Sean Sullivan: Standing against injustice in Oakland

18 Jan

This guest post was written by Sean Sullivan, an active Oakland resident who lives in the Clawson/Dogtown neighborhood where he is co-chair of his NCPC and represents the 3rd district on the Community Action Partnership and Community Development Block Grant board.  Sean was a director at Covenant House for over a decade and now works as an environmental health advocate.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

–        Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” 16 Apr. 1963

As we celebrate the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, we do so this year in full awareness that we have still yet to achieve true freedom and equality for all.   Right now we have both across the Bay and here in Oakland hearings and confirmations whose originations lie within the civil rights struggle.

Across the Bay in Federal Court, history is unfolding as Perry v. Schwarzenegger convenes discussing how Proposition 8 came to be passed and by it how gay and lesbian couples came to be shut out from equal protection promised in our state and federal constitution.

On this side of the Bay, the ramifications of the passage of Prop 8 are also still playing out in our beloved Paramount Theatre and may play itself out, not in the courthouse but in the city council chambers.  Before the council this Tuesday night, comes the nomination of Michael Lighty to the Port of Oakland Commission and Lorenzo Hoopes to the Paramount Board of Directors.

Mr. Lighty, a former Planning Commissioner sat with me and other Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Oaklanders following the passage of the discriminatory Proposition 8 that removed the right to marry from gay and lesbian couples. Our discussion was centered on how we could further demonstrate our leadership and visibility in the city of Oakland.  See, when more people know more Out Gay people, they are less likely to vote against lgbt rights and frankly, think there is anything wrong with lgbt individuals and families.  Indeed, we are the only minority group that needs to identify ourselves to be understood as a member of a minority group.

We believed strongly that members of the lgbt community who have so much to offer would be better served if members of our community held significant leadership positions in Oakland.  We also found it horrific that already appointed leaders of the community had played a leadership role in passing the discriminatory proposition.  The most prominent leader was Lorenzo Hoopes, a long-term servant of our city and the Paramount board, who was Oakland’s largest donor to Yes on 8 and fundraiser for the effort.

What these donations yielded and wrought are now being discussed in a San Francisco Federal Courtroom.  They include ads pitting gays against average families, old stereotypes of gays as pedophiles reinforced. These ads were funded by Mr. Hoopes’ contributions to Yes on 8.

Tomorrow, these issues converge in the appointments voted on by the city council.  As a response, fair-minded Oaklanders have created a movement to support the nomination of Mr. Lighty and ask for the rejection of Mr. Hoopes nomination.

This is not some kind of quota test.  Mr. Hoopes engaged in a campaign that is no less heinous than championing Jim Crow laws.  Had we now discovered he played a role in Japanese internment 60 years ago it wouldn’t take the Japanese American community to turn out and demand he not be appointed.  It simply would have never gotten to council.

However, discrimination against gays is still seen as an acceptable prejudice in California.  These current nominations are a test of whether it is still seen as an acceptable prejudice in Oakland.

To voice your opposition to the appointment of Lorenzo Hoopes, please join the Facebook group, “The Paramount-No Place for Homophobia” and/or come to the City Council meeting tomorrow evening at 7pm in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

4 Responses to “Sean Sullivan: Standing against injustice in Oakland”

  1. Lui Salt January 20, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    First of all, Mr. Hoopes’ opinion is shared by most of Oakland’s minority community. Its basically uber-leftist whites that think he is not representative of what most people think with regards to gay marriage. What I find troubling is the fact that people who claim to be tolerant and accepting of people who are different from them, are in reality, only tolerant of like-minded folks. It has become clear that if you are not totally on the side of the gay agenda, they will come after you at your home, at your work place, at your place of worship and even at organizations you frequent. Why? Because they cannot accept that you have a different opinion from theirs. The biggest irony is that they have become even MORE bigoted, even MORE intolerant and even MORE hateful than those they condemn. This lifelong Oaklander is disgusted with these antics and this liberal democrat since adulthood will not soon forget the way in which we handled losing–like a bunch of jerks.

  2. Daniel Schulman January 25, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    @Lui I do not claim to be tolerant. I am completely intolerant of bigotry. If the Ku Klux Klan wants to hold a march in my town, I’d support their right to do so, but I would also be along the side yelling derisive remarks and holding signs.

    Hoopes’ apologist liken his stance to a political opinion such as whether or not we should have capital punishment, proper sentencing for drug offenses, or stance on abortion rights. On these issues reasonable people can have reasonable disagreements. I have utmost respect for some people who hold counter options to my own.

    Hoopes in his homophobia, though, seeks not to discriminate against people based on their actions or their opinions or their social standing but on some of their innate traits. Hoopes’ position is not a political issue but a goal that seeks to deny some of our neighbors civil rights — it is far more akin to racism, sexism, or ageism than a simple difference in political opinion.

    To cast this dispute as a witch-hunt against people who have a different opinion on capital punishment or abortion rights or some other political issue is unfair. Prop 8 supporters are far closer to those who supported miscegenation laws, racial housing covenants, or keeping women’s wages institutionally below those of men. I am completely intolerant of all these forms of bigotry based on people’s inborn characteristics, just as I am completely intolerant of homophobia.

    Lorenzo Hoopes has no place on the board of the Paramount Theatre or any other civic institution.

  3. Max Allstadt January 25, 2010 at 9:58 pm #


    I’m going to be a little less kind than Dan.

    “Gay Agenda” is a cliche, and so is most of what you’ve said. It’s also dangerously close to Orwellian doublespeak, all in the defense of an unjust status quo. You ought to be ashamed. At the very least you should be ashamed of your inability to see the irony in your own remarks.

    The tolerance you say that we don’t have is a tolerance I don’t want. It is the same so called tolerance that too many liberals wear as a badge of pride, not knowing it is in fact an albatross. Tolerating oppression perpetuates oppression.

    The very notion that we’re being more intolerant is fucking insane. We want one man removed from a community board. They want millions of people to be unable to get married. And we’re the bad guys? Bullshit.

  4. ralph January 28, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    On this we can agree, if the KKK wants to walk down Broadway spewing their hate, then fine let them as they have a right to do so. Now you have right to yell back at them, but really what is the point. Let them hold an unattended rally; they don’t matter; so, why should we act as if they do? I doubt throwing rocks at them is going to stop their hate anymore than their speech is going to change my views.

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