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California

Newsom on marriage, politics and growing up in San Francisco

The front-runner for governor reflects on his unique role in LGBT history

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Gavin Newsom at the California Democratic Convention (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

 

All the protocol and formality of speaking with California’s lieutenant governor falls quickly away the minute Gavin Newsom says hello. The former mayor of San Francisco is well ahead in his race to replace Gov. Jerry Brown, but seems eager to talk with a reporter for the LGBT community—for whom he put his career on the line in support of marriage equality.

Newsom’s decision to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004 launched him into the national political stratosphere and disrupted relationships with the Democratic Party establishment who wanted to take a slower pace on gay marriage, lest President George W. Bush and his brain trust Karl Rove score points during Bush’s reelection.

And that’s what happened. But Newsom knew he was on the right side of history and his decision resulted in a lawsuit, joined with another simultaneous lawsuit out of Los Angeles, that eventually yielded a California Supreme Court ruling granting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in May 2008.

That history is the subject of Newsom’s first campaign ad for governor, featuring photos of him officiating at the wedding of lesbian icons Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon and showing the celebration of the marriage of LA-based couple Robin Tyler and Diane Olson. There are other ads featuring Lyon, including one of Newsom visiting with her in the San Francisco hilltop apartment she and Martin shared for over 50 years.

Newsom officiating at the wedding of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. (Screenshot from campaign ad)

But unlike his expected toughest gubernatorial opponent, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Newsom seemed to just arrive in 2004 and explode LGBT history. Since the governor’s race will likely turn on character, who Newsom was before his launch informs his positions on issues.

“I care deeply about the community and I care deeply about the ongoing struggles,” Newsom said during a recent 45-minute phone interview with the Los Angeles Blade. “I care deeply about people that are still discriminated against—about what’s happening in the trans community. I care deeply about the homophobia that’s still prevalent in our society and I want to right that wrong and show the sense of obligation and responsibility, not just in my life, but to do that much more broadly as a member of the larger community.”

But why? “When I was a kid I struggled with a learning disability,” he says. “I don’t like seeing people hurt. I don’t like seeing people struggle.”

And Newsom has not forgotten that struggle. “People who are bullied don’t necessarily always think of themselves as victims. They just don’t know what to do,” he says. “I don’t want to over-dramatize but it was a struggle for decades to be in the back of the classroom. Speech therapy for years after school three days a week, getting supplemental support.”

Though his father, a judge, came from a politically well-connected family in San Francisco and was close with rich San Franciscan Gordon Getty, his mother wound up working as waitress, bookkeeper and secretary after his parents divorced.

Newsom was 14 when what was later identified as HIV/AIDS started devastating San Francisco. “I grew up with a number of people with HIV and AIDS,” he says. “I saw that firsthand.”

San Francisco, Newsom says, “is hardly perfect. My gosh, when I was growing up there was tremendous backlash against the LGBT community,” especially on Polk Street. “I remember listening to older folks talk about how the city had gone to hell [because] people were holding hands….before Castro became the Castro we know it.”

The indelible memories helped shape him. “The old Italian neighborhoods getting upset by the gay community,” he says, and then came out Supervisor Harvey Milk and his father’s friend, Mayor George Moscone, both assassinated in 1978. One of his closest friends is Eileen Getty, Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter-in-law, whose struggles with HIV/AIDS he’s watched.

“I was removed and yet observed it,” Newsom says. “And it just grounded me in a way that I felt an obligation to do something. I will never forget.”

Now seemingly the walking personification of white straight male privilege, Newsom’s character may actually be rooted in his difficulties growing up. He went to Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship, graduating with a political science degree in 1989. After a starter job in a real estate office, Newsom and friend Billy Getty started a wine business, PlumpJack Wine Shop, funded through family connections. That led to a successful empire, through which he met mayoral candidate Willie Brown in 1995. When Brown won, he appointed Newsom to the traffic commission. Two years later, Brown appointed him to fill a vacancy on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which Newsom won outright in 1998.

Newsom found himself in the middle of the domestic partnership debate with the Salvation Army on the other side and United Airlines threatening to leave the city. One day, Brown called Newsom to come to City Hall to marry people, that is, performing domestic partnership ceremonies.

At another point, Supervisor Mark Leno asked him to be the swing vote on a measure promoting gender reassignment surgery to be paid for by the city.

“It was a very tough vote,” he says. “My entire Catholic base was outraged that I voted with Mark supporting that effort. We were the first big city to do that. People said ‘people will fly in from all over the world to get operations’ and the city will go bankrupt.’ I know that’s a ludicrous argument. But it was made at the time. Those are some of the events that shaped my early years that led me to that fateful week in February of 2004 with marriage licenses.”

One of Newsom’s fiercest public critics at the time was Sen. Dianne Feinstein who said the marriage movement was moving too fast. Feinstein is running for reelection, with a primary challenge from former State Senate pro tem, Kevin de Leon, another stalwart LGBT ally.

Newsom chuckled when asked if he and Feinstein had made up. “The irony of those comments is that I went to lunch with her that Election Day,” he says, “and so I never took them personally.” He adds that when he was mayor, the two worked closely on environmental justice issues, on housing issues and structural issues.

“[Feinstein] was extraordinary during those years and I value the leadership in this state,” Newsom says about the primary challenge to the longtime senator. “But I think it’s profoundly important at this critical moment—his is not like any other moment—that seniority is not something you can take for granted. And I think she’s too important, too influential at this moment in our nation’s history.”

Newsom says he’s endorsed Feinstein but she has not endorsed him.

Newsom’s voice hints of weariness when asked about the decades-old affair with his best friend’s wife—a point delightfully highlighted by one of his Republican opponents at the May 8 gubernatorial debate. Newsom has repeatedly apologized and the woman with whom he had the affair has publicly said that what happened in this instance does not fit in with the #MeToo movement, which focuses on sexual harassment.

“I acknowledged it, I apologize for it. I learned an enormous amount from it. We were very open,” he says.

He also expresses concerns about “systemically and culturally” addressing the real issues underlying domestic violence, violent crime, school dropouts, suicides, opioid overdoses, which he identifies as “toxic masculinity.” Society devalues the feminized.

“Too often we see young boys being told to ‘man up,’ ‘be a man,’ ‘don’t be a sissy,’ ‘don’t be like your sister’—and young boys put a mask on their face,” Newsom says, “because our society expects them to behave in a ‘masculine’ way. And what happens is that they are less communicative, less engaged.” So “how we do raise our voice to be empathetic?”

Newsom is aware that such stories are particularly endemic for young gay and bisexual men. And he is moved by their stories.

“I can’t tell you how impactful those stories have been to me—of friends of mine that talk about being in the closet, talk about their struggles of coming out—and I don’t want to live in that society,” Newsom says. “I want them to live in a very different world and that’s why I continue to be a champion.”

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Northern California

Anti-LGBTQ school board members recalled after banning Pride flags

Vote took place in East Bay’s Sunol Glen Unified School District

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A parent-led movement succeeded in recalling two school board members who approved a policy to ban schools in the Sunol Glen Unified School District in the East Bay from flying a Pride flag or any flag that was not a U.S. or California state flag, according to reports.

The vote on July 2 came a year after Molleen Barnes, the superintendent and principal of Sunol Glen School, hoisted the Progress Pride flag on her campus, a little more than an hour’s drive southeast of San Francisco.

After that, two members of the Sunol Glen Unified School District — school board president Ryan Jergensen and Linda Hurley — subsequently approved the new, restricted flag policy, with a third member voting in opposition. Ted Romo accused his fellow officials of “censorship.” Romo is now the only one who kept his seat on the three-member school board.

A parent of children attending Sunol Glen, Matt Sylvester, launched the recall effort. On July 2, he and other residents voted to recall Jergensen by a vote of 254 to 218, a difference of fewer than 40 votes. For Hurley, the count was 249 to 223, leaving her just 26 votes shy of keeping her seat.

The results of the election must be certified by the Alameda County Board of Education, which will then appoint temporary replacements for the school board members until a new election can be held. That isn’t likely before November, according to reports.

Sylvester told the San Francisco Chronicle why he took action.

“They pulled a fast one on us with the flag ban resolution,” Sylvester said. “It was sneaky behavior, and then they pushed it through without listening to people. There’s been no compromise. This recall is about making a point that we will not stand for this.”

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West Hollywood

Stache closes after three years of serving WeHo

The popular bar and eatery will close its doors on July 13

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Patrons at Stache enjoying a screening of "Romeo + Juliet" on July 8, 2024, hours after owners announced the bar would be closing at the end of the week. (Social media photo)

The popular WeHo bar Stache will be closing its doors for good July 13, its owners announced via social media Monday afternoon.

“Thank you so much for all of your support since day one. Over the last three years, we’ve been a WeHo destination where everyone was welcomed and memories were made. We’ve truly cherished serving you, our community, and appreciate everyone who has been with us for this unforgettable ride,” the owners said in a post on Instagram.

“We have given Stache our best effort, however our operations no longer make sense.  It is with great sadness that we must announce that Stache’s last day of operations will be this coming Saturday, July 13th, 2024.”

“We are forever grateful to our amazing team for their dedication and hard work. We hope you’ll join us in supporting them and celebrating Stache’s last week – we’ll forever hold dear the community, friendships, and memories we’ve made.” 

Stache’s owners and PR team declined to comment further when contacted by the Los Angeles Blade. A search of Stache’s liquor license shows a clean record that would be good through July 2025.

Stache’s owners signed onto their lease in December 2019, taking over and merging the locations previously occupied by Café d’Étoile and Bumsan Organic Milk Bar. But the COVID pandemic that began three months later put all of their preparation for the bar on hold. It eventually opened in September 2021.

The restaurant originally served only vegan food, but quickly expanded its menu options.  

Over the past three years, Stache has evolved into a neighborhood hub that hosted events every night of the week, including classic gay movie screenings, a weekly drink and draw, drag shows, and dance parties. 

DJ Jon Klaft, a regular fixture at Stache since he played at its friends and family preview night back in September 2021, says the bar was an important part of the Weho scene.

“Stache has held a very special place in my heart since it opened,” Klaft says. “I’ll continue to DJ at the other bars in Weho, but really hope that whoever takes over the space keeps it a queer venue. I feel like we are losing too many spaces in the neighborhood. I’m so bummed to see stache go.”

Tributes to the bar poured in on social media.

“This wasn’t just a bar to me, this was the space within which I reclaimed a passion and a talent that I hadn’t accessed in over 20 years,” said James Farrell, an artist who was a regular attendee at Stache’s drink and draw events.

“Thank you @stacheweho for giving me my first weekly on the Boulevard! I’ll cherish the moments I had with you and the people I met in your loving walls forever!” wrote drag artist Xoana.

“Always a vibe. Always sexy. Always the most amazing staff!” wrote DJ Ivan Mariscal

Queer Here Cinema, a monthly networking and screening event for queer filmmakers, has had to cancel its July event, and announced on Instagram that it was looking for a new venue.

Several WeHo venues have changed hands recently, with Roosterfish announcing it would open in the former Pump location, the Abbey relaunching with a new owner, and Heart closing to reopen as Beaches Tropicana.

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Health

Excessive heat warning for July 4 weekend

The National Weather Service warns of dangerously high temperatures across the region

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LOS ANGELES — As a punishing heat wave grips California, Los Angeles officials have issued an excessive heat warning through July 8, prompting the city to open additional cooling centers and urge residents to take precautions.

The National Weather Service warns of dangerously high temperatures across the region, with some areas expecting highs up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit (47.8 Celsius). Death Valley could see temperatures rise above 130 degrees (55 Celsius).

In response, the City of Los Angeles is opening four augmented cooling centers from July 3 to July 8, operating from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. These include the Fred Roberts Recreation Center in South Los Angeles, Mid-Valley Senior Center in Panorama City, Lake View Terrace Recreation Center, and Jim Gilliam Recreation Center in Baldwin Hills.

More than 70 Los Angeles public libraries are available as cooling spots during regular hours. Residents can find locations and hours at LAPL.org/Branches.

“We’re taking this heat wave very seriously,” said Mayor Karen Bass. “These cooling centers provide critical relief, especially for our most vulnerable residents.”

City officials advise residents to stay hydrated, limit sugary and alcoholic beverages, and avoid outdoor activities during peak heat hours. They also encourage checking on vulnerable neighbors and keeping pets cool and hydrated.

The heat wave coincides with heightened fire danger in Southern California. A Red Flag Warning is in effect from Thursday evening through Friday night for parts of Ventura County and the Antelope Valley, with gusty winds and low humidity creating critical fire weather conditions.

“If fire ignition occurs, conditions are favorable for extreme fire behavior which would threaten life and property,” the National Weather Service warned.

As the state faces this prolonged period of extreme heat, authorities stress the importance of community awareness and preparedness. Residents are urged to stay informed about local conditions and follow safety guidelines to protect themselves and others from heat-related illnesses and potential fire hazards.

Where to stay cool around the City of West Hollywood: 


  • Plummer Park’s Senior Lounge (7377 Santa Monica Blvd)
    • The City’s Cooling Center is open during periods of extreme heat (above 90 degrees).
    • For more information regarding the City of West Hollywood’s cooling center, please call (323) 848-6530. 
  • West Hollywood Library (625 N. San Vicente Blvd) – Cooling Center operated by LA County 
  • Will & Ariel Durant Branch Library (7140 W. Sunset Blvd) – Cooling Center operated by LA County  
  • West Hollywood Aquatics & Recreation Center (ARC) (8750 El Tovar Pl) – community members can visit the pool to get relief from the heat. For more information, please visit the ARC webpage.

The City provides free transportation to Plummer Park through its Cityline service. Cityline is a friendly and accessible alternative to the larger bus system and all shuttles are ADA-accessible. Cityline operates Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and shuttles arrive approximately every 30 minutes. For additional information and a detailed route map, visit www.weho.org/cityline.

Safety Tips For Angelenos To Avoid Heat Injury

  • Seek shade and refuge from the hot sun if you must be outside.
  • Stay hydrated and drink more water, especially if you drink coffee or soda.
  • Check in on and prepare your household, family, friends, pets and workplace.
  • Limit your exposure to direct sunlight between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • If you feel ill, tell someone immediately. Symptoms of dehydration and heat illness may include dizziness, fatigue, faintness, nausea, muscle cramps, headache and vomiting.
  • Symptoms of heat stroke include:
    • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
    •  Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
    •  Fast, strong pulse
    •  Headache
    •  Dizziness
    •  Nausea
    •  Confusion
    •  Losing consciousness (passing out)
  • In the event of a heat stroke:
    • Call 911 right away-heat stroke is a medical emergency
    • Move the person to a cooler place
    • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
    • Do not give the person anything to drink
  • Listen to your body, and remember that those with chronic illness such as asthma, heart disease etc., are more vulnerable to extreme heat. Please take extra precautions. 
  • Click here for more safety tips from the Los Angeles Fire Department.
  • Click here for safety tips in multiple languages including English, Spanish, Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and more.
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West Hollywood

WeHo unveils ‘Profit with Purpose’ plan at State of the City 2024

Craig Berberian presented with Ed Levin Award for Design Excellence

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West Hollywood Mayor John M. Erickson delivers opening remarks at State of the City 2024 on July 1, 2024. (Photo courtesy of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce)

The City of West Hollywood and its chamber of commerce joined forces Tuesday to host the State of the City 2024 event, bringing together community leaders and experts to discuss “Progressive Economics: Putting Progress Back in Progressive.”

The annual gathering, held 1 Hotel West Hollywood, aimed to highlight the city’s achievements, outline future initiatives, and explore strategies for fostering inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the 1.9-square-mile city known for its vibrant culture and diverse community.

Mayor John M. Erickson delivered the keynote address, emphasizing West Hollywood’s commitment to innovation and sustainable development.

“Our city continues to be a beacon of progress, combining economic vitality with our core values of inclusivity and sustainability,” Erickson said.

City Manager David Wilson echoed this sentiment, stating, “We’re not just talking about progress; we’re actively implementing policies that make West Hollywood a model for progressive urban economics.”

The event featured a panel discussion on progressive economics, moderated by Jonathan K. Wilson, chair of the West Hollywood Social Justice Advisory Board. Panelists included California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, LAEDC President Stephen Cheung, UCLA Anderson School of Management Professor Avanidhar Subrahmanyam, and local business owner Jacob Shaw.

Ma emphasized the state’s role in supporting local economic initiatives.

“West Hollywood’s approach aligns perfectly with our statewide efforts to create an economy that works for everyone,” she said.

From left: West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Genevieve Morrill; WeHo Chamber of Commerce Chair David Wood; Craig Berberian, founder and managing partner of the Empire Property Group; California State Treasurer Fiona Ma; and Jorge Nariño of Levin-Nariño Architects. (Photo courtesy of Willa Cutolo)

Stephen Cheung highlighted the importance of balancing growth with community needs.

“Progressive economics isn’t just about numbers; it’s about creating opportunities that uplift all segments of society,” Cheung noted.

A highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of the Ed Levin Award for Design Excellence to Craig Berberian, founder and managing partner of Empire Property Group. The award, named after the late architect and civic leader Ed Levin, recognizes significant contributions to West Hollywood’s architectural landscape.

Upon receiving the award, Berberian expressed his gratitude and commitment to the city’s development.

“This prestigious recognition inspires me and Empire Property Group to continue pushing the boundaries of design, creativity, and innovation,” he said. “Adopting a resident-first approach coupled with a sustainable lens has the power to transform living spaces and enhance the lives of our residents.”

Berberian also praised the city’s leadership, adding, “Thanks to the strong leadership of our mayor, the City Council, and the city manager, the city continues to be a highly desirable place to live, work and play. In a mere 1.9 square miles, it encapsulates rich artistic culture, bustling entertainment, a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, and a tight-knit residential community.”

The event also served as a platform to bid farewell to Deborah Kallick, vice president of government and industry relations for Cedars Sinai Medical Center, who stepped down after 22 years as a chamber board member. Her tenure was marked by dedicated service and significant contributions to the community.

David Wood, chair of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, underscored the importance of public-private partnerships in driving economic prosperity.

“Our collaboration with the city government has been instrumental in navigating challenges and seizing opportunities for growth,” Wood said.

Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, added, “Events like these are crucial for fostering dialogue and aligning our efforts towards a common goal of a thriving, inclusive West Hollywood.”

The State of the City event comes at a time when many urban centers are grappling with post-pandemic economic recovery and social equity issues. West Hollywood’s focus on progressive economics signals its intent to address these challenges head-on, balancing economic growth with social responsibility.

As the city looks to the future, the discussions and recognitions at this year’s State of the City event reflect a community committed to innovation, sustainability, and inclusive growth. With its unique blend of culture, commerce, and community, West Hollywood continues to position itself as a leader in urban development and progressive policies.

State of the City concluded with networking opportunities for attendees, connecting business leaders, city officials, and community members.

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California

San Francisco Pride shines bright amid celebration and controversy

Pro-Palestine activists marched in parade

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Illuminate, a San Francisco arts nonprofit, brought back rainbow lasers over Market Street for Pride. (Photo courtesy of Illuminate)

San Francisco’s Pride celebration this weekend was marked by both celebration and controversy, featuring celebrity appearances, a record-breaking flag display and pro-Palestine protests that reflected similar disruptions across North America.

Billy Porter, “Pose” star and Tony Award winner, led the parade as grand marshal, performing original songs and a number from “Kinky Boots” on the main stage in front of City Hall.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Porter, wearing the same yellow pantsuit she donned as a guest judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” in 2022.

Pelosi delivered a powerful message of support for the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender individuals, as they face increasing political attacks in Republican-led states.

“We in San Francisco are a community, an LGBTQ community,” Pelosi said. “And right now, we have a message for the world — that we stand behind our trans brothers and sisters.”

The city unveiled what organizers claim is the world’s largest Pride flag — a 4.1-mile rainbow laser display stretching above Market Street from the Embarcadero to Twin Peaks.

Created by 20 lasers, the installation commemorated 20 years since San Francisco’s first official same-sex marriages, initiated by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004. While those 4,000 marriages were later invalidated by the state Supreme Court, they paved the way for full legalization of same-sex marriage in California in 2013.

However, the weekend was not without setbacks. The annual Dyke March was cancelled at the last minute due to organizational turmoil.

KQED reported that the volunteer committee has faced conflicts over racism and trans inclusion for several years, leading to mass resignations last month. In lieu of the march, community members gathered at Dolores Park for the traditional Pink Saturday event.

New leadership is actively recruiting diverse members to help organize a march for 2025.

Pro-Palestine groups made their presence known throughout the weekend. A contingent of about 200 marched in the main Pride Parade on Sunday, shouting “Free Palestine” as they followed directly behind parade organizers, SF Gate reported.

Other groups boycotted the parade and held an alternative “No Pride in Genocide” march near the Castro district, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT).

“We are boycotting SF Pride because a lot of the organizations and politicians involved are not supportive of Palestinians,” Jon Ramirez Monaco, a QUIT activist, told the San Francisco Standard. The alternative march criticized corporate sponsorship of the main Pride festival and participation of pro-Israel groups and politicians.

Similar protests disrupted Pride events across North America. In New York, demonstrators threw fake blood at a Human Rights Campaign float and temporarily blocked the parade route at Christopher Street and Waverly Place.

Protesters held banners reading “No Queer Liberation without Palestinian Liberation” and “Palestine Will Be Free” before being removed and arrested by NYPD officers.

In Toronto, a group of about thirty protesters calling themselves the Coalition Against Pinkwashing blocked the parade route approximately three and a half hours after it began. Pride Toronto ultimately decided to cancel the remainder of the parade, citing public safety concerns.

“We made the decision to cancel the remainder of the parade out of our commitment to ensuring public safety,” Pride Toronto said in a statement on X. “While we deeply respect and uphold everyone’s right to peacefully protest, our foremost priority is the well-being of all participants and spectators.”

As Pride celebrations continue to evolve, organizers face the challenge of balancing celebration with activism, addressing both ongoing LGBTQ rights issues and broader global concerns. The events in San Francisco, New York, and Toronto highlight the complex intersection of LGBTQ rights, corporate involvement, and international politics within the Pride movement.

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Los Angeles County

HONOR PAC launches petition to oust NALEO’s new president over Pride flag vote

Downey City Councilmember Claudia Frometa has faced scathing criticism

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In a bold move, HONOR PAC, the leading LGBTQ Latino political action committee, has launched a high-profile petition campaign calling for the removal of Claudia Frometa as the newly elected board president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.

The petition, which is spreading rapidly under the hashtags #removeClaudiaFrometa and #PrideFlagSavesLives, comes in response to Frometa’s controversial vote to ban the flying of the Pride flag in Downey. HONOR PAC is rallying NALEO supporters, members, sponsors, and allied organizations to sign on, arguing that Frometa’s actions are incompatible with NALEO’s mission of inclusive representation.

HONOR PAC President Mario Ceballos stated, “We are asking all justice-minded individuals and organizations to stand up in support of LGBTQ+ visibility, pride, safety, and hope. NALEO should be a leader in advancing dignity and civic engagement for all in the United States — not in silencing or making anyone invisible.”

The petition emphasizes the disconnect between NALEO’s recent conference, which highlighted the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the election of Frometa, who voted against flying the Pride flag in her city. HONOR PAC argues that this decision goes beyond a simple policy change, viewing it as an attempt to erase LGBTQ presence in the community.

Eddie Martinez, gay news, Washington Blade
Huntington Park Councilmember Eddie Martinez

Support for the petition is growing among LGBTQ Latino elected officials.

Huntington Park Councilmember Eddie Martinez, who is the executive director of the Latino Equality Alliance, expressed his disappointment and called for NALEO to address the issue with its LGBTQ membership.

“As a gay man who is also an elected official, I am keenly aware of the importance leadership makes in lifting community and family acceptance of LGBTQ members in the jurisdictions we serve,” he explained. “It is the type of visible and cultural support that can make a difference for the long-term health and mental health of the LGBTQ community and our families.”

“At a time when young Latinos are shown to be disproportionately affected with HIV due to cultural barriers to LGBTQ acceptance, it is critically important our national Latino leaders do all we can to stop homophobia instead of perpetuating it,” he added.

El Monte Councilmember Martin Herrera went further, describing the “neutral flag policy” as “dog whistle politics of anti-LGBTQ hate.”

HONOR PAC is leveraging social media to amplify its message, encouraging supporters to share personal stories about the importance of LGBTQ visibility in Latino communities. The organization is also coordinating with other LGBTQ groups to broaden the campaign’s reach.

As part of their strategy, HONOR PAC is offering resources for supporters to contact NALEO directly, providing template letters and talking points. They’re also planning virtual town halls to discuss the impact of Frometa’s election on LGBTQ Latino representation in politics.

The petition campaign has sparked a broader conversation about the intersection of Latino and LGBTQ identities in American politics. HONOR PAC maintains that NALEO’s choice of leadership sends a powerful message about whose voices are valued within the Latino political community.

“I am surprised to learn that NALEO chose a president who has a track record of opposing the LGBTQ+ community. NALEO has been a proven partner and ally in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt in assuming they were unaware of her anti-LGBTQ+ actions when they elected her. I urge my friends at NALEO to revisit this decision., said Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang, who is president of Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Elected Officials.

“NALEO’s mission is to ensure full Latino participation in the American political process, and that needs to include LGBTQ+ Latino elected officials. I am alarmed that the organization’s new President actively worked to ensure that the Pride Flag will never be flown over Downey’s City Hall. It is hurtful that NALEO’s Board of Directors would advance someone with a harmful track record against the LGBTQ+ community, especially in a predominately Latino city where our LGBTQ+ youth need to know they are supported and accepted in their hometown. I urge the NALEO Board of Directors to reconsider Councilmember Claudia Frometa’s leadership role and assure all Latino elected officials that NALEO is a safe and affirming space for us,” Alhambra Vice Mayor Sasha Renée Pérez told Los Angeles Blade.

Critics of the petition argue that Frometa’s vote was about government neutrality rather than anti-LGBTQ sentiment. However, HONOR PAC contends that such “neutral” policies often serve to marginalize already vulnerable communities.

However, given Frometa’s past opposition to LGBTQ+ celebrations, neutrality may not be her goal in supporting a ban on the Pride flag.

As Jeff Prang points out, in 2021 Mario Trujillo sponsored a measure in support a Pride celebration hosted by the City of Downey. It passed 4-1 with Frometa as the sole dissent. “Unfortunately,” said Prang, “2”two of councilmembers who voted in favor of Pride in 2021 have left the council and were replaced by LGBTQ opponents.”

As the petition gains momentum, all eyes are on NALEO to see how the organization will respond. The controversy highlights the ongoing challenges of balancing diverse perspectives within identity-based political organizations.

The Los Angeles Blade, which previously broke news of her appointment as president of NALEO’s board, has reached out several times for comment.

Those interested in signing the petition or learning more about the campaign can contact HONOR PAC at [email protected]. The organization is urging supporters to act quickly, emphasizing the critical nature of this moment for LGBTQ Latino representation in national politics.

Readers can view and sign the petition here.

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Los Angeles County

Downey official who banned Pride flag elected to lead influential national Latino political group

Claudia Frometa elected president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials

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Defiantly raising the Rainbow Flag in Downey after Council Votes 3-2 to Ban It On City Property

Claudia Frometa, a Downey city councilmember who ardently defended her vote to end the city’s policy of flying the rainbow flag during Pride Month, was elected president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials during the group’s national conference on June 21.

NALEO, which represents more than 6,800 Latino elected and appointed officials, is an influential political group that was previously led by gay California State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who was president of the group in 2020.

Frometa’s election has raised concerns among LGBTQ Latino politicians, including Downey’s gay mayor, Mario Trujillo, who opposed the flag ban.

HONOR PAC, the prominent LGBTQ group that supports Latino candidates, expressed “deep disappointment” in the election of Frometa and posted a statement to Instagram:

“The 2024 NALEO Conference concluded with a clarion call about the importance and power of diversity, equity and inclusion. Ironically, it also just elected @claudiafrometafordowney,
who recently voted to never again allow the city of Downey, (Calif.) to fly the Pride flag, as its newest president,” the statement Mario Ceballos, President of HONORPAC wrote.

“NALEO is an important national leader committed to creating visibility, protecting, and defending justice and equality for all.”

“Many of us at HONOR PAC are naturalized citizens because of NALEO. Our community is better because of NALEO: For these reasons, HONOR PAC is deeply disappointed with the appointment of @claudiafrometofordowney to this important national role.”

“The Pride flag,” the HONOR PAC statement reads, “is a symbol of pride, inclusion, safety, and hope. Ms. Frometa’s vote on a motion disguised as a ‘neutral flag’ policy was nothing more than an attempt to silence and ignore the voices and lives of all LGBTQ+ Downey residents and those who love them.”

HONOR PAC further declared, “Ms. Frometa’s vote on this motion a shameless and violent act against our LGBTQ+ brethren whether they are out of the closet or still struggling to come out of what many know to be a dark and lonely place.”

Downey in May voted in favor (a 3-2 vote) of restricting flag flying on city property to only U.S., California and prisoners-of-war flags. The decision reversed a 2021 policy that allowed the Pride flag to be displayed throughout June.

Trujillo maintains the vote was part of an organized political attack on the LGBTQ community, lobbied for by MassResistance, an anti-LGBTQ group classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

MassResistance has allegedly played a role in opposing and, in some cases reversing LGBTQ supportive programs policies in schools across the nation.

The vote shook the community and sparked a regional backlash, prompting Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn to organize an Pride flag raising ceremony outside the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey on June 3.

LA County Department of Education defiantly raises Pride in Downey. (Photo by Bryan Chan for the LA County Board of Supervisors)

Frometa denied anti-LGBTQ sentiment motivated her vote. 

At a June 11 council meeting, Frometa doubled down, “For any individual to say we are anti-LGBTQ community is incorrect,” citing continued funding for the city’s Pride festival.

Supporters of the new flag policy argued that restricting it to official state flags promotes neutrality.

Other Southern California areas have implemented similar flag restrictions, including Huntington Beach, Temecula, and Redlands.

The Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Elected Officials Association at the time expressed disappointment, stating the Pride flag promotes inclusivity, especially for LGBTQ+ youth.

HONOR PAC’s statement denouncing Frometa’s elevation to the presidency of NALEO concluded with a forceful denouncement which it hopes resonates with the membership of NALEO: “Shame on you @claudiafrometafordowney for not upholding full and equal rights for all so each can pursue his/her/their happiness as our U.S,” the statement concludes.

NALEO plays a critical role in Latino participation in American politics. As its new president, Frometa will lead efforts in leadership development, policy research and advocacy for Latino issues.

Some LGBTQ advocates worry Frometa’s election could indicate gains by anti-LGBTQ groups within Latino political leadership.

“Attending my first NALE0 conference, it was disappointing to learn that the organization’s leadership selected an individual to lead the board after she publicly voted to ban a flag that symbolizes hope for our LGBTQ youth and families in a predominantly Latine/x community. NALEO needs to address this issue with its LGBTQ membership,” noted City of Huntington Park Councilmember Eddie Martinez.

“It is hurtful and disappointing that NALEO, an organization promoting Latino participation in the political process should elevate a member who has disenfranchised LGBTQ+ members of their community, many of whom are Latinx. 

“The “neutral flag policy” she helped to pass in her city is nothing more than the dog whistle politics of anti-LGBTQ hate. Such an act is inconsistent with NALEO’s values,” said Martin Herrera, Councilmember, City of El Monte & Secretary of the LA County Lgbtq+ Elected Officials (LACLEO)

“I’m disheartened to see NALEO elect a President that doesn’t stand with the LGBTQ+ community.  The actions of their new President do great harm to members of our community and NALEO should be a welcome and opening space for all and not just for some but the actions of their new leader make me doubt their commitment to inclusivity and equality for all,”  said West Hollywood Mayor John M Erickson, Ph.D. & LACLEO Boardmember

I am surprised to learn that NALEO chose a president who has a track record of opposing the LGBTQ+ community. NALEO has been a proven partner and ally in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt in assuming they were unaware of her anti-LGBTQ+ actions when they elected her. I urge my friends at NALEO to revisit this decision., said Jeff Prang, Assessor, Los Angeles County & President, LACLEO

An unnamed LGBTQ politician from Downey told the Los Angeles Blade, “I’m very concerned about the development with NALEO. It’s important that her gaslighting not be forgotten and that it ends. She rode tearing our flag down to national prominence, buoyed by our enemies, and she will continue to blame us for being upset about it. “

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LA County Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers beach vandalized

The tower had homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols spray painted on it and its windows were broken out

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Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach vandalized. (Screenshot/YouTube Fox 11 LA)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach was vandalized Monday evening or early Tuesday morning with homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols were spray painted on it and the windows were broken out.

“Hate has no place in Los Angeles County. We will not back down from celebrating and protecting our LGBTQ+, Jewish, and Black communities – among our many diverse communities – across Los Angeles County. This act of hatred reminds us why our continued commitment to solidarity is necessary,”  L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said in a statement to the Blade. “We are working with our County departmental partners to repaint Lifeguard Tower 18 at the historic and beloved Ginger Rogers Beach.”

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Los Angeles County

LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day

Mobile phone apps are often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied

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LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day. (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7 Eyewitness News)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted Tuesday to ban mobile phone use during the school day starting in January of 2025. The ban is a complete prohibition against access and use of mobile phones by students on all LAUSD school campuses, including break periods.

“No matter what we bring to the board in the next four months, it will come with an awareness campaign for all stakeholders including students, but advances also the critical element of pursuing litigation against social media giants for their careless, irresponsible and immoral actions that have put kids across the country in the position they’re in today,” said LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

There was dissension as two school board members opposed the ban citing how difficult it would be for employees of the second largest school district in the country to enforce the ban and stay on top of it, KABC 7 reported.

Nick Melvoin, the LAUSD school board member for District 4, who spearheaded the ban, spoke with KABC 7:

“When I talk to teachers and students and parents… I also hear the same, which is that more and more time is being spent on policing student phone use. There’s not a coherent enforcement and they’re looking for some support from the board and from the district,” Melvoin said Tuesday. “The schools that have gone farther and that have already implemented a phone-free school day report incredible results. Kids are happier, they’re talking to one another, their academics are up.”

Some parents and others are opposed to the ban telling KABC that they wanted to be able to communicate with their children. Others however see the ban as a means to improve learning and lead to less bullying.

On Monday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy wrote an op-ed calling for warning labels for younger users on social media platforms.

With mobile phone apps most often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied as is a majority of cases for LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans and gender non-conforming youth, limiting school day usage could mitigate a portion of those instances a San Fernando Valley youth mental health crisis counselor, who asked to remain unidentified, told the Blade Tuesday afternoon.

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Los Angeles County

New on the LA County Channel

You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

New on the County Channel

A Food Equity Grant Program funded by LA County and the American Rescue Plan helps community organizations like Alma Backyard Farms create a new food system for County residents.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

Celebrating Juneteenth

LA County Celebrates Juneteenth

In celebration of Juneteenth 2024 and as a representation of the County’s commitment to the hard but necessary work of reparations, the County will provide free admission and access on or around June 19, 2024, to participating museums and beaches in Los Angeles County for eligible LA County residents who are lineal descendants of an African-American Chattel enslaved person (descendants of enslaved people who were abducted from their African homelands by force to be enslaved in North America) or of a free African-American person living in the United States prior to the end of the 19th Century (“Community of Eligibility Residents”).

To receive free museum admission and beach parking on or around June 19, 2024, as described above, and be considered for eligibility in any future reparations or benefits under the County’s Reparations Initiative or any other applicable local or state program, please click here.

Join LA County in celebrating Juneteeth at Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell’s 4th Annual Juneteeth Celebration and Resource Fair on Friday, June 21, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This event features music, food trucks, live performances, access to County services, resources, fun activities, and more! All residents are welcome to attend this FREE event. We encourage you to register and forward this email to your friends and neighbors! Register here

In Case You Missed It

The Works App

From reporting potholes to finding critical services, it’s LA County at your fingertips.

The Works App empowers you to report:

  • Issues like potholes, graffiti, overgrown trees, and blocked storm drains
  • Property-related concerns and suspected violations
  • Illegal dumping activities affecting our streets and environment
  • Maintenance needs of trails and facilities in County parks

Keep up to date with the County’s latest news on upcoming events. Locate the nearest LA County offices, libraries, shuttle buses, and other services.

Download The Works for iPhone or Android today and transform how you connect with LA County!

At Your Service

Boost Your Business and Elevate a Career

Partner with the LA County Department of Economic Opportunity through Youth at Work Elevate to get your business matched with a highly motivated youth intern.

Potential youth participants between the ages of 17-24 in will receive paid work experience, training, and mentorship to prepare youth for in-demand and diverse career pathways. 100% of the youths’ wages will be covered for up to 400 hours.

Businesses in high-growth or post pandemic emerging sectors including healthcare, infrastructure, trade and logistics, e-commerce, transportation and warehousing, advanced manufacturing, entertainment and creative arts, informational technology, and hospitality are encouraged to apply.

A dedicated representative will be assigned to help eligible businesses through the entire process. Youth eligibility requirements include: Current or former foster youth, justice-impacted, current or previous experience with housing instability/homelessness, and LGBTQ+ youth.

Learn more here

Out and About

Parks After Dark Returns

Parks After Dark is Back for the 2024 Summer Season! Enjoy FREE Activities at 34 LA county parks! Join us for concerts, movie nights, fitness and wellness activities, food, games and more! F Also returning this year is our “Resource Fair Thursday’s”. To learn more, click here.

Photo Finish

Destination Crenshaw – an American Rescue Plan Creative Recovery Grantee.
(Photo: Los Angeles County/Mayra Beltran Vasquez)

Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

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