Bay Area Reporter Opt-Ed
By Ron Flynn and Zoe Dunning
The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club is the oldest registered LGBT Democratic club in the country. The club was founded in 1972 by Jim Foster to advocate for gay rights within the Democrat Party as an avenue for equality for our community. This year, Alice has endorsed Democrats Betty Yee for state controller and David Chiu for state Assembly District 17. We endorsed each of these straight allies over their openly gay opponents, and would like to explain why.
San Francisco is blessed to have two long-standing LGBT Democratic clubs, Alice and the Harvey Milk club. Although we sometimes hold differing perspectives on candidates or issues, both clubs contribute tremendous time organizing and fighting for our rights – same-sex marriage, LGBT youth and senior support, transgender protections, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” funding of HIV and AIDS services, and countless other areas important to the San Francisco LGBT community. Each club has, over the years, endorsed straight allies over LGBT candidates for a variety of offices.
Alice has a history of helping support and grow a long list of strong advocates for our community, both LGBT and straight allies: Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, Mark Leno, Scott Wiener, Jose Cisneros, and Leslie Katz are just a few of the candidates we have helped get elected over the years. The most important of all criteria is selecting the candidate who will be the most effective for San Franciscans, and more specifically, the LGBT community.
We believe in order for our community’s voice to be heard and our concerns to be addressed, it is important to build a broad-based coalition and work toward overall social justice. This includes electing our strongest allies as well as out LGBT candidates. As a minority group, we must build this coalition and both encourage – and reward – those straight allies who stand with us. We endorsed Lieutenant Governor Newsom for re-election this year for many reasons, but most notably he was the straight leader that kicked open the marriage equality door 10 years ago. The other LGBT Democratic club refused to endorse him. How do we ask people to stand with us if we will not stand with them? Yee and Chiu have stood with us and deserve our support in return.
Yee has been a fierce advocate for the LGBT community for many years. She has actively sought, and received, Alice’s endorsement over several elections. Her current position on the State Board of Equalization proved critical in our fight for marriage equality. She was a leader in attempting to equalize the taxes between straight people and the LGBT community during her tenure. The results of her work revising tax regulations was cited in the Perry decision, as part of the record of the strides California has taken to provide rights to LGBT. We know she will look out for us, as she has done in the past. Another consideration in our endorsement process was the fact she is a public finance expert – this is what she had dedicated her life to. With this experience, she is uniquely qualified for the position of controller, who oversees the state’s money. While John A. Perez was a great Assembly speaker, and is a member of our community, he lacks the financial background and expertise that Yee has. Finally, we also took into consideration the need for more women at the statewide level. We are proud of our endorsement of Yee for controller.
In the battle of the Davids, we also came out in favor of an ally. We examined the voting records of Supervisor David Campos and Chiu, the board president. There is no vote concerning the LGBT community where Campos was with us and Chiu was against us. That is because Chiu has always stood with us. He votes our way.
He has also demonstrated his commitment to be a leader on LGBT issues, by coming to the community and constantly seeking input. That is important.
Chiu has been a master of the legislative process as board president. He put together coalitions and gets work done. We know he will work to represent all of San Francisco, including the LGBT community. Just as San Francisco is lucky to have two LGBT Democratic clubs to debate issues, it is lucky to have two great candidates vying to represent us in the Assembly. Given Chiu’s record of supporting us – and of getting important legislation passed – Alice gave the endorsement to him.
In future elections Alice will continue to endorse LGBT candidates and to endorse straight allies. Both are necessary to extend the rights for our community. Both are necessary to build the coalition that will secure equality for everyone.
Ron Flynn and Zoe Dunning are co-chairs of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.