Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pro Death Penalty 
Drag Queen Sarria Honored by SF Govt

(Supervisors David Campos, Scott Wiener, Christina Olague and Jose Sarria left to right, in more ways than one. Credit: Campos' Facebook page.)

California voters in November will cast ballots on SAFE, the Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement Act which would end the death penalty in the state replacing it with life in prison without parole for the hundreds of people on death row. As a gay man opposed to state-sanctioned executions, I'll be voting yes on that ballot proposition.

The campaign manager for the prop is out bisexual Natasha Minsker, who is the ACLU's Northern California anti death penalty project director. Check out her fabulous Twitter feed for the latest info about SAFE. I worked with her last year when the IDAHO coordinating committee issued a formal statement as global LGBT leaders, opposing the death penalty, in part, because of how it's been used against gay people.

I won't be counting longtime gay rights advocate and drag queen Jose Sarria among the champions of SAFE, because he proudly and actively favors capital punishment. In 2009, I blogged about Sarria sitting on a jury and his pivotal role that convicted Clifford Bolden of murdering a gay man, Michael Pederson, in the Castro District in 1986, sending him to death row.

Sarria reconfirmed his staunch hunger to see Bolden executed in a chat with the SF Examiner last July, regarding Bolden's latest appeal based on whether Sarria knew the victim and tainted the jury's deliberations:

In a phone interview from his Palm Springs home, the 88-year-old Sarria expressed shock at the idea [the prisoner] is legally able to appeal again. “Think of the money they’ve spent keeping him alive,” Sarria said. “That’s not justice. The death penalty was my charge because of what was presented. There was no doubt in my mind that he committed the crime and that he should pay for it.”

As for banning the death penalty, Sarria said the system should be reformed, not dumped.“You should have one appeal and that’s it. He has had appeal after appeal after appeal,” Sarria said. “It was a waste of my time to sit on that jury.”

Sarria's one-appeal-and-if-they-lose-hang-'em thinking is in sync with rabid conservatives and is the central reason why I have so little respect for him today. Sure, this gay icon decades ago courageously stepped forward during hostile times to demand tolerance and respect toward the gays, but his decades of pushing to see a man executed is deplorable.

And none of this nasty death penalty advocacy by Sarria came up last month when he was honored unanimously by the Board of Supervisors who designated a day for him, and feted by the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and received their Harry Britt Lifetime Achievement Award, according to a story by Matthew Bajko in the Bay Area Reporter.

It troubles me that this LGBT icon's comments to the SF Examiner drip with vengeance and lust for death. Sarria's commitment to social justice excludes opposing executions, which is a damn shame.

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