins has never forgotten where she came from – the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, a coal miner’s daughter. She grew up in a home with no running water and her mother cooked on a wood stove, which also attempted to heat Toni and her three siblings during the winter. She had an outhouse in the back.

Toni Atkins has always loved being a public servant and before people talked her into running for office she ran three women’s health clinics. That’s how I met her when she asked me and the Imperial Court to please help raise funds for women who could not afford even a $75 breast exam for cancer. Before that, in Virginia, she cleaned hotel rooms, worked at a dry cleaning store, frame factory and, yes, even pumped gas at a local gas station.

It’s no surprise that many in California (especially homeless advocates) call Toni Atkins “the people’s speaker.” What both Republicans and Democrats say about Toni Atkins in our state capitol is that this Assembly speaker is a woman of her word and is honest.

Marty Block is from Chicago … need I say more? It is well known in political circles that it was Marty Block who approached Toni Atkins and pleaded with her not to run for the vacant senate seat and he gave his word that he planned to retire in 2016 and would only serve one term and would then support Atkins for Senate in 2016.

Well, like I said, Marty Block is from Chicago and we all know how far honesty and integrity and “your word” holds up in their kind of politics.

Marty Block is a nice enough man. He’s never been a leader, more of a follower. The cold hard fact is that Marty Block lied to Toni Atkins and did not keep his word. So I join Chis Kehoe, Todd Gloria, David Alvarez, Shirley Weber and San Diegans from all walks of life to support: “Toni Atkins for Senate 2016!” Honesty and integrity always beats out lies and broken promises.

Stonewall movie: The worst acting ever

While in San Francisco this past weekend for a history panel at the San Francisco Community Center which included Cleve Jones, soon to be a Marine Judge Advocate, Joseph Rocha took me to see the movie Stonewall. It’s not that this movie has become controversial and not told this historic story well (at least the producer has stated that his movie is fictional), this movie is a hot mess with some of the worst acting I have ever seen on a movie screen.

An actor who has just gotten beat up by a “trick” is so over the top that instead of feeling sorry for him, you find yourself laughing at such poor acting skills. And guess what, according to this movie the person who threw the first brick at the Stonewall Riots in 1969, was an Abercrombie & Fitch perfect blond built model from Indiana. Oh please, when pigs fly did it happen that way.

The budget for this movie must have been “food stamps” and the entire cast’s acting was so horrible that I am nominating this movie for the annual Razzie Awards: (worst movie and acting Oscars-like event). Director Roland Emmerich and writer Jon Robin Baitz hijacked this historic event (the Stonewall riots) and worst of all they picked the least talented actors they could find and made a really bad “B” movie of it all.

A San Francisco weekend

Little did I know when I arrived in San Francisco for a speaking engagement and charity event that it was the same weekend of the very gay annual event Folsom Street Fair, which attracts over 200,000 people (71 percent non-San Franciscans), with a $180 million boost to the local economy. Although I didn’t go to the Fair, I did bump into a lot of San Diegans at my hotel and on the streets.

During my five-day visit of events, meetings, etc., I had the honor of presenting awards to The Bay Area Reporter, The San Francisco Bay Times, the Alexander Hamilton American Legion Post 448, San Francisco Night Ministry, 88-year-old gay veteran Robert Potter, historian photographer “Rink,” Bay Times publishers Dr. Betty L. Sullivan and Jennifer L. Viegas, Bay Area Reporter Assistant News Editor Mathew Bajko and the Founder of the Screen Actor’s Guild’s LGBT committee, Jason Stuart.

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About Nathan Fletcher and Lorena Gonzalez Thu, 17 Sep 2015 20:16:44 +0000

Nathan Fletcher, Nicole Murray Ramirez and Lorena Gonzalez

This past Tuesday I joined my good friends, Nathan Fletcher and Lorena Gonzalez, for lunch for a pre-birthday celebration of this popular state assemblywoman’s birthday. And we all know that what we wish more than anything for our best friends is their happiness. I have long admired former Marine Nathan for his long history of being an advocate and champion for his fellow veterans. Currently he is the chairman of an organization that helps veterans and recently met with President Obama concerning veterans’ affairs. As for Lorena, her tireless advocacy for the poor, women’s rights, Latino causes and working families is well known. Yes, now these two friends of mine are dating and they are very happy. Even Nathan’s former wife, Mindy, is supportive and happy for them both. That’s all I am going to say about this as I will respect their privacy. If you’re a friend of Nathan or Lorena or both, just be happy for them and trust me they are very very happy! Happy Birthday Lorena!

Thank you Laurie Leonard for Mama’s Kitchen

It truly drives me crazy how many activists/leaders and organizations seemingly forget or ignore the history of our community and their organizations; the pioneers, founders, trailblazers and early community activists who built our community and organizations whose shoulders we stand on. This past Monday night at a community townhouse at our LGBT Center, an elderly gay man stood up and said there aren’t many of us left from the “Stonewall generation” of the 1960s and ‘70s – and sadly he is absolutely right. As I’ve said so many times before, God has blessed me to be able to witness the growth, visibility and empowerment of the two communities and people I love – the Latino and LGBT communities and civil rights movements.

The GSDBA was founded by Ron Umbaugh, Frank Stiriti and Phil Baldwin (two who have passed away). The Imperial Court’s first monarchs were Emperor I Omar and Empress I Tawny Tann (I was not an empress until IV and not a founder of the Court). The Democrats for Equality was founded by Attorney Bob Lynn; our first AIDS Walk by Susan Jester. The National Dignity Organization was founded in San Diego for LGBT Catholics – I could go on and on. I ask all of our LGBT organizations to please always remember your founders by maybe establishing an award in their honor and always include them in your printed programs and Web sites. Yes, many of them have passed (a lot because of AIDS) but let us never forget them and their contributions to our community. Thank you!

One of those heroes and founders was lesbian community activist Laurie Leonard who along with her wonderful mother founded Mama’s Kitchen which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary! Seems some in our community forget the most important role that lesbians/women played in those early dark days of AIDS (and still do) from the Blood Sisters of the Democratic Club to the founders and organizers of Mama’s Kitchen, AIDS Walk, Christie’s Place and Special Delivery all being women.

Laurie Leonard gave her love and years of hard work and dedication to Mama’s Kitchen. I remember when she got some of us together at the start (Frank Stiriti, Gene Burkard and Darl Edwards, among a few) to join a group called Mama’s Kitchen Cabinet at a $1,000 membership fee (smart woman). We of course all joined and I was representing the Imperial Court. So on the 25th anniversary of Mama’s Kitchen let us all say, thank you and God bless you to Laurie and her family. Love you girlfriend!

Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts for supervisor

The re-election of Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts, to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is very important and should be a priority for all that don’t want them to be replaced by right wing ultra conservatives which could be possible. I urge your support and endorsements of these good public officials.

San Diego AIDS Walk: Sept 26

With ongoing government funding cuts our HIV-AIDS agencies more than ever need our help and support. The annual AIDS Walk is our city’s biggest HIV-AIDS fundraiser that benefits so many HIV-AIDS organizations in San Diego County and Baja California. AIDS Walk is set for next Saturday Sept. 26, though sadly once again I will be out of the state.

I will be thinking of and being grateful for all of you. A big thank you to our LGBT Center and staff for producing this annual event and their dedication, commitment and hard work when it comes to HIV-AIDS in general in San Diego.

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2015 Nicky Award winners Thu, 03 Sep 2015 16:48:23 +0000

Lorena Gonzalez | PHOTO: BIG MIKE

The 40th Annual Nicky Awards were a great success and a sold-out event at the Marriott Hotel. There will be some major new changes next year and hats off to producers Allan Spyere and Michael Zarbo.

And the winners were … Outstanding Business: Green Fresh Florals; Community Organization: Human Dignity Foundation; Businesswoman: Joyce Rowland; Businessman: John Ealy/Harley Gray; Community Volunteer: Ricky Cervantes; Sports Organization: San Diego American Flag Football League; Neighborhood Bar:Uptown Tavern; New Business: Breakfast Republic Restaurant; Best Restaurant: Heat Bar and Kitchen; HIV/AIDS Service provider: Mama’s Kitchen; Bank: California Bank & Trust; Nightclub: Rich’s; DJ/VJ: Dirty Kurty; Pharmacy: AHF Pharmacy; Writer: Morgan Hurley/Gay San Diego; Straight Ally: Adrianna Martinez; Brunch: Martini’s Above Fourth; Bar: Urban Mo’s; Community Event: AIDS Walk/City Fest; Personal Trainer: Grant Foreman; Transgender Personality: Will Williams; Male Personality: Rich Reyes; Female Personality: Susan Jester; Impersonator: Paris; Leather Personality: Paulo Batista; Entertainer Group: San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus; Publication: Gay San Diego; Bar Manager: Patrick Walsh/Flicks; Online Media: SDGLN; Title Holder: Angel Fairfax; Achievement in the Arts: Travis; Bar Owner: Jim Simpsom and Doru Tifui /Martinis, Nick Moede/Rich’s; Philanthropist: Ben Dillingham; Dancer: Jake London Sawa; Bar Event: Top of the Bay /Numbers Bear Night; Male Waitperson: Marshal Alexander/Martinis; Female Waitperson: Mayra/Baja Betty’s; Women’s Night: Lez/Rich’s; Bar Employee: Johnny Goodman/Baby Cakes; Bartender (Male): David Cope/Mo’s; Female: Jersey/ Top of the Park; Male Couple: Jay Jones and Brad Hart; Female Couple: Moe Girton and Dawn Stultz; Real Estate Agent: Ryan Dick; Man of the Year: Matt Stevens; Woman of the Year: Toni Duran; 2015 Mayor George Moscone Award: Mayor Kevin Faulconer; Harvey Milk Civil Rights Awards: Carolina Ramos and Connor Maddocks; Portantino Media Award: Rage Magazine.

Gay organizations exhibit at City Hall

Sept. 4 is the last day you can see the exhibit at City Hall, 202 C Street of the Imperial Court de San Diego. This is the first time in the history of City Hall exhibits that an LGBT organization has been spotlighted and City Hall officials have been saying that it is one of the best exhibits they have ever seen. 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Imperial Court system of the United States, Canada and Mexico with over 68 chapters in these three countries. A special thank you to exhibit organizers: Michael Zarbo, Roxy Blue, Ashley, Mikie Too, Tom Dickerson, Ajax, Toni Saunders, Jada, Hugay Bear and the offices of Councilman Todd Gloria.

LGBT Democratic Club delays Gonzalez endorsement

State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has been a very long time supporter and, yes, fighter and leader when it comes to LGBT civil rights. Yet at last week’s LGBT Democrats for Equality Club meeting, by about 28-20, the club deferred its usual endorsement of Gonzalez until their next meeting. Why? Because of Gonzalez questions and concerns about a “death with dignity” type of bill which other Assembly members are also concerned about (a final vote has not even been taken). Gonzalez has a 99.9 percent gay rights record. Is this the way we treat a long-time friend and ally?

Lincoln Club luncheon

Recently I was a guest of the Lincoln Club (thank you Chairman Steve Quinn) for a luncheon featuring Presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich.

To hear a Republican candidate speak about the poor, homeless issues, drug addiction and mental health was very refreshing. Kasich seems to be a common sense candidate whose grandfather was a coal miner and father a postman.

Though he has shown compassion when it comes to our LGBT community his record on our issues is not very good at all. But of all the Republican candidates he is the most decent and I was impressed with many of his moderate views.

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Support SeaWorld Thu, 20 Aug 2015 18:00:34 +0000

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his wife Katherine

I am glad that SeaWorld is finally really fighting back against PETA’s extreme and false claims by recently launching some educational public service and educational media outreach. The facts are that for over five decades no organization in San Diego County has done more to rescue and protect all ocean wildlife than SeaWorld. Yes, there have been some accidents at SeaWorld but PETA’s claim that SeaWorld systematically and knowingly mistreats its killer whales is not true.

The highly respected Association of Zoos and Aquariums have given SeaWorld its full accreditation after an independent review found they met its high standard. SeaWorld has put forth a $100 million plan to nearly double the size of their orcas’ habitat and has also committed $10 million for research on orcas in the wild.

Every year SeaWorld has undertaken to save sea lion pups that get mysteriously stranded on our beaches. The facts are that SeaWorld is inspected at least once a year by a federal agency and SeaWorld is accredited by actually two major zoological associations that both demand rigorous standards.

But nothing will ever be enough for PETA as they continue their negative and false campaigns against SeaWorld. I have close friends who have and do work at SeaWorld for many decades and they like all of us love all animals and tell me that they would never work at a place that mistreats any animal. Toni Atkins, Todd Gloria, Kevin Faulconer all strongly support SeaWorld because they know the facts and truth.

I urge you all to educate yourselves about the good people and programs at SeaWorld.

The golden state is turning brown …

So I have been saying in some of my speeches for the last decade and last month Latinos officially surpassed whites as California’s largest racial or ethnic group; there are now 14.99 million Latinos in California and I am proud to be one of them. And obviously there is also a more visible and growing LGBT Latino population with more Latinos taking on major activist and leadership roles in California.

Christians and gays being killed in the Middle East

It seems that the killing of thousands of Christians and gay people in the Middle East continues to get little media coverage or attention by American leaders. The facts are that Christians and LGBT people in the Middle East are being persecuted and murdered by Muslim extremists more than ever before. I am very proud of and salute the two San Diegans who have been leaders in the campaign to focus on the killing of Christians in the Middle Ease: Mark Arabo and Congressman Juan Vargas.

Truax House is a historic site

Congratulations and thank you to Lambda Archives, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Councilman Todd Gloria for securing state and local financial grants to preserve San Diego LGBT historic sites. Lambda Archives deserves credit for starting the campaign to focus on this most important issue and now comes word that the Truax House is being considered as a historic site and indeed it is. I remember talking to a very ill Dr. Brad Truax in the 1980s to get his permission so that the AIDS Assistance Fund, and I (president and co-founder) could name the three story house after him and he modestly said yes. I look forward to other LGBT historic sites to be named.

Nicky Awards to honor mayor this Sunday

The San Diego LGBT Academy Awards will be held this Sunday, Aug. 23 at the Marriot Hotel in Mission Valley (6 p.m.). Tickets and tables are going like hot cakes and the entire community is invited. It’s always an Oscar Awards and Red Carpet-like event with outstanding entertainment. Producer Allan Spyere is saying it’s going to be another fabulous fun night and Mayor Kevin Faulconer will be honored as the national co-chair of Mayors for Marriage Equality. For further info: 619-300-1232 or 619-254-6372.

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Is Faulconer San Diego’s last Republican mayor? Thu, 06 Aug 2015 19:20:16 +0000

Nicole Murray Ramirez planting a pear tree at the Memorial Garden in Hamilton, Canada.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer is on his way to a very smooth re-election as every possible major Democratic officeholder has bowed out of the mayoral race and Faulconer continues to be polling in high numbers when it comes to his approval rating by San Diegans. This is a testament to his non-partisan approach in many of his administration dealings. Faulconer is a moderate Republican and probably the only GOP leader with any possible shot at statewide office in California and that talk has been going on since he was first elected but the mayor remains totally focused on America’s Finest City.

San Diego indeed has changed since the days when President Richard Nixon called us his favorite city; from being a Republican stronghold to now Democrats holding a growing lead in voter registration.

I have had the privilege to have served and advised the last seven mayors of San Diego and two interim mayors; yes, a majority Republican who were supportive of many LGBT civil rights issues. The last two Republican mayors, Jerry Sanders and Kevin Faulconer, were strong advocates nationally for marriage equality and their administrations had many LGBT appointees and much LGBT representation and these LGBT San Diegans were mostly Democrats.

So now that we all know that Mayor Faulconer is on his way to a probable easy re-election Democratic leaders are wisely looking to 2020 to recapture the mayor’s seat. Top names include Todd Gloria, Toni Atkins and Lorena Gonzalez; but now statewide office could be in the future for Atkins and Gonzalez – lieutenant governor? There is most certainly a second tier of possible strong Democratic candidates for 2020, but what about the Republicans?

It would take a very special type of Republican to be elected mayor of San Diego, in the mold of a Jerry Sanders or Kevin Faulconer. Top possibilities I would say are Mark Kersey, Chris Cate, Brian Maienschein and Dan McAlister. Cate is a proud person of color (Filipino) and one to watch as he has a very bright future ahead of him. But another possible moderate Republican could come out of the Lincoln Club – a viable, credible business person.

Yes, you can put a fork in this 2016 mayoral election as it’s about done before it’s begun. Now 2020 will be the election to watch. Let the maneuvering begin!

Bob Ottilie for the ethics commission

The mayor and City Council needs to appoint Bob Ottilie to the City’s Ethics Commission which badly needs his proven leadership and independence. And, the commission’s Executive Director Stacey Fullhorst needs to resign; she thinks she is the chair of this commission and sadly has run it for years. We need commissioners to stand up and become leaders not followers. Bob Ottilie is the right San Diegan for this commission, period.

About planting a tree In Canada

In 1969 when some gay Americans were fighting back against police harassment and discrimination in New York at the Stonewall Inn the prime minister of Canada was signing the first government homosexual civil rights bill in North America. Interestingly, the son of that very prime minister was marching this past weekend in Vancouver’s annual Pride parade and Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and be elected prime minister of Canada in October.

In my speech this past Saturday before LGBT activists from all over Canada I called this great country “the equality nation” as it has been first in gay marriage, gays in the military, health care for all and LGBT civil rights legislation.

But for me, the highlight of my five day stay was being asked to plant a pear tree in Hamilton at the Memorial Garden located in one of the most beautiful, oldest and largest (over 130 acres) LGBT resorts in North America. A plaque was dedicated to mark the occasion and it was such an honor and a memory that I will always cherish.

I will be returning to Canada again in two weeks, this time to the city of Edmonton.

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A Bob Filner tell-all book? Thu, 23 Jul 2015 17:52:30 +0000

Nicole Murray Ramirez with Rep. John McCrostie at the Idaho state capital

Yes, it was in this column that I wrote that former Mayor Bob Filner would be writing a book and now comes word that it could be nearly finished! My good sources tell me that the possibilities of this “tell-all” book being a reality are very good and that there should be some very nervous former and current elected officials.

I have never hidden the fact that I was a strong and loyal supporter of Bob Filner since his school board days, City council, Congress and mayor. No one can deny that he did a lot of good and important things for many communities always standing up for them including the Latino, Filipino, LGBT, veteran and African American communities. (He was a young “freedom rider” in the 1960s in the South.)

Bob Filner has admitted and apologized for his conduct against some women and we all agree that it was totally unacceptable and indefensible but I believe that a man should be judged and remembered for the good and bad and Filner’s record of many decades was an outstanding one.

I and many other men became more educated about the issue of sexual harassment and all men were put on notice. But that being said, as I have stated in this column a few years ago there were a lot of hypocrites and, yes, liars especially among some Democratic Party officials and elected office holders and they know who they are and they should indeed be nervous!

Will Atkinson drop out of the congressional race?

It has become well known in Republican Party circles that many feel that 52nd congressional candidate Jacquie Atkinson should drop out of the race. She has only raised $40,000 so far and Scott Peters has raised over half a million (former 52nd candidate Carl DeMaio raised $500,000 in a month).

Sad to say that Atkinson’s campaign has been very lackluster and some Republicans feel she should drop out of her congressional campaign and run for the Third City Council seat.

I and many others respect Jacquie who is a decorated “wounded warrior” Marine veteran but as I stated before in this column, with all due respect, I have always believed that she was not ready to run for Congress (she has never held public office) and I hope she seriously thinks about dropping out of the 52nd congressional race. Someday Jacquie could be a great candidate for public office, but not now.

People, politics and opinions

It is also well known that many Democratic Party leaders feel that Anthony Bernal should not have entered the Third Council District race and that Chris Ward will definitely be our next councilman.

Once again, let me make it clear that I respect and like Anthony as he is a good decent young man but as I told him he should have run in the Ninth not the Third District.

A Datamar poll of some of the most connected and aware political minds in San Diego asked who people think will be elected in District 3: Chris Ward 84.2 and Bernal 0. District 9: Ricardo Flores 47.4 Georgette Gomez 21.1. City Attorney: Gil Cabrera 36.8 Rafael Castellanos 26.3. Council District 1: Barbara Bay 63.2 Ray Ellis 26.3. District 7: Scott Sherman 84.2 Justin DeCesare 10.5 and will the Chargers be in San Diego in 2020: 73.7 No!

The Imperial Valley LGBT Resource Center has opened its doors in El Centro (1073 Ross Ave., Suite D (760-592-4066). Congrats to Rosa Diaz and the new board of directors.

Robert Gleason (upper right) with husband Marc Matys and their children

Many of us attended the annual “Father of the Year” gala at the Hyatt Regency in La Jolla and this year Robert Gleason became the first gay man honored in the history of this wonderful gala dinner. Of course, his husband Marc Matys was also deservedly spotlighted.

Last week was a very busy time for me with lunches with civic leaders Nancy Chase, Mel Katz and Lorena Gonzalez. And, by the way, Nancy recently got appointed to the prestigious National Advisory Board of the President Harry Truman Project.

Yes, I missed my first Pride parade in 41 years as I had a long time commitment in Idaho which is about 95 percent Caucasian and I sure did know I was a minority. By the way, see what happens when I miss my first Pride event; the gods cry out with buckets of tears!

Candidates who had their own contingents in this year’s Pride parade: Georgette Gomez, Justin De Cesare, Gil Cabrera, Barbara Bry, Kevin Faulconer, Chris Ward and Todd Gloria. And the winner for best and most colorful contingent: Ninth Council District candidate Ricardo Flores.

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Remarks by Nicole Murray Ramirez at St. Paul’s rainbow lighting ceremony Thu, 16 Jul 2015 21:47:57 +0000

SAN DIEGO: Remarks by Nicole Murray Ramirez at St. Paul’s Cathedral rainbow lighting ceremony, July 14:

Good Evening, it is my deep honor to have been asked to speak tonight. These are indeed historic times for our great nation and all Americans.

The Confederate flag is coming town in many Southern states and the White House for the first time was lit up with the colors, of the LGBT community’s Rainbow flag.

And tonight, one of our city’s oldest and historic cathedrals, St. Paul’s is also going to display the rainbow colors.

As an old queen from the 1960s and ‘70s I continue to have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming.

In 1974 when Vietnam veteran Jess Jessop, ACLU attorney Tom *Homann and I organized our city’s first Pride march the police refused to issue us a permit but we marched anyway. Homosexuals were classified as perverts and deviants with a mental disorder; just with a stroke of a pen your parents or a judge could send you to a mental hospital where many homosexuals were given electrical shock treatment. It wasn’t till 1976 that homosexuality was made legal in the state of California.

It is on this day, and with historic events like this that I especially think of my pride. Co-host Jess and Tom who we lost both to AIDS.
I think of Gloria Johnson, Al Best, Brad Truax and many others who are no longer with us, whose shoulders we stand on. As I’ve said so many times before, a community that doesn’t know where it came from does not know where it’s going.

Every study and every survey has shown that a vast majority of LGBT Americans are very spiritual, be they Christian, Jewish or Buddhist.
And every study shows how for decades we have been condemned by the religion of our parents, our childhood.

Yet a vast majority of us have held on to our faith, our God. I believe if Jesus Christ came down to Earth today He would weep for what so many are doing in his name.

But I believe in my heart and soul that Jesus is smiling down this evening on St. Paul’s Cathedral. Very Rev. Bridges, your church’s denomination has in the last decade been in the forefront of change and acceptance that we are all indeed God’s children. While many churches turned us away at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, this cathedral and its parishioners did not.

I will never ever forget that when my Catholic Church and its bishop refused to say a funeral mass for one of our young community leaders, John McCusker, you welcomed without hesitation John’s funeral, the McCusker family and our community here. We will never, ever forget.

My traditional Catholic Latino family almost all of them turned their back on me when they found I was gay; even my beloved grandparents. Though I have hope in Pope Francis, I’m not sure I will be granted a Catholic funeral, so I hope to have my memorial here in this beautiful loving cathedral.

But for those of you in the audience getting excited over the thought of my demise This old queen still has some years left in her … I hope.

In closing …When I think of St Paul’s Cathedral, its bishop, it’s deacon, clergy and parishioners I think of Mathew 25 verses 35 and 36:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.
I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.
I was a stranger and you invited me in.
I needed cloths and you clothed me.
I was Sick and you looked after me.
I was in prison and you came to visit me.

St Paul’s Cathedral you truly walk in His shoes. Thank you so very much for your true Christian values. God bless you all.

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The Union Tribune and the LGBT community Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:32:11 +0000

Mayor Jim Gray declared June 6 Nicole Murray Ramirez Day in Lexington Ky.

The San Diego Union Tribune has had a mostly negative relationship with the LGBT community, especially in the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s, referring to us for a long time as the “homosexual community” and refusing to use the word “gay.” They ran negative articles and editorials, including ugly cartoons. (“Being gay” was not even legal in California until 1976.) When gay men were arrested for “lewd conduct” by the vice squad (mostly by police entrapment) the Union Tribune at times would print the addresses and employers of those homosexuals arrested. Forty one years ago the late Jess Jessop and I organized a picket of the Union Tribune and May Company in Fashion Valley. It was one of the first gay demonstrations covered by the TV media in San Diego. What made this all even more insane is that the son of the Union Tribune publisher was gay closet case David Copley, who led a double life; during the day pushing his paper’s anti-gay agenda and at night having dates with young call boys and Marines.

It was during the ’80s and the early AIDS crisis that the Union Tribune’s editorials and cartoons, at times crossed the line; one showing gay men as skeletons in a sauna.

At a cocktail party I threw a drink in David Copley’s face as he was giving millions of dollars to the “arts” but refused to give a penny to any AIDS agency because he was so afraid to be associated with his own LGBT community.

As the LGBT community and our civil rights movement grew, the Union Tribune started covering our community with a little more balance and finally the Copley family sold the paper to another conservative Republican, Doug Manchester.

Actually things got better when it came to our community and LGBT coverage but Manchester gave money to the anti-marriage campaign, and everyone got very angry. Mr. Manchester regretted what he did and we need to move on. The paper established a “community advisory board” and included every community except our LGBT community. Although I spoke to the paper’s “powers that be” and they said they would form an LGBT committee, they never did.

But the truth is our community received better coverage under Manchester and now recently the Los Angeles Times purchased the Union Tribune. Thank God!

I am happy they kept columnist Diane Bell and Editor Jeff Light. I look forward to this new era with the Union Tribune, and as a gay man and Latino I will continue to keep my eyes on them, but I do believe the relationship with the Union Tribune and the San Diego LGBT community is the best ever!

Mayor Faulconer to be honored at The Nicky Awards Aug. 23

Nicole Murray Ramirez, Susan Jester and Kevin Faulconer

Mayor Kevin Faulconer will be receiving the Mayor George Moscone Civil Rights Award at the 40th annual Nicky Awards Sunday Aug. 23 at the Marriot Hotel. The Board of Governors of the “gay academy awards of San Diego” voted unanimously to present the prestigious honor to Faulconer who was the national co-chair of the “Mayors for Marriage Equality”. This past Tuesday he became the first mayor in San Diego history to display the rainbow flag in City Hall. For decades the LGBT community has been an ally and a friend.

From appointing more LGBT Democrats and Republicans to City boards and commissions to serving as a “waiter” during Dining Out for Life, Mayor Faulconer and his wife, the first lady of San Diego Katherine Faulconer (the co-chair of the AIDS Memorial Task Force) have attended more LGBT events than anyone. His approval rating is so high that no major challenger has come forward for 2016.

About LGBT active San Diego military

Our city is home of the largest military complex in the western hemisphere and that means hundreds of thousands of men and women in mostly Marine and Navy uniforms. Thousands of these active military personnel are members of the LGBT community from ages 18 to? Since the lifting of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell it isn’t a big deal to see guys and gals in their uniforms at bars, restaurants and events. San Diego is also the home of hundreds of thousands of proud veterans.

San Diego is proud to be the home of the first LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor named after Ben F. Dillingham and Bridget Wilson. Our Pride parade also had the first active duty military contingent in an LGBT Pride event.

Our community recently hosted a reception for Army General Tammy Smith – the first openly LGBT general in the Armed Forces. And last week was another historic first – the authorized celebration of a Pride event on a military base. Yes indeed, we are very proud of our active duty military personnel and our veterans.

Tijuana: A great getaway!

I have been going to Tijuana, Ensenada, Rosarito, etc. since I was a little boy; for the beaches, the bull fights and fabulous getaways. Now as a man I still go there to get away and have a good time. Although many times I am there for their LGBT organizations and AIDS agencies.

Johan Engman, owner of the new Breakfast Republic on University | PHOTO BIG MIKE

A few weeks ago Terry Sidie, owner of Faces Nightclub in Sacramento and I spent a weekend there. We stayed at the historic Cesar Hotel on Avenida Revolución and had a wild time doing a lot of gay nightclubbing! Check out the new “Premier Club” with over 30 hot male dancers at 645 Avenida Revolución. But now there are about a dozen gay clubs all with male dancers (yes some totally nude). How safe is it you ask? It is completely safe. You will even see LGBT Mexicans holding hands. Their recent Pride parade (I had the honor of being their first Grand Marshall 20 years ago) drew thousands! Congratulations to this year’s Grand Marshall Franko Guillen!

And the cost of everything? They have the best bargains, and your money will go a long way! Check it out, and viva Mexico!

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The gay baiting of Carl DeMaio and Dave Roberts Thu, 25 Jun 2015 22:14:19 +0000

Carl DeMaio

During Carl DeMaio’s congressional campaign I gave a warning in this column that if the LGBT leadership did not speak out against the vicious false sexual smear campaign and gay baiting against DeMaio that in the future others would use this same tactic to destroy gay candidates; now County Supervisor Dave Roberts is being subjected to the same type of attacks. Because Todd Bosnich has recently pleaded guilty in federal court and been proven a liar you would think LGBT leaders would finally come forward and speak out about what Carl DeMaio was subjected to. The progressive and liberal City Beat newspaper even stated, “Whether you like Carl DeMaio or not, personally or politically, nothing can justify what was done to him.”

The Sacramento Bee this past Sunday wrote about the smear campaign that DeMaio was subjected to and putting the “ick” factor on the gay guy. Where does Carl DeMaio go to get his reputation back? I saw first-hand what these destructive and vicious lies did to Carl and his family, and yet then and now our LGBT leaders remain silent. Former San Diego Democratic Party Chair Jess Durfee stood outside a DeMaio congressional event with a sign that stated “I stand with Todd Bosnich.” Mr. Durfee, you owe Carl a public apology, period. The mainstream and LGBT media also owe Carl DeMaio an apology for their at times over the top tabloid-like coverage of the gay baiting campaign against DeMaio and thankfully some are trying to finally report the facts not the false accusations of the past. What has been the fallout of the successful gay baiting of DeMaio, well just ask Dave Roberts!

A former top aide of Roberts now felt very comfortable accusing the supervisor of “engaging in an improper relationship with his male driver,” stating that they even shared the same hotel room during a weekend government conference. One local paper even dared to compare the Dave Roberts accusations to that of Bob Filner. Let me tell you, Dave Roberts is a happily married gay man raising five wonderful children and his accused “male driver” is a happy heterosexual who has a steady woman dating reputation. I know them both.

The former Dave Roberts aide after the successful gay baiting and smearing tactics against DeMaio now felt very comfortable in her money motivated accusations against Roberts to also use the same method of lies against the supervisor. I ask you again, where does Dave Roberts go to get his reputation back? Once again our LGBT leaders are not speaking out. Trust me, until they do, this type of gay baiting and smear campaign against gay male candidates will continue in the future.

Dave Roberts

Carl DeMaio and Dave Roberts will not be the last to be subjected to this political gay baiting and false sexual accusations. Welcome to the return of McCarthyism.

The 9th District Council campaign

Well this campaign is already heating up with Ricardo Flores and Georgette Gomez in the lead for right now, and that could change if Caridad Sanchez decides to enter the race, but many feel she will probably not run. I have had lunch with both Flores and Gomez and spoken with Sanchez and to be very honest all three would make for a good solid progressive councilmember, but of course each has their own style and personality that truly sets them apart.

Ricardo Flores’ former boss was Todd Gloria and he is a staunch LGBT rights supporter and Georgette Gomez is an out and proud lesbian.

Al Best

The 9th Council District residents are a majority Latino community but there are some very heavily LGBT neighborhoods with high voter turnout records in this district, formerly that of Councilman Todd Gloria but now Councilwoman Marti Emerald.

Rumors are that the local gay Democratic club and central committee members are leaning toward Gomez or Sanchez but everything could change in a year as we all know in politics. Ricardo Flores is expected to be able to raise a lot of money and as a chief of staff and endorsement of Councilwoman Emerald he will remain as one of the top two front runners.

Al Best Memorial
Sunday, June 28
2 p.m. at The Center

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Al Best’s memorial: June 28 Thu, 11 Jun 2015 19:18:45 +0000

Al Best (at right) with his life partner Edward | PHOTO: BIG MIKE

Some decades ago, long before Kehoe, Dumanis, Atkins, DeMaio, Gloria, Padilla, Roberts, Beiser, etc., an openly gay man named Al Best announced his candidacy for the City Council of San Diego. Yes, he was making history with this announcement and he was immediately fired from his good paying job because his “gay candidacy” was bringing too much media attention. There were no California laws to protect him and he also received death threats and hate mail – how dare an openly homosexual run for public office in America’s Finest City!

Some of us old timers well remember this historic campaign. I volunteered and was one of Al’s advisors. From some hours at his phone banks to introducing him to people and raising badly needed funds for his campaign. Many LGBT leaders didn’t want to be associated with Al Best’s campaign; many didn’t want to help him; many were afraid of the association with a known homosexual in the public spotlight. Yes, Al Best did not win but he did place well among many candidates. He remained a dedicated gay activist and served the city he loved as a city commissioner. He was a co-founder of Stepping Stone, and was a past president of the then Harvey Milk Democratic Club of San Diego and served on many LGBT community organizations board of directors.

Some years later Neil Good became the second openly gay man to run for City Council against such candidates as Bob Filner and Mike Aguirre. Then came the winning campaign of Chris Kehoe well over a decade after Al Best. Yes, Al Best was a San Diego trailblazer, longtime activist and a true historic hero to many in our community. Al Best passed away this last week and our thoughts and prayers are with the long time love of his life, Edward. I most sincerely want to thank the donors and supporters of the Imperial Court de San Diego’s Ben F. Dillingham Fund which provided the financial cost for Al Best’s proper cremation (this fund has helped bury dozens of LGBT people who could not afford this last dignity in one’s life). Al Best may have not been rich, but he was indeed rich in the friendship of many caring people. Rest in peace my friend.

Chris Ward with his partner and daughter

I most sincerely hope our community will come out and pay their respects to Al Best at his celebration of life: Sunday June 28 at The Center, 2 p.m. Among the speaker’s will be Mayor Kevin Faulconer, State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, City Councilman Todd Gloria and Ben F. Dillingham. You didn’t have to know Al Best to come and say a final farewell to this courageous man. Further information: 619-692-1967. Hope to see you all there June 28 at The Center!

Chris Ward for City Council

Both Al Best and Neil Good paved the way for a representative from our community to be on the City Council. I know if they were both alive today they would be solidly behind the City Council candidacy of Chris Ward. He is the most qualified, experienced and will be ready on the first day he is in office. Ward cares about all the citizens of our city. That is why a vast majority of community and civic leaders have endorsed Chris for City Council, and so do I!

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Balboa Park and the LGBT community Thu, 04 Jun 2015 17:01:40 +0000

Yes, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of San Diego’s renowned Balboa Park and there are continuing events celebrating this historic landmark as there should be. Balboa Park has played a great part in the history of San Diego’s LGBT community. From social, political, HIV-AIDS demonstrations and Pride, etc. In fact, this year marks the 40th anniversary of our first Pride event, a “gay pride march”. I had the honor of speaking at our first Pride rally 40 years ago in Balboa Park along with George Raya, then “Dean” the Rev. David Farrell and others. I was dressed as the then reigning “Empress IV de San Diego”.

In truth and reality, Balboa Park for decades served as a “meeting” (cruising) place for gay men. In bushes, trail ways, park benches, and yes, bathrooms. Before any of you get judgmental, here is another important reality check, California did not legalize “homosexual acts” until 1976. Yes, we LGBT people were considered “deviants” and “perverts” and just by a signature of your parent’s doctor or judge any homosexual could and was committed to a state mental hospital where you were subject to electric shock treatment and sometimes even a lobotomy; I had friends that were subjected to this in the 1960s and 1970s. Almost everyone was in the deep “closet” and you were very brave to go and be seen at a homosexual bar or hangout (gay people could not own a bar or be issued a liquor license).

Yes, LGBT people were afraid of being “discovered” or “outed.” The then mayor of San Diego even stated that there were “really no homosexual constituents in San Diego.”

This was the environment and society for homosexuals in the 1950s, (McCarthy era of “pinko communist” witch hunts) 1960s and 1970s. Yes I loved during these times.

The historic House of Hospitality, the North Fountain, and Balboa Park’s free red tram

So yes, many homosexual men cruised parks and bushes etc. Balboa Park was a hot spot of action, even a “queen’s circle”. So was the situation in almost every city and town within the United States. Hey, would the Christians have been persecuted and hunted down had they not met and hid in caves. We homosexuals gathered in parks! There were many police “raids” and arrests in Balboa Park (many entrapments) and even a certain big named closeted gay owner of the Union-Tribune had a police incident happen in Balboa Park along with other prominent San Diegans.

Society pushed the “homosexual deviants” to the parks and yes “restrooms” and “truck stops” to meet. And so it was in San Diego at Balboa Park. People will do almost anything to be able to meet one of their own kind.

Balboa Park was also the place for huge LGBT picnics, festivals, HIV-AIDS demonstrations, rallies, concerts, gala dog shows and the first LGBT Latino Pride Festival; so many things.

Balboa Park has played and will continue to play an important role in our LGBT history.

Happy 100th birthday girlfriend!

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If Harvey Milk were alive today Thu, 28 May 2015 16:15:20 +0000

Rev. Troy Perry and Nicole Murray Ramirez | Photo: Big Mike

Address given by City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez at the San Diego Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, May 21:

Buenos dias; good morning and welcome to the 7th annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. Thank you for once again selling out this event with over 1,000 of us gathered here this morning.

Harvey Milk was proud that he served our nation in the United States Navy and we San Diegans are proud that he was once stationed in America’s Finest City in the 1950s.

As our great nation is getting prepared to observe Memorial Day, would our active duty military and veterans with us today please stand so that we can acknowledge your outstanding service to our nation.

Today I stand before you with mixed emotions. Many times those of us who knew and worked with Harvey Milk in the 1970s are asked, “What do you think Harvey Milk would be like or involved with if he were alive today?”

Well only three days ago a 14-year-old trans boy in San Diego County named Kyler committed suicide. Just a few months ago two other local trans teens named Sage and Taylor also committed suicide.

Yes you heard right, three San Diego LGBT teens have committed suicide these past two months.

And Kyler this past Monday; well I know this, if Harvey Milk was alive today his heart would be broken as are the Kyler Family today as well as Kyler’s friends at The LGBT Community Center which he went to. And yes, Harvey Milk would be angry that almost 40 percent of America’s homeless teens are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender youth.

Harvey Milk would be standing up and fighting for our LGBT youth and all youth.

For those who ask what Harvey Milk would be like if he was alive today and what issues he would be involved with – he would be standing up for the undocumented, children and families who have fled their country and are here living with us today.

He would be standing up for the 81-year-old veteran who recently had to resort to calling 911 because and I quote, “I need something to eat.” Yes he would be outraged at the mistreatment of his fellow veterans and the elderly.

And I know Harvey Milk would be standing up front and center when it comes to the issue of some of our nation’s police departments abuse of people of color; of the bias discrimination within our justice system.

For that I say to you today, that the LGBT community should never forget that our civil rights movement began because of police brutality at the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969.

But I also know that Harvey Milk would also speak out about the recent shooting of police officer Heather Sutton this past Sunday and would appreciate the service of our good police officers who protect our communities every day.

Harvey Milk would be speaking out about the growing number of HIV/AIDS cases of America’s youth, women and people of color.

And this morning you will see and hear that Harvey Milk lives in one of our honorees: Phill Wilson

If Harvey Milk were alive today he would be in solidarity with the minimum wage fight; standing up for America’s working family, for women’s rights to control their own bodies and equal pay. And Harvey would be outraged at those trying to destroy the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

And yes, Harvey would be so proud of us honoring his friend the Rev. Troy Perry; for Harvey Milk’s legacy lives in Troy Perry. Yes, I think at times if Jesus came down to Earth today he would weep because of what some are doing in his name. I know he is weeping for Sage, Taylor and Kyler.

So in closing, I ask of you today to let Cesar Chavez’s, Martin Luther King’s and Harvey Milk’s legacies continue to live in each of you, and yes get more involved in the serious issues that I have spoken to you about today.

We must do more for our LGBT youth, especially the growing violence against our trans brothers and sisters.

Let as all leave today remembering the lives of Sage, Taylor and Kyler. We dedicate this breakfast to their memory.

Yes, I believe together all of us can change America for the better; for the fight for equality and social justice continues. Si se Puede!

Thank you and God bless you all.

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Canada: The equality nation Thu, 21 May 2015 16:00:36 +0000

In 1969, the year gay Americans were fighting back against police harassment and discrimination at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, the prime minister of Canada was signing legislation that very same year legalizing homosexual acts in the nation of Canada. Homosexual acts even in California were not legal until 1976. Indeed the great nation of Canada has been at the forefront of LGBT civil rights and equality for so long that they make us look like the nation of the dark ages.

I’ve been coming to Canada since the 1970s, attending meetings, charity events, conferences, speaking at rallies, etc. I have been blessed to make longtime friends and two of them being gay Canadian men who have been honored by the Queen of England herself! I love Canada and its people and especially its wonderful diverse LGBT community.

I’ve had the honor of meeting and getting to know chiefs and leaders of the proud “First Nation” communities (Indian Americans are their brothers and sisters) of their large Asian communities. Canada also has some of the best health care in the world – for all its citizens. This is another thing we Americans could learn from our friends in the north. LGBT Canadians can marry and were able to serve in their nation’s armed forces long before us and I have gotten to meet some of their openly gay elected officials including members of the Canadian Parliament.

This past week I spent five days in Canada (Surrey and Vancouver) speaking at a Canadian Courts Summit and charity events. I presented awards to some outstanding LGBT Canadian activists and met more wonderful people.

One issue that we Americans and Canadians share is our concern and growing focus on our LGBT youth that are “coming out” at younger ages and by the thousands. Bullying of our LGBT youth is worldwide and we must make all issues facing them a top priority.

I was honored to announce for the second year a grant for “Youth for Change” (13-19 years) from the Imperial Courts. It was nice seeing First Nation Chief Byron Longclaws of the Council of Elders.

During my visit to Canada my host was former City Council candidate Martin Rooney. I will be returning to Canada soon, probably to the cities of Edmonton and Hamilton. I just love Canada and its wonderful people!

Let the Chargers go

Once again, Charger fan hopes are up and excited over this week’s task force proposal for a new stadium and keeping the football team here. While we should be appreciative for the hard work and dedication of the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group and our Mayor Kevin Faulconer I really don’t believe this will all work out and as I predicted in this column years ago, I still predict that the Chargers want and will leave San Diego.

Face the facts folks, the owners of the Chargers have lied and deceived us and would really like to move to Los Angeles/Hollywood where they could make millions more and be in a bigger media/celebrity city. Who can blame them, but they haven’t been honest and upfront with San Diego especially these last two years.

They should just put thousands of San Diegans out of their high hopes and misery and do what they really would like to do! Move to Los Angeles. All I have to say is, “Bye Felicia!”

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It’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Thu, 14 May 2015 15:15:44 +0000

Lorena Gonzalez

This month is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in the U.S.A. As I often say the Golden State is turning brown with the Latino and Asian communities the fastest growing in California. In San Diego we have a very big Asian Pacific Islander community; in fact, San Diego is home to the largest Filipino population outside of Manila!

Did you know in the last presidential election almost 70 percent of all Asian Americans voted! While the Asian Pacific Islander community has a proud beautiful culture America has not always treated them well. California treated Chinese people like slaves during the “gold rush” and we interned Japanese American citizens during World War II, taking their property and putting entire Japanese American families in special barbwired camps. A very shameful part of our nation’s history.

In San Diego we have a very visible and large LGBT Asian American community. Happy Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month to all!

People, politics and opinions

Popular State Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez is fast becoming the Elizabeth Warren of California. A statewide progressive and liberal leader; a voice for the voiceless that many are predicting will be a future statewide office holder.

At a recent meeting of the San Diego County Central Committee both Ninth Council District candidates Ricardo Flores and Caridad Sanchez were introduced and Sanchez by far got the biggest response from these political leaders. But look for a very tight primary race with popular Georgette Gomez (a member of the LGBT community) and Mark Arabo also probably running for the Ninth.

Carl DeMaio and Johnathan Hale had a wedding reception for friends this past Saturday and a very diverse crowd of gays and straights, Republicans and Democrats showed up to wish them the very best. They recently celebrated their sixth anniversary.

Big Mike Phillips is once again taking on the office of president of the board of directors for the Imperial Court de San Diego.

The mayor and City of Long Beach will be honoring local businessman Rick Ford with a prestigious “Harvey Milk Award” at a special ceremony next Wednesday. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor Rick!

San Diego’s seventh annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast (Thurs. May 21) is about sold out once again and world-renowned gay icon the Rev. Troy Perry will be one of the honorees. A global gay leader for over half a century!

Our very own Toni Atkins (speaker of the Assembly) will be the subject of a political roast dinner Tuesday, May 26 in our state capitol.

Word is that a marijuana store will be opening up on top of the Alano Club!

I will be gone the next four weekends; Canada, Salt Lake City, New Mexico and Kentucky.

I had dinner with Steve Whitburn (executive director of San Diego Pride) and this year’s festival will have a lot of new exciting changes. And even better news, Pride will not ever again be paying a guest speaker at the annual Pride Rally $10,000.

Former County Supervisor and Mayor Susan Golding went through chiefs of staff and staff members like water.

It’s very interesting that the only Democrat on the Board of Supervisors has been made a target recently: Dave Roberts is a hard-working and dedicated public servant and a father of five children. Let’s not rush to judgement before all the facts are in.

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In response to Franko’s commentary Thu, 07 May 2015 02:56:38 +0000

Queen Mother of the Americas, Nicole

Last week’s issue of LGBT Weekly included a “guest commentary” by popular Latina drag queen entertainer Francesca “Franko” Guillen, a former “princess royale” and community activist. Everything seems to be fair game in politics and many times “letters to the editor” and “commentaries” are ghostwritten for well-known individuals. Many of us laughed our heads off as we all suspect Council candidate Anthony Bernal was behind this commentary. If you know Francesca you absolutely know it’s almost impossible that she wrote that whole commentary!

So to Francesca and his ghostwriter, it was very obvious you were responding to my column about the Third District Council race and Anthony Bernal. No one says that any Council seat is reserved for a person of a particular origin or background, but my dear drag queen sister Francesca and Anthony, if you knew your city’s history since “district elections” all of the Eighth District councilmembers have been Latino and Fourth District have been African American. The Third District’s last councilmembers Kehoe, Atkins and Gloria have all been from the LGBT community. They have traditionally given a voice for the communities that for decades never were at the table.

I do agree that this Third District Council race will be about qualifications and experience, and Anthony Bernal lacks them compared to Chris Ward. Sadly, Bernal’s claim to fame and legitimacy is almost totally based on being a paid staff member to his popular boss, Todd Gloria.

The cold hard facts are that a vast majority of LGBT, Latino, Democratic and neighborhood leaders have endorsed Chris Ward not Bernal (just look up both of their Web sites).

As a Latino/LGBT activist for over 45 years, I can honestly tell you that in the last decade I have hardly ever seen Anthony Bernal at a major Latino or LGBT event (until recently). The truth is after meeting and getting to know Anthony, I soon realized he not only does not really know the LGBT San Diego community but even his own San Diego Latino community. I do give him credit for trying to take a “crash course” these last two years.

Now don’t get me wrong, Anthony Bernal is a nice enough guy but he is just not ready to be elected to public office and trying to ride on Todd Gloria’s coat tails will just not do it. Maybe because you have not really been active in the Latino, African American or LGBT communities you really don’t understand how important it is to us to have a voice at the “city hall table”. By the way, my dear Anthony, next time get a more believable author for your campaign’s guest commentary pieces. Sure, Francesca wrote that last one, just like I wrote the United States Constitution!

Mother’s Day

The LGBT community is indeed a very unique one. Many have two families, their “blood” family and their “chosen” family because so many LGBT people have been rejected by their very own families. I have been very honored and blessed to play a gay “mother role” to many LGBT people (including Russell Roybal, Todd Gloria, Michael Zarbo, Carl DeMaio, Carolina Ramos, Julia Legaspi, Allan Spyere, Big Mike, Coco Lachine, Kurt Cunningham and many more) these last decades. I’ve also been blessed to play a “grandmother role” especially now as the “Queen Mother of the Americas.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my fellow “mothers”. To all of my “children of the corn” please remember I can’t eat chocolates and don’t really like flowers!

Editor’s Note: San Diego LGBT Weekly makes every effort to give our readers the opportunity to have their say. ‘Letters to the Editor’ and ‘Guest Commentaries’ are accepted in good faith as the opinions of the author.

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Army General Tammy Smith to be honored at San Diego reception Thu, 30 Apr 2015 17:07:06 +0000

Brigadier General Tammy Smith

Brigadier General Tammy Smith will be honored at a private reception in San Diego June 12. General Smith is the first openly LGBT U.S. flag officer of her rank to come out. She has served in Afghanistan during the war and was promoted to general in a private ceremony at the Women’s Memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Brigadier General Smith is a native of Oregon and in 2012 she married her life partner Tracey Hepner at the Jefferson Memorial and Hepner is the co-founder of the military partners and families’ coalition, a national military family organization that provides support, education, resources and advocacy for LGBT military partners and their families.

During the 2013 State of the Union address in our nation’s capital, Tracey Hepner was announced as a personal guest of first lady Michelle Obama. The June 12 reception will be a private invitation only event where Brigadier General Tammy Smith will receive the prestigious International Jose Julio Sarria Civil Rights Award. (In 1961, World War II veteran Sarria became the first openly gay candidate for public office in North America). More information with local official hosts and sponsoring organizations will be forthcoming. For further information: 619-692-1967.

Mayoral duties in La Villita, Texas

In 2012, then Mayor Julian Castro (now secretary of housing and development) of San Antonio issued an official proclamation naming me as the mayor of La Villita, Texas. La Villita is considered one of the oldest cities in Texas and the original “San Antonio.” La Villita has had local governments under the Spanish and then Mexican governments, and is now a historic five block village in San Antonio.

One could compare my little city to “Old Town” here in San Diego, but it also has a small historic church and a town square with a historic statue of President Benito Juarez of Mexico.

This past week I was in Corpus Christi and San Antonio for some speaking engagements and fundraising so I of course stopped by and visited my Texas city and its citizens. Accompanying me was Dr. Rosie Valdez of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. In the town square I gave a stirring mayoral speech to five tourists, one janitor and three barking dogs. My remarks received a standing ovation and applause from Dr. Valdez. Hum, maybe I should visit La Villita more often!

Mark your calendar

• Thursday, April 30 – Dining Out For Life

• Thursday, May 21 – Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast

Mayor Nicole Murray Ramirez of La Villita, Texas

• Saturday, May 30 – North County LGBTQ Center Annual Garden Gala

• Sunday, June 7 – Equality California Brunch

• Friday, June 12 – Army Brigadier General Tammy Smith Reception

• Saturday, June 27 – Pachanga de Frida LGBT Latino Celebration at The Center

• Sunday, June 28 – Mr., Miss, Ms. San Diego Pride Contest

• July 17-19 – San Diego Pride

• Sunday, Aug. 16 – Ink Fest San Diego 2015: An all-day tattoo fest at The Center

• Saturday, Aug. 22 – HRC San Diego Dinner

• Sunday, Aug. 23 – Annual Nicky Awards: The gay academy awards of San Diego

• Saturday, Sept. 26 – San Diego AIDS Walk & Run

• Sunday, Nov. 8 – The 3rd Annual Premios Latinos: LGBT Latino Community awards show and Mr. and Miss. – Ms. Gay Latino California Pageant – At The Center

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Native Americans, Father Serra and ‘Two Spirited’ Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:45:17 +0000

Statue of Junípero Serra at the Mission San Diego de Alcalá in San Diego | PHOTO: BERNARD GAGNON

As soon as Pope Francis announced that he was going to canonize and make a “saint” of Father Junipero Serra (the 18th century Franciscan missionary of California) rightfully protests were immediately made and are going on to this day by Native Americans.

Many Native American and “First Nation” leaders have compared Father Serra’s conversion of Natives to “genocide.” This coming May 2 there will be a daylong celebration to honor Serra in Rome and Pope Francis will be coming to the United States to make Serra a saint Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C.

Many times Americans seem to forget and dismiss the fact that our Native Americans and their people and culture were nearly wiped out. They were enslaved and many were forced to convert to Christianity and diseases were spread among them. The facts are that we stole their land and killed their people. First the Spanish government, then the Mexicans and finally the American government. Our nation’s history is full of mistreatment of Native Americans and the cold hard facts are that many were involved or they looked the other way and never spoke out.

Interestingly the Vatican recently issued a statement that tried to defend Father Serra stating that, “It is important to look at Father Serra as a man of his time who like many others used corporal punishment as an educational tool, it wasn’t a death penalty.” I guess the Vatican is trying to tell us that Serra and other clergy just beat the hell out of the Natives but unlike the Spanish didn’t beat them to death! I am very glad that Native American leaders are speaking out because people need to be reminded about this sad chapter in our nation’s history.

Interestingly, when the early European explorers came to America among the things that they reported back to their monarchs was that some of the wild natives were “men who dress like women” and “women who dress like men” and that some even seem to be married to each other. All of this was accepted by the tribes. These written reports are a matter of historic record of explorers’ early observations of many Native American tribes.

Jacquie Atkinson

For centuries many Native American communities have accepted homosexuality as people being “Two Spirited” and they have respected, accepted and honored them. Many times these “two spirited” people held high positions in the tribes. The LGBT community should always honor, respect and support our Native American brothers and sisters because they have always accepted us even before America was discovered.

Atkinson’s campaign kickoff

Last week I attended congressional candidate Jacquie Atkinson’s campaign fundraiser kick-off at the award winning restaurant Heat. A big crowd of supporters showed up including many business people, veterans and women. Atkinson who is a decorated Marine captain and “wounded warrior” veteran is also a respected businesswoman and community activist. An openly proud lesbian American, she is the co-chair of the Sheriff’s LGBT Advisory Board and is a member of the Mayor’s Advisory Board.

Last time this congressional race saw three Republican candidates running for this swing district seat, but this time it looks like the Party will rally around Atkinson.

Among those in attendance were Republican County Chair Tony Krvaric, Past Liberty Caucus Chair Brian Brady, Chair of the Lincoln Club Women’s Caucus Norma Movet (Councilman Sherman’s wife), City Commissioners Tom Hebrank (Lincoln Club) and Susan Jester (Log Cabin).

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Reunited with Larry Kramer Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:42:57 +0000

Nicole with Larry Kramer in New York this past Saturday

Gay icon, AIDS advocate leader, author, etc.; people either love him or hate him – Larry Kramer has been one of the most important voices in the LGBT community and civil rights movement. Larry and I have not really been friends but have had to deal with each other these last three decades. While we have had major differences and some major battles I have and will always respect him and his passion and love for our community.

Larry is the cofounder of the world renowned Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the author of the award-winning play Normal Heart, the book Faggots, and of course founded ACT-UP; and this is where I had to deal with him … in this arena.

In 1987, I was on the national executive committee of the March on Washington which drew over 800,000 people to our nation’s capital.

In 1989, I was elected a national co-chair of Stonewall 25 which also brought thousands of people to New York. ACT-UP did important work especially against the high charging pharmacies and medical businesses making millions out of people living with HIV/AIDS.

I did not support many of ACT-UP’s demonstrations especially the one disturbing and taking over the altar and mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and joined other leaders to denounce these actions.

Locally, I also bumped heads with ACT-UP chapter chair Albert Bell who was a friend. At the 1987 national march we voted not to let Larry speak because he vowed to give a speech full of profanity and we were live on CNN/CSPAN.

The morning of the march Larry threatened that he and ACT-UP would storm the stage if he wasn’t allowed to speak. By a small majority revote he was allowed and then of course used profanity and attacked President Clinton and Hillary personally! Only a day after the executive committee was invited to the White House to discuss our demands and HIV/AIDS.

After the march I was asked to write a commentary in a national gay magazine and I denounced Larry’s actions and how he hijacked the rally. Later I had to deal with them at Stonewall 25 in New York where we of course let him speak as it was his own backyard.

I have always said that our LGBT civil rights movement must always be “in the streets and in the suites of political power.” So while I respected many of ACT-UP’s direct actions and participated in many street actions, some I absolutely opposed and spoke out against.

But no matter what, I always knew where Larry’s heart was at. For what he felt would save lives for in those early dark years of AIDS, indeed silence equaled death.

This past Saturday night in New York, I presented Larry Kramer with the International Court System of the United States of America, Mexico and Canada its highest honor: the International Royal Order of Empress I Jose.

It was good to see Larry again and I asked him if he would have really stormed the stage during the “1987 March” and with a twinkle in his eye he said, “No Nicole, we wouldn’t have.” We both then started laughing our butts off as once again he had prevailed.

Larry Kramer has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and is an Academy Award nominee; he continues to write and continues in his activist work. And I say, keep on fighting the good fight Larry, we always needed your voice and you truly have made a difference to millions of people’s lives. God bless you, Larry.

People, politics and opinions

Ricardo Flores (chief of staff to Marti Emerald) is on almost everyone’s mind to become the next councilmember in the Ninth District. Another prominent name being mentioned is Mark Arabo who would also make a formidable candidate.

Congratulations to respected businessman and City Commissioner Tom Hebrank who becomes one of the first openly gay members of the prestigious Lincoln Club board of directors.

Job very well done to Stampp Corbin, chair of the City’s Equal Opportunity Commission who has decided not to seek another term though the mayor was going to reappoint him. He truly did some great and important work during his four-year term. Word is that Mayor Faulconer will be appointing Susan Jester (member of the United States Civil Rights Commission State Advisory Board) to replace Corbin.

Already some gay activists are attacking gay Republican Congressional candidate Jacquie Atkinson, some very nasty; please, let’s disagree on issues and political stands and not get personal. Atkinson, who is a decorated and “wounded warrior” deserves our respect for her service to our country.

Now comes word that City Attorney Jan Goldsmith might also be looking into the 52nd Congressional race. I think he is too conservative of a Republican to win in the swing district.

With Mayor Faulconer looking more unbeatable every day for re-election many are already talking about 2020. Top mentioned names are Todd Gloria, Toni Atkins and Dave Roberts. I had lunch with Roberts last week and all he is focusing on is his re-election which should be a landslide.

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Dear Anthony Bernal … Thu, 09 Apr 2015 19:00:21 +0000

First of all, let me say that I like Anthony and I believe he has a future in politics, but there is a far more qualified candidate running for the Third District Council seat. As many of you know I have supported straight candidates over gay candidates but this council race has to do with proven leadership and community involvement and Anthony’s record does not compare to that of Chris Ward. I have read Anthony’s commentaries in the Advocate and Gay San Diego and to be honest he did a lot of “window dressing” with no real substance or sense. The facts are that for decades the Fourth Council District is considered the seat at the City Hall table for African Americans and the Eighth District for Latinos (hopefully the Sixth District will become the Council seat for our city’s large Asian community).

And yes, the Third District has been seating a gay or lesbian to have a voice at City Hall for our community these last 24 years. As the people of color and LGBT communities have learned, “If you’re not at the table you’re on the menu.”

I ask Mr. Bernal, would a serious Latino candidate run in the Fourth District? Would a serious African American run in the Eighth District? No! Because we respect and know how important it is to have representation of our communities at the table.

Chris Kehoe, Toni Atkins and Todd Gloria were all chiefs of staff or senior deputies when they ran for City Council and Chris Ward is also an experienced chief of staff.

With all due respects, Mr. Bernal, your being on the staff and working for the popular incumbent does not make you the most qualified candidate.

Chris Ward has been endorsed by the last three previous Third District Councilmembers: Chris Kehoe, John Hartley and Toni Atkins (both gay and straight). Almost every major civic leader has endorsed Ward, from Donna Frye and Myrtle Cole to Nathan Fletcher and, sad to say, Mr. Bernal has not received any major endorsements at all.

And in my opinion, Mr. Bernal misrepresents his campaign by posting in his commentaries big pictures of him with Stewart Milk and Todd Gloria who both have not endorsed him. And while I know that Anthony is a hard working City worker, he seems to be trying to take co-credit for all of Todd Gloria’s many successes. (If anyone should be given some credit it would most certainly be Jaime Fox who is Todd’s chief of staff.)

As a proud Latino man I would like to see more representation of this community but as Anthony knows he and I had a long lunch where he revealed an almost dismissive knowledge of the San Diego Latino community, its organizations and leaders and that is why major Latinos have felt very comfortable endorsing Chris Ward including David Alvarez, Lorena Gonzalez, Larry Baza, Gill Cabrera, Kevin DeLeon and Rafael Castellanos to name a few.

While Todd Gloria and Steven Whitburn split the LGBT community in their City Council race Chris Ward comes into this campaign with a very united LGBT community solidly behind him. I told Anthony that he should run for the Ninth District City Council seat and still believe that he could be a good candidate in the future. Anthony, you need more time to mature and really get to know and get more involved with our Latino community.

Let me make it very clear this is not about being gay or straight, this is about qualifications and experienced leadership and a proven community record all of which Chris Ward has earned and achieved these last two decades and, once again with all due respect, you lack.

This week Sarah Boot dropped out of her State Assembly race and endorsed Todd Gloria. I, like many, would like to see her in public office someday and believe she has a very bright future ahead of her. Anthony Bernal, you also should do the right thing and drop out of a race that you can’t and will not win, as so many of us feel you’re a really nice guy with a possible political future, but this is not the time or office or opponent. Period.

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Cesar Chavez’s support of homosexual civil rights Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:42:54 +0000

Cesar Chavez

It wasn’t until 1976 that homosexual “acts” were legal in the state of California. Before that you could be arrested or sent to a state mental hospital. Needless to say the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s were not exactly the best of times to “come out” and those of us that did were few in number. Hardly any elected official let alone a major civil rights leader would or did come out for “homosexual civil rights;” we were considered “deviants”.

The first major civil rights leader to speak out for our community was Latino icon, Cesar Chavez. You see Harvey Milk and Cesar Chavez established a friendship and relationship with the then early “Coors Beer” and “Grape” boycotts which they of course supported. Having worked and known both Milk and Chavez I know firsthand that they both were very supportive of each other. Chavez supported Milk’s supervisor campaign and came out against anti-gay state proposition “No. 8” and Milk strongly supported the farmworkers and Latino community.

In 1987 I was elected to the national executive committee of the National Gay and Lesbian March on Washington which drew over 800,000 people to our nation’s capitol. I asked Cesar Chavez if he would march with us and speak at the rally; he did not hesitate a moment; he said yes.

Chavez marched with us in 1987 and I had the honor to have introduced him to the huge crowd at the rally and he later said it was the biggest crowd he had ever spoken in front of! Years later I had the honor once again to present Cesar Chavez one of his only awards he ever personally received from the gay community. And some years later, I was humbled to receive a “Cesar Chavez Social Justice Award” from his widow, Helen Chavez. You see as a Latino gay man, I was an activist for both homosexual and Latino civil rights, visibility and empowerment, and my two heroes Chavez and Milk were also involved. Decades later as the state president of Equality California I got our LGBT organization to support the campaign for a state holiday in honor of Cesar Chavez.

This week we in California celebrated “Cesar Chavez Day” in our great state and this column is just a reminder to you all of how much the LGBT community and civil rights movement owes to Cesar Chavez and his legacy. Viva Chavez!

Children’s Easter Egg Hunt this Sunday

About 12 years ago grandmother Linda Childers (who had a gay son) and I put on an annual “Children’s Easter Egg Hunt” at Trolley Barn Park produced by the Imperial Court. The first year about 50 children showed up; last year over 500 children came! Now this annual children’s event is co-sponsored by The LGBT Center (Family Matters) and the Third City Council District Office (Todd Gloria) with the overwhelming support of the LGBT community, businesses, friends and allies.

The Leather Community and the Eagle donated dozens of children bicycles which are raffled and this has become a really huge fun event and I want to sincerely thank you all for your continuing support (a list of donors will be in my next column).

Also we still need children’s Easter egg baskets so just drop them off at The Center or phone 619-692-1967. Once again, thank you all for your amazing 12 years of support.

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Todd Gloria for State Assembly Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:36:57 +0000

Todd Gloria and Lt. Gov. of California Gavin Newsom

It is well known that Todd Gloria is mulling over a run for the 78th District State Assembly seat (Toni Atkins is termed out next year) and I join many San Diego citizens who want him to be our voice in our state capitol. There are exactly 120 members of the California legislature, and only 7 are LGBT and we lost a San Francisco state assembly seat last year and could lose Toni’s seat next year.

Our voices in Sacramento are actually shrinking and we don’t have one elected LGBT statewide office holder. When Toni leaves the Assembly the San Diego legislature delegation could be without an LGBT voice for the first time in over two decades!

Councilman Todd Gloria, as a former Council president and interim mayor has led on city issues like affordable housing, homelessness and equality and is the chair of the Regional Transportation Committee that focuses on infrastructure. He can continue to champion these issues in our state capitol. Most importantly, he is the current budget chair and helped fix City finances and helped deliver a balanced budget on time.

The State Assembly is a natural place for Gloria to continue his work on these important issues and he is well-known and respected in Sacramento and could achieve statewide leadership positions. Interestingly enough he could imminently join the LGBT Latino and Asian American State Legislature Caucus. Let us not lose another LGBT Assembly seat, but most importantly Todd will fight for all San Diegans.

The time is now for the Todd Gloria to announce for the State Assembly.

About Congressional candidates Susan Davis and Jacque Atkinson

On the subject of diversity, equality and representation we need more women in the United States Congress, period. The good news is that super popular Congresswoman Susan Davis will be seeking re-election. Personally, I have supported her since her school board days and she has never changed as she is truly the people’s congresswoman and is down to earth and accessible to all her constituents.

Former decorated Marine Captain and “Wounded Soldier” hero Jacque Atkinson will soon be announcing her campaign for Congress (her first fundraiser is April 16). While I do have some concerns that she has never held an elected office, we do badly need more citizen candidates for office if Washington, D.C. will ever change. In the history of our Congress some of our most important voices and true leaders have been citizen candidates who never held office before their election. Ms. Atkinson has served our country courageously overseas and has served our nation with valor. I wish her the very best in her quest to once again serve our great nation in the U.S. Congress.

The Nicky Awards are coming!

The “gay academy awards of San Diego” the annual Nicky Awards will once again be held in August. These LGBT awards are one of the oldest LGBT awards in the nation! Always a community benefit, Allan Spyere will return as the executive producer and president of the Nicky Awards board of governors. He is planning some new and exciting changes. Last year, the awards show at the new downtown library was sold out as usual.

For more information call 619-300-1232.

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Boycott Dolce & Gabbana Thu, 19 Mar 2015 21:08:34 +0000

These two Italian designers have in the past gone out of their way to champion “traditional families” and “family values” which is their right, but this time they have crossed the line and we have the right to react as Elton John and his husband have.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana attacked “synthetic babies, chemical children and wombs for rent.” They stated that all children should have a father and mother, period. I have known many women who could not have children and saw up close their pain and sadness, and yes through untraditional ways they became loving mothers. We have witnessed gay fathers and lesbian mothers and Trans parents give a loving home and life dedicated to kids. And what about those wonderful single parents? Dolce and Gabbana are not living in the real world and their words of intolerance have hurt a lot of children and families.

So, I absolutely agree and support Elton John’s call for the boycott of all Dolce & Gabbana products. Now we all know that gay men especially have been big customers of these designers, so stop buying Dolce & Gabbana. In fact, the Imperial Court de San Diego will be auctioning off donated Dolce & Gabbana products next Saturday, March 28 at the PR Ball. All proceeds will benefit the Queen Eddie Youth Fund for new clothes, shoes and school products for LGBT youth. For more information on how to donate your Dolce & Gabbana products, phone 619-692-1967.

People, politics and opinions

Word is that Carl DeMaio and Johnathan Hale will be getting married next month in a private family ceremony with the pastor of the Missiongathering Church officiating. A reception with friends will be held a week after the wedding. Congratulations to Carl and Johnathan who have been together over five years!

I had dinner with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who made it very clear that she will run for re-election when that time comes and I say that’s good news for San Diego.

Predictions are now that Todd Gloria will soon be announcing a run for the State Assembly.

Laurie Coskey informed me that she will not be running for the Third District Council seat which makes Chris Ward’s election all but certain. Anthony, you should also think about dropping out. Many of us would like to see Laurie Coskey become a candidate for school board.

The annual Victory Fund Brunch is definitely the LGBT major fundraiser of the year and it drew about 250 movers and shakers a few weeks ago. A lot of the talk was about possible congressional candidate out lesbian Jacque Atkinson, who didn’t show up but Congressman Scott Sherman did. Thank you to the events co-chair, City Commissioner Matt Stephens, who invited Commissioner Bruce Abrams and I to sit at his table. By the way, a lot of people would like to see Matt receive a Superior Court judge appointment by Governor Brown and word from the state capital is that he is already on the short list.

AIDS Memorial Benefit March 26

San Diego AIDS Walk founder Susan Jester is producing a gala benefit next Thursday, March 26 featuring popular comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, the Heart Music Academy Thunder Squad Drumline, the Manny Cepeda Orchestra, Chad Michaels and the Gay Men’s Chorus all to benefit the proposed San Diego Aids Memorial.

One of the hosts will be first lady of San Diego Katherine Faulconer and I hope to see you all at this benefit concert. We have lost over 8,000 San Diegans to AIDS and we must never forget them and their families. For further information and tickets call 619-863 4630.

See you next Thursday night!

Wanted: Children’s Easter baskets!

Last year over 500 children ages 1-12 showed up for the Imperial Court’s Annual Children’s Easter Egg Hunt at Trolley Barn Park, co-sponsored by Family Matters from The Center, the Third District Council office and local bars, businesses and organizations.

We need brand new sealed Easter baskets. Please drop them off at The Center!

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LGBT teens confront school board Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:41:22 +0000


E3 Civic High School is a special chartered school within the new downtown library; they have about 350 young students from 14-16 years of age. About 55 percent are Latino, 24 percent African American, 14 percent Caucasian and about 10 percent LGBT teens. 70 percent live below the poverty line and this school has only been open for about a year and a half.

Last Wednesday, a transgender boy committed suicide and on this day about 30 LGBT students, friends and about four parents showed up at E3 Civic High School’s monthly school board meeting. They confronted its members about their concerns and complaints as LGBT students and leveled many strong accusations including discrimination, “unsafe environment” and censorship. This included complaints on how their Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) “Spectrum” was being handled by the school administration. In fact, the local ACLU had sent the high school two letters concerning the student complaints and about a possible lawsuit.

LGBT activist Blue Montana and I attended a school board meeting last Wednesday. It was heartbreaking to hear student after student speak out of their pain and how they felt mistreated. Two parents also spoke out, one talking about her lesbian daughters attempted suicide. Many were in tears and it was very emotional for me to listen to these students talk about their personal pain, feelings and difficulties. Their GSA Chapter, “Spectrum” was having difficulties raising funds so I immediately committed $1,500.00 for the LGBT teens from the Imperial Court/Center’s “Eddie Colon Youth Fund.” (Thank you Martini’s on Fourth). I immediately notified Councilman Todd Gloria and Dr. Delores Jacobs (The Center’s executive director) about the LGBT teens and the school board meeting. I personally talked to some of the students and got copies of their statements to the board.

Although it was very difficult, and yes, heartbreaking, to have heard these students’ painful stories, I was so very proud that they were so brave to speak out and organize themselves almost 30 strong.

Since the meeting, last Wednesday I have had many discussions with this high school’s faculty, administration, parents and students. I believe that these LGBT students had their voice heard loud and clear.

Actions and changes are being put into immediate effort. I had about a two hour meeting with prominent civic leader, Mel Katz (School Board president) and Dr. Helen Griffith (principal and executive director). They have also met with Dr. Jacobs, ACLU Officials, parents, LGBT students and “Spectrum” members.

Because this includes a public school, underage students and some privacy issues, I cannot make public all aspects of this situation. All I can say and will is that the members of “Spectrum” and those LGBT students and parents were so brave to speak out and communicate their concerns and feelings. I also strongly believe that Mr. Katz and Dr. Griffith heard you loud and clear, and everyone is on the right track to make E3 Civic High one of the best and most welcoming of all students in San Diego County. I will continue to assist in any way I can and look forward to presenting the $1,500.00 check to their GSA Chapter “Spectrum”.

San Diego AIDS Memorial Task Force announced

Last week a press conference was held to announce the members of the San Diego AIDS Memorial Task Force which include: Terry Cunningham (past director, County Office of HIV/AIDS), Rabbi Laurie Coskey, former State Assemblywoman Tricia Hunter, President of the American Nurses Association Dr. Jay Sheehan of SDSU, Jimmy Ramsey (HIV/AIDS Activist), Dr. Daniel Lee (Owen Clinic), Carolina Ramos (Latino Services), Rev. Penny Bridges (St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral), Jim Cassidy (Military Partners Association), Ben F. Dillingham (former chief of staff, Mayor O’Connor and past president AIDS Foundation), Dr. Delores Jacobs (CEO, The San Diego LGBT Community Center), Jeff Marston (former State Assemblyman), Diana Schmid (former director of AIDS Healthcare Foundation), Shannon Wagner (executive director, Being Alive), Carol Norman (Black Nurses Association and past chair of the HIV/AIDS Planning Council), Jim Lennox (Pacific Events).

Katherine Stuart Faulconer, the first lady of San Diego, has the honor of being co-chair of the Task Force. Well over 8,000 men, women and children have died of AIDS in San Diego County. We must never forget them. We never will.

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Nathan and Mindy Fletcher and family deserve privacy Thu, 05 Mar 2015 18:46:58 +0000

Nathan Fletcher

Nathan Fletcher is no longer a state assemblyman or a candidate for public office, and Mindy Fletcher no longer works for the Bush administration. Both are now in private lives raising their two wonderful little boys. But as usual some local press outlets have tried again to take some cheap shots at Mindy and Nathan.

Last year the two separated and earlier this year very amicably filed for divorce. It is well known that they remain very close friends and loving parents. They can be seen together with their boys at PTA meetings, sporting events etc.

Nathan Fletcher has taken much flak and attacks but continues to be a gentleman and focuses on his veteran organization The Three Wise Men. He also has a volunteer team this Saturday for the annual Chelsea’s Walk to protect children from predators. He continues to care about our city and its citizens and does so by actions not just talk.

I had breakfast with the former Marine recently, and all Mindy and him are trying to do is be good loving parents and both are at a very peaceful place in their lives.

It seems that some political forces have always been afraid of this independent moderate Clinton-like Democrat, while some San Diegans would still like to see him in public office someday.

Fletcher is focused on helping America’s veterans; he and Mindy deserve our respect and privacy.

California GOP and gay Republicans

Shirley Weber

The Log Cabin Republican Club has been around for over three decades, and finally the California Republican Party officially recognized and chartered this LGBT group.

Republican delegates at their convention in our state capital overwhelmingly voted in support by 861 to 293 beating back right wing conservatives that once ruled the party.

A major player behind the scenes was our community’s Susan Jester, and her decades of political experience and party official friendships proved to be invaluable.

San Diego has the best and most progressive Republicans like Mayor Faulconer, Supervisor Ron Roberts, Assemblyman Chavez, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and more.

As a Latino and gay man I look forward to the day that both political parties go after your votes. It would be one of the best things that could happen to both the Latino and the LGBT communities.

Bayard Rustin draws standing room only crowd

The annual Bayard Rustin Civil Rights Honors held at The Center last Friday drew hundreds of people. Lifetime Achievement Awards went to State Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, Phyllis Jackson and Stan Lewis with Civil Rights Awards going to LaRue Fields, Christopher Wilson and Tanisha Cartwright.

Stan Lewis

Among public officials there were Supervisor Dave Roberts, Councilman Todd Gloria and Superior Court Judge Paula Rosenstein. The renowned Martin Luther King Jr. Choir stole the show with outstanding performances. Emcees were Camille and Darnell Williams (aka Empress Pearl).

The awards show lasted a record-breaking hour and 45 minutes, and every one raved about the soul food buffet provided by the Imperial Court.

Special thanks to The LGBT Center, Human Dignity Foundation, Imperial Court, RC Awards and the host committee, and my fellow co-founder Carolina Ramos.

This LGBT event was part of Black History Month.

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Bye-bye Chargers Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:12:31 +0000

Over a decade ago in my weekly column in the then Gay and Lesbian Times, I said that one day the Chargers would move to Los Angeles. Well, all hell broke loose and Charger fans went crazy on me calling me every name in the book and saying that the Chargers would never leave America’s Finest City. The truth is a close closeted friend of mine who is involved in the hierarchy of the Chargers leadership told me even then that the move to the Los Angeles market and money base was far superior to San Diego.

Now you all know that I don’t know much about sports or care (except for boxing and bullfights) and have never understood why so many of you are nuts over two continually losing teams (the Chargers and the Padres). But in reality, it has always been about the money; it’s a business and add the Hollywood movie and television stars etc. and why shouldn’t the Chargers move on to much greener pastures.

What I don’t like is the way the Charger leadership played games with San Diegans, as I believe through my sources that the Chargers always wanted to move to the bigger money city of Los Angeles and I can’t blame them.

The recent Union-Tribune 10 News poll has 34 percent of San Diegans believing that the Chargers really want to leave. Wake up people! Of course they want to leave! Another poll asked if the Chargers have been “deceptive” in their handling of the stadium issue and 65 percent of San Diegans said yes.

Of course they have; sad to say that’s the real ugly side of major business.

Oscars boring

No wonder this year’s Oscars were one of the least watched in years; they were boring and Neal Patrick Harris was especially boring. I did love, though, that some of the winning actors acceptance speeches touched on social justice issues; from equal pay for women, Alzheimer’s, LGBT suicide, etc. I loved that “Glory” won best song as it is. But I found it so boring that I kept switching to The Real Housewives of Atlanta!

Bayard Rustin awards this Friday

It’s your chance to celebrate Black History Month this coming Friday night, Feb. 27, at the annual Bayard Rustin Honors at The Center, 6-8 p.m., with a fabulous soul food buffet, outstanding entertainment including the Martin Luther King Community Choir. The entire community is welcomed. Congratulations to the honorees, Dr. Shirley Weber, Stan Lewis, Phyllis Jackson, Larue Fields, Christopher Wilson, Tanisha Cartwright and John Gwynn. I hope to see you all at The Center this Friday night and it’s only a $10 donation. What a deal!

Harvey Milk/Nicole Murray Ramirez GLBT Student Scholarship

In 1979, after the assassination of Harvey Milk, I along with the Imperial Court of San Diego established one of the very first GLBT scholarships in the nation. Some decades later the board of directors honored me by voting when I was out of town to add my name to the scholarship program. Now this scholarship is given at the Nicky Awards, Coronation Ball and at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. For further information write: H.M. /N.M.R. Scholarship Program, PO Box 33915, San Diego, CA 92163

Mayor’s Commissions and Boards

Then Mayor Roger Hedgecock appointed the very first gay mayoral appointees in San Diego history –Susan Davis and the late Dr. Brad Truax; both openly gay in San Diego. Mayor Maureen O’Connor established the first Gay and Lesbian Advisory Board to the Mayor of San Diego.

In the 1960s and ‘70s most of our City Commissions and Boards were made up of predominantly old white Republican men. Now our City Commissions and Boards are very very diverse.

Interestingly enough it was conservative Republican Mayor Dick Murphy who appointed the first transgender individual to a City Commission, that being Julia Lagaspi.

Mayor Faulconer will soon be appointing the first transgender individual to the Citizens Police Review Board.

Now, not only do many LGBT San Diegans serve on almost every City Board and Commission, they are the current chairs of many of them. Now that is truly progress, and it’s because of LGBT political power. We’ve gone from the days of a mayor telling us he wouldn’t meet with us because we weren’t a real constituency to where we are today. Progress indeed!

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Atkinson for Congress? Gloria for Assembly? Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:37:13 +0000

Nicole Murray Ramirez with Marine Lt. Joseph C. Rocha at San Francisco City Hall

Word is that former Marine Captain Jacque Atkinson was in Washington, D.C. meeting with top Republican Party leadership and half a dozen GOP members of Congress along with powerful political PACS for serious discussion about a possible campaign against Congressman Scott Peters in 2016. Atkinson is co-chair of the Sheriff’s LGBT Advisory Board and also sits on the Mayor’s Advisory Board. She has never run for office and while I have much respect for this decorated Marine veteran I don’t think she can beat Peters and isn’t ready for a run for Congress.

City Councilman Todd Gloria recently informed me that he has definitely not ruled out a run for Toni Atkins’ Assembly seat and it does not bother him one bit that two Democratic candidates have announced, with Susan Davis looking more like she will go for another term and with Mayor Faulconer still looking unbeatable.

Many are encouraging Gloria to announce his intentions for 2016 and that being a run for the State Assembly seat.

Five days in San Francisco

I just got back from the City by the Bay and its weeklong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Imperial Court of San Francisco, and thus the International Imperial Courts of Canada, Mexico and the USA.

I was put up in a really beautiful suite in the Mark Twain Hotel and thank goodness because I had about $25 in my pocket!

For me, it was a weekend of shows, events and lots of meetings; and I had to give three speeches so I am sure San Francisco’s LGBT community is tired of my voice.The highlight was the gala in the beautiful rotunda of City Hall with a wonderful dinner, big orchestra music, outstanding entertainment and many of San Francisco’s movers and shakers and elected officials.

We also had a ceremony at the final resting place of our founder, World War II veteran and the first openly gay candidate to run for public office (1961) Jose Julio Sarria. I miss him greatly.

My official escort for the weekend events was active duty Marine Lt. Joseph C. Rocha, a former San Diegan and recipient of a Harvey Milk/Nicole Murray Ramirez student scholarship. It was good seeing old friends like former supervisor Bevan Duffy, City Treasurer Jose Cisneros, my favorite state senator and future mayor, Mark Leno and award winning columnist Donna Sachet and many others.

Bayard Rustin Honors

The LGBT community of San Diego will be celebrating Black History Month next Friday, Feb. 27 at The LGBT Center with the annual presentation of the Bayard Rustin Honors. Last year drew a huge crowd and among this year’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Awards recipients are State Assemblywoman Dr. Shirley Weber, a long time black civil rights leader and a gay ally. The two gay and lesbian honorees are long-time LGBT activists and true role models Phyllis Jackson and Stan Lewis.

The 2015 San Diego civil rights honorees are Larue Fields, Tanisha Cartwright, Christopher Wilson and John Gwynn.

There will be a fabulous soul food buffet and outstanding entertainment including the Martin Luther King Community Choir. There is only a $10 donation to this event, and the 2015 Bayard Rustin Honors sponsors are The LGBT Center, San Diego Human Dignity Foundation, Imperial Court and the GLBT Task Force. The entire community, yes that means you, is invited to the event Feb. 27 6-8 p.m. at The Center.

Save the date: March 26

This will be the official kick-off for the fundraising for a San Diego AIDS Memorial. It will be an entertainment extravaganza including super comedienne Suzanne Westenhoefer and many more. One of the emcees will be the first lady of San Diego Katherine Faulconer. For more information Facebook San Diego AIDS Memorial Benefit Concert or call 619-863-4630.

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Mixed feelings about the Creating Change Conference Thu, 12 Feb 2015 17:04:47 +0000

Nicole Murray Ramirez with the Mayor of Denver at Creating Change 2015

The 27th annual Creating Change Conference held in Denver last week brought forth over 4,000 GLBT people from all over the United States (with some special GLBT observers from around the globe.) This annual conference has become the largest GLBT conference in the nation and is sponsored by the National LGBTQ Task Force. I have always looked forward to this conference because of the energy and diversity of those in attendance, especially the very large representation of youth and people of color.

The National LGBTQ Task Force is most certainly the most progressive and diverse national organization in the country. I have had the honor of serving on the national board of directors of the both the Human Rights Campaign and the Task Force. Our community needs both of these organizations as well as the Victory Fund and, yes, I am a strong supporter of all three.

But as a Latino gay man, drag queen and senior I just love the Task Force and its leadership, staff and the way it takes on issues of the day that not just face our GLBT community but all communities. Though I don’t always agree, I so much respect the fact that the Task Force speaks out while many are silent.

On the whole, this past weekend’s conference left me feeling good and re-energized as this gathering always does but some individuals, speakers and attendees I feel crossed the line. First of all, I was very happy to see the transgender activists take the stage with their demands. In many ways our community, equality movement and organizations give just “lip service” to our trans brothers and sisters and their issues. On that stage these courageous activists said what we all need to hear; they spoke the truth, for the transgender community it has indeed become … SILENCE = DEATH.

Our GLBT civil rights movement came out of police brutality and harassment (Stonewall, etc.) so I absolutely believe that we should not only understand the current concerns and issues of the African American and Latino communities, but also that this affects GLBT people of color. I have been discriminated against during my lifetime as both a “homosexual” and a “Mexican” and, yes, mistreated. And yes, I have seen firsthand the police brutality against gays and people of color. Yes, things have changed greatly in San Diego but not everywhere.

But what hurt me was the many “white” GLBT activists at the conference who felt like they were made to feel like the “enemy” with some of them subjected to angry personal words which felt very hateful. Some people of color activists seem to blanket all white people into one segment. I didn’t like the over the top vulgar swearing at the civil rights conference on the stage and I felt that Mayor Michael Hancock was treated with disrespect. I was in the “green room” with the mayor when it was decided that it would be best not to have him go on stage.

Mayor Hancock is a very strong and longtime supporter of our community. He is an African American ally who lost a brother to AIDS. This all could and should have been handled much better.

Trust me, I more than understand the anger and urgency of many of my black, brown and transgender brothers and sisters; I have lived it and get it.

But our white GLBT brothers and sisters at this conference are not the “enemy” and in fact are our supporters. But some of the language, personal actions and speakers seem to lump all white people together; words matter and can hurt.

But where else but a Creating Change Conference can this dialogue and these issues be discussed and vented? Nowhere. So, for this and many other reasons the Creating Change Conference remains the most important national gathering of our equality movement; and yes I can’t wait for next year in Chicago. Thank you LGBTQ Task Force.

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People, politics and opinions Thu, 05 Feb 2015 16:02:35 +0000

Evan Wolfson and Kevin Faulconer

Recently, I had dinner at Baja Betty’s with the frontrunner for the 78th Assembly District race Sarah Boot, who Toni Atkins has endorsed as her successor. But local Republican Party officials are pushing former Marine captain and out lesbian Jacque Atkinson to become a candidate. Atkinson is currently the co-chair of the Sheriff’s GLBT Advisory Board and is on a shortlist for an upcoming mayoral appointment that may be announced this month.

Talking about our mayor, Kevin Faulconer, while he was in Washington, D.C. met with Evan Wolfson, the executive director of Freedom to Marry. Faulconer is a national co-chair of Mayors for Marriage Equality USA.

No one is surprised with the Union-Tribune’s very early endorsement for the re-election of popular County Supervisor Dave Roberts who has done an outstanding job these last four years. There is serious talk about Dave Roberts becoming a future mayor of San Diego. (Two of our past recent mayors came from the County Board of Supervisors.) Dave Roberts and his partner (fathers of five children) are true role models for our community.

Rumors are that two local gay bars may soon change ownership.

I will be leaving for Denver, Colo. this week for five days to attend the annual national Creating Change Conference which last year drew four thousand GLBT leaders and activists from across the nation.

Trans activists speak to City Council

This past Tuesday, two well-known transgender activists, Blue Montana (recently becoming the first San Diegan to make the national most influential trans list) and Giselle De la Rosa came before the San Diego City Council to request that our city follow the City of West Hollywood’s recent decision to make public restrooms gender neutral. Councilman Todd Gloria then requested that the Council direct the Human Relations Commission to look into this request and report back with a recommendation.

While I do not believe that the City Council would make restrooms gender neutral I do think that this is an important issue to educate more people about our transgender brothers and sisters.

The reality is that Americans as a whole, and sadly a majority of our own GLBT community, do not understand or really know about transgender people. There is a lot of ignorance and misinformation when it comes to the transgender community and their issues and struggles.

It is very important that new TV shows and reports more than ever educate Americans about the trans community. But we have a very long way to go.

But the good news is that the transgender community is getting more visible and organized than ever as witnessed by last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

2015 Coronation a big success

This past Saturday night’s 43rd annual Coronation Ball of the Imperial Court de San Diego was a sold-out affair and the four days of events for visiting Imperial Court chapter members from all over Canada, Mexico and the USA raised a lot of money for the San Diego Court.

Among the VIP’s spotted in the crowd were Robert Gleason, Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Ben F. Dillingham, Steven Whitburn, Shannon Wagnor, Terry Cunningham, Lisa Saunders, Maureen Steiner, State Assembly candidate Sarah Boot, City Councilman Todd Gloria, Rich Reyes and Don Giaquinto of the mayor’s office, Susan Jester, Carolina Ramos, Elaine Graybill, Sarafina Scapicchio, Tom Hebrank, David McCullouh, and the Very Reverend Penny Bridges, dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and many others.

Over $110,000 was raised by Emperor Robert, Empress Pearl, their Court and board members. Congratulations to our new Emperor Mikie and Empress Toni.

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Auschwitz’s 70th anniversary … and anti-Semitism continues Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:05:05 +0000


This is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the infamous death camp of Auschwitz in Poland.

The Holocaust, which resulted in the torture and murder of over 6 million Jewish people during World War II. You would think that the world and all people would have learned from history and this horrific crime against humanity. But sadly, we haven’t. Polls and surveys show that many people even doubt the Holocaust ever happened; and many young people remain ignorant and know nothing about this ugly dark chapter in our world’s history.

But most disturbing of all is that anti-Semitism continues to grow around the world and is alive and well in the United States.

The reality is that anti-Semites, radical extremists and religious fanatics are provoking hate crimes and, yes, murder every day.

Right now on the Internet there are growing anti-Semitic and hating organizations, and even some Facebook pages identify Jews and their geographic locations with the intention and support for attacks on them (the recent massacre of Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris). There is even an organized growing effort to banish all Jews from Europe and continuing attacks on Israel with stated goals of destroying this country and its people.

But don’t even think that the United States is immune to all this growing anti-Semitism. Just in 2012 nearly two-thirds of religion- driven hate crimes targeted Jewish Americans, their synagogues and organizations.

As a past member and chair of the City’s Human Relations Commission (the first openly gay elected chairman), many times I witnessed first-hand hate crimes against our Jewish community throughout San Diego County. I personally know that many of our local synagogues and Jewish schools have had to increase their security. Faulting the Jewish people has once again become the rallying cry of haters and murderers.

Schindler’s List was much more than just an Academy Award winning movie, it was true history.

All people and communities are responsible for teaching our young students etc., about the Holocaust.

Personally, I have been blessed to have good friends like Bruce Abrams, Rabbi Laurie Coskey and many more who have educated and taught me in San Diego much about Jewish history and its people, religion and community. Let us never ever forget.

Peter Chacon’s memorial

Peter Chacon

This past Saturday my good friend Susan Jester (founder AIDS Walk San Diego) picked me up to take me to former State Assemblyman Peter Chacon’s memorial and celebration of his life.

Hundreds and hundreds of people showed up to this memorial including almost every major Latino leader. It was a two-hour tribute that left many of us in tears, laughter and pride.

Pete’s four sons presided over their father’s memorial and did him and his legacy and community proud.

This is indeed a most loving family whose concern and compassion for all those living below the poverty level is real and genuine.

Pete Chacon served from 1970 till 1992 in the California State Assembly, being only the second Latino elected in California. He joined the Army Air Forces at age 18 and while in the service flew 35 successful missions over Germany during World War II. Chacon was a school teacher and administrator before entering public service. Pete Chacon is indeed the “Father of Bilingual Education”.

In the 1970s, Pete Chacon became one of the first elected officials in the state to come out for “homosexual civil rights” and was a leader in those early dark years against AIDS.

I had the honor of becoming a friend and working with him on many issues and projects.

Among the official speakers at the memorial were State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Latino pioneer activist and leader David Valladolid who both mentioned Pete’s leadership on GLBT civil rights and AIDS.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez also spoke about these two legacies of Pete’s in our state capitol.

It was nice seeing so many longtime friends. I had great conversations with Lorena, David, Congressman Juan Vargas, County Treasurer Dan McAllister and so many others.

Peter Chacon was a personal hero of mine and I will always cherish his memory and our times working together. Rest in peace my friend.

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Mayor Faulconer’s ‘State of the City’ Thu, 22 Jan 2015 22:20:15 +0000

The annual “State of…” speeches by presidents, governors and mayors have become an American tradition when they inform citizens what their priorities, mayoral projects and goals for the year will be. City Council candidate Chris Ward picked me up and we went to hear Mayor Faulconer’s first such address.

It was a good, solid, well delivered speech and I was very happy to hear about such priorities as his focus on East San Diego, more jobs, street repairs, expansion of the Convention Center and our libraries and neighborhoods. Mayor Faulconer has only been in office for 10 months and he has already accomplished a lot and is getting approval ratings from throughout San Diego. Indeed, our city is in steady, solid hands.

It was nice seeing former Councilman Byron Wear. On the applause introduction meters of our councilmembers, Gloria came in first with Cate a close second. And I say Steve Cushman’s (Mr. San Diego) appointment as chair of a convention center expansion committee was an outstanding choice!

Politics, people and opinions

A very proud papa to be, former Mayor Jerry Sanders told me that his popular daughter Lisa, who is five months pregnant, is doing just fine. But let us all keep Lisa and her spouse Meaghan in our thoughts and prayers. The San Diego GLBT community will always have a place in our hearts for the entire Sanders family.

While Chris Ward starts out 2015 as an even stronger clear frontrunner for City Council seat No. 3 in 2016, Anthony Bernal says he is still staying in the race and Laurie Coskey tells me she is still a “possible” candidate. Former Marine Captain Jacque Atkinson, who recently returned from a Victory Fund GLBT candidates’ conference, looks like she would be the only candidate from our community for Toni Atkins’ assembly seat as the other two strong possible candidates while pro-gay, are heterosexual.

We lost a gay assembly seat up north recently. Are we giving up another one when it comes to the 78th District seat? This is why many are asking Todd Gloria to not totally rule out a run for the State Assembly and last week he told me he isn’t.

I had lunch with popular State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez who has quickly become the main voice of the progressive liberal wing in our state capitol and has gotten quite a few of her bills signed by the governor.

With some ongoing fighting within the local Democratic Party leadership and recent Democratic City councilmembers backstabbing there is a very good chance that the Republican Party could control both the mayor’s office and have a GOP majority on the Council in 2016.

Commissioner Bob Nelson has just finished a very productive term as chair of the Port Commission and is continuing to be an influential and respected voice in our city.

And I say the bigger the proposed Ferris wheel on the bay is, the better!

A recent Union Tribune editorial was entitled: The Good Todd Gloria … and the Bad Todd Gloria; here is how I would have written it: The good and great Todd Gloria is his leadership on the minimum wage and parking meters issues; the bad is those stupid unused bike lanes – get rid of them all!

Word is Sara Boot will announce her candidacy for the State Assembly 78th District seat with a lot of the major Democratic leadership and activists backing her.

The appointees of the Mayor Faulconer “AIDS Memorial Task Force” will be announced early next month.

During the recent Republican National Committee meeting in Coronado a presidential candidate saluted Kevin Faulconer’s record on job growth. Interestingly, many top officials have already put our mayor on a short list of possible vice presidential nominees and future governor lists, but Kevin has told everyone he continues to be focused on the city he loves – San Diego!

About respecting the Imperial Court

Yes, I am going to give a royal sound off. For 43 years the members of the Imperial Court de San Diego have been raising and contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to countless GLBT organizations and causes and never do they ever even get a “thank you” note or any sign of appreciation.

This year Emperor Robert Rodriguez and Empress Pearl have raised over $100,000 and will our community organizations send representatives to Coronation 43 “A Military Affair” next Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Lafayette Hotel?

I’ll be looking – I can promise you that. For ticket information call 619-254-6372.

Harvey Milk family: A role model for all

The recent birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. brought forth many media articles concerning how his children have made over $50 million from their father’s legacy, selling his image and words to AT&T, Apple, Chevrolet, Mercedes, etc. The family demanded $761,000 to use King’s words and likeness on the National Memorial in Washington!

I agree with a recent USA Today editorial which stated, “Perhaps most appalling was the children demanding to be paid when their father was honored with a statue on the National Mall”. The Daily News stated, “The King family makes a mockery of his legacy and turns his dream into a scheme.”

Thank goodness that this is not the case with the Cesar Chavez and especially the Harvey Milk family heirs. With the Harvey Milk family almost all proceeds, if any, go to the Milk Foundation which does remarkable global civil rights work and education. I can tell you that Stuart Milk lives in a small residence with his cats and his total passion and love is for his uncle’s legacy and global GLBT equality, not wealth or fame.

I have had the honor to meet Harvey Milk’s sister and other family members and they too have Stuart’s down to earth and humble outlook. It’s really sad to hear what’s going on within the King family.

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Troy Perry and Phil Wilson to be honorees at Milk Breakfast Thu, 15 Jan 2015 23:07:08 +0000

Rev. Troy Perry

If you Google the Rev. Troy Perry and Phil Wilson you will immediately know why they will both be honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards at the eighth annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast to be held Thursday, May 21 at the Hilton Hotel by the Bay.

Rev. Troy Perry is the founder of the worldwide Metropolitan Community Church and is a recognized gay pioneering activist leader and icon since the 1960s. He is also an author and was the subject of a biography film.

Phil Wilson has been a gay African American activist for decades and is considered one of the best-known and recognized HIV/AIDS advocates in the world. Recently, Phil was on an HBO special about AMFAR, where he was filmed at the home of actor/director Woody Allan.

I’ve known these two remarkable Americans for decades and, let me tell you, they are truly motivational orators and I am sure their remarks at the Milk Breakfast will be inspiring and some of the best speeches ever given at this annual event.

Mark your calendar for May 21, as it will be another great and memorable event.

Bayard Rustin in Selma movie

Though it is not a very big portrayal, 1960s black civil rights leader Bayard Rustin is in the movie Selma. Rustin, who was an out of the closet “homosexual” was a top advisor and mentor to the Rev. Martin Luther King and he was actually the man who came up with the idea of a National March on Washington and was, in fact, the executive director of this historic march.

Phil Wilson

I actually got to meet Bayard Rustin at one of the gay Marches on Washington but did not know who he really was and what a historic figure he would turn out to be.

I am also honored to be the chair and founder of the ongoing National Campaign to get the U.S. Postal Service to issue a stamp in his memory.

Now about the film Selma; every person living in the USA should see this movie as this important part of our nation’s history is forgotten and this awful chapter in our history should never be forgotten. I urge you all to see this movie!

1989: First gay contingent in King Parade

San Diego’s annual Martin Luther King Parade is the biggest civil rights parade in our city and in 1989 the first ever GLBT contingent marched in the parade sponsored by the then Harvey Milk Democratic Club of San Diego.

We who marched will never forget that day as though we were received mostly in a positive and welcoming manner by the thousands of San Diegans lining the streets in downtown , there was quite a few hostile and negative remarks and jeers along the parade march and, yes, a lot of shocked faces!

I remember organizing and entering our contingent and welcoming any GLBT San Diegans to march with us, and many were sadly afraid.

The first GLBT contingent in the annual Martin Luther King Parade in downtown San Diego 1989 | PHOTO: LAMBDA ARCHIVES OF SAN DIEGO

Among those who marched in this first historic GLBT contingent were some of our community leaders who are no longer with us; the late Gloria Johnson (past president of NOW), Albert Bell (founder of ACT-UP), Jim Cua (past president of the Harvey Milk Club) and Atty. Tom Homann. Boy, do I miss them all.

Also marching in the contingent was the Rev. David Farrell (MCC Church), Andrea Villa, Adam Guerrero, Rev. Pat Rocco, Frank Stirriti, Roger Dennehy, Al Best (first openly gay candidate for office in San Diego) and many more.

I recently discovered a picture of us at the 1989 King march and here it is!

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People, politics and opinions Thu, 08 Jan 2015 22:37:38 +0000

Carl DeMaio

Carl DeMaio to wed in 2015?

Recently, I had dinner with Carl DeMaio and his life partner Johnathan Hale who have been together about seven years. They had returned from a week’s vacation aboard a cruise liner and looked tanned, rested and ready for a new chapter in their life together.

While many Republican Party leaders are already urging DeMaio to keep his options open for another run for public office, he is focusing on other projects and plans to put all his energies on his new national political PAC and continue to be a leader in changing the Republican Party to be more inclusive and reaching out more to the people of color and GLBT communities as well to youth and students. Indeed, Carl DeMaio is a “new generation Republican” and isn’t going anywhere. As for Johnathan Hale, he was unanimously re-elected to a second term as president of the influential Hillcrest Business Association and plans on more business expansion of his own.

My prediction is that Carl and Johnathan will get married in 2015 and, no, they have not asked me to be the flower girl!

About Toni and Todd

All eyes are on Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Councilman Todd Gloria who are both termed out of office in 2016. Both are interested and looking at the 53rd congressional seat and the mayor’s office but, and that’s a big but, it all depends if the super popular and beloved Congresswoman Susan Davis decides not to run for re-election (many rumors are that she will not) and if our popular Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s poll numbers remain as high as they are.

Toni Atkins

In my opinion, both would love to be mayor as both have already served as interim mayors but aren’t about to go on a suicide mission.

Todd Gloria was recently named City Beat’s “Person of the Year” and was also named by Voice of San Diego as one of our city’s most influential voices. A “Draft Gloria for Mayor” campaign has already popped up and everywhere he goes people are urging him to run.

Yes, I have met with both Toni and Todd and had some off the record discussions about their futures and can only say that they have, and will meet together as the year goes on to make sure they are on the same page but different political races!

Pete Chacon 1925-2014

Peter R. Chacon recently passed away. He was the first elected Latino state office-holder from San Diego and a strong supporter of GLBT equality and AIDS awareness and education when it was very unpopular to take these positions.

He was elected to the State Assembly in 1970 and is a Latino pioneer and icon in my community.

Todd Gloria

Assemblyman Chacon and Irma Munoz, then chair of the Democratic Party helped me establish and serve as director of the People of Color AIDS Survival Effort (POCASE), the very first AIDS organization founded to reach out and educate the black and brown communities.

When the bishop of San Diego refused my request for a Catholic Mass for those who had died of AIDS it was Chacon who assisted me and prevailed the bishop to finally do so after we threatened to picket the bishop’s Christmas Eve Mass.

Assemblyman Chacon and I became good friends and allies. When he became chair of the state’s Latino Caucus he appointed me to the California State Central Committee of the Democratic Party and was a strong supporter of the then Harvey Milk Democratic Club of San Diego.

Pete even came to one of my Imperial Court Coronations and said that I looked like I was a real “Queen of the Cinco de Mayo” when I actually looked like a pig in a wig!

The Latino, GLBT and HIV/AIDS community owes a lot to Pete Chacon as he spoke out for us when others would not dare even to mention us or associate with the “homosexual” community.

Rest in peace, my friend … you were a true public servant and Christian in every sense of the word.

Shirley Weber

Shirley Weber to be honored Feb. 27

The GLBT community will salute “Black History Month” with the annual Bayard Rustin Honors to be held this year Friday, Feb. 27 at The LGBT Center. Long time civil rights leader and GLBT friend and ally, State Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (chair of the powerful State Assembly Budget Committee) will be receiving the Bayard Rustin Lifetime Achievement Award. Other GLBT African American activists in San Diego will also be honored. For more information: 619-692-1967.

The Bayard Rustin Honors are presented by The LGBT Center, Imperial Court and the GLBT Historic Task Force.

Nicole Murray Ramirez has been an award-winning columnist since 1973, and a Latino and gay activist for more than 45 years. He is currently a city commissioner and has served the last seven mayors of San Diego. He is also a national board member of the Harvey Milk Foundation and chairman of the International Court Council of the USA, Canada and Mexico. In 2013 Murray Ramirez was named “Mayor of Hillcrest” by a City proclamation.

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Community helps bury woman who died of AIDS Wed, 31 Dec 2014 18:11:35 +0000

Many years ago, the Imperial Court de San Diego established the Ben F. Dillingham Fund for special emergency needs. Among those it has helped is an 89-year-old-man whose apartment was totally burnt down (no insurance) and a lesbian mom who had one of her legs cut off. But more than half of the Dillingham Fund goes to help bury men, women and children who have died of AIDS and live below the poverty line.

This past weekend I got a call from The Center about a straight woman who died of AIDS with a daughter. This beloved woman was a client of Christie’s Place which is a wonderful HIV/AIDS organization for women and their children. Christie’s Place has been supported by our community and the Imperial Court since they were established many years ago.

This woman is among more than two dozen people who have died of AIDS in San Diego that the Ben F. Dillingham III Fund has buried through the Imperial Court de San Diego with the requests and paperwork being done by The Center, Family Matters and Christie’s Place.

Can you imagine in that final last dignity of burial having no finances put aside for even a cremation. So I write this column not only to educate you of the ongoing toll AIDS continues to take in our city, indeed the world, but to most sincerely thank you all for your continued support of the benefits and fundraisers of the Imperial Court and the Dillingham Grant. Also to thank the hardworking people of our LGBT Center, Family Matters, Christie’s Place, Being Alive etc., and all AIDS organizations for the great work they have been doing for so many decades.

AIDS Memorial Task Force

Many of you have been asking about the status of the mayor’s AIDS Memorial Task Force. As you know, this was announced just a few months ago to look into getting San Diego to join other cities in dedicating an AIDS memorial in memory of the almost 13,000 San Diegans who have died of HIV/AIDS. A few weeks ago I met with the first lady of San Diego, Katherine Faulconer who is the co-chair of the Task Force. In the next month the mayor’s office will be sending out information and a public call for those interested in serving on the Task Force (every HIV/AIDS organization and agency will also be contacted).

The membership of the AIDS Memorial Task Force will be announced in February and the first gala fundraiser for the AIDS memorial will be March 26 at the North Park Theatre – the official kickoff event.

For more information on the San Diego AIDS Memorial Task Force contact Rich Reyes at the office of the mayor, 619-236-6982.

The Imitation Game: A must-see movie

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

I urge you all, your friends, family and everyone to see the recently released movie The Imitation Game, now playing at the Hillcrest cinema. It is about the life of World War II hero Alan Turing, a British gay man who helped end the war by two years and saved 14 million lives, only to be rewarded by being arrested for being a homosexual. Well, I won’t tell you the whole story but I most strongly urge you to see this movie and tell all your friends to see it too.

By the way, there is much Oscar buzz for this film and it has already been nominated for Golden Globes. Indeed, it is one of the best movies ever!

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The San Diego Police Department: 1960-2014 Wed, 24 Dec 2014 16:55:21 +0000

Shelley Zimmerman

After the death of the black New Yorker who was put in a choke-hold by police officers I joined a demonstration in front of the Federal Building in downtown. I agree with the 70 percent of Americans of color who in recent polls stated that the justice system is not equal for all Americans. Since our first African American president was elected hate groups have now doubled. Yes racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia are alive and well in the United States.

But we San Diegans are very fortunate to have the police department that we now have. Things aren’t perfect and there is always a rotten apple in every barrel, but our San Diego Police Department is one of the best in the nation.

Yes, we have come a long way since the 1960s and ’70s when you could almost count the black, Latino, Asian or women officers on one hand. Then Police Chief Ray Hoobler was a known racist, sexist and homophobe. Gay bars were always raided and same-sex dancing could get you arrested for “lewd conduct” to be dropped later, but you then had a record. (Same-sex acts were not legal in California until 1976.) Blacks and Latinos were often beaten up by the police as were many gays. Our police department was like the “gestapo” to the people of color and gay communities. Every time you saw a black and white police car in San Diego you would most certainly go the other way.

The old police station on Market Street was a hell hole of mistreatment and beatings. Thank God that times have changed and so have our city and its people.

If you would have told me that we would one day have a Latino police chief and now a woman, I would think you were on LSD! We now have a GLBT Advisory Board to the police chief. (I was honored to serve as chair of the first GLBT Advisory Board.) In fact, the current police memorial in front of the headquarters on Broadway was partially funded by a GLBT community fundraiser that was presented at the Nicky Awards event.

One of our best mayors was former Police Chief Jerry Sanders who became a champion of the GLBT community. Our current police chief, Shelley Zimmerman has gone out of her way to reach out to the people of color and GLBT communities. She is one of the most down to earth and accessible police chiefs in the history of our city.

So why am I writing this column? Because I know the murder of those two police officers (one Latino and one Asian), the murder of any police officer does and should affect all Americans. Our San Diego police officers are sadly one of the most underpaid on the West Coast, and while yes, there are some “bad apple cops” 95 percent of them are good decent men and women who truly are here to protect and serve all the citizens of San Diego.

Yes, racism still exists, and yes, there is not equal justice under the law for all Americans, but I salute the San Diego Police Department which is one of the finest in America.

Nicole Murray Ramirez has been an award-winning columnist since 1973, and a Latino and gay activist for more than 45 years. He is currently a city commissioner and has served the last seven mayors of San Diego. He is also a national board member of the Harvey Milk Foundation and chairman of the International Court Council of the USA, Canada and Mexico. In 2013 Murray Ramirez was named “Mayor of Hillcrest” by a City proclamation.

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Todd Gloria: The best is yet to come Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:12:17 +0000

Todd Gloria

Yes, last week’s back-stabbing political coup against former interim mayor and council president, Todd Gloria was led by Republicans but had the help of some weak and unprincipled Democrats. In my view, the coup’s chief organizer was Councilman Scott Sherman, the new “Dick Cheney of San Diego.” In one of the biggest betrayals and back-stabbing political acts in the history of San Diego, Councilwoman Sherri Lightner joined the Republicans in ousting Gloria so she could gain the presidency that she had so coveted for a while.

Todd Gloria is the one who made Lightner Council president pro-tem and gave her powerful chairmanships but Sherri became power hungry quickly.

Lightner’s apparent betrayal of Gloria was like a scene from the Andy Griffin Show where sweet Auntie Bee stabbed the beloved Sheriff Andy in the back … smiling quietly all the time while wiping blood off her hands.

It seemed like a deal was made with Councilwoman Marti Emerald to nominate Lightner for president on the second ballot and Lightner would then appoint Emerald president pro-tem. And sure enough, Emerald got her share of the 30 pieces of silver Friday as guess what? Our new council president pro-tem is now Marti Emerald!

Even the chairman of the local Republican Party stated, “In a dozen years in politics I’ve never seen such Dem on Dem savagery and total disrespect like at today’s Council meeting.”

Well Tony, I have not seen such local Democratic back-stabbing and betrayal in over half a century of San Diego politics! (Though then Councilman Filner’s gang of five coup against popular Mayor O’Connor comes a close second.)

What the Republicans, Lightner and all the City councilmembers did not expect was the avalanche of outrage against them and the overwhelming bipartisan support for Todd Gloria from all over San Diego.

I joined dozens of speakers at last Wednesday’s Council meeting … housewives, Marine vets, environmentalists, minimum wage workers, Latinos, blacks, Asian-Americans, gays, straights, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, businesspeople, seniors, youth, feminist activists, etc. speaking out about the outstanding job Gloria did as interim mayor and was doing as council president.

But, as usual, dirty politics prevailed on that day and all four Republican councilmembers as well as Lightner and Emerald worked against what almost all of the media called one of the “brightest, decent, hardworking, compassionate, intelligent, popular leaders in San Diego” … Todd Gloria.

But, guess what, after all the messy dust settled Gloria is standing taller than ever and more popular than ever with San Diegans from all walks of life urging him to run for either Congress, State Assembly or mayor in 2016.

Councilman Gloria keeps his chairmanship of the powerful Budget and Government Efficiency Committee and will continue, along with Mayor Faulconer, to serve on the San Diego Association of Governments board of directors. And yes, the popular bachelor Gloria will have more time to campaign in the next two years for higher office. Yes, the Republicans misfired attempts to politically weaken Gloria have now made him into a “Democratic Hercules”!

Lightner has now become the scarlet letter-wearing lady of San Diego and Emerald has lost support for her hopes for re-election.

As for Todd Gloria, well, all San Diegans know that the best is yet to come.

Kudos to David Alvarez who was the only Democrat to stick with Gloria till the very end.

Now as for my publisher’s recent commentary, this had nothing to do with Todd being gay at all and that cheap shot at Lorie Zapf was uncalled for. She is a proven friend and supporter of the GLBT community.

And as for your swipe at me for my support of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, I have no regrets for my campaigning for Mayor Faulconer and would do so again.

While I do not agree with all of our mayor’s stands I look at his entire record, not just bits and pieces. And I am not a registered Republican but a registered Democrat and I may soon change my registration to Independent.

Happy Hanukkah!

This past Sunday I attended a dinner at City Commissioner Bruce Abrams home where I met leaders of The AGUDA, Israel’s biggest and oldest (1975) GLBT Jewish organization.

Did you know that not since World War II have there been such anti-semitism campaigns? Happy Hanukkah to all my friends!

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Mayor and family attend Center community dinner Thu, 11 Dec 2014 21:25:35 +0000

Mayor Kevin Faulconer with his family at the Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner at The Center | PHOTO: BIG MIKE

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Diego’s first lady Katherine Faulconer, along with their two young children attended the 28th annual Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner at The Center which saw over 300 homeless people, seniors, people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, struggling families with children, both GLBT and straight have a wonderful big dinner including second helpings. The annual event is organized and hosted by the Imperial Court de San Diego.

Mayor Faulconer also presented special “City Commendations” to community members who for years have been involved with food and toy drives: Dak Thompson, Maria Gallenta, Ben Dillingham, Connor Maddox, Michael Zarbo, Kaiden Montana and Michael Lochner.

The poverty level for our state is the largest in the nation with many people and families struggling including many in the GLBT community. Since the 1970s, during the holidays the hardworking volunteers of the Imperial Court and The Center staff and Family Matters come together every year. Just this past weekend, you, the GLBT community, families and friends are responsible – because of your support we were able to provide food and groceries to 19 families at the Florence Elementary School, clients of Being Alive, over 50 GLBT families of Family Matters, 36 hospital patients, a downtown homeless shelter, a Tijuana hospice and much more!

Michael Lochner

A special shout out for their support to: Rich’s, Numbers, Robert Gleason, Brian Dickenson, Toni Sanders, Ben Dillingham, Councilman Todd Gloria, Speaker Toni Atkins, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Pharmacy, Log Cabin Republicans, Walgreens Pharmacy, Human Dignity Foundation, Firefighters Association, Chris Ward, Tom Urbanski, Tim Maxwell, Lenny Thomas, Sen. Marty Block and so many more. God bless you all.

And now, please support our Christmas toy drives, blanket and clothing drives and food drives.

For more information: 619-692-1967. Thank you!

Martinis Above Fourth raises over $29,000

The holidays certainly bring out the very best of our GLBT business community and Martinis Above Fourth is on the top of that list.

This past Monday night, at their annual Christmas Wreath Auction almost $30,000 was raised for the Eddie Conlon Youth Fund which is administrated by our LGBT Center and the Imperial Court.

Many years ago, the late Nathan Garcia and I founded the fund named after a San Diego legend, the late beloved “Queen Eddie.” As more GLBT youth come out, with many rejected by their families, this youth fund has made a big difference and Martinis Above Fourth, their loyal customers and friends have let us help hundreds of GLBT youth a year.

Please thank the men of Martinis Above Fourth for always being there for our youth.

Nicole’s last Bourbon Street Bingo this Thursday!

Yes, today, Thursday, Dec. 11 at 8:30 p.m. I will host my last Charity Bingo at Bourbon Street from 8:30– 10:30 p.m. to benefit the annual Toys For Kids drive.

So please, come on down tonight and I will be your outrageous host!

Nicole Murray Ramirez has been an award-winning columnist since 1973, and a Latino and gay activist for more than 45 years. He is currently a city commissioner and has served the last seven mayors of San Diego. He is also a national board member of the Harvey Milk Foundation and chairman of the International Court Council of the USA, Canada and Mexico. In 2013 Murray Ramirez was named “Mayor of Hillcrest” by a City proclamation.

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We all have AIDS … till none of us have AIDS Thu, 04 Dec 2014 19:18:20 +0000

In honor of World AIDS Day, the below text is the speech I gave at the Reasons We Remember Vigil for AIDS Walk San Diego, Friday, Sept. 26.

1981 was the beginning – the early 1980s – yes, the worst of times and the best of times; the worst of times for our community and others; for our family and friends. But, the best time for showing true compassion and love of our community. As we lit the candle of awareness and care, other communities were able to see that this disease affected everyone and all communities.

In the early 1980s I was in New York for a civil rights conference and I remember first hearing the talk and growing rumors of a “gay cancer” or “GRID.” Soon those rumors and talks became a reality and AIDS hit San Diego.

Hal Frank formed the San Diego AIDS Project to alert and educate the community. News stories soon appeared that AIDS could be caught by touching, kissing, in the air and by the bite of a mosquito! Panic and fear gripped America and soon we realized we were alone in this battle under a president who did not even mention the word AIDS until six years into the epidemic.

I remember attending one of the AIDS Project’s meetings at the MCC Social Hall where it was announced that we had successfully sent a San Diegan living with AIDS to receive care from two organizations in Los Angeles and San Francisco because we in San Diego had no support network. I called a group of activists together and we formed the AIDS Assistance Fund to provide food, assistance and direct services to people with AIDS. We soon started assisting people with burials and funerals; going to these weekly became a way of life for all of us!

And let me say here and now, that the women of our community were unsung heroes during these dark early days of AIDS. Laurie Leonard and her mother started Mama’s Kitchen; Susan Jester started our first AIDS Walk; Barbara Peabody started AIDS Arts Alive; Ruth Hendricks began Special Delivery; the women of the San Diego Democratic Club started “Blood Sisters” because their gay brothers could not donate their blood. I remember heroes like: Bridget Wilson, Gloria Johnson, Irma Munoz, Teresa Oyos, Mary McCarthy and, yes, Joan Rivers and Elizabeth Taylor, the first celebrities to speak out and join our fight. God bless these women and countless other women who were there with us at the beginning, when most people ran the other way.

In those early, dark years Larry Kramer was right: Silence = Death. In San Diego; Albert Bell started an ACT-UP chapter as we were indeed fighting for our lives. There were no corporate sponsors or large businesses supporting our AIDS organizations in the early years but, as usual, we could count on the bars; the drag shows, the leather community, the Sisters and, yes, the adult industry. The Vasic family of F Street Corp gave over a quarter of a million dollars in those early years.

Unsung heroes were business people like Chris Shaw, Doug Snyder, Carla Coshow, Frank Stiriti, Gene Burkard, Darl Edwards, Rick Ford, Lou and Carol Arko, the Ben Dillinghams and so many more. They kept our AIDS Food Bank shelves always full.

But, we San Diegans knew that AIDS had no borders and we extended our hands and compassion to our brothers and sisters in Tijuana. I will never forget when an AIDS Activist in Mexico contacted me and told me that the coroner would not pick up the bodies of people who had died of AIDS unless the family provided a body bag. We immediately held a benefit at Dillon’s (now RICH’s) to purchase body bags.

And then Mayor Maureen O’Connor and her Chief of Staff Ben provided body bags from the City of San Diego ( quietly, because it was against the law.)

We must always remember heroes like Dr. Brad Truax, MMC and Rev. David Farrell, John Ciaccio, Scott Carlson, Ron Ferrero, Pierre Rivet, Bill Beck, Carolina Ramos, Gary Reese, George Havensfield, Tom Homann, Chris Kehoe, Big Mike Phillips, Rick Kerman, Phil Baldwin and Dr. Chris Matthews of the Owens Clinic, Dan O’Shea of Being Alive, Terry Cunningham (who to this day has dedicated 30 years of his life to this fight), Father Nick Christira and the AIDS Chaplaincy Program and so many others.And we must never ever forget our LGBT Community Center that has been with us every step of the way. Yes, I will never forget those dark early years of AIDS and we must always remember and not forget those heroes and people we lost.

For it was such a lonely dark time that when we approached the Catholic Bishop to say a Christmas Mass for people living with AIDS, he refused, and not till we threatened to picket at his annual Christmas Eve Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral did he relent and have a Mass said.

Yes, Reasons We Remember, as I have said so many times: A community, indeed, a movement that does not know where it came from does not really know where it is going. So tonight I have a very special announcement to make about something long overdue that finally our city will be joining other cities across the nation indeed around the world in remembering the over 7,735 San Diegans who have died from AIDS.

Tonight I officially announce to you that our Mayor Kevin Faulconer has answered the request of the GLBT Historic Task Force and will be forming a Mayoral Task Force for an AIDS Memorial – a place for us to go to remember our brothers and sisters who have died of AIDS. We will always remember them. And I am proud to announce that the mayor’s wife – the first lady of San Diego, Katherine Faulconer – has asked to co-chair the AIDS Memorial Task Force.

So in closing, in 2014 one San Diegan a week still dies from AIDS and more than one new infection is reported daily in San Diego. I say to you that we must renew our focus and priorities in this ongoing battle of over three decades.

My brothers and sisters, I say to you: We all have AIDS, till none of us have AIDS. We all have AIDS, till none of us have AIDS. Reasons We Remember. God bless you all.

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Auntie Helen’s scandal: Many looked the other way Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:11:58 +0000

Hillcrest’s Florence Elementary School Principal Mary Estill receives $1,700 in support from LGBT individuals and organizations, represented by Chris Ward, Nicole Murray Ramirez and Stephen Whitburn, to help low income families have a happy Thanksgiving.

Well over a year ago in this column, I wrote about the financial mismanagement going on at Auntie Helen’s. I reported how the County Board of Supervisors had demanded their government grant back because of mismanagement fraud; how Auntie Helen’s executive director was caught using this AIDS agency’s money at casinos for personal dinners and partying – all reported in a Union Tribune major article. Other activists and former Auntie Helen’s board members also sounded the alarm about the years of financial mismanagement and how the executive director was using this AIDS agency as his own personal bank account.

Well what happened? Nothing. Any LGBT publication that had Auntie Helen’s as a paid advisor never covered or investigated the growing scandal, only the straight media did! Even worse, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence continue to hold fundraisers for Auntie Helen’s as well as some of the Leather title holders. Bars continue to let Auntie Helen’s hold benefits at their establishments and even some of our elected gay officials continue to look the other way and still associate with the agency.

Yes, many in our community just looked the other way and the thievery just continued. This is not the first time this has happened in our community. It happened at A.P.I.C.A.P., an Asian Pacific Islander AIDS agency that closed its doors some years ago. Its executive director got away with misappropriation of well over $100,000 of AIDS donations including thousands of dollars ear-marked for a Tijuana AIDS Hospice. Then A.P.I.C.A.P. president, Jeffrey Thom quickly resigned as did the entire board and Thom quickly moved out of town when it was discovered that he allowed his personal signature to be made into an ink stamp which allowed the then executive director to embezzle even more. Well, this scandal was also swept under the rug. The executive director fled to Mexico, though he is now living back in San Diego. Once again, no LGBT media covered the financial scandal while the mainstream media did.

Now everyone is talking about the Auntie Helen‘s scandal which has blown into a full financial mess these past few weeks. This past Wednesday, the “interim” executive director gave an update about the disastrous situation at Auntie Helen’s: There is only $27 left in the checking account, all but one of the members of the board of directors have resigned and almost all of Auntie Helen’s financial records are missing.

The interim executive director also confirmed at a meeting at The Center this past Wednesday that the years of drug abuse at Auntie Helen’s was all true! The executive directors of two respected San Diego AIDS agencies were in attendance to hear this official update. Auntie Helen’s started out in the 1980s as a then badly needed laundry service for people with AIDS. The question now is do we really need Auntie Helen’s if it’s former director is to be prosecuted by the law as promised at last Wednesdays meeting?

But those who knew what was going on at Auntie Helen’s all these years and looked the other way … shame on you. Your silence as far as I’m concerned made you also responsible for what happened. Period.

Annual Christmas Wreath Auction: Dec. 8

Every year a big crowd shows up at Martinis above Fourth’s annual Holiday Wreath Auction that this year will be on Monday Dec. 8 at Martini’s at 6 p.m. It is all a benefit for the Eddie Conlon Youth Fund directed by The Center and the Imperial Court.

Every year, hundreds of youth benefit from this badly-needed fund. Among the Christmas wreath makers will be Mayor Kevin Faulconer who might be stopping by.

Nicole Murray Ramirez has been an award-winning columnist since 1973, and a Latino and gay activist for more than 45 years. He is currently a city commissioner and has served the last seven mayors of San Diego. He is also a national board member of the Harvey Milk Foundation and chairman of the International Court Council of the USA, Canada and Mexico. In 2013 Murray Ramirez was named “Mayor of Hillcrest” by a City proclamation.

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Cleve Jones coming to San Diego Dec. 6 Thu, 20 Nov 2014 21:37:38 +0000


Internationally known gay, labor and AIDS activist Cleve Jones will be in San Diego Dec. 6 when the Human Dignity Foundation will be honoring him at their annual gala. Cleve is the founder of the Names Project/AIDS Quilt and was the historic consultant for the Oscar-winning film Milk about his good friend Harvey Milk. (Actor Sean Penn gave Cleve a big thank-you in his best actor acceptance speech.)

An activist for almost four decades Cleve just celebrated his 60th birthday and was spotted in Tijuana just last weekend.

I have been a good friend of Cleves for decades and was a national co-chair with him for the last National GLBT March on Washington. I really admire and respect Cleve Jones who has always remained grounded and never has changed his dedication and passion for our and other community’s struggle.

Jones is a living gay icon and his speeches are always inspiring. Actor George Takei and longtime civil rights activist Maureen Steiner will also be honored.

For more information on the Human Dignity Foundation visit

Community Thanksgiving Dinner: All are welcome

Have no place to go? Living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, homeless, senior etc. Well, on Thanksgiving Day you are invited to our LGBT Center for the 28th annual Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner at noon. Your hosts are the Imperial Court, The Center and many volunteers, organizations and businesses.

I will be there and so will our City Council President Todd Gloria and other elected officials.

Everyone is welcome. I will give you the list of wonderful people who helped and gave in my next column.


A blessed Thanksgiving to you all.

Bayard Rustin Honors, Feb. 27

The second annual Bayard Rustin Honors will be held Friday, Feb. 27 at our Community Center.

It will be our community’s celebration of Black History Month and guest of honor will be State Assemblywoman Shirley Webber who will receive a lifetime achievement award.

About six GLBT African American San Diego activists will also be honored. Mark your calendar for Feb. 27. For further information call 619-692-7967.

Imperial Court Coronation No. 43 Jan 31

During 1971 to 1972 GLBT San Diegans began to organize a chapter of the Imperial Court System (now over 68 city chapters in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.A.). Coming up Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Lafayette Hotel will be the 43rd annual Coronation Ball where our new emperor and empress will be crowned. GLBT student scholarships will be given out (Harvey Milk/ Nicole Murray Ramirez scholarships founded in 1979).

That weekend San Diego will be hosting the winter meeting of the International Court Council with council members coming from Canada, U.S.A. and Mexico.

2015 is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Court System by gay pioneer Jose Julio Sarria. I do hope that everyone and organizations that have benefitted by the reign of our Emperor Robert and Empress Pearl will come and say thank you and congratulate them on their special night of Jan. 31.

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Now on to the 2016 elections! Thu, 13 Nov 2014 17:44:57 +0000

Strategy and campaigning has already started for the 2016 elections. Locally, rumors continue that our beloved and super-popular Congresswoman Susan Davis may not seek re-election and if she decides to retire the top two names being mentioned are Todd Gloria and Toni Atkins, who will both be termed out of office in 2016.

Republicans have begun looking again to take on Scott Peters with moderates in the mold of Brian Maienschein or Dan McAllister type of Republicans.

Those rumored to be looking at replacing Toni Atkins in the State Assembly are former decorated Marine captain and Lincoln Club member Jacque Atkinson and possibly Councilman Ed Harris, Sarah Boot, Laurie Coskey and Susan Guinn; but the decks may clear if Todd Gloria decides to run.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer will also be up for re-election and his popularity and support continues to soar. But if it falters look for Gloria and Atkins to give it some serious thought.

County Supervisor Dave Roberts has earned himself a very respected and admired reputation as a moderate and progressive and will have token opposition in 2016, in any.

Supervisor Greg Cox is also running for re-election and will be hard to beat.

In 2016 we will get a new City attorney with Rafael Castellanos and Gil Cabrera going for it as well as Paul Cooper.

Chris Ward has become the clear frontrunner to replace Todd Gloria in District Three. Word is Tom Shepard will be Ward’s top consultant. Chris Ward has already gotten the endorsement of almost every GLBT business person and leader who, unlike last time, look like are all uniting behind one gay candidate.

Council Aide Anthony Bernal seems to be playing catch-up behind Ward’s strong and organized campaign. Interestingly, Todd Gloria tells me he might end up endorsing a successor.

I attended the annual Border Angels dinner at the Barrio Station and many Latino leaders were expressing how the Ninth Council District was supposed to be a Latino seat, but Councilwoman Marti Emerald may run again, and some are hoping a strong Latino candidate will emerge.

In District Five, popular, smart and handsome Mark Kersey should have no problem getting re-elected.

Now District One will be a real battle with Ray Ellis considered an early frontrunner, but others who may be looking at it are Joe LaCava and Barbara Bry.

In District Seven, Councilman Scott Sherman could be facing strong candidates like veteran JustinDeCesare, Anthony Wagner and even possibly Kevin Beiser.

2016 will be a presidential election (I am supporting Hillary Clinton) and a marijuana legalization effort is on the state ballot.

As for the recent 2014 election I am proud to have supported our new Filipino Councilman Chris Cate and would support Carl DeMaio again in a heartbeat.

It will be 2015 in about 50 days, so let the political games begin!

GLBT community helps with Thanksgiving projects

For decades the GLBT community, businesses, bars and organizations have helped with the Imperial Court’s annual Thanksgiving projects of providing meals and food.

Once again, the Imperial Court and community volunteers will be hosting the 29th annual Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner at The Center, also providing meals to the HIV/AIDS patients in the hospital, providing Thanksgiving dinner for 19 families of Florence Elementary School, dropping meals at a local fire station and providing food for Being Alive, Family Matters and Christie’s Place clients. All this cannot happen without the generosity of our giving GLBT community, friends and allies.

We still need donations, turkeys, hams, food, grocery cards, checks etc. For more information phone 619-692-1967 or 619-501-6793. Thank you very much.

Nicole Murray Ramirez has been an award-winning columnist since 1973, and a Latino and gay activist for more than 45 years. He is currently a city commissioner and has served the last seven mayors of San Diego.

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Mr. DeMaio goes to Washington … Thu, 06 Nov 2014 19:10:09 +0000

Carl DeMaio

Carl DeMaio got a phone call from Washington, D.C. about five in the morning after Tuesday’s long election night; he was told to report for congressional orientation. Two years ago, Scott Peters got the same call in his tight race against incumbent Brian Bilbray in which Peters was then narrowly ahead. As I write this column the 52nd Congressional race final outcome is up in the air with Carl still in the lead, as he was all night, by about 800 votes.

Election night, Susan Jester (Founder AIDS WALK) and I joined Carl and his life partner Johnathan Hale (who recently got re-elected by a unanimous vote as president of the Hillcrest Business Association), Carl’s beautiful sister Susan, his niece Angela and close friends and top advisors in their suite upstairs at the Grant Hotel while hundreds of loyal and excited supporters anxiously awaited downstairs. Needless to say it was a long night and finally this tired old man had to go home. I got an early morning call from Carl and he was still ahead and in good spirits and humor as the “fat lady” still had not sung her final notes when it comes to this election.

As many of you know I have been very involved in Carl’s campaign and on election night I noticed even more what I’ve observed all these months – very loyal and hard-working volunteers and supporters: university students, seniors, Filipino-Americans, women, gays, conservatives, independents, progressives, veterans; all working together and getting along like we were all longtime friends. To Carl DeMaio saying he is a “new generation Republican” is not just a slogan, it is who he has become – a man out to change his party and bring people together.

Honestly, I don’t know how Carl and Johnathan withstood the months of smears, vicious lies, rumors and character assassinations; at times I saw it up close and how it personally affected them. They are only human and, yes, it affected them, their families and friends and I would not wish this on my worst enemy or anyone as the attacks on Carl and, yes, Johnathan, were unlike any I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life; it will go down as the most negative and vicious campaign in the history of San Diego. Knowing what I know, I will never be able to look at Scott Peters the same for sadly he and his campaign were absolutely involved and while I wish Scott and his family the best, I have lost all respect for him and I believe that some day it will all come out.

I’ve known Carl since he was a young man thinking about running for City Council; I mentored him and in so many ways introduced him to San Diego’s GLBT communities, its leaders and activists. I supported him for Council, but not for mayor. I loved him like a son and, yes, got angry with him like an enemy; such are the ups and downs of friendships, family and politics.

What I am trying to say is that Carl DeMaio has changed greatly; the young man has matured and been tested by time, defeat, and life.

I am asking you, my community, to give him a chance; get to know him; you don’t have to agree with him on the issues and politics; that’s fine, but take the time to meet him, introduce yourself and get to know Carl, the individual – your gay brother.

Let us all move on from this most ugly campaign. Carl and I have had many conversations lately and he plans to reach out and extend his hand to everyone – friend, foe and stranger. Carl DeMaio is not looking back but forward.

Some of us plan to host a reception for Carl and Johnathan and, trust me, it will be a very diverse and interesting GLBT list of leaders, activists, business people, etc. Yes, it will reflect all of our community. Carl had a lot of GLBT supporters, more than many people thought and I saw this first hand. He truly wants to do all he can for our equality; he voted 100 percent for us on the City Council and will do so again as a possible congressman.

Carl DeMaio knows the nation will be watching him if he is elected the first openly gay Republican congressman. He is ready. Let us all wish him well no matter the final outcome. Thank you.

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