Reflections on Pride 2014: Kudos to Ridgely, Praise for Ammiano and Thanks to Stewart

http://sfbaytimes.com/reflections-on-pride-2014-kudos-to-ridgely-praise-for-ammiano-and-thanks-to-stewart/

In the blink of an eye, the Queer Pride Holigayz of 2014 were over and done. But what fun we had! Special kudos are due to George Ridgely, the new Executive Director of SF Pride, who is doing a tremendous job and managed to make the 44th Annual Pride Celebration seemingly a great success. No small feat for an organization that, only a year ago, some were speculating might not make it another year. Congratulations, George, and congratulations, SF Pride!

As this was Tom Ammiano’s last Pride as a member of the Assembly, and possibly as an elected official, his appearances at the various Pride events inevitably took on a bittersweet, nostalgic feel. From the Pink Triangle ceremony at the top of Twin Peaks Saturday morning to Tom’s own traditional post-parade party in his State Building office Sunday afternoon, the weekend offered folks like Orange Is The New Black star Lea DeLaria, outgoing Speaker of the Assembly John Perez, and a host of others abundant opportunities to reflect on Ammiano’s contributions to our culture and politics.

His accomplishments in both arenas are too many to list, but for me, Ammiano represents the model of the principled politician, someone who has managed to succeed as a politician without sacrificing his values, who practices politics as an art of transformation rather than of accommodation, and who has been able to be both outspoken and effective at the same time. Ammiano is not done by a long shot, and happily I’m sure he’ll manage to make his influence felt for years to come, but like a lot of others this weekend, I could not help thinking that we will miss having him in elected office very very much.

For some of us, of course, Pride month is mainly an opportunity to binge on queer cinema. Frameline opened its 38th annual LGBT film festival with a screening of The Case Against 8 before a packed house at the Castro Theater on the night of June 19. The documentary tells the stories of the plaintiffs, political strategists and (some of) the lawyers who challenged Proposition 8, taking the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court and, along the way, restoring same-sex marriage rights in California. It’s an emotional story, and I’ll admit to getting a little weepy at points.

But, although the film was well done and quite moving, after my tears had dried, I realized I was bothered by two things. One was the film’s lionization of right-wing legal eagle Ted Olson, who, setting aside his work for same-sex marriage, has done consistent and significant harm to many of the progressive causes most of us San Franciscans care about (see e.g., the havoc wrought on the world by Olson’s success in stopping the Florida recount in 2000, thereby ensuring that George W. Bush would serve Al Gore’s term in the White House).

The other was raised by one of the attendees during the Q&A that followed the screening, namely that the movie largely ignored the role played by Chief Deputy City Attorney Terrie Stewart and the other attorneys from the City Attorney’s office, not just in the original litigation challenging California’s statutory same-sex marriage ban in 2008, but also in making the standing arguments that, by the way, actually won over a majority on the Supreme Court in 2013.  Stewart, the filmmakers explained, had not felt comfortable giving them the same on-camera access to pre-trial preparatory work that some of the other lawyers had been comfortable giving, which may explain her absence from their story, but also left their story seeming incomplete.

Speaking of Terrie Stewart, just in time for Pride weekend, Jerry Brown announced he would be appointing her to serve on the California Court of Appeal. Certainly this is a great and well-deserved honor for Stewart, and it’s a milestone for the queer community, as Stewart now will become the first openly lesbian California appellate judge.  Nonetheless, I will confess to holding some selfishly mixed feelings about losing her from our City Attorney’s office, and especially as the City Attorney’s lawsuit against the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges heats up. As a City College Trustee, I have been so grateful to have Stewart in that fight, and I had been quite relishing the prospect of Stewart deposing ACCJC President Barbara Beno. Thank you, Terrie, a million thank yous, for everything.