Monday, December 31, 2007

How High is the San Francisco
Zoo Director's Salary?
A lot higher than the wall for the tiger yard, that's for sure.
I didn't recall seeing any mention of Manual Mollinedo's annual pay as director of the San Francisco Zoo in any of the many stories about a tiger killing a teenage boy on Christmas Day and the animal fatally shot, so I decided today to read the zoo's latest IRS 990 tax filing to find out what he earned last year.
Mollinedo's compensation was $314,038, the zoo contributed $15,702 to his benefits plan, and he received $9,548 for expenses. (For an executive making way more than a quarter million, I think he could easily take care of whatever his work-related expenses were in 2006, but I digress.)
Total package for Mollinedo came to $339,288.
Nice pocket change, wouldn't you say? No other executive at the zoo comes near to that high level of pay. The closest salary to Mollinedo's is $145,762 and that's for the director of development. I'd sure like to hear an argument from the board of directors why the boss earn a lot more than double what anyone else earns at the zoo.
For what the zoo is paying its chief, I think the city of San Francisco should have someone in charge of the zoo who will make damn sure the animals are well cared for, can't escape captivity, and that high walls to contain tigers are in place.
Even if the tragedy of last week had not occurred, I'd still say the zoo chief's salary is excessive and may be unjustified, because the non-profit zoo's revenue for 2006 was nearly $22.4 million and it seems way out of line for a non-profit group with that sized budget to pay the head honcho more than a quarter million dollars.

Read the zoo's latest IRS 990 here.

(The Chorus at City Hall. Sorry, I couldn't locate a photo of them at the Castro!)

SF Gay Chorus Sings Solidarity
for Russians, Eastern Europeans

My boyfriend and I attended one of the Christmas concerts at the Castro Theatre put on by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus last week. It was my first time at this annual holiday musical treat and I thoroughly enjoyed the choice of songs and beautiful men's voices, along with being with my wonderful partner and our large extended gay family in the historic theatre for part of the holiday season.
After the show, we read the program from the chorus and were pleased to see this in the welcome note from Kathleen McGuire, the artistic director and conductor:
"Sergei Rachmaninoff's beloved 'Vespers' has become a symbolic piece for Russians, especially since, soon after its composition in 1915, the Soviet Union banned all religious music. It has been said that no composition represents the end of an era so clearly as this liturgical work. In 2005, an Orthodox priest in Russia held a private 'marriage' service for two men. When the religious authorities learned about it, they defrocked the priest and bulldozed the chapel.
"Recent pro-gay riots in Moscow led to the intimidation and incarceration of organizers and marchers. We sing from 'Vespers' tonight as a show of solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters in Eastern Europe."
Yes, this city is one place where we always remember gay people around the globe who struggle daily for acceptance and equality and we find creative ways to make sure foreign gays are not forgotten. I am proud of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus for raising their voices in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Russia and throughout Eastern Europe.
Many thanks to the chorus members, the group's executive director, Teddy Witherington, and the artistic director for their act of choral and political solidarity.
May 2008 bring increase respect for the human rights of gays everywhere and more global solidarity and activism across all borders!
(Montage of images from the 2007 attempt at staging a gay pride event in Moscow.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

NY Times Omits Bill Kristol's
$8,000 in GOP Donations

The Gray Lady announced over the weekend that William Kristol has been added to the paper's roster of Op Ed page columnists. Here's some minimal background from the Times' announcement on his political activities and journalistic endeavors:

He is editor and co-founder of The Weekly Standard, an influential conservative political magazine, and appears regularly on Fox News Sunday and the Fox News Channel. He was a columnist for Time magazine until that relationship was severed this month.

Mr. Kristol, 55, has been a fierce critic of The Times. In 2006, he said that the government should consider prosecuting The Times for disclosing a secret government program to track international banking transactions.

In a 2003 column on the turmoil within The Times that led to the downfall of the top two editors, he wrote that it was not “a first-rate newspaper of record,” adding, “The Times is irredeemable.”

In the mid-1990s, Mr. Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future, an influential policy study group. Before that, he was chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle.

That limited effort at disclosure and transparency is all fine and good, on the surface, but one thing that troubles me is what the Times omitted -- Kristol's political donations. A search of Federal Election Commission records shows Kristol has given $8,000 since 1993, all of it to GOP candidates and an anti-abortion 501(c)(4) organization.

From files:
general 07/10/06
Mr. William Kristol
COLE, TOM (R) House (OK 04)
primary 08/05/02
primary 12/23/98
general 12/23/98
, primary 02/23/98
primary 01/17/95
MC LEAN, VA 22101
general 09/30/94
general 09/30/94
general 09/30/94
general 08/15/94
general 08/12/94
, general 06/23/94
primary 06/26/93
I believe the Times had a responsibility to inform readers about Kristol's political donations and provide us with a very full picture of his thinking and electoral agenda, a responsibility the paper should have expended more energy and space on in announcing his one-year guest columnist gig.
It's not just that Kristol has made the donations, which are in line with his writing and philosophy, that are of concern to me as a Times reader, but I'm wondering if the Times has reminded Kristol of the paper's policy of prohibiting such donations by staffers and if he will adhere to this important rule from the Times' ethical guidelines:
Staff members may not themselves give money to any political candidate or election cause or raise money for one. Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributions, any political giving by a staff member would risk feeding a false impression that we are taking sides.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

SF Weekly: Sour Prez of Milk
Club Starts Vanity AIDS Democratic Club

Nearly two weeks ago, I blogged on this development, and both SF gay newspapers, the BAR and the Bay Times, chose to ignore the Milk Club president forming a vanity Democratic club.
The latest issue of the alternative SF Weekly today runs a story about his new club, which as far as I can tell, has only one member and hasn't bothered with a single public meeting.
From the Weekly article:
Why is the head of San Francisco's most venerable gay Democratic club starting another political organization? That's what some in the gay community are asking after Brian Basinger, president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, recently launched the tentatively named HIV Democratic Club.

Well, if you think it has something to do with the big brouhaha in the Milk Club over its controversial decision to endorse incumbent state Senator Carole Migden (a lesbian) over challenger Assemblyman Mark Leno (a gay man), you're not alone. [...]

Basinger got in hot water with other Milk Club leaders after telling the Bay Area Reporter last month that an October vote pushed through by Migden supporters to endorse early in the District 3 Senate race was improper. The executive board responded by taking the highly unusual step of censuring Basinger and issuing a public letter reprimanding him for "undermining" its credibility. [...]

Basinger, executive director of the AIDS Housing Alliance, says he began talking about starting an AIDS-focused Democratic club a year ago, before the Migden-Leno race heated up. [...]

And, well, he says, the Milk Club can be "a toxic place" that isn't always welcoming for newcomers. The new organization, he sniffs, won't have 30 years of political baggage to weigh it down. Basinger says his HIV/AIDS club "will be able to work with everybody."

Hmmm, perhaps everybody except the Milk Club.

UK Home Office:
Search for Gay Asylum Stats Exceeds £600
[The following letter was sent today to the campaign people and reporters at the Freedom of Information desk at The Guardian newspaper.]
Dear Friends,
I am a San Francisco-based gay human rights advocate who is trying to pry loose data from the Foreign Office about over all gay-specific asylum claims and those made by gays from Iran, versus claims from non-gay asylum seekers.
Last week I received a reply from the Freedom of Information Team at the Foreign Office, explaining that my request exceeded the £600 cost limit. With many caveats and a degree of discouragement, the FOI Team says I can refine my request, but they are not certain doing so would produce the answers I am seeking, and under the cost limit.
Before I proceed further, I would like advice from your organization about proceeding with more manageable and smaller requests, or an appeal.
Frankly, I believe the Foreign Office should already be keeping statistics related to reasons why asylum is asked for, especially when based on sexual orientation, and the resolution of claims based on homosexual persecution or torture in one's native land.
Does your organization believe the financial burdens cited by the Foreign Office are legitimate? How would you recommend I work with the FOI Team to persuade them to search for the records I want, and then produce them, without charging a large sum of money?
Furthermore, I see The Guardian recently ran a story about FOI requests declining by 8% this year over the same time period last year. Needless to say, I am doing my part to use the FOI law to bring more transparency to the business of the UK government, particularly as it deals with gay asylum requesters.
Any guidance you can share with me would be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely yours,
Michael Petrelis

Copy of the letter from the Home Office's FOI Team:

Dear Mr Petrelis,

Thank you for your email dated 3/12/07 where you have requested information on specific reasons for claiming asylum and their outcomes. This falls to be dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I have listed your questions below for reference [in italics].

How many cases based on claims on the grounds of sexual orientation and transgender status, have been made, from all countries? How many of those claims were successful in obtaining asylum and how many failed?

Also, since I wish to compare the success and failure rates of gay-specific claims with the overall rate of claims made for non-gay reasons, please provide me with the success and failure statistics for all other asylum claims made with the BIA.

I am very interested in learning specific information on claims made by GLBT persons from Iran. How many claims from Iranian GLBT persons were made, the number granted asylum status, the number that have been refused, the number that later succeeded on appeal?

Furthermore, if the BIA has deported GLBT people back to Iran, individuals whose claims were based on sexual orientation or transgender status, how many were deported, and how many returned voluntarily?

Please also give me comparable figures for all other non-gay claimants from Iran; how many filed, success and failure rates, how many deported.

I also request statistics for all claimants from all countries who put in a claim based on sexual orientation or transgender status. How many claims made, success and failure rates, number of GLBT deported?

Please release to me the figures for all asylum claimants on all grounds over the same period for the purpose of comparison.

How many general non-GLBT claims accepted, how many outstanding claims, how many refused, how many awaiting removal, how many formally deported, how many returned voluntarily?

Unfortunately, I am not able to provide you with the information you have requested because the information is not centrally recorded. Whilst the number of claims and their outcomes are centrally recorded and published on the Research and Development Statistical Website (RDS), personal information and the reasons cited for claiming asylum are not. This information would be held on the person’s personal file.

Therefore, in order to answer your request it would be necessary to examine manually all asylum files to retrieve the information, which due to the numbers involved is not possible.

Additionally, as part of the Home Office, the Border and Immigration Agency is not obliged under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to comply with any information request where the estimated costs involved in supplying the information exceed the £600 cost limit.

I regret that we cannot supply you with the information that you have asked for, as to comply with your request would exceed this cost limit. This limit applies to all central Government Departments and is based on work being carried out by one member of staff at a rate of £25 per hour, which equates to 3½ days work per request.

The costs involved include locating and retrieving information you requested, and preparing our response to you. They do not include considering whether any information is exempt from disclosure, overheads such as heating or lighting, or disbursements such as photocopying or postage.

Your request would at present be too costly to answer. This is due to the fact that the data to these questions would be held on individual case files and is not held separately.

However, if you were to refine your request further so that it falls under the £600 cost limit, we will be pleased to consider it further. Although, on this occasion I am unable to suggest how you could refine your request.

Should you wish to refine your request, so that we can provide you with answers to your questions within the £600 cost limit, please write back to me at the above address.

I should also point out that if you were to break your original request down into a series of smaller applications, we might, depending on the circumstances of the case, decline to answer if the aggregated cost of complying would exceed £600.

You should also bear in mind that even if any new request were to fall below the £600 cost limit, some information which we hold on this matter which you have requested may fall to be withheld under the terms of a number of the substantive exemptions contained in Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

These exemptions could also make it necessary for us to extend the period for responding beyond the usual 20 working day target if they involve having to consider the public interest balancing test.

If you are dissatisfied with this response, you may request an independent internal review of our handling of your request by submitting your complaint to:

Border and Immigration Agency Customer Focus Team

11th Floor, West Wing, Block 'C'

Whitgift Centre

Wellesley Road

Croydon CR9 1AT

During the independent review the department’s handling of your information request will be reassessed by staff who were not involved in providing you with this response. Should you remain dissatisfied after this internal review, you will have a right of complaint to the Information Commissioner as established by section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Feakins,

Freedom of Information Team,

Resource Management Directorate

Saturday, December 15, 2007

SF Daily:
No Charges in Gay Abuse Case
A front-page story ran yesterday in the SF Daily paper about the district attorney declining to bring charges in a gay domestic violence case, but because the newspaper posts no content on its web site, the story is not available online.
Nevertheless, key excerpts from the article are shared here.
Comments and rebuttals from the perpetrator, Julius Turman, have not been omitted by me.

Unfortunately, the SF Daily reporter didn't include any response or quote from Turman, which I believe should have been integral to the story, as balanced journalism demands. Heck, there wasn't anything in the article indicating the paper had even tried to reach Turman.
Needless to say, I hope Turman is soon given the opportunity in other news accounts to present his side of things, and that a debate ensues in the gay community about the DA's handling of this case and other crimes where gays are the victim.
San Francisco Daily
December 14, 2007
No Charges in Gay Abuse Case
by Richard Cole
A man who was choked and beaten bloody in a domestic violence incident is accusing District Attorney Kamala Harris of quashing the case because his attacker was a political friend who now heads the powerful Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.
The suspect, Lawrence Turman, 42, was arrested the night of the attack after several witnesses heard victim Philip Horne, 40, screaming and called the police.
Police found Horne with a "bloody nose and blood on the left side of his face," as well as blood in his mouth and on his teeth, according to the police report.
But shortly afterward Turman co-hosted a charity auction with Harris--who knew about the incident, Horne said--and was then elected co-chairman of the Toklas club.
The district attorney's office later declined to prosecute. [...]
Horne eventually filed a civil suit against Turman, who settled out of court without giving a deposition, Horne said.
Harris' spokeswoman Bilen Mesfin denied that her boss had involved herself in dropping the case.
"The head of the domestic violence division was involved in that," Mesfin said. "Based on the information I have so far, this was a case that could not be prosecuted on the evidence."
The incident occurred on January 1, 2006 at the home the two men had shared for six months at 377 Hermann Street near Duboce Park. The two had been arguing and were about to break up. Horne was picking up some items from the house when Turman arrived and the two argued, he said. [...]
"The next thing I know, his hands are around my neck and he was strangling me in the hallway," said Horne. "Then all of a sudden he starts punching me in the face . . . there was blood all over the hallway."
Turman apologized, then became angry again when Horne tried to call a friend to take him to the hospital. [...]
Turman grabbed the cell phone, and Horne ran toward the front door to escape. Turman tackled him just as he reached the door. [...]
At least two neighbors heard his screams, which were recorded in the background during one of their 911 calls.
Police arrived and interviewed the two men, then arrested Turman for domestic battery. He was bailed out a few hours later. [...]
"Turman told me he had a conversation with you about the decision not to prosecute," Horne wrote in a letter to Harris. "You responded that you did not want to see Turman prosecuted because he is a friend of your but that [you] did not speak directly to the charging District Attorney about the decision." [...]
The only communication Horne ever had from prosecutors about the decision was a short note saying they did not have to explain it, Horne said.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

WPost More Pro-Gay Than HRC
Over Huckabee AIDS Quarantine View

An editorial in today's Washington Post castigating GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee for his outrageous endorsement of quarantining people with AIDS and lack of tolerance for gays is miles ahead of what the Human Rights Campaign said today in a letter to Huckabee.
The "HIV Clueless" editorial is notable not just because it takes Huckabee to task for his dangerous views, but also for using the words homosexual, gay, and even lesbian, and not in a direct quote from the candidate:
"Actually, in 1992, the year after basketball star Magic Johnson made the dramatic announcement that he was HIV-positive, it was already widely understood -- and widely publicized -- that HIV could not be spread by casual contact or even through close physical contact short of unprotected homosexual or heterosexual sex. [...]
"Nor can his view on AIDS be separated from Mr. Huckabee's animus toward homosexuality, which at the time he called "an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle." [...]
"But in refusing to "recant," as he put it to Fox News, his 1992 views on AIDS and on homosexuality as a "lifestyle," he fails to lay to rest legitimate doubts about his objectivity and fairmindedness when it comes to the rights and interests of gays and lesbians, and the public health concerns of everyone."
On the HRC front, the nation's largest gay advocacy organization also expresses criticism and strong concern over Huckabee's views, but the group is more upset over his AIDS quarantine remarks and doesn't hold him accountable in anyway for his anti-gay thinking.
HRC's release, asking the former GOP Arkansas governor to meet with them, the AIDS Institute and Ryan White's mom Jeanne, only uses the word homosexuality in a quote from him:
As reported by the Associated Press, "Huckabee once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure and said homosexuality could ‘pose a dangerous public health risk.’"
Hmmm, the Washington Post is practically falling over itself to use the "h" and "g" words and hold Huckabee to account for his AIDS _and_ gay views, while the leaders at HRC are much more interested in invoking a brave heterosexual kid with AIDS, an "innocent victim" who doesn't raise any troubling icky issues like male-on-male anal transmission of HIV. HRC never says the word gay in their statement!
As if to further show how far it will go to avoid including gay males with AIDS, the HRC letter to Huckabee says this:
Governor Huckabee, if you need a reminder of how calls for "isolation" can shatter a Mother’s heart, you only need to turn to Jeanne White-Ginder.
I have tons of respect for Mrs. White-Ginder and see her as a true heroine in the AIDS battle, but her shattered heart in reaction to the call for isolating AIDS patients should not force HRC to ignore the broken hearts of all people with AIDS, including gays with the disease.
How can HRC go out of its way to omit the concerns and voices of gays with AIDS in this debate? Maybe the HRC leaders have forgotten that gay men are the largest category of people living with HIV/AIDS in America. Whatever the reason for the omissions, HRC continues on its well-worn path of spinelessness.
The Washington Post editorial today, coupled with the New York Times editorial on Monday about the defeat of the hate crimes attachment, are prime evidence of how the mainstream media is better right now at standing up for gays, and in the case of the Post, being more inclusive of gays than the Democratic Party hacks at HRC.

Monday, December 10, 2007

(Cindy Sheehan shakes the limp-wrist of a rather fey supporter at her campaign launch on Sunday in the Mission. Photo credit: Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal.)

Sheehan For Congress Opens SF Office:
NYT Slams Pelosi on Gay Bill

My Congressional representative, Nancy Pelosi, was taken to task by the editorial board of the NY Times on Monday for her pitiful accomplishments on expanding hate crime laws to include gays and other targets of hateful bashings.
Congressional leaders, who have disappointed frequently this year, have done it again. This time, the House leadership has failed to find a way to get a bipartisan law against hate crimes passed and signed into law. Racial, religious, sexual and other minorities have waited long enough. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to do more than just express her support for the bill; she must find a way to make it the law. [...]
Ms. Pelosi says she is still committed to getting the Matthew Shepard Act passed, perhaps early next year. That’s nice, but it is time for her to explain how she intends to do it — and then to make it happen.
Great to see the Times kick Pelosi's butt on behalf of the gay community over the hate crimes defeat, and it's a lot more than the Democratic butt-kissing by the leading gay organizations in Washington.
Check out what Chris Crain had to say about the Human Rights Campaign reaction to the defeat, and compare the HRC release with the Gray Lady's editorial. The paper is miles ahead of the wimpy gay Democrats in demanding some action and respect from Democratic leadership.
As a Green Party voter, I've never wasted my vote on Pelosi, and I believe she needs to be challenged daily on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, holding the Bush administration accountable for subverting the Constitution and being more responsive to the needs of her progressive constituents.
But Pelosi reigns as an imperial ruler who will never be faced with a serious challenge from the progressive wing of the local Democratic Party. Forget about a GOP challenger in San Francisco. It is not healthy for American democracy to allow the House Speaker to coast through every election like she does, and I hope to live to see the day when she is made to face the voters in a serious and competitive race.
Until that day arrives, I'm throwing my support behind Cindy Sheehan, the pro-peace activist mom who lost her son in Iraq, who opened her campaign office yesterday in a long-shot bid to unseat Pelosi.
I was unable to make it to the opening, but the bloggers at Fog City Journal were there, took photos and notes, and report on the party at their well-trafficked site.

Virtually ignored by the establishment media, the famous antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan officially kicked off her campaign to unseat Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the opening of her campaign headquarters yesterday in San Francisco.

The date of her headquarters opening coincided with the date John Lennon was assassinated in New York 27 years ago. Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, hoped his passing would be remembered by people everywhere imagining a world of Peace and Love.

Former Board President Matt Gonzalez, former Union Local 10 Secretary-Treasurer Clarence Thomas and former mayoral candidate Ahimsa Sumchai attended the campaign kickoff event.

And we're off to the races, even if the mainstream media gave Cindy Sheehan the cold shoulder on her campaign kick-off.

A few critical sentences in the Times today, and the launch of a quixotic candidacy, aren't much of anything to scare Pelosi. She is not about to grow a spine, nor is her seat in any jeopardy.

But between the paper and Sheehan, I'm pleased just to witness them caring enough to at least raise their voices in demanding better from my Congresswoman.

UK Foreign Office Actively Promotes
Gay Human Rights

Attention must be paid to the Foreign Office in London and its inclusion of gay human rights in annual reports, and comments earlier this year from the minister responsible for all human rights matters.

I applaud such efforts by the UK government to address human rights violations against LGBT people, and any advances on our behalf, because any time a foreign ministry puts a focus on global gay issues it brings light to the problems many gay are facing today.

Two items really caught my gay American eyes’ attention. The first is the extensive section about legal efforts in the USA to win gay marriage equality in the 2005 report. Seeing how another government views gay marriage through the prism of a human rights agenda was an eye-opener.

The second item is the assertiveness of the Foreign Office in stating its commitment to advocating for gay human rights, mentioned in the 2006 report:

"Many governments do not share our views on the rights of the LGBT community, making it difficult to discuss the issue either bilaterally or in international for a. However, states have a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all people without discrimination – it is a question of justice and rights, not opinion and morals. To this end, the FCO will continue in its efforts to defend the right of people not to be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexuality or gender identity."

Of course, the Foreign Office must be pressed to do more for gays, such as speaking out now about Iran’s execution last week of 21-year-old Mr. Makvan Mouloodzadeh for sex with other boys, and activists must continually monitor the agency’s reports and remarks year-round.

At the same time, as an American, I call upon my State Department to express outrage at the killing of gays in Iran, and to also forcefully publicly commit to fighting for full protection of all human rights protections for gays across the planet.

Excerpts from various pages at the Foreign Office web site:

Citation Number 1

Ian McCartney, FCO Minister with responsibility for Human Rights issues, to the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva Speech, March 13, 2007:

We need to confront the persistent discrimination against people worldwide based on their sexual orientation – a discrimination all the more invidious through being often concealed behind some other, more common prejudices. As we mark the fortieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act in the United Kingdom, we pause to remember that the majority of gay people around the world still live in countries where simply being themselves is a crime. Human rights belong to everyone. Sexual orientation cannot be a qualifying factor.

Citation Number 2

FCO Human Rights E-Newsletter, November 2006:

At a Unison Conference in Manchester on 18 November, Ian McCartney pledged that the Government would help to promote the human rights of LGBT people abroad. In the past 10 years, the Government had done more than any other in British history to implement these within the UK. The need for such work abroad was even starker: nine countries still imposed the death penalty for consensual same sex relations, ten countries had criminal penalties up to life imprisonment. In many countries, persecution, violence and even murder, with impunity, were the norm for LGBT people who dared to manifest their sexuality. It was a clear issue of fairness, equality and justice and there was a need for Government and civil society to act.

Citation Number 3

FCO Annual Human Rights Report, October 2006, Pages 259-260:

Non-discrimination is one of the basic tenets of international human rights law; yet all over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people suffer human rights violations. These violations are not limited to restrictions on same-sex relations (although these remain illegal in many countries and punishable by death in some); often, sweeping laws – for example, against indecency – are used to criminalise the LGBT community. This discrimination means that they are also often seen as legitimate targets for abuse by their governments and the wider population.

In January 2006, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on homophobia in Europe, strongly condemning all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The resolution also calls on member states to protect LGBT people from homophobic hate speech and violence and to ensure that same sex partners enjoy the same respect, dignity and protection as the rest of society. This resolution will help further combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation throughout the EU.

In the same month, the UN's NGO committee voted to deny accreditation to two LGBT NGOs – the International Lesbian and Gay Association and the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians. In May, a further two LGBT organisations were denied. The UK and the EU are concerned that they are being unfairly discriminated against. The EU has been lobbying to try and improve the situation.

Also in January, Nigeria put forward a bill outlawing public advocacy and associations supporting the rights of lesbian and gay people, as well as same sex relationships and marriage ceremonies. We are concerned that the proposed legislation will stop Nigeria meeting several of its international human rights obligations, including the right to privacy, the right to association and the principle of non-discrimination, and criminalise the country's LGBT community. It will also criminalise NGOs and human rights defenders who work on behalf of the community, whether directly or indirectly (for example, in the field of HIV/AIDS), and lawyers called on to defend clients accused under the new law. Along with our EU partners, we have discussed the issue with Nigerian NGOs campaigning against the proposed bill and plan to raise our concerns with the Nigerian authorities.

Over the past year, gay pride marches in Poland, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Romania have faced obstructions and, in some cases, outright bans. All these countries have made an international commitment to protect their citizens from discrimination; yet they permit and in some cases lead the stigmatisation of the LGBT community by opposing marches designed to increase the visibility of LGBT communities and promote equality, tolerance and human rights. We are pleased to note that, ultimately, several of the marches were allowed to go ahead. In February 2006, former FCO Minister Ian Pearson gave a speech during the TUC's LGBT history month event on promoting LGBT rights overseas. His key message was that human rights violations against people from the LGBT community are still shrouded in silence and stigma, and that we should all be willing to speak out on the issue.

Many governments do not share our views on the rights of the LGBT community, making it difficult to discuss the issue either bilaterally or in international fora. However, states have a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all people without discrimination – it is a question of justice and rights, not opinion and morals. To this end, the FCO will continue in its efforts to defend the right of people not to be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexuality or gender identity.

Citation Number 4

FCO Human Rights Report, July 2005, Pages 214-215:

There have been dramatic developments in the US on the right to marriage for same-sex couples. A number of jurisdictions decided that their constitutional guarantees of equality and due process required them to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as well as to heterosexual couples.

The first place to do so was San Francisco, which from 12 February 2004-11 March 2004 issued 4,037 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state supreme court subsequently invalidated all of those licenses on 12 August 2004, ruling that the mayor had exceeded his authority in issuing them before the state courts had reviewed the constitutionality of the law limiting marriage to different-sex couples only (though not ruling on the constitutionality of a same-sex marriage ban itself).

A similar situation occurred in Sandoval County in New Mexico and Multnomah County in Oregon. Again, both were followed by a court-ordered freeze on the practice pending a legal decision. In November 2004 Oregon, Oklahoma, Georgia, North Dakota, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Utah, Mississippi and Arkansas backed state constitutional amendments limiting marriage to different-sex couples only, following a vote in Missouri during the summer in which the public overwhelmingly voted in favour of banning same-sex marriages. However, the trend is not all one way.

A ruling in November 2003 by the Massachusetts state supreme court in favor of same-sex marriage has been upheld and reaffirmed. This position is now established law, as all avenues of appeal have been exhausted after the US supreme court declined to hear the case.

There are also some similar state supreme court cases concerning the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in New York, California, New Jersey and Washington, following rulings by the lower state courts that a prohibition on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

DC Monthly: S.F. STD Boss
Said AIDS Quarantine a Possibility in 2001

Poll-surging GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, is causing a stir today because of an AP story about his previously stated views on AIDS and ways of stopping its spread.

As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by The Associated Press. Besides a quarantine, Huckabee suggested that Hollywood celebrities fund AIDS research from their own pockets, rather than federal health agencies. [...]

In 1992, Huckabee wrote, "If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague."

Shocking opinions, to be sure, and I speak as a person with AIDS, but Huckabee's ideas didn't disappear after 1992 and were echoed as recently as November 2001 in the Washington Monthly.

An article that month in the magazine about a rise in HIV infections among gay men, a top employee of the San Francisco health department made some radical proposals, when tossing around ideas with a reporter, for preventing new transmissions.

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, director of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention and Control Services in San Francisco, has suggested a number of measures, some coercive,which he thinks would slow the increase of new HIV infections among gay men. Among them: closing sex clubs and adult bookstores; enforcing no-sex ordinances in bars and clubs; enforcing no-drug policies in bars and clubs; and Internet-based outreach and education, particularly in chat rooms where many gay men meet new sexual partners.

Putting aside political realities when brainstorming on this subject, Klausner also raised the possibility of quarantining those who cannot control their infectivity---e.g., those barebackers who've infected 20 different people and still refuse to use condoms.

Many of these measures would probably be infeasible in the current political climate. Still, this doesn't mean they shouldn't be discussed. After all, in an environment where there are no consequences for actions that threaten the public health, it may be necessary to create some. [Italic emphasis added.]

San Francisco's STD control chief is no stranger to controversy, even after he made his outrageous remarks to the Washington Monthly.
In August 2005, Klausner filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration to reclassify Viagra because the drug was allegedly increasing HIV and STD infections, angering a spokesman for UCSF who also served as the Mayor's HIV/AIDS liaison:
"Jeff Klausner wants the dicks of people with HIV in his back pocket and he wants us to ask him permission to use it. And I am not giving him my dick," said an outraged [Jeff] Sheehy, a gay HIV-positive man who volunteers as Mayor Gavin Newsom's adviser on HIV and AIDS policy. "Jeff Klausner is specifically targeting gay men with HIV. This is not what city funds should be used for. There is no science to justify this."
Kind of odd, I think, that Huckabee and Klausner have both publicly expressed similar views on potential AIDS quarantines and other gay sex-related matters, given that one hails from a conservative state and other works in the health department of America's most liberal city. All of which may just prove the old saw that politics makes for strange bedfellows.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ex-POZ Editor Wish is True:

No HIV Ads in SF, 1-Year and Counting

A little more than a year ago, a debate in the HIV activist community raged on about the hostile and fear-based social marketing prevention campaigns, with many activists, myself included, demanding AIDS groups, public health officials and graphic designers who fund and create the ads, produce hard results that the campaigns actually accomplish something tangible, like reduced infection rates or increased HIV testing. Such proof of effectiveness was not forthcoming.
Last fall activists in San Francisco proposed a two-year moratorium on all HIV social marketing efforts, in order to give the targeted gay male community a time-out from a quarter-century of relentlessly controversial ads.

Messages that imply an irresponsible community can further stigmatize gay men and thus encourage new infections, said Walter Armstrong, former editor-in-chief of the internationally distributed Poz magazine. Recently troubled by the Los Angeles "HIV is a gay disease" campaign, Armstrong is among a growing chorus calling for an absolute end to all HIV social marketing.

Such drastic measures "may seem controversial or even counterproductive on the surface. . .but I think this would, at best, force us and the prevention 'establishment' to find more scientific, more innovative, more responsive forms of HIV prevention and, at worst, just silence all the slogans that have never been anything but truisms, half-truths, or outright lies, starting with 'Safe Sex Is Hot' back in 1986."

Armstrong said such campaigns are always steps behind what gay men are already doing; "it wasn't until the mid-1990s that the big gay groups officially ranked oral sex as low risk, despite the fact that gay men had never used condoms for blowjobs."

The BAR story appeared in November 2006 and was tied to an ad campaign, funded and created by the S.F. Department of Public Health, that promoted disclosure of one's HIV sero-status before sexual activity and obliquely encouraged sero-sorting, whereby HIV poz men sleep only with other poz men.

What does Walter Armstrong say today? He sent me this comment:
"The one thing I would say now (and wish you would add) is that, a year later, I'm not aware of any efforts—certainly, not from me or anyone I know—to create true 21st-century gay HIV prevention in the absence of all the stupid ads. We need to follow through on that."
That DPH campaign was the last advertising effort in San Francisco promoting HIV prevention. For more than a year now, the local gay population has not been assaulted by any HIV-specific prevention ads.
There have been toned-down non-controversial ads addressing speed use and syphilis testing that lightly touched upon HIV transmission, but were very much focused on meth and syphilis infections.
In January the BAR reported the S.F. AIDS Foundation would soon unveil a new ad campaign to stir up the gay community. From the BAR:

[Executive director Mark] Cloutier has since hired Amon Rappaport, formerly with the Marin Institute, as a full-time staffer to develop the foundation's marketing in-house. Rappaport started December 4 and will be paid $125,000 annually. Cloutier first met Rappaport in September when he interviewed him for the foundation's director of communication position. [...]

He said the task he has given Rappaport is to design a campaign that can assist gay men in taking care of one another and that speaks to them in a positive manner.

"Many campaigns don't seem to necessarily identify with the positive motivations that gay men have in taking care of themselves and others. They often start with a frame of 'You are doing something wrong' and using a social marketing campaign to start a conversation about it," said Cloutier. "The question I have is how do we supply information and align campaigns with the deeper intentions of gay men to take care of themselves and their partners to continue to drive the infection rates down?"

Cloutier said he hopes to launch the foundation's new ads this spring.

Well, the spring months came and went and the foundation didn't follow through on the promise of the new campaign. I guess all the money they spent developing the HIV prevention ads, like the campaign, simply was flushed down the drain.
I don't know if the health department or the dozens of AIDS service organizations would agree with me that we've seen an unqualified official one-year moratorium on the ads, a moratorium that I sense won't end sometime soon, and we're still quite far from realizing Walter Armstrong's push for an end to HIV prevention social marketing.
But one thing I think we all can concur on is that San Francisco has been free of such campaigns for more than a year.
Now would be a good time for AIDS Inc to again debate the efficacy of social marketing, and, if they finally have verifiable proof HIV prevention ad work at controlling new infections or drive up testing rates, to share that proof with the community.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Death of Gay Bars?
New Leather Bar May Open in San Francisco

The latest news story about the decline, and maybe eventual death, according to some pundits, of gay bars hit the pages of the Boston Globe this week. I've lost count of how many such stories have appeared in 2007, and certainly have no idea how many bars hit the dust recently.

And out here in the city that always has to do gay life and culture in its own unique way, there may be not just a gay bar opening soon, but one catering to the leather crowd.

San Francisco's gay bar and cruising scenes have evolved and expanded, especially because of our early and enthusiastic embrace of the web to meet each other, and I hear it said that we don't need bars, or baths for that matter, when net cruising is so easy.

But I'm an old-fashioned queen about supporting commercial venues geared toward sexual action, either on premises or at home, so I'm pleased to see a move afoot to get a new club going on Folsom Street.

From David Morgan, the man behind the new bar:

Chaps II San Francisco, to hopefully open soon at 1225 Folsom Street, between 8th & 9th -- this was the original Ramrod back in the 70's and is part of the historical "Miracle Mile," the heart of leather SOMA known around the world.

We are in the process of purchasing this bar space, and will keep you updated with the progress. [...]

Why CHAPS II? The original Chaps bar was located at 375 11th Street between Folsom and Harrison, where DNA Longue is currently located. The "II" signifies the bar will recreate the spirit of the original Chaps, but with a very modern twist for today. We'll take what was the essence of a traditional leather bar and create something new for current and future generations. [...]

We plan many innovations that will set this leather bar apart from other leather bars past and present. [...]

This bar -- when you walk in, gear will not be a party or event, it will be every day. It starts from the top -- from the owner's gearing up, to all the bartenders, to the patrons. It's not a special event -- it's part of our lives and we live it. It's not dress up, we gear up all the time.

Sounds all good and things seem set for the bar to get going, right? Yes, but there's a kink in plans.

Venerable leather columnist and longtime activist Mr. Marcus Hernandez, reported last week in his influential Bay Area Reporter column:

David Morgan (the catalyst of the Men in Gear affair) and his partner, Steve Abramson, are having a somewhat difficult time convincing Southern Station Captain Daniel McDonagh and the permit officer that a leather bar is not the type of bar that would be the center of gang activity, stabbings, and shootings such as is occurring on the 11th Street corridor.

They even suggested a 2300 closing time for this new bar, which is so ridiculous no one can believe it. I'd like to know how many bars in San Francisco are forced to close at that hour.

Morgan and Abramson have been making the rounds of various officials in San Francisco and seek support from many of you. It is apparent that the leather bar concept is a complete mystery to the Southern Station and the permit officer and their perception(s) of such a bar are completely alien to them.

The record of intervention by police and the state Alcoholic Beverage Control list the 1225 Folsom Street location (formerly My Place) as a place of public sexual activity and they are reluctant to see this type of activity occur again.

I'm not! Count me among the few who think gay life ought to include many choices for our relationships and friendships. From the privilege of being an adult male, going to a bar for a beer and a dick in the backroom or toilet, to web sites, to marriage, and everything in between, myriad choices should be on the gay lifestyle menu.

Regardless of what I want, when the Chaps II bar opens, you can be sure the nanny state will be monitoring the place. Alcohol control authorities, the health department and the police force, not to mention all the outreach workers from AIDS groups, will all be there.

Maybe Santa will bring all the good boys and Daddies of San Francisco a spanking new S/M leather bar!

Milk Club Prez Forms AIDS Democratic Club
In light of the fact that San Francisco has many service organizations and institutions that already look out for any changes or cuts to federal HIV/AIDS grants through the CARE Act -- the Health Commission, the DPH AIDS Office, the CARE Act Council, the AIDS Service Providers Network and all the individual service agencies, UCSF programs, to name a few -- I don't know that there's a pressing need for a brand new Democratic Party Club just for AIDS matters and people with HIV.
But the current head of the Milk Club recently announced he is forming, or maybe has already formed, such a disease-specific party club since the announcement was web-posted more than a month ago to a local listserv for PWAs.
Honestly, if there's a legit reason for Democratic voters in this town to push AIDS issues or funding concerns related to the CARE Act through the party club process, I think Alice, Milk and other clubs are more than able to take on those issues and have them addressed.
And doesn't the Milk Club presently have an AIDS caucus? If it doesn't, seems to me the prez would want to create one, if only to strengthen Milk by bringing in people with AIDS who might want to join such a caucus.
I really don't see the need to create yet another AIDS-related group, and there are plenty of existing HIV/AIDS bodies, and in my travels in the local AIDS world, I'm just not hearing a crying need for such a new political club.
Then again, it's surely possible that beyond my circle is a deep pool of PWAs who've signed up for the new club and heartily embrace it.
But maybe, just maybe, the PWA Democratic Club is not really being formed to address the needs of PWAs, but instead is a very creative power-move by one ambitious person who is already simultaneously the head of an AIDS service organization and leader of a major club.
We'll see if the new club has actually formed, how it's being received in Democratic, gay and AIDS circles, and if it soon holds a public meeting.

Here's the announcement from last month:
With the end of the Ryan White CARE Act looming for 2010, it is important that our community develop an effective political infrastructure as part of an overall strategy to be able to lead the changes that will affect our lives.

Please join us on Monday November 5th from 6-8 PM at the Three Dollar Bill Cafe in the LGBT Center for the first organizing meeting for People With HIV/AIDS Democratic Club. This meeting is a requirement as part of our petition to become chartered at the November 14th meeting of the Democratic County Central Committee. We will elect officers, approve initial bylaws and set our meeting schedule.

Brian Basinger

Monday, December 03, 2007

Swiss Expert: AIDS Cocktail
Equals Prevention, Eradication & Vaccine

(One of the latest sexy eye-catching and non-fear based HIV prevention ads from the Swiss government's health office.)

A French-Swiss HIV expert generated much interest and debate last week among European activists on preventing and controlling AIDS after he spoke to the media explaining his theory that triple combination therapy could potentially be the answer to many vexing HIV questions, including what to do to stop AIDS since a vaccine is not an option.
Olivier Jablonsky, of the Paris-based radical activist health organization WARNING, tipped me off to a few of the stories and interviews with Dr. Bernard Hirschel, a leading researcher in global HIV/AIDS concerns.
His basic view, as I understand it, is that AIDS cocktails knock down the HIV viral load to undetectable or extremely low levels, making positive persons non-contagious. However, he also acknowledges there is still no zero risk of spreading new HIV infections, something to always keep in mind.
It seems Hirschel is proposing that if HIV positive people properly adhere to taking their AIDS medicines, reducing their viral loads to undetectable, and their ability to transmit the virus, the positive person won't pass on HIV even if that person doesn't practice safe sex.
And if HIV positive people are not further transmitting the virus, better control of the epidemic can be achieved.
If this is the case, then it means radical change will be necessary in designing effective prevention social marketing campaigns and the work of public health authorities everywhere.
Hirschel's provocative theories should foster lots of discussion among prevention organizations and activists. Indeed, there will be a public chat with Hirschel, sponsored by the Swiss gay group DialoGai, in Geneva on January 24, 2008.
Here are excerpts from Swiss news reports, roughly translated using Google. In the coming week, I trust and expect Dr. Hirschel's new ideas and supporting data will be better translated into English and circulated more widely. Let's debate his theories and their implications for fighting AIDS.

The Tribune de Geneve's story, gets the ball rolling:
Professor Hirschel says that if the virus became undetectable, the infected person is no longer contaminating.

This is good news, but it is cumbersome. In most patients infected with HIV, the triple therapy reduced the rate of HIV in the blood to become undetectable. Does it mean that these people are no longer contagious, even if they engage in unprotected sex? "Yes," replied Dr. Bernard Hirschel, unity HIV / AIDS to the University Hospital of Geneva. "No detectable virus, no infection." [...]
The specialist HIV / AIDS has sought further evidence of this safety. Empiriques essentially. "We tried to find, with our colleagues in other hospitals Swiss exceptions to the rule. Despite thousands of new infections since 1996, we have identified a single case possible Geneva, dating from 1997 transmission from a patient following a triple apparently effective. But we were unable to verify that its viremia was undetectable. "

Moreover, following the abandonment of condoms in certain populations, the number of sexually transmitted diseases (syphilis, chlamydias ...) has increased. But not the incidence of HIV, as shown by a study conducted among homosexuals in San Francisco. "The only plausible explanation for this paradox is once again the triple," says the Professor. "By reducing viral load, it helps prevent the spread of HIV. " [...]

From Hirschel's interview with the Le Temps newspaper on Friday:
Le Temps: The triple therapy is a means of prevention, you say. How it s'explique-t-il?

Bernard Hirschel: Current treatments, if properly followed, reduce the level of virus in the blood and secretions of the patient. But studies conducted since 1999 have shown that below a certain concentration of virus, no contamination occurs. It has been verified, including the birth of children of HIV-positive mothers and also by studying couples where one partner was infected. [...]

Q For instance?

A Today, we can tell a couple where one partner is HIV-positive treated with an undetectable level of virus they can have a child without having to worry about contamination of the non-infected partner. After taking a risk, we can forgo preventive treatment and costly collateral side effects if the person with whom took place in touch critical presents no viral load. These are practices which are already installed. Today, we can go further.

Q Provide information, for example?

A We are afraid to prevention specialists. They are afraid to scramble a simple message which has been proven: "never unprotected." But we must note that there are people who fail to apply this rule will absolutely. It may therefore be useful to qualify, offer additional options. After all, contraception is no less effective because it has a choice between the pill and the condom.

Q But what about in practice?

A We can begin by saying to people undergoing treatment that they are not a public danger. Psychologically, it's very heavy feeling bearer of a serious illness can be communicated to those you love. This causes a terrible isolation. If we can reassure them, it is worth it. Then the basic preventive message does not change: in a casual sexual contact, it is necessary to protect themselves. In most enduring relationships that may change strategies. This forces us to customize the preventive messages, which corresponds to the evolution of the disease, which is no longer with us an absolute calamity, but a difficult affection with which many people have learned to live.

Q You are not afraid to criticize you see in ten years to have opened the door to new risk behaviors?

A There is no reproach ever to a medical or politician had overestimated the risk while the penalty can be terrible if it minimizes. But we can not be paralyzed by it: a preventive message that magnifies all the risks and does not correspond to reality loses credibility and effectiveness. Look what happened at the beginning of the epidemic, with the kiss. At one point, it was decided that the kiss did not allow contamination. It was not safe to 100%. But the data were available were clearly in that direction. And the message Preventive remained credible and workable.

Q If people under treatment do not contaminate their partners, it means we have the means to virtually eliminate the disease.

A Theoretically, yes. A team from Vancouver, Canada, has modeled what would happen if we treated, in this town, all the people infected and not the 30% who have symptoms like today. This cost until 2020. But then, costs far more important would be avoided until 2050, when the disease had disappeared. The same team will attempt to increase the rate of pay at 50% and measure what happens. However, it is possible in a developed country, in a country as poor and low-medicalized, this strategy would encounter significant barriers.

Q In Switzerland, however, it is possible ...

A Indeed. It's an idea that deserves all the more to be seen than to have a vaccine within a reasonable time now seems excluded. However, it must be very carefully considered the ethical issues: the processing involves some unpleasant side effects. To advise people who have no symptoms, so it should be solid reasons. Some people would probably agree to deal to stop being contagious. But it seems not to force those who do not wish. It should be no doubt wait a little that the treatments will further improve. This is now happening. At that time, I think we should seriously consider this strategy.