Tag Archives: Prop 8

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.

Join Oaklanders to protest the Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8

26 May

The California Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 was just announced. In a 6-1 ruling, they upheld Proposition 8. On the bright side, they unanimously voted to uphold the 18,000 existing marriages, including those that were married nearly one year ago at Oakland City Hall. This was how I felt on the night those marriages took place:

The evening was altogether surreal. The ceremonies were delayed for about 45 minutes so I only was able to stick around for a few of the weddings, but the wait was worth it. Being there energized me and made me feel really good about the community I live in…

Though my partner could not make it out to the festivities with me, I was thinking of her the entire time. This past month has been really transformative for us. The Supreme Court ruling and the marriages yesterday have altered the way we think and talk about our future. I’ve been a bit surprised by how important the change in laws and discourse has been to us (something Julia Rosen discussed today over at Calitics).

We’re not planning to get married anytime soon, but last night was the first time we’ve ever talked about where great honeymoon spots would be, why we could never get married at Burning Man, and silly things like that. It’s finally a real option. I had this realization a month ago, but it hit me again last night. When I got home from City Hall I practically collapsed crying in my girlfriend’s arms telling her how much I loved her and that now our city and our state would recognize our love.

But those feelings crumbled when Prop 8 passed and remain lost now that the Supreme Court has upheld it. As of today, I still don’t have the right to marry the woman I love. I’m confident that one day that will change, but I’m still deeply disappointed.

Tonight, people will gather all over the country to protest this decision. In Oakland, you can join our local Day of Decision gathering at 6 pm at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland at 685 14th St. Oakland, CA 94612. If you’re looking for a place to reflect with other community members, this is the place to go.

UPDATE: There’s another rally happening tonight at Lake Merritt. Here are the details (via Sean Sullivan and dto510):

8pm – Meet and Gather @ East Shore Park aka Lakeshore Park (between 580 and the Columns of Lake Merritt)
9pm – Walk the Lake in Unity

Please bring signs, candles, and an ally! We all need each other but we also need our straight brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, cousins, uncles, aunts and friends to be out in force with us tonight!

Quick Updates on Prop 8 Lawsuit & the Creekside Project

22 Nov

I’m thoroughly enjoying DC and Maryland (except for the biting cold wind), but I thought I’d take a moment for some exciting updates on the meetings I posted about last week.

On Tuesday, in a closed session, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to join the lawsuit calling for the repeal of Proposition 8. Thanks so much to everyone who contacted the board or spoke at Tuesday’s meeting!

Then on Wednesday, the California Supreme Court announced they would review the case. Be_Devine has the details over at Calitics:

One early indicator of the way the Supreme Court sees the issues in any given case is to look at what questions it certifies for review.  Here, the Court certified three questions:

(1) Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to the California Constitution?

(2) Does Proposition 8 violate the separation of powers doctrine under the California Constitution?

(3) If Proposition 8 is not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?

The Court allowed the Official Proponents of Proposition 8 to intervene in the litigation.  This means that they can file a Respondent’s Brief along with the Attorney General’s office.  The Court denied a similar request filed by the Campaign for California Families.

Some more good news is that the Planning Commission unanimously approved the Creekside project on Wednesday night. I heard that several neighborhood members spoke out in support of the project, while a few members of STAND spoke out against it. Via an email from an ULTRA member:

What was most rewarding was hearing each Planning Commissioner who spoke (Huntsman had no comments) echo what ULTRA has been saying for years –
General Plan = The Law
Higher Density = Economic vitality
Higher Density = Lower cost housing
Transit Oriented Development = Less need for parking

I look forward to seeing this project built and to getting rid of that empty parking lot.

I unfortunately have no update on Rebecca Kaplan’s victory party, though I do know that dto510 made a great mixtape for the party. If you attended, I’d love to know how the party went.

Time to get active & to celebrate!

16 Nov

Over the last week, I’ve felt a bit antsy. It’s a bit strange to go back to a life that doesn’t consist of working, phoning, sleeping, working, phoning, sleeping (oh, and lots of meetings in between). This week, there are several important meetings and events that would be filling my time, except that I’ll be heading to DC on Tuesday morning. I hope some of my readers can fill in for me and take some time to get active in Oakland politics and celebrate our victories.

1) Tuesday, November 18th: Call on Alameda County to Stand Up for Equal Rights

At yesterday’s rally, a speaker spoke about the lawsuit that advocacy groups have brought to the California Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn Proposition 8. Dozens of legislators have signed onto friend of the court briefs in support of the case, and several counties have joined them in support. But Alameda County has yet to show interest in supporting the case. The speaker said he had called the supervisors and was surprised at how tepid their responses were.

So on Tuesday, at the regular Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, advocates plan to speak out during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting to urge the County to support the lawsuit. It’s something the supervisors can vote on and make happen very quickly and easily so there’s really no excuse for them not to act.

I really wish I could make it to this meeting. Please take some time from your day and head down there. I’ve spoken before the supervisors several times, and it’s not nearly as intimidating as speaking before the Oakland City Council. Plus, you’ll be joined by many other equal rights advocates making the same simple request.

Unfortunately, public comment happens at the end of the meeting so even though the meeting starts at 10:30am, you shouldn’t expect to speak until several hours later so bring a good book! Just make sure to fill out a speaker’s card right when you arrive.

Tuesday, November 18th at 10:30am

2) Wednesday, November 19th: Planning Commission Hearing on Creekside Project

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog post arguing that the North Oakland portion of Telegraph is ready to grow:

last night, as I walked down Telegraph from the bus stop, I realized just how odd the 1-2 story buildings looked. The disproportionality of the building heights to the size of the street is astounding.

Beyond aesthetics, Temescal’s businesses are rapidly growing, and Telegraph has become a major transit corridor, thanks to the new rapid bus line. This is only going to increase, once Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is developed. If Oakland wants to become a more environmentally sustainable city, it makes so much sense to build dense housing in neighborhoods with established services and transit.

The arguments I wrote then are even more compelling today, as business booms in Temescal and we’re even closer to making BRT a reality. The Creekside project, which would be located on the lot of the closed Global Video and its huge parking lot, fits well into this vision for a denser, more lively North Oakland. The project is a mixed-use development with units for sale and for rent, coupled with retail on the ground floor. V Smoothe wrote a post about this project in January complete with renderings and maps, which I encourage you to check out if you’re interested in this project.

Since January, the project has been downsized from 120 to 102 units, mostly because of the opposition to the project by STAND, a group that would be happier if the the project was not built at all. STAND sent an email out today encouraging its membership to attending the planning commission meeting to speak out against this project. ULTRA, on the other hand, is encouraging its membership to attend the meeting to speak out in support of the project.

This project reminds me a lot of the Safeway rebuild. We have two options here – we can be left with this ugly building with a huge parking lot or we can look forward to a much needed project that improves the pedestrian experience and enlivens the neighborhood.

If you agree that Telegraph is ready to grow, please attend this meeting and voice your support for this important project.

Wednesday, November 19th at 6:00pm
Oakland City Hall
One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
Hearing Room No. 1
Oakland, CA 94612
See the agenda here.

3) Thursday, November 20th: Celebrate Rebecca Kaplan’s Victory!

Rebecca’s hosting a party this Thursday to celebrate her huge electoral victory. This party should be tons of fun, and it’s a great opportunity to meet our City Council Member-elect if you haven’t had a chance to do so yet. Also, I’m guessing this will be the final event at the Democratic headquarters, which is such an incredible space. So head down there on Thursday night and give Rebecca a big hug for me!

Thursday, November 20th, 2008 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm
1915 Broadway (@19th street), Oakland
Suggested contribution, $50 (sliding scale).
To register or pay online, CLICK HERE

Join the Impact Oakland

15 Nov


This morning, after some bus mishaps (omg, I can’t wait for BRT!), my girlfriend and I arrived in front of Oakland City Hall for the Join the Impact rally for equal rights. It was a beautiful sunny day, and it was great to see thousands of advocates gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza.

join-the-impact-367The crowd was incredibly diverse – filled with people of every age, gender, race, and sexual orientation. And there were so many families – kids everywhere! It was great to run into so many people I know and to see so many others I’d never met before. Serendipitously, one of the first people I ran into was Matthew, my precinct walking partner on election day. We formed a special bond that day, a bond that can only be formed by going door to door in a hilly precinct where most doors were up several flights of stairs. It was so great to see that the election results hadn’t gotten him down too much and that he was still working towards marriage equality.

Several LGBT leaders gave moving speeches throughout the day, but the star of the show was Coby, a boy join-the-impact-355whose parents started an LGBT family coalition. He started off saying that for many years he didn’t know that there were people who didn’t approve of his parents’ union. He didn’t realize that his family was different from others because, well, they’re his family. Coby went on to explain that when he heard kids at his school make fun of gay people, he thought it was because they didn’t understand what it meant to be gay. His mothers then made an effort to educate the students at his school, and ultimately, he thought that kids understood this issue more than many adults and should have more say in our society.

join-the-impact-436After him and his mother spoke, the rally organizer introduced Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland Council Member-elect who is the first out lesbian to be elected to the city council. She talked about how strange election night was, and her story closely mirrored my own election night emotional roller coaster ride. At 8:00pm, Rebecca found out that Obama had been elected president, and shortly after that she found out that she had won her council seat with 62% of the vote. So for the next three hours, she celebrated, joining hundreds of people spontaneously partying in the streets of downtown Oakland. But then she started to face the fact that Prop 8 was going to pass. Rebecca spent the next day crying, wondering at the irony that she was just elected to the council but was also stripped of her human rights. She ended her speech by saying that this fight for equality is not about fighting against faith. After all, her own faith tells her not to eat pork, but she’s not forcing that rule onto others. After speaking, she lifted her shofar (a ram’s horn) and blew loudly, as the crowd erupted into cheers.

join-the-impact-442Sean Sullivan, who ran for an Oakland City Council seat in June and who currently is the development director for Equality California, was up next. He started off talking about the myth that has been spread around that Prop 8 was about blacks vs whites. Sean reminded us that Fox News had started spreading this myth, but that it is not the case. All you had to do was look around the diverse crowd in Oakland this morning to see how right he was about this. Sean then delved into the history of this fight, explaining that Equality California has been working for years to secure the right for same-sex couples to marry. He  said that the fight is not over – they’re currently taking this fight to the California Supreme Court and preparing to put an initiative on the ballot in 2010. Sean implored all of us to join this fight because it won’t be an easy one – we’ll need everyone who cares working hard to help make marriage equality a reality.

It was a very inspiring day for me and helped bring some amount of closure to the mixed emotions I’ve been feeling since election night. After seeing such energy in Oakland, and reading about incredible rallies throughout the country, I feel confident that we will overturn Proposition 8 and restore equality in California and beyond.

My girlfriend and I took hundreds of photos, but here are some of my favorites:






For a bunch more incredible photos of the Oakland Join the Impact rally, check out The Inadvertent Gardener’s Flickr page.

Fight for Equality this Saturday in Oakland

13 Nov

This Saturday, people in hundreds of cities across the country will be rallying for equality. Why a nationwide protest? Well, in addition to the passage of Prop 8 in California, Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida all voted against equal rights in this past election.

In Oakland, we’ll be meeting at City Hall at 10:30 to speak out for civil rights and against Prop 8. I hope you’ll join me there. Here’s the info from the Oakland protest’s Facebook page:

Date:    Saturday, November 15, 2008
Time:    10:30am – 1:30pm
Location:    Oakland City Hall
Street:        1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
City/Town:    Oakland, CA

Election night was a bitter-sweet celebration. We came together to witness the first African American elected president, yet watched in sadness as Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, and California all voted down equal rights for all citizens. The government has taken rights away from its citizens, and you have to wonder what right might be taken away next? This is not a 4 state issue. This is an issue of equality across America. Stand up and make your voice heard. On November 15th, every major city in the United States (even some around the world) will be participating in a nationwide protest. If you live in Oakland, or a nearby city, please join us at the Oakland City Hall at 10:30am. Bring friends, family, home-made signs, and a whole lot of energy. Be part of the next Civil Rights Movement – Be part of history – Join the National Protest/March for Equality on November 15th!

Remember, these events are partly intended to raise visibility in the media and in the public’s consciousness, so we really want strong turnouts all across the country. If you’re debating going to the SF side instead please stay here in Oakland with us. We need large, passionate, (but peaceful) crowds in all the news and print coverage to show the rest of the country and world how many people are hurt and angry over the recent legalized discrimination!

I HIGHLY encourage everyone to bring handmade signs as they diversify yet strengthen, (kind of like adding gays to the list of people who can get married!) the message and add humor and wit to it.

UPDATE: Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland’s new City Council Member, and Sean Sullivan from Equality California are now confirmed speakers at the event. Assemblymember Sandre Swanson and Mayor Ron Dellums are likely speakers as well.

Prop 8 makes me sad & afraid

27 Oct

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. Out of nowhere, I had started to feel really sad, and at first I couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized that I was worrying about the passage of Prop 8, which would take away my right to marry the woman I love.

When the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, I couldn’t have been much happier. It was inspiring to watch some of the first same-sex marriages happen at Oakland City Hall. It gave me so much hope for the future of our state, and for the first time, my girlfriend and I started to think seriously about the possibility of marriage.

But now I’m facing the reality that this right could be ripped away from me. A few months ago, I thought Prop 8 was sure to go down. The polling looked good, and I thought that the thousands of same sex couples who were getting married would shift this debate forever. Didn’t everyone at least peripherally know one same sex couple who had gotten married?

Now I think my assumptions may have been off. The Mormon church has dumped millions of dollars into passing Prop 8 and has run extremely misleading ads that seem to have been very effective. The polling is far too close for comfort.

But all of this was still very far removed from my own life. That changed on Saturday, when I took the bus down to Lakeshore in Oakland, as I got off the bus, I saw a large group of Yes on 8 protesters shouting and waving their signs. They were mostly kids, with a few adults. And they seemed very, very angry. There was a small contingent of No on 8 people across the street, who were standing quietly with their signs and passing out fliers.

I left this scene feeling upset – sad, angry, and afraid. I could not believe I had just seen people expressing such hatred in the heart of Oakland. These feelings grew in me all weekend, and I realized that I needed to do something about it. I’ve been so engrossed in Rebecca Kaplan’s campaign for Oakland City Council and the No on Measure KK campaign in Berkeley, that I’ve done almost nothing for No on 8.

Well, that’s going to change. I’m going to dedicate most of my energy this week to No on 8, and I hope you will join me. Here’s what we can do to make sure that one day I can marry the woman I love and that all Californians have the right to marry whomever they love, regardless of gender:

  1. Donate! Like I said, the Mormon church has raised a ton of money for Yes on 8. We need to counter that with funds of our own. Do not wait another day – give generously today.
  2. Volunteer: I’ll be phoning at the Oakland United Democratic Campaign office at 1915 Broadway in downtown Oakland several nights this week (I’m headed there right now). The great thing about this office is that you can phone for various campaigns at once – I’ll be phoning for No on 8 and Rebecca Kaplan. Join me any night from 5-9pm. If you’re not in Oakland, you can find your local No on 8 office here.
  3. Do Personal GOTV: Don’t assume all your friends are going to vote. Call, email, or bang down their doors – just make sure everyone you know is voting No on 8. The California Democratic Party has set up this great tool that allows you to text your friends for free. Check it out and personalize the message to remind your friends to vote No on 8.