Tag Archives: Tom Ammiano

Transgender Rights, the Right, and the Ballot Box

Referendum Still Hangs in the Balance In Signature Verification Stage

by Brian Leubitz

Here in California, and the nation as a whole, gay rights is a concept that we are used to. People see gay and lesbian families on tv and in their neighborhoods. But the T in LGBT sometimes gets ignored. You need only look back at the fight back in the middle of the last decade over trans inclusion in ENDA to see how the transgender movement isn’t always included in the broader LGBT family. To some extent, we are seeing some positive momentum on public awareness, with Laverne Cox’s role on Orange is the New Black and her leadership on trans issues. (For example, take a look at this amazing clip of her on the Katie Couric show.)

But California is a leader in working to promote equality. We’re far from perfect, but Asm. Tom Ammiano’s School Success and Opportunity Act, which officially went into effect on Jan 1, gave transgender students a fair chance in our schools. The new law allows students to use gender segregated facilities and participate in activities for their chosen gender. The Transgender Law Center (an amazing and effective organization, btw) summarizes it this way:

Before the School Success and Opportunity Act, many schools did not understand how to fulfill their obligations to support transgender students. With this new guidance, schools – from Sacramento to San Diego – are now updating and implementing new policies to ensure all students have a fair chance to participate in all school programs and activities.

This law gives these students a fair shot to succeed. And, in fact, large majorities agree that transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans. But, there is still a lingering question as to what that really means:

However, the political X factor is that a large chunk of the population doesn’t know what transgender means. In that same survey, only 30 percent said they “completely agree” that they are well-informed about transgender people and their issues.

The activists proposing the ballot measure say no student should be bullied. But they are incensed about one aspect of the law: the question of access to restrooms and locker rooms. (SF Chronicle / Joe Garofoli)

And, as you see in the video to the right, Karen England, who is running the referendum campaign, doesn’t really understand what it means to be transgender either.

England, it turns out, is not a gender identity expert — her career has been devoted to right-wing politics. If she were familiar with the findings of the American Academy of Pediatrics – which reports that gender identity is generally established by about age four – she may not have been so shocked that the new law “is for kindergarteners as well as high schoolers.”

Moreover, England would also have recognized that boys won’t simply “wake up one day and] decide that they’re girls.” Not only do scientific findings rebut such claims, they also have no empirical basis. School districts that have enacted similar protections have reported no instances of inappropriate bathroom behavior. Right-wing media figures like Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Greg Gutfeld have sought to stoke “bathroom panic,” based on nothing more than their claims that they themselves would take advantage of the law to sneak into women’s restrooms and locker rooms.([Media Matters)

Apparently Huckabee and England think this is some sort of trick to see girls changing after PE class. Because heterosexual boys are clamoring the world over to be thought of as having gender identity issues. In reality, this is no different than your standard rightwing sex panic BS. They understand that they can’t segregate gay students, and stop them from using the restrooms, or force students back into the closet. That is just clearly not going to happen. But this offers something that might make people unfamiliar with the issues uncomfortable..

And that squirm factor is what they are counting on to reignite the culture war in California.

“This could get voters who wouldn’t get out for other issues, but will for this,” said Karen England, a longtime conservative activist who is co-chairing the Privacy for All Students campaign to put the measure on the ballot. “And I think this will stop any other state from introducing” similar legislation.(SF Chronicle / Joe Garofoli)

And that is what this is really about, a chance to score political points at the expense of vulnerable students. It is playing with the future of children for a chance to ratchet up the heat on the culture war. As Laverne Cox states in the link above, we have a long way to go on transgender equality:

The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often we are targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the national average; if you are a trans person of color, that rate is four times the national average. The homicide rate is highest among trans women. (Salon)

As for the referendum, TLC puts its current status this way:

The referendum attempt to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act, AB 1266, did not qualify to go to the ballot box in November. Unfortunately, our opponents did gather enough signatures to require the state to conduct a full and thorough count. We are cautiously optimistic that after the full count results are in on February 24th, the referendum attempt will be doomed to the dustbin of history.

It will take a while to go through all of the signatures, and while England’s group got a boost from a legal victory last week, the outcome is still in the balance. A ballot measure would be both expensive, in addition to being highly offensive to vote on whether students will have equal opportunity.

Governor Signs AB241 for Domestic Workers Rights

AB 241 Signing - Domestic Workers BoR photo 13891_10151725720789121_289135131_n_zpsf1df0b21.jpgBill requires overtime pay for home care workers

by Brian Leubitz

While overtime pay has been required for decades in most industries, domestic workers have always been exempted. While the logic is far from clear, home health care workers, nannies and other home care workers were simply left out of the arrangement. AB 241 changes that:

“Domestic workers are primarily women of color, many of them immigrants, and their work has not been respected in the past,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author. “Now they will be entitled to overtime, like just about every other California working person.”(LA Times)

Now, that is not to say that AB 241 goes as far as Asm. Ammiano wanted to go with his domestic workers bill. Last year’s AB 889, which was vetoed by the governor (veto message here), would have guaranteed meal breaks and other rights.  However, this bill does commission a study to review the totality of working conditions for domestic workers to be completed by 2017 and that could provide the data for further protections.

All that being said, overtime is a great first step for domestic workers, and groups like Mujeres Unidas y Activas celebrated the victory yesterday at the signing.

MUA is so proud of this victory and the role we have played in this work over the past 8 years.  We know that the work truly just begins now – the work of educating workers about their rights and employers about their responsibilities, the work of building the base of organized worker to reach the thousands and hundreds of thousands in California, the work of sharing the story and model of our organizing campaign with our sisters across the country who are just starting this journey, the work of winning even more rights and protections for domestic workers, and the work of changing our culture to respect and recognize the work that makes all other work possible.

Transgender Student Elected Homecoming Queen in Huntington Beach

Principal says “We’re proud of the message from home of the Vikings has been one of equity, acceptance, tolerance and respect.”

by Brian Leubitz

The historic Vikings weren’t very tolerant or understanding, but that’s not the case for the Vikings of Marina High School in Huntington Beach. Over the weekend, Marina High chose Cassidy Lynn Campbell as its homecoming queen. What makes that notable is that Cassidy is a transgender student living in a pretty conservative area of Orange County. While she knows there is still a lot of hate left in the community, Cassidy is a proud leader:

Cassidy Campbell says she has dealt with some negativity since she decided to run for homecoming queen. She says it’s all fueled by ignorance.

“They think that I’m just a boy doing this for fun, and I’m just a boy dressing up as a girl and trying to win a crown when that is completely the opposite of what it is,” she said. “I’ve always seen myself as a girl.”

She hopes her courage will inspire other transgender teens to live life without hiding who they are.(KABC – 7 LA)

With the passage and Jerry Brown’s signature of Asm. Ammiano’s School Success and Opportunity Act, transgender students will have the freedom to pursue every opportunity that other students have. Equality takes a fight, but with positive signs like this, it is clear that justice is winning.

Congratulations Cassidy!

Ammiano’s Trust Act for Local Discretion on Immigration Detention Headed to Governor

Tom AmmianoTrust Act would allow discretion to enforce ICE requests

by Brian Leubitz

As if to show just how polarized our nation is, California is moving towards a more humane program for immigration enforcement, just as other states are rushing past the boundaries of sanity (and the Constitution) to show how anti-immigrant they truly are. On Monday, the Senate passed Tom Ammiano’s AB 4, the so-called Trust Act, to allow local officials discretion on enforcement of voluntary ICE requests.

The bill – passed Thursday on a 24-10 vote – seeks to reduce the deportation of Californians under the discredited S-Comm program. The federal program, ostensibly designed to expel people with serious convictions, has instead resulted in the deportation of more than 95,000 people. More than two-thirds of those had either never been convicted of any crime, or convicted only of low level offenses.

The bill allows local jails to detain people for extra time after receiving requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the person has been convicted of a crime designated as a severe or violent felony. Local officials will still have the discretion to hold people, or grant release on bail, as the severity of charges warrant. These ICE requests are voluntary, according to the California Attorney General.

There are many problems with the status quo, but to really understand why it is so dangerous, consider this. If you knew that you were not in the country legally, would you call the police if you were involved in a domestic violence incident? Or just a plain old robbery? Recent research confirms that the program has led to decreased confidence in the police in Latino communities, where residents report being much less likely to contact law enforcement.

This is dangerous, flat out. End of statement. If we do not allow members of our communities, no matter what their immigration status, to communicate freely with our police officers, we are making their jobs more difficult. And we are making our communities less safe as crimes go unpunished. We are inviting criminals to a whole community of silent victims. It is a toxic brew no matter how you stir it.

Now, Asm. Ammiano tried with a similar bill last year, AB 1081, but that was vetoed. In his veto message, Brown makes a case for the use of discretion at the local level:

…Until we have immigration reform, federal agents shouldn’t try to coerce local law enforcement officers into detaining people who’ve been picked up for minor offenses and pose no reasonable threat to their community.

But I am unable to sign this bill as written. Under the bill, local officers would be prohibited from complying with an immigration detainer unless the person arrested was charged with, or has been previously convicted of, a serious or violent felony. Unfortunately, the list of offenses codified in the bill is fatally flawed because it omits many serious crimes. For example, the bill would bar local cooperation even when the person arrested has been convicted of certain crimes involving child abuse, drug trafficking, selling weapons, using children to sell drugs, or gangs. I believe it’s unwise to interfere with a sheriff’s discretion to comply with a detainer issued for people with these kinds of troubling criminal records.

The significant flaws in this bill can be fixed, and I will work with the Legislature to see that the bill is corrected forthwith.

This bill represents that compromise Brown wanted. It allows sheriffs and police departments to hold violent or dangerous undocumented immigrants under the ICE requests, but also allows communities the flexibility they need to enforce the law. This is still far from the perfect answer, that would require an overhaul of the federal S-Comm program at the very least. In the end, real solutions lie in comprehensive federal immigration reform, something the Republicans in DC seem intent on blocking.

The bill will go back to the Assembly to concur on a few Senate changes, and then back to the governor shortly thereafter.

Photo credit: Tom Ammiano at SF Progressive Convention 2007 by flickr user Steve Rhodes.

Ammiano Pushes for Better Jury Instructions on Eyewitness Testimony

Works to correct for high rate of mistaken identifications

by Brian Leubitz

TV gives a strange impression of the justice system. Jurors come in thinking that there are huge fancy crime labs where money no object in pursuit of justice. Except that, in this climate particularly, money is very much an object. And on the other side of that is the fact that people just really prefer hearing from other people that were there, that saw something, over a number on a chart.

So, eyewitness testimony is compelling. The problem however is that our eyes, and our memories, are really not that great at these types of things. We miss big things in even relatively uncomplicated situations, like say, the video to the right. And when somebody gets on the stand and says that they are just totally sure that they saw the defendant, it tends to get believed. Yet, it leaves much to be desired. Just ask Ronald Ross.

Ross is due to be released from prison this month after spending years in state prison on the basis of a wrong identification. Following efforts by the Northern California Innocence Project, prosecutors in Alameda County have said they will ask a judge to release Ross, who was convicted of attempted murder in a 2006 shooting.

“The injustice to Ronald Ross was not the only terrible result in the Alameda County case,” Asm. Tom Ammiano said. “There was also the fact that the true culprit went free and committed other crimes because police stopped looking for him. This bill will reduce the chances of both of those problems.”

The bill requires trial judges to give juries instructions about witness identification procedures. The instruction would tell jurors they could take into account the way in which identification took place, and whether it met certain criteria. The presence of that instruction would create an incentive for investigators to use more careful procedures.

Police are stretched more thin than ever, and certainly there is risk of creating ever more burdensome regulations. However, when it comes to the risk of incorrectly locking somebody up with some very powerful evidence, a little extra legwork could go a long way.

The Model for True Change

I’m proud to support Mayor Newsom for many reasons, however, as a pre-medical student, I find his advocacy of accessible healthcare especially noteworthy. When speaking to students on my campus about Mayor Newsom’s accomplishments, I exclaim that San Francisco is the birthplace of American universal healthcare, and continue on about the success of “Healthy San Francisco.” Launched in 2007 with former SF Supervisor and current Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Healthy SF has made groundbreaking efforts to provide health care access for San Francisco’s 73,000 uninsured.

Over the past 3 years, more than 50,000 SF residents have benefitted from this plan. Leaving no one behind, Mayor Newsom expanded his focus from young adults to all city residents who need affordable and accessible healthcare. While improving the quality of living in SF, Healthy SF has consistently been applauded as a model for universal health care. As such, Mayor Newsom was appointed as the chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Health Care Reform Task Force, working towards a plan for federal health care reform. Real-life experience, at both a local and national level, is why Mayor Newsom stands as the leading candidate for Lt. Governor.

What this program shows about Mayor Newsom’s character is that he is truly compassionate about the issues affecting his constituents. One of Mayor Newsom’s top priorities is ensuring that the needs of working and middle class families come first. Since the beginning of his mayorship, he has promoted societal inclusiveness through innovative programs similar to Healthy SF including SF Promise, JobsNow, and Sunday Streets. Whichever plan you look at, there is one common denominator: a consistent understanding of what people truly need.

Mayor Newsom looks towards providing Californians with the same ear, intent on listening to their problems and fighting for solutions. Under the leadership of our future Lieutenant Governor, Californians will be provided with accessible and affordable programs under the principles that guided the formation of Healthy SF.

Manisha Goud is the Los Angeles Regional Director of Students for Gavin Newsom. Join Students for Gavin Newsom on Facebook at www.facebook.com/studentsfornewsom.

Healthy San Francisco Legal Challenges End

San Francisco is a crazy political town on any number of levels, but we can get some really good progressive changes started right here. One of the best pieces of legislation we’ve crafted here is “Healthy San Francisco”, something of a universal health care plan.

It’s not what you typically think of as universal health care.  It isn’t insurance per se, rather it is just a funding mechanism that works on a sliding scale. It only works within the county, and it’s far from perfect. But, the brain child of current Asm. Tom Ammiano has been a great way to experiment with health care funding in the real world.  Mayor Newsom worked with Ammiano to get it passed, and as a result, a lot more of the community has come on board.

But, of course, all are not happy.  The restaurants of SF are the most aggrieved, apparently.  Basically the rule calls for employers to either provide insurance or pay 4% of wages to the city to pay for Healthy SF.  The Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) sued to block the measure.  

Not only that, but they also tried one of the cheesiest bits of PR that I’ve ever seen. Many eateries across the city started passing the cost directly on to the customer.  Now, that’s fine and all, I’m accustomed to paying for their expenses, but this was both dishonest and a moneymaking scheme. First, they charged a flat 4% of the bill, which really exceeded the cost of the new fee by quite a bit. But the larger issue was that they were trying to pit customers against employees by embittering customers with the 4% fee.  Do they charge 10% extra for rent? or 1% for silverware? These are the costs of doing business. And hey, guess what, you have to pay for health care for workers in SF. Suck it up and charge me an extra 50 cents for my garden burger, but don’t try to get me pissed off at my server.

And now…the end is here.  The Supreme Court today rejected GGRA’s appeal:

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review San Francisco’s Health Access Law that forces most employers to contribute to a health care plan for their workers. The decision ends a four-year battle to uphold the law’s legality.

When Healthy San Francisco was enacted it was considered groundbreaking; the city offered local health plans to the uninsured with funding through employer contributions.

Now the US Supreme Court has refused to consider a lawsuit filed by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association when the law went in effect. Deputy City Attorney Vince Chabria says this is great news for 53,000 beneficiaries of the program. (KCBS)

In the end, I wholeheartedly agree with Asm. Ammiano:

Today’s Supreme Court decision is an affirmation of San Francisco’s landmark efforts to provide affordable health care to the uninsured. With over 50,000 people receiving health care services and prescription drugs, Healthy San Francisco is a national model for what can be accomplished when the public and private sector work in partnership towards a common goal.

Marijuana Regulation Gets Some Attention in Sacramento

The Assembly Public Safety Committee, chaired by San Francisco’s Tom Ammiano, held a hearing on Ammiano’s AB 390 to legalize and regulate the sale and distribution of marijuana.

Advocates said legalization and regulation could bring as much as $1.4 billion in state and local excise and sales tax revenue per year; control the drug’s potency; do more to keep it out of children’s hands; and end a centurylong double standard in which alcohol and tobacco – which they say are more harmful – are legal while marijuana isn’t, leading to a war on drugs particularly destructive to people of color.

Law enforcement officials testified the harms caused by marijuana legalization would far outweigh whatever tax revenue it might bring – more, not less, use by children; more people driving under the influence, causing more injuries and deaths; decreased worker productivity that could hurt the economy; and a still-thriving black market. (Bay Area News 10/29/09)

As it stands, it will be a while before there are any where the number of votes necessary to pass this bill.  Beyond the majority vote measure to legalize, there is also the 2/3 part of this that would tax. Ammiano would have to convince more than just Democrats to get this thing passed.

Of course, these debates become more of an issue if any of the four measures currently out for signatures gets on the ballot. Polls have consistenly shown support for regulation and taxation of marijuana to be hovering around the 55% mark for about a year now.  Once a campaign starts, all bets are off, especially with former Senate President pro tem Don Perata throwing his weight behind one of the measures.

California Can Still Lead the Nation: Legalize Cannibis

Before I start this post, I should put this out there: I’m a nerd. Always have been, always will be. My experience with marijuana is limited to a couple of times in college and an accidental brownie in Golden Gate Park.  That being said, the statistics and research all say one thing: Marijuana is Safer than alcohol. (Again, square alert, I drink one beer a week at most and I’m tipsy at the first sniff of alcohol.)

We mentioned in an open thread a few days ago that there were a couple of initiatives that have been approved for circulation to legalize mariujana.  And one of these measures now looks like it might have some momentum behind it.

In a rather smart move all around, former State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata has joined the effort to tax and regulate marijuana.  As a candidate for Mayor of Oakland, this can’t help but be an asset in the campaign. After all, the voters in the City of Oakland recently passed a measure to tax marijuana by a vote of 80%-20%.

Given the poll numbers showing such a measure passing by about 10 points now, this certainly has a shot at passing. While the state laws would be superceded by the federal laws, the statement alone would result in a push for bringing the conversation up in DC.  If this can get on the ballot, this might be an interesting item to watch.