Archive | On Scene With Bill Wilson

On Scene with Bill Wilson: On the Biden Trail

Photo ACommonwealthClub2007res600Then Senator Biden at Commonwealth Club in 2007

This column is a combination of words – spoken by the Vice President at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in Los Angeles and written by me in response. Vice President Biden’s words are in italics and are taken from the White House website.

I was raised by a truly gracious and decent man.  He taught me and my sister and my two brothers that — a simple truth, that every single person in the world is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.  And he taught us by his example, not by his lectures.

I can remember I was a junior in high school, and he was driving me into Wilmington to apply for a job as a lifeguard in the city swimming pools.  …

 I’ll never forget it, he pulled up in front of the city courthouse where we went and made the application.  And he didn’t want to park, he was dropping me off.  And we stopped at a red light.  When I looked over to my left, and there were two men kissing good-bye, and I looked, and it was the first time I’d seen that.  And my father looked at me and said, they love each other.  …

It was April of 2012.  I was campaigning for Democratic candidates around the country, and I was here in Los Angeles with leaders of the LGBT community of Southern California at the home of Michael Lombardo and Sonny Ward, and a young man, who was standing against the wall in the living room as I was answering questions, that young man was Chad (Grifffin President of Human Rights Campaign)  And Chad asked me one of the most sincere and plaintive questions I’ve ever been asked in my political career, particularly on this issue.  He looked at me and just asked a simple question.  He said, Mr. Vice President, what do you think of me?  A simple, straightforward question:  What do you think — I’d never meet him before.  What he was saying was, what do you think of me, I am a homosexual.  What do you think of me?

PhotoB040400res600 Chad Griffin addresses the 2012 HRC dinner in San Francisco

No one ever asked me that question before, and it made me sad to think that anyone — any of you in this audience, any of my acquaintances, my friends, my employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender have to go through any part of your life looking at people who don’t know you and wondering, what do they think of me.  What do you think of me?  What a profound question.

And all I could think of was, if all Americans understood that there are people with different sexual orientations in every walk of life, every sector of America, every nook and cranny of this country, and that you are no different.  You are us.  We are one.  And all I could think to say to Chad — it was spontaneous was — I wish every American could have been in the kitchen. 

I walked into Michael and Sonny’s home through the kitchen.  They were standing there, and their two beautiful, young children — five and seven — were standing between their parents.  And the first thing I did, the little girl put her arms out — actually the little boy did first, so I bent down, crouched and gave them a big hug.  And we talked a little bit before I even said hi to Sonny who was standing at my right.  And after a few minutes, the little girl turned to her father and said, Daddy, is it okay if the Vice President comes out in the backyard and plays with me and you speak?

Photo CSenatorBiden_Senator John Glenn listens as Senator Biden questions a witness during a Senate hearing in the 1970s.

And all I could think of was, I mean this sincerely, folks, if every American could have just been there and seen the love these kids had for their parents, just seen how normal it all was … they wouldn’t have any doubt about what the right policy is, what the right thing to do.  And it reinforced in me the certitude that the only way to prevail is to continue to step up and speak out because we are all one.  People fear that which they do not know.  And you all continue to do that. That’s why things are changing.  Not because of Barack Obama or Joe Biden, but because of you.  It’s powerful.  It’s powerful.

So I mean what I said at the front end, thank you for not only liberating people who have been persecuted and pummeled, but thank you for getting us in the way of liberating all of America.  It’s a fight we will win.  I don’t have a single, solitary doubt in my mind.  I am absolutely confident my grandchildren’s generation has already moved and will continue to move far beyond the prejudice of the past and of today.  That’s why I’m so confident that the future is only going to get better.

I heard that you gave a great speech at the HRC dinner in LA, but it wasn’t until Stuart Milk posted a link to it at the White House website that I had a chance to read it and get the full impact. It brought tears to my eyes. I worked as a clerical assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) from April 22, 1972 until September of 1979. At the time I was very deeply closeted and believed that if I looked anyone in the eye they would be able to tell I was gay. I can tell you the exact spot in the basement of the Russell Senate Office building where I was when I realized that I could walk the hallways with my head up. I know it sounds so pathetic, but back then there were no positive role models for being gay and certainly no Vice President or President was saying the encouraging words we hear from you and President Obama.

I was attending the University of Utah in Salt Lake City when Vice President Agnew came to campaign for some local Republican candidates in 1970. He spoke at an outdoor rally. I was among the group of anti-war protesters who gathered across the street that he was referring to when he said, “When I look across the beautiful Great Salt Lake the only pollution I see is the social kind.”

Photo DBiden001res Photo signed by then Senator Biden in 1977.

  My friends …worked for you when you first came to the Senate. I took photos at the reception Senator and Mrs. Hollings held in the Senate Caucus room for you and Dr. Biden. No one at that time knew I was gay because that was something I wasn’t even admitting to myself. So when you signed a photo that I took of you with the words, “You’ve been a great help to us and a fine friend.” I wondered if you knew my secret would you still have called me a friend. All these years later I learn that the answer would have been yes. I’m not sure that I can put into words what a powerful affirmation that is for me.

So part of the tears I shed while reading your speech where tears of regret that I wasted so much time and energy maintaining my closet when my fears of rejection were unfounded. There were also tears of joy for having survived long enough to see legal recognition for the love I have for my husband, Fernando. We’ve been together sine October of 1986. We were legally recognized as Domestic Partners in San Francisco since 1991 and in District of Columbia since 1992. We were married on February 12, 2004 and because the California Supreme Court declared our marriage as null and void, we were remarried on June 17, 2008.

Fernando was born and raised in Italy. He came to the United States as a graduate student in 1979 and is now a United States citizen. So I have an acute awareness of the issues that face gay communities abroad. It made me feel immense pride that the US Embassy had a contingent in the 2011 EuroPride parade held in Rome. As more countries follow the examples of Russia and Uganda and pass laws against gay people the work only becomes more necessary and urgent. It makes such a big difference that the Obama administration understands on all levels that need and urgency.

PhotoE_0012res600The US Embassy’s contingent in the EuroPride Parade in Rome, Italy 2011

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

It is about eight months before the midterm elections of 2014. The political “pundits” have already predicted the Republican takeover of the Senate. After years of relentless attacks it seems that the more motivated voters will be those who hate Obama. We’ve taken Joe McGinniss’ The Selling of the President to unbelievable heights. Not only can we package candidates like soap, but we can do it with “corporations are people” money and no one has to be accountable.

 

PhotoA082822resMoney makes the world go round.

 So what is it that makes so predictable the fact that people can be persuaded to vote against their own interests? We claim we want government to be responsive to our needs, but we reward the party that shut it down with control over the whole legislative branch.  Does it make sense to anyone that some how gridlock will be lessened by giving power to those whose biggest priority has been to make President Obama a failure?

PhotoB038551resPresident Obama on his way to the next fundraiser

 So the knot in my stomach has already begun to tighten and it is only going to get worse before it gets better. That’s the way the cliché goes, but quite frankly I’m not sure that it will be getting better within what is left of my time. (In twenty years I’ll be in my 80’s.) But there is still that part of me that wants to believe that the best will happen and Republicans will not get control of the legislative branch of the government. So I do what I can, donate what I can, and occasionally vent by writing columns.

 

 

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Goat Edition

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Buffalo jumps for joy at being on top of the hay bales.

City Grazing has got your goat. No kidding (although 28 mothers have recently given birth to 50 baby goats), the herd located at 101 Cargo Way has the solution to your backyard jungle that will become a fire hazard if left unattended – goats. You may have seen them eating poison oak near the Presidio Gates or eliminating invasive blackberry bushes in Bernal Heights. They have trimmed the weeds at the reservoir near Miraloma Park neighborhood or perhaps you have a neighbor who has used the service of hungry goats to control weeds in their yard.

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Playing chicken with the real thing.

City Grazing recently held an open house at their home in the southeast sector of the city to show the newest members of their herd and raise awareness of this ecological approach to fire prevention. Whether it is a small group of 3 to 5 goats to help manage a backyard in the city or larger groups for bigger areas, City Grazing has the animals that can fulfill your needs. The recent record drought will only expand the need for their services.

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Sharing with kids.

The overall impression I came away with having spent several hours at the open house was that the staff and volunteers really views these animals as almost human. They don’t treat them as goats they treat them as individuals with personality and quirks of their own. I witnessed the fact that the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t fore it to drink” does not apply to goats. Put them on a leash and they want to go any which way but forward.

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It was his large ears that earned this kid the name Spock.

You can get your goat(s) at City Grazing by going to their website www.citygrazing.com

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On Scene with Bill Wilson and the Popes

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Pope Francis during a General Audience in St Peter’s Square April, 2013. Photo by Bill Wilson

 The first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis provides me with an excuse to use one of my photos of the pontiff taken during my stay in Rome last April. I have been amused at his unpredictability and the lengths more conservative elements of the church (ex. Cardinal Dolan) go to explain what he really meant when he said….

But I leave to more knowledgeable church scholars the debate over the implications of Pope Francis’ first year. I’m just grateful for the opportunity I had to see him up close. As I looked back over the most recent history I found a reason to go back a hundred years. I recently purchased a postcard of Pope Pius X in the Vatican Gardens. It was sent from Rome to a Mrs. C. F. Biggert of Sayner, Wisconsin on August 8, 1914.

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Postmarked 3- VIII – 1914 sent by a person with the initials HC. From the Collection of Bill Wilson

 The origins of World War I had their start in the July crisis of 1914. On June 28, of that year Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo. This event caused diplomatic maneuverings which ultimately involved all the European powers and  lead to World War I. That is what the writer of this postcard refers to when making the comment, “I planned to go up to Innsbruck in Austria & come down to sail from Trieste on the Adriatic, but the Austrian war will doubtless prevent.” And then after some personal remarks the writer adds a panicked post script, “I just learn that all ships are cancelled & we can’t leave Europe.” Did H. C. make it back to America? Unanswerable.

 

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Pope Pius X walks in the Vatican Gardens. From the collection of Bill Wilson

 

I made a further discovery about the historical nature of this postcard when I looked up information about Pope Pius X. According to information I found on the internet, Pope Pius X became ill on August 15 and died on August 20, 1914. So when HC starts the post card with “We had an audience with the Pope last Sunday.”  that means it might have been the last public appearance or one of the  last public appearances of Pope Pius X. Did HC stay in Rome for the coronation of the new Pope?  Another unanswered question.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Luck of the Irish

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Supervisor Mark Farrell (left) watches Mayor Lee and Consul General Philip Grant raise the Irish flag at city Hall on March 7.

It is now official St. Patrick’s (Week) Day in San Francisco has now begun. On Friday March 7 the Irish flag was raised on the Mayor’s flag pole at City Hall. Assisting Mayor Lee was the Consul General of Ireland, Philip Grant, who will be participating in his first St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in San Francisco since his appointment last September.

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Irish Piper’s Band provided the musical escort as the proceedings went from the Mayor’s office to the Mayor’s Balcony.

Supervisor Mark Farrell presided over the annual reception hosted by the Mayor for the Irish community which provided the opportunity to acknowledge leaders from the community and leaders from Ireland. It was an opportunity to highlight both past history and current history as Aer Lingus promoted their new non-stop service from SFO to Dublin.

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(left to right) Diarmuid Philpot, President of the United Irish Societies, and Consul General of Ireland, Philip Grant receive Proclamations from Mayor Lee and Supervisor Farrell.

San Francisco’s 163rd annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on Saturday March 15 starting at Second and Market at 11:30am. The theme of this year’s parade is “A Tribute to Irish Workers of America.” The grand marshals for this year’s parade are Margaret and Dan McAuliffe were also acknowledged during the festivities at City Hall that included dancers from the Murphy Irish Dancers.

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The Murphy Irish Dancers provide a genuine kick-off for Irish heritage week at City Hall on March 7.

 

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Newest Federal Judge

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Newly confirmed federal judge Vince Chhabria in front of the United States Supreme Court on March 27, 2013.

From the Office of   City Attorney Dennis Herrera comes this press release: SAN FRANCISCO (March 5, 2014)— Deputy San Francisco City AttorneyVince Chhabria was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as the newest federal court judge for the Northern District of California.

Chhabria, 44, spent the past nine years in City Attorney’s Office, representing the City in a wide range of litigation matters including the successful defense of the Healthy San Francisco initiative, and the fight for marriage equality for same-sex couples in California.

Chhabria was first nominated by President Obama on July 25, 2013.  He received the highest possible rating, Unanimously Well Qualified, from the American Bar

Association, and was subsequently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 14, 2013. After being confirmed today in Washington by a vote he is expected to assume his seat within a few weeks.

In response to the news from Washington, City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement: “I couldn’t be prouder of Vince Chhabria, and I know he will make a phenomenal federal judge. This is great news not just for Vince and his family, and for all the proud people in our office, but for anyone who will come before him in court. He is brilliant, fair, and totally committed to getting the law right.”

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Vince Chhabria (on left pointing) with Deputy City Attorney Theresa Stewart and City Attorney Dennis Herrera on their way to the California Supreme Court on March 3, 2008

 Chhabria sent the following statement by email from India, where he is currently visiting family:

I am thrilled to begin this new chapter of my career in public service, and to set up shopdown the hall from my greatest mentor, Judge Charles Breyer. But as it sinks in that I’m truly leaving the City Attorney’s Office, a wave of sadness comes over me. While I had high expectations when I started here nine years ago, I never dreamed I would be lucky enough to work on so many exciting cases, for so many dynamic clients, with so many dedicated and high-caliber public lawyers. I would like to thank President Obama and the United States Senate for entrusting me with this weighty responsibility. I’m extremely grateful to Senator Boxer for recommending me to the President, and to Senator Feinstein for her support and guidance through the confirmation process. And I especially want to thank City Attorney Dennis Herrera, a leader who captains the ship in a way that gives young lawyers the opportunity to flourish. I would never be in this position today without him.

Chhabria joined the City Attorney’s Office from the firm of Covington and Burling, and was also a law clerk for Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California, James R. Browning of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and, in 2001 and 2002, for Justice Stephen Breyer of the United States Supreme Court.

As a Deputy City Attorney, Chhabria is best known for successfully defending the Healthy San Francisco initiative, which brought quality health coverage to tens of thousands of otherwise uninsured San Franciscans. He has won judgments against businesses skirting minimum wage laws, fought for relocation assistance for tenants evicted under the Ellis Act, and was a key member of the legal team that eventually toppled California’s Proposition 8 in June of last year, making same-sex marriage legal in California.

VC5262009 Vince Chhabria listens to reaction of City Attorney Dennis Herrera  to the California Supreme Court ruling validating Prop 8 on March 26, 2009.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Old Friends

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My new “old” friends.

A couple of weeks ago I found a wonderful photo album on sale at an estate sale. The first page had only a single photo labeled “First Exposition Building completed 1913. ‘Service Building”. The exposition referred to is the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 and while there are two pages of photos labeled from the PPIE of 1914, I think it meant that the photos were taken during construction. But on the ensuing pages of the album I found myself being introduced to the Melovrdoff family of Petaluma and friends from all over Bay area. The album is full of photos taken in various places such as Petaluma, Russian River, Larkspur and Golden Gate Park.  There also photos of events like a Washington’s Birthday picnic at Land’s End, the Portola Parade 1913 and two different Halloween parties.

 

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A picnic at Land’s End on George Washington’s Birthday. – he was 100 years younger then.

There was one group of photos, 41 in all, that just took my breath away – none of the photos are dated but they all are of a trip to Yosemite. I assume that they were taken about the same time as the photos in the rest of the album which are dated 1913 and 1914, which means that the trip would have taken place about a hundred years ago.

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Members of the California Camera Club on a visit to Yosemite around 1913 or so.

 There are photos of familiar Yosemite sights such as Half Dome and Vernal Falls, but I was amused by noticing that the women are wearing long skirts and in one of the photos the boys are in ties.

 

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Climbing among the rocks of Yosemite and posing for the camera.

When I said that some of the photos took my breath away I mean that literally. The photos posed while people stood on narrow paths along the sides of shear cliffs and stood on top of rocks balanced far above the valley below, make me nervous, just looking at them.

 

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I can’t believe people standing on the top of the rock with no railing or anything to grab if you happened to slip.

 

Having visited Yosemite when I was twelve years old I know what it is like to lug around a camera all day.  I wonder what kind of camera would have been used in 1913. Each pose must have been carefully planned because of the distances involved. The fact that these photos even exist is tribute to people’s desire to have a record of the awesome (as in worthy of awe)  sights they were seeing.

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On Scene With Bill Wilson: Court History

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The graves of  Emperor Norton (left) and the Widow Norton lie in front of each other at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma

The Imperial Court of San Francisco, founded by Jose Sarria in 1965, is undergoing adjustments after the death of its founder last August. Among the traditions and events under evaluation was the annual trek to Colma by the Widow Norton to pay homage to The Emperor Norton. I can report with great enthusiasm that under the leadership of Donna Sachet, Absolute Empress 30, the “Annual Pilgrimage to Colma” will continue. If the first pilgrimage without the Widow is any indication the annual visits will be the quirky, lovely, somber, funny, musical, only in San Francisco event, it has always been. This year, as in the past several years. the event was emceed by Donna Sachet and “the Other Jose” Cisneros, SF City Treasurer.

 

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 Emperor Norton provided some of the historical context for the day.

Although Jose Sarria was not there in person Reverend Don Fox of Night Ministries did a good job of channeling the Widow and relaying her messages for us.

The Night Ministries has long been associated with the Imperial Court. They have made it their mission to support and care for the others in our society.

 

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New Emperor J. P. Soto  receives his medallion of office from Emperor Berlin as other Emperors in attendance watch.

 When I attended my first trek to Colma in 1999, the new Emperor was T.J Istvan and the new Empress was Sheba. At the time the ceremony included the oath of office for the new monarchs who were sworn in by the Widow Norton. Over the years that part of the ceremony has been revised for various reasons many doing with the health of the founder. This year the new Emperor received his medallion of office from the former Emperors in attendance as a token of support.

 

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Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas pays homage to the new Empress and Emperor of San Francisco, Misty Blue and J.P. Soto

 Starting a new tradition Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas paid homage to the new monarchs of San Francisco by kissing their hand. Musical interludes during the ceremony were provided by Robert Sunshine and his group that the Widow referred to as the Raindrops and the Gay and Lesbian Freedom Band, whose uniforms were provided by the results of Jose’s fundraising.

 

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San Francisco’s new monarchs, Emperor J. P. Soto and Empress Misty Blue place the first red rose on the tombstone of Jose Sarria.

 Those of you who are already saying I don’t want to miss this event next year can  mark your calendars for the February 14 weekend. Coronation will take place Saturday, February 14, 2015 in the City Hall Rotunda and the Annual Pilgrimage to Colma will take place February 15.

 

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Reigning Empress Misty Blue and Reigning Emperor J. P. Soto take the front seat of honor on the bus that took them from SF to Colma and back.

 

 

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On Scene With Bill Wilson Happy Anniversary Edition

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Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin cut the wedding cake at the February 22, 2004 celebration of their marriage on February 12, 2004.

With the tenth anniversary of the start of the “Winter of Love” on February 12 I wondered about what I should write – another account of the day that changed my life? Should I rehash my journal entries for that day written while the emotion was still fresh? Then last night the answer came as I watched part of the famous “Cousin Liz” episode of “All in the Family.” Fernando and I laughed and shook our heads in amazement at the way in which this episode dealt with Edith’s Cousin Liz’ special friend. It wasn’t until the woman said it was like they were married that Edith understood the extent of their relationship.

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 Deputy Recorder/Assessor Minna Tao marries Bill Wilson and Fernando Orlandi on February 12, 2004

It was a reminder of how groundbreaking the show “All in the Family” was not just in terms of topics it dealt with, but also in ways that the writers understood how those issues would resonate with the public. 37 years after the episode aired Fernando and I recognized the same arguments being used against us by people like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and that Edith was standing up for compassion and pleading for kindness. This is my favorite exchange:

Archie: People like that teaching our kids, I’m sure God’s sittin’ up there in judgment!
Edith: Well, sure he is, but he’s God; you ain’t!

The show made we realize that I should write about the context of what got us to that magic moment when we first said “I do.” The journey from Domestic Partnership to legal marriage has been very personal, but it was also a legal battle to get our relationship recognized. San Francisco was in the forefront of those battles. Before the city issued marriage licenses there was Domestic Partnerships. My husband had been transferred from his job in Washington, DC to a job in Palo Alto for a year so we lived in San Francisco. It was during that year that Domestic Partnerships were first offered by San Francisco. We were among the first to register on February 14, 1991.

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Bill Wilson and Fernando Orlandi on February 14, 1991

I remember how far we have come when I look back at the scrapbook I kept from that day. The instructions on what Domestic Partnership meant read,

“THIS MAY NOT DO ALL THE THINGS YOU WANT… A domestic partnership isn’t the same as marriage. For instance, unless you have a will, your partner won’t get your property if you die…

THIS MAY DO THINGS YOU HADN’T COUNTED ON…A domestic partnership creates legal rights and duties. For example you have to make sure that your partner has food and a place to live if she or he can’t get these things…

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Governor Gray Davis signs the expanded Domestic Partnership Bill on September 19, 2003 at the SF LGBT Center.

In 2003 Governor Gray Davis came to San Francisco to sign the expanded Domestic Partnership bill giving all the rights of marriage to those registered as Domestic partners that the state of California could grant. We got to fill out a federal income tax forms as married so we could file state income as married, but we couldn’t file the federal tax forms as married so we had to fill out our federal income tax returns and file those separately. We knew exactly how much DOMA was costing us.

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Bill Wilson (left) and Fernando Orlandi (right) were married by Minna Tao ( second from right) on February 12, 2004 and by Mayor Newsom ( second from left) on June 17, 2008.

Since we had no plans to get married on February 12, 2004, because we didn’t know it was going to happen until we got to City Hall it wasn’t until we walked out of City Hall that I said to my husband, “Do you think I should call my Mother and let her know?”

When she answered the phone I said, “Fernando and I were married this morning.” With no pause she simply said, “Congratulations!”

Some day everyone will be allowed to have that experience no matter what state or country they live in.

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Family values.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Photos of the Year

Pope Francis during a General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on April 17, 2013

 In terms of photographing people of prominence 2013 might take the cake for being the year I achieved the peak.  Being able to get photos of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in the same year he graced the year-end cover is something that will remain a highlight for years to come. I refer, of course, to Pope Francis. When elected in March of 2013 I think the Cardinal electors knew they were getting a man who would bring needed change, but I’m not convinced they knew just how much a change he would bring. From the moment he stepped out on the loggia of St. Peter’s and asked for the people’s blessing before blessing them to his words – “Who am I to judge?” and his actions, – kissing the feet of 12 inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome during Holy Thursday services, among them two women and two Muslims – the Pope continues to provide us with answers to the question, “What would Jesus do?”

 

Pope Francis kissing eight month old Mattais.

 Being able to photograph some of the Pope’s public events during his first month in office provided me with a great many memories that will remain with me. The foremost one will be the fact that during the General Audience of April 17 as he circled St. Peter’s Square, he stopped in front of me to kiss the baby of the couple next to me. The husband was a member of the Swiss Guard and was returning to Switzerland. He and his wife brought their 8 month old son to be kissed by the Pope. He did right in front of my camera. With about 70-80,000 people in the Square the chances of that happening are rather astronomical.

 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor  with Bill Wilson

Just being in the right place at the right time seemed to be a theme this year as I found myself dealing with two Supreme Court Justices and a former President of the United States, but not all at the same time! When Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in San Francisco to promote her autobiography she did two days of appearances. At the second event I attended one of the organizers told me that the photographer they had hired to take photos was unable to be there so she asked if I would be able to take pictures for them. I agreed. Briefly before her speech the Justice posed with various event organizers. After everyone had posed with her she said, “We’re not finished yet.” She turned to me and explained, “You are going to hand your camera to someone and they are going to take your picture with me.” Of course I did.

 

 Edie Windsor greets the throngs of supporter after oral arguments in her case before the Supreme Court

 Just being in Washington, DC during the oral arguments in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases was being in the right place, but again there were many moments that I will cherish. One of them was walking down the streets I walked as a very closeted gay man working for a United States Senator some forty years ago. That same Senate seat is now occupied by Senator Tammy Baldwin the first openly LGBT member of the Senate. Something that I could not have even contemplated would happen in my lifetime, but then I never thought it would be possible to elect a black man President in my lifetime either – why do I suddenly feel like an old man? I remember when there were no gays in Congress and when you wrote to someone you used a pen, not a computer.

 

 

Senator Tammy Baldwin leaving the Supreme Court after arguments in the Windsor case that overturned DOMA.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is the author of the majority opinions in such landmark cases concerning gay rights cases as Romer v Evans, which struck down Colorado’s Amendment Two, Lawrence v Texas, which struck down sodomy laws, and Windsor v State of New York, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. He was invited to San Francisco to give the keynote address at the opening session of the American Bar Association’s annual convention. It seemed very fitting that as he spoke seated behind him was the San Francisco’s Gay Men’s Chorus, which performed during the opening session. I had the opportunity to take photos backstage before the session. When I said that I had taken photos during their previous visit to ABA convention in San Francisco it was Mrs. Kennedy who replied, “Yes, I remember because many people say that they will send us copies of photos, but you are one of the few who actually did.”

 

Justice Anthony Kennedy and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

 When it was announced that President and Mrs. Carter were going to be working on a house in Oakland as part of the 30th anniversary of their annual Habitat for Humanity Bldg. project I welcomed the chance to get some photos of the former President and Mrs. Carter doing the humanitarian work that they are noted for doing. I didn’t realize at the time that I would get a chance to participate.

 

The future owners of the home under construction stop for an interview as President and Mrs. Carter in the background continue working.

When I arrived at the sign –in area around 8:30 I was told the Carters were already at work on site, which was several blocks away. Because it was a construction site they had places were the media could observe and photograph from without being in the way. Every once in a while the President and Mrs. Carter would come out and use the table saw with Mrs. Carter holding the piece of wood. After I had been there several hours and gotten some great photos of them working, the President and Mrs. Carter came out and started talking with Mrs. Carter’s nephew and his family, who were also volunteering on the project. After a few minutes President Carter became a little restless and went back to work. He finished whatever he had been doing and came out of the house with another piece of wood to be cut. The place were they allowed the media was close to the table saw and when he realized that Mrs. Carter was still talking to her nephew he turned to the media and said, “Can I get some help?” Trying to remain cool I counted to two before I jumped at the chance to volunteer.

President Carter cutting lumber for a window frame with an assist from Bill Wilson (Photo:  David Kligman)

No year – end review would be complete without noting those to whom we said a final good-bye. This year the Imperial Court lost it founder, Jose Sarria whose funeral held at Grace Cathedral was befitting the royalty he was. It wasn’t too long after that that the Court paid final honors to Steve Rascher, the 16th Emperor after Norton..

 

 The Widow Norton at her tombstone and Emperor Steve Rascher (right).

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Living Innovation Zone

Supervisor Jane Kim joins Mayor Lee and Exploration Director Dennis Bartels and others at the Ribbon cutting for the first Living Innovation Zone.

. Mayor Edwin M. Lee today, as part of Innovation Month, officially opened the nation’s first Living Innovation Zone (LIZ) – an enterprise that links partners with the City to sponsor the installation of innovative exhibit spaces that make science and technology more accessible in public for the public. The first Zone, a partnership with the Exploratorium and the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District (YBCBD), is being launched on Market Street and Yerba Buena Lane

 

 Invitation at 4th and Market

 

“This unique initiative brings innovation that is sometimes behind closed doors and brings it out into the light of day where we can all learn and be inspired by it,” said Mayor Lee. “I’m excited to see our sidewalks come alive with new ideas, and I believe it is initiatives like these that underscore our commitment to innovation and helps secure our reputation as the Innovation Capital of the World.”

Living Innovation Zones (LIZ) will enhance the public realm by supporting innovators with real-world demonstration opportunities in specially designated public spaces in the City.

 

Expectations

 

“The Exploratorium is thrilled to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation to create the city’s first Living Innovation Zone,” said Exploratorium Executive Director Dr. Dennis Bartels. “The whole idea of the Exploratorium is to inspire curiosity and to facilitate informal learning, and we are able to bring that same sense of excitement to Market Street. It’s to the credit of the City and Mayor Lee that an ambitious project like this, which truly reflects the intellectual and creative capital of the city, can happen in San Francisco.”

 

 Mayor Lee tries out one of the Singing Benches

 

The LIZ is part of the broader efforts to activate, revitalize and reconstruct Market Street from Octavia to the Embarcadero. The LIZ allows the City to incrementally make Market Street more inviting, more inclusive and more livable as longer-term projects are being developed. The City is making an effort to simplify the permitting process to give creative people and entrepreneurs a venue to test new ideas and at the same time bring fun and activity to the sidewalks. The LIZ is one of the many types of activities planned along Market Street. As an early prototype of the LIZ program, the lessons-learned will inform a policy to open proposals for other organizations to partner on future LIZ sites that will expand down Market Street to Octavia Blvd.

 

Instructions

 

Funded in part by contributions from individuals through an Indiegogo campaign (www.exploratorium.edu/livinginnovationzone), which ends November 13th, the LIZ will be continuously prototyped with new ideas, and will be adapted to public input. For more information about the Exploratorium’s approach, go to: exploliz.tumblr.com.

 

The first LIZ features an exhibit called “Whispering Dishes,” which consists of two 8-foot tall parabolic dishes facing each other across a 50-foot part of the sidewalk. The dishes focus sound so that people can easily hear each other whispering, even while surrounded by street noise. For the day of the kick-off, the Exploratorium also showcased their “Singing Bench,” “Rickshaw Obscura,” and a solar-powered charging station for electric bicycles and mobile electronics. The LIZ will be continuously prototyped with new ideas, adapting to input.

 

Mohammed Nuru, Executive Director Department of Public Works tries out the “Whispering Dishes” on Market Street.

 

With the City’s continued effort to be more open and responsive, the LIZ program is built on the success of Open Data and Parklets, extending the scope to enhance the public realm through partnerships. In doing so, LIZ aims to drive a better quality of life for all San Franciscans through innovation. For more information about the Living Innovation Zones, go to: www.sfliz.com.

 

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On Scene with Bill Wilson — Louis Vuitton Cup

Team Emirates New Zealand (TENZ) and Luna Rossa pass by spectators at Pier 27 on the way to the start of Race 4 in the Louis Vuitton Cup Series

Team Emirates New Zealand added to more races to their win column on Wednesday afternoon by taking Race 4 and 5 from the Luna Rossa team. For the first time in the current Louis Vuitton Cup finals there were two complete races and two teams crossing the finish lines. Previous races had involved equipment failure which caused a team to not finish and high winds prevented a second race from being held on the same day.

Max Sirena, Luna Rossa Skipper during post race interviews with the media.

“The positive is that we improve more and more every day, but I’m starting to get upset because it would be great to have another four or five months,” said Sirena. “We’re not that far from these guys, but the Cup is in a couple of weeks.”

 

Louis Vuitton Cup Final Standings (first to 7 points wins)
Emirates Team New Zealand – 4
Luna Rossa Challenge – 1

Race 4 Performance Data
Course: 5 Legs/10.18 nautical miles
Elapsed Time: ETNZ – 25:39, LR – 27:57
Delta: ETNZ +2:18
Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 11.5 NM , LR – 11.7 NM
Average Speed: ETNZ – 26.94 knots (31 mph), LR – 25.29 knots (29 mph)
Top Speed: ETNZ – 44.04 knots (50 mph), LR – 39.99 knots (46 mph)
Wind Speed: Average – 14 knots, Peak – 17 knots

Team Emirates New Zealand crosses the first finish line on its foil and in first place.

Race 5 Performance Data
Course: 5 Legs/10.18 nautical miles
Elapsed Time: ETNZ – 24:26, LR – 25:54
Delta: ETNZ +1:28
Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 11.5 NM , LR – 11.7 NM
Average Speed: ETNZ – 28.44 knots (33 mph), LR – 27.29 knots (31 mph)
Top Speed: ETNZ – 43.77 knots (50 mph), LR – 39.23 knots (45 mph)

LunaRossa shaved almost a minute off their time in the second race, but still came up short as Team Emirates again finished in front of them.

Upcoming Louis Vuitton Cup Final schedule (best-of-13 series)
Friday, Aug. 23: Final Race 6 (1:10 pm PT)
Saturday, Aug. 24: Final Race 7 (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 8 (2:10 pm PT)
Sunday, Aug. 25: Final Race 9* (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 10* (2:10 pm PT)
(* If necessary)

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

A rainbow flag  seems to fly on the same pole as the Russian flag atop the Russian Consulate on August 3, 2013

 

In Russia the legislature passed a bill which was signed by President Putin and is now law of the land that prohibits the spreading of information which aims to: (1) create non-traditional sexual attitudes among children, (2) make non-traditional sexual relations seem attractive, (3) give a distorted perception about the social equality between traditional and non-traditional sexual relations or (4) enforce information about non-tradition sexual relations that evokes interest in such relations.

 

Will the last drop provide the ripple that topples the Russian law?

 

In other words, Putin has come after me – an openly gay man. The Russian people, desperate for relief from economic woes, have given their approval and bands of paramilitary groups feel  empowered to cleanse their country of glbt people. We know where this is headed and the results. Does history have to repeat itself?

 

 

August 6, 2013 San Francisco City Hall.

 

The time to speak out is now.

I am only one person

but I have friends,

who have friends,

who have friends,

who have Facebook.

 

My actions

cause

 actions

that result

 in actions

 that make

 change

 possible.

 

Boycott vodka

Sign petitions

Write letters

Express yourself

 

Putin has come for me.

When will you speak out?

 

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On Scene With Bill Wilson at the Genealogy Show

Genealogy Roadshow made a stop in San Francisco’s Old Mint

Am I related to ..?  Did my relatives fight in..? Those are the kind of questions answered on Genealogy Roadshow and unlike the Antique counter part the answer to the question “What is it worth?” is always the same – priceless.  On Sunday. July 21, 2013 Genealogy Roadshow came to the Old Mint in San Francisco to film the stories that will be on the San Francisco episode. The entire series premieres on KQED on Monday September 23.  Six people where chosen from the questions submitted online and given the “reveal” – the answer to their question. Of course telling the answers would spoil the show but the process of producing an hour long segment was fun to watch.

A room at the Old Mint becomes a set for the Genealogy Roadshow

Unlike a scripted show that starts at point A proceeds through point B and ends at point C, the producer of Genealogy Roadshow,  Stuart Krasnow explained that what they were taping was like starting at the end -  the reveal –and then going back and piecing together the story. So while they have everything they need on film, how the final product looks will be determined in the editing room. What they chose to include will be based on what happened during the taping. Did the person react to the news in the way expected? Where they excited by what the genealogists found interesting or did they get excited about another piece to their story the genealogist found. Given what I saw and felt during the filming it will be a difficult decision to make about what to include because each story had emotional moments and highlights I thought worthy of inclusion.

Kenyatta Berry (left) during the taping of a segment for the Genealogy Roadshow.

The two genealogist who do the on-air presentations (and the off-air research) are Joshua Taylor and Kenyatta Berry. They are both young, enthusiastic persons who have made genealogy their passion as well as their profession.  Kenyatta Berry has developed a website for ethnic genealogy (www.discovergenealogy.com) and Joshua Taylor can be found at www.djoshuataylor.com .

Kenyatta Berry (left) and Joshua Taylor (right) during their stop in San Francisco.

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One of the more predictable reactions to the SCOTUS decisions on marriage equality came from the National Organization of Marriage. After five years of saying how sure they were of victory in the Supreme Court, they were handed a defeat. They didn’t take it well. One of the images used in their plea for money I found rather haunting. It was a graphic of an American flag flying from the left and a rainbow flag flying from the right with the bold question, “Which Banner will you choose?” 

American, California and Rainbow flags flying at Twin Peaks commemoration of the pink triangles worn in Nazi concentration camps on June 29, 2013.  

 It was the genius of those that wrote the Constitution that I will never have to make that choice. My allegiance doesn’t have to be solely one or the other, it can be both. It is a principle that goes a long way back in my family because of my Quaker heritage. Americans have this image of people coming from Europe to the New World for religious freedom, but what we are not taught is that they didn’t find it everywhere. Puritans went to Massachusetts, the Catholics to Maryland and Quakers went to Pennsylvania. I was rather surprised to learn that some of my Quaker ancestors were hung on the Boston Commons because they were Quakers. Actually they were banished from the Massachusetts colony for being Quakers and hung for coming back.

On October 27, 1659  Marmaduke Stephenson, William Robinson  and Mary Dryer were scheduled to be executed by hanging on the Boston Commons. However, Mary Dryer was given a reprieve at the last moment and only the two men where hung that day. Mary was again banished from the colony. She returned again and on June 1, 1660 she was hung on the Boston Commons. William Ledda, the last person to be put to death for being a Quaker, was hung March 14, 1661.

We don’t swear or affirm (because Quaker’s don’t swear) allegiance to any one dogma, creed or religion. The checks and balances are all there to make sure that equal protection is given everyone. As it says on the Supreme Court building itself, “Equal Justice Under Law”.  While NOM may fuss and fume over the latest ruling by the Court, they are not harmed by it. If they were honest they would accept the defeat and move on.

 

 Celebrating the SCOTUS Prop 8 decision in the Castro.

Unfortunately I don’t expect that NOM will go away. What I do expect is that they will become a smaller and smaller minority. That is not to marginalize them or give legitimacy to any of their claims of victimhood, it is simply to acknowledge that I believe the country will follow the same path it did after interracial marriage was approved by a ruling of the Supreme Court. Although I have no doubt there are those who believe that races shouldn’t mix, what national organization makes racially pure marriages a centerpiece of their mission or fundraising activities?  I can’t think of any.

While I am disappointed that the Supreme Court didn’t rule on the merits of the Prop 8 case and find that there is a fundamental right to marriage, it is only a matter of time before the Court does. That won’t be a case of judicial tyranny or because of activist judges it will be because that is the way the system is supposed to work. The founding fathers knew to well the results of religious extremism.

 

Adam Umhoefer, American Foundation for Equal Rights (left) and Chad Griffin Human Rights Campaign marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 30. 

 


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On Scene with Bill Wilson

So much history has happened over the past week it is difficult to know where to begin. The Supreme Court decisions and the annual Pride Celebrations on top of the resumption of gay weddings in City Hall make it a week that will not be soon duplicated in the annuals of civil rights struggles. 

 

 Day of Decision Rally in the Castro Wednesday, June 26, early in the evening when the crowds were smaller. 

On the day of the Supreme Court Decisions on Prop 8 and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) there was an afternoon press conference held at Grace Cathedral by faith leaders to highlight the fact that not all spiritual people condemn GLBT people. There are welcoming congregations that accept people where they are on their journey. With everything else happening that day at City Hall in the morning and in the Castro that evening, many may have missed the importance of the event, but for me it put the entire week in the proper perspective and gave me a chance to be reinforced in my beliefs.

 

 Reverend Amos Brown at Grace Cathedral on June 26, 2013

There were speakers from many faith traditions who talked of the importance of love and acceptance. As people were asked to come together for the final prayer, Reverend Amos Brown spoke up. He preached a sermon that will remain with me for the rest of my life. No, he didn’t go on for twenty minutes, but what he said was profound. He related that he was one of eight students who attended a graduate course on morality ands social ethics at Morehouse College taught by Martin Luther King, Jr. He said that if the GLBT community wanted to build bridges with the Black community they would have to acknowledge that without the Black Civil Rights there would be no GLBT right movement. He also went on to say that the Black community would have to acknowledge that there have always been GLBT people involved in the civil right struggles. Martin Luther King, Jr. provided the inspiration and motivation for the March on Washington, but it was Bayard Rustin who was the architect  of the MOW, which happened 50 years ago this August.

 

Reverend Brown confronting Linda Harvey with Peter La Barbera in background. They and other right wingers were protesting the Folsom Street Fair in  2008

Listening to Reverend Amos Brown speak I was reminded that when Peter La Barbera, Linda Harvey and other right wing commentators came in 2008 to San Francisco to protest the Folsom Street Fair. They had a press conference n the steps of City Hall. Reverend Brown was passing by and he stopped to listen. He went up to the person holding the banner, who happened to be Linda Harvey. He told her basically that if they were going to quote the Bible they should actually have read it. He countered her every argument so effectively she had the police come over and tell Reverend Brown he had to move on.

 

Former Mayor Willie Brown and Bill Weaver, Pride Photographer at the start of the Parade on Sunday, June 30.

I had the opportunity to recognize some of the bridges Reverend Brown was talking about just before the SF Pride parade started on Sunday morning. Former Mayor Willie Brown attended the Alice B. Toklas Pride breakfast and it was acknowledged that without his repeal of the sodomy law none of the advances we have made as a GLBT community would be possible. So that was on my mind when I was at the start of the march where the Dykes on Bikes were lining up. I was talking with Bill Weaver, a fellow photographer, when up walks former Mayor Willie Brown. He was excited because he realized that there were three wheeled motorcycles, which meant he could get back on a motorcycle and not have to worrying about his balance. As he turned to talk with me I said, “I hope you get satisfaction from the fact that without your repealing the sodomy law none of this would be possible.” He said he did. Then I went on to say, “I’m old enough that I know the story but probably ¾ of the people here today only know it from history books, which is why it is so important we tell our stories.”  He agreed again.

 

SF Pride CEO Earl Plante and California Attorney General Kamala Harris at the Alice Breakfast on Sunday June 30, 2013

The other person I got to thank was California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris. It was her request to the Ninth District court of Appeals that got the same se marriages going on Friday, June 28. In 2004 after I had been told that the first same sex marriage had taken place I ran back to the Clerk’s office. When I said I wanted a license for a same sex wedding the person behind the desk said, “I am not saying whether or not we will be issuing licenses today, but if we were to start giving them out we would not start until noon.”  I looked at my watch and saw it was 11:20. So I said to the person, “I’ll wait.” She said, “Oh, no. You have to come back at noon.” I replied, “No you don’t understand. If there is any chance, no matter how remote, that you might start giving licenses at noon, I will wait because when you get them I want you to hand the first application to me.” She said, “You can’t stand in front of the desk.” When I turned around to step back there were already about ten couples in line behind me. When they had been told to come back they listened and went away. I told Attorney General Harris that I was really grateful we had an elected official who understood the urgency of allowing people to get married without waiting another month.

 Intersection of 17th, Castro and  Market on  Wednesday,  June 26, 2013  

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

Ignazio Marino campaigning for Mayor of Rome.

Sometimes opportunity knocks so hard you have to respond. When presented with the second chance to meet one of the two candidates in the run-off for Mayor of Rome, Fernando and I took the opportunity to give Ignazio Marino encouragement for proposing legal recognition of same sex couples.

We were walking in the neighborhood where Fernando’s mother lives when I convinced Fernando to walk on the side of the street where the political campaign had set up their booths for distributing campaign literature. As a collector of campaign ephemera (buttons, posters, banners, and leaflets etc.) I wanted Fernando to ask if we could have one of the “Marino Sindaco” (Marino Mayor) flags flying from their booth. When Fernando asked the lady in the booth if that was possible her reply was, “Oh, no. Marino is going to be here at 5 and we need them until then for sure. Come back later.”   So that is how we found out the candidate was actually going to be in the neighborhood and since it was 4:35 pm I had time to go get my camera and come back.

 

The stage near the entrance to the Tiburtina Shopping Center

 

When I came back there was a small stage set up near the entrance to Tiburtina Shopping Center, a small mall several blocks from Fernando’s mother’s apartment. I decided that was the best place to be to get some photos. It was closer to 6 by the time things actually got started. There were several hundred people present.

The rally began with the introduction of  Nicola Zingaretti, the President of the Lazio Region, who gave the main political speech. The disadvantage of not speaking Italian is that I can’t give you a word by word account of his speech, only that it was enthusiastically received.  The next person to be introduced was the person running for the local council (similar to our Board of Supervisors). Then Ignazio Marino spoke to the crowd.

 

Nicola Zingaretti, President of the Lazio Region  speaking at a rally for Ignazio Marino (left) and Emiliano Sciascia (on right)who is running for President of  Municipio IV

 

I had mentioned to Fernando that when he finished speaking I hoped to be able to get a photo of him with Marino. When he finished he turned to the side where his aide was and we thought we had missed our chance. However for some reason he came back on stage to say something he had forgotten. So when he finished he was looking directly at me and I asked if it would be possible to get a photo with Fernando and him.  He agreed and Fernando actually stepped onto the stage with him. Fernando explained hat we were a couple and told him that when he was elected Mayor he hoped that he would work to get civil unions. Marino replied, “It’s in the program.”

 

Fernando speaking with Ignazio Marino.

The program being a booklet, “Roma È Vita, Il Programma Elettorale di Ignazio Marino per Roma Capitale” (Rome is Life: The Electoral Program of Ignazio Marino for the Rome Capital). The relevant sections being under “Pari Opportunità: Certificato di unione per riconoscere amministrativamente le coppie di fatto.” (Equal Opporuntiy- Marriage certificate to administratively recognize unmarried couples)  and “I Diritti delle Persone LGBT: Riconoscimento admministrativo delle coppie di fatto” (The Rights of LGBT People: Admministrative recognition of unmarried couples). I don’t mean to imply that those are the only things under those categories because they are not. I think it is a positive step forward and a good place to start. I will be happy if Marino wins the second round of voting and becomes the Mayor of Roma!

Ignazio Marino interacting with people in the crowd as he leaves Tiburtina Shopping Center on Tuesday June 4, 2013

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ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON: MORE IN ROME

 British rider, Nick Skelton has no penalties and a time of 77.4 seconds after the first round of competition.

Over the weekend at the annual CISO Rome Piazza di Siena, British rider Nick Skelton on Big Star won the City of Rome trophy. Since I don’t speak Italian it took me a while to realize that Big Star was the name of the horse and not a description of Nick Skelton, whose career in show jumping is legendary. In 2000 he suffered a fall that would have been career ending for most riders as he had both head and neck injuries. However he recovered from his injuries, returned to top form and continued his winning ways. The win on May 26, 2013 was actually his second time he bested international riders for the famed City of Rome Trophy. In 2006 he rode Arko III to victory at the same event, which is in its 81st year.

 

Nick Skelton over the first jump of the second round of the City of Rome trophy competition.

In second place was Italian rider, Emanuele Gaudiano, on Cocoshynsky. “Nick is the fastest rider in the world but I am in Rome and in front of the Italian crowd so I gave it my best. On the second line I made seven strides to the combination while Nick made six so I was a bit slower, but I finished second and I’m very happy!” he added. So was the Italian crowd.

 

Emanuele Gaudiano  is all smiles as he accepts the second place award.

The results of the municipal elections in Rome were announced after two days of voting on May 26 and 27. The final tally shows Ignazio Marino with 42.6% short of the 50% needed to avoid a run-off. So there will be another round of voting on June 9 and 10 between the two top vote getters. The person in second place was the incumbent, Giovanni Alemanno, who polled 30.27%. Coming in third was Marcello De Vito of the 5 Star Movement with 12.43% Alflo Marchini placed fourth with 9.48%. The natural place for the 5 Star Movement votes in the run-off would be the Democratic Party, but Marcello DeVito has said that he would not endorse either candidates, and may leave his ballot blank; so, it is unclear where the third place votes will go, if they vote at all.

 

In 2012 Rome’s Mayor (L with tricolor sash) presented the City of Rome Trophy to Ludger Beerbaum.

The one thing that is clear is the incumbent, a member of Berlusconi’s party (Il Popolo della Liberta – or PdL), has spent the most money on posters and bus ads. There were many of his ads on buses before the first round election, and less than 24 hours after the results from the first round were announced, new posters with his name were posted all over the city. One of these posters read, in bold letters, “Vince Chi Vota” Italian for “Who Votes Wins”. Of course, that applies for whoever votes, not just the members of  his party. Maybe it will be a spur for Marino voters also.  But, most likely, Alemanno sees increased voter participation as key to a win in the second round.

 

Ignazio Marino winner of the first round of voting for Mayor of Rome

However, I will still be rooting for Marino who on May 17, said, ‘Today is the day for the rights for lesbian, gay and trans. It is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It is not just a celebration to reflect, but to reaffirm our commitment to see gay people and transgender people are recognized with equal rights and dignity. Rome must accept this challenge.

As mayor my efforts will be to fight homophobia and transphobia and all other forms of violence and discrimination.

Starting with education to allow especially the young people to know and not discriminate. We will expand and strengthen training projects for employees of the public administration and society. And finally we will give importance to cultural policies, social and health education and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. We will put an end to all discrimination in the context of the skills that the state allocates to cities, we will create the ‘marriage certificate’ that recognizes administratively unmarried couples and their rights.” The bolding is mine because I think tht these are very significant points for a person who is running for Mayor of Rome, let alone the one with the most votes!

 

 

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On The Scene with Bill Wilson Racing in Rome for the Cure

Ready!  Serious “competitive” runners at the starting line for the Race for the Cure  in Rome, Italy.

Over 60,000 people raced, ran, jogged, power walked, strolled, sauntered or walked around some of Rome’s more famous ancient sites on Sunday, May 19 as part of the Susan G. Komen Italia Race for the Cure. One of a series of races that take place around Italy to raise money for breast cancer research, the race started near the[F1]  Circo Massimo and passed places like the Coliseum, the Imperial Forum and the Tomb of the Italian Unknown and the Mouth of Truth before ending 5KM ( 3 1/8 miles) later at the western end of the Circo Massimo.

 

Set! Runners get set as the crowd counts down the last ten seconds before the start.

The fastest time for the 5 km course was fifteen minutes and 17 seconds, which was run by Devis Licciardi. Coming in only 7 seconds later was Francesco Marchetti. He is actually the runner closest to me in the photos illustrating this article. He is the one in red shorts. For most of the crowd there was an almost infectious enthusiasm and joy particularly among those wearing the rose colored t-shirts reserved for survivors of breast cancer.

 

Go! Runners at the start of the Race for the Cure in Rome, Italy

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Race for the Cure while Running for Mayor of Rome

Dr. Ignazio Marino was elected to the Italian Senate in 2006

Among the candidates running for mayor of Rome on May 26 and 27 is one with an interesting career previous to his political involvement. Ignazio Marino is a medical doctor who specialized in organ transplants. Although he has done over 650 in his career, the transplants for which he is most well known for involve HIV positive individuals. According to his wikipedia entry, confirmed by a brief exchange I had with him during the Race for the Cure Italia on May 19, he was involved in the first baboon to human liver transplants in 1992 and 1993. The first transplant recipient was a 35 year old HIV positive person who was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver as a result of Hepatitis B. Baboons were chosen as donors because they don’t respond to the hepatitis virus. The patient lived for 70 days on a regular hospital ward with nearly normal liver functions before he died.

In 2001 an HIV positive person came to him with a request for a kidney transplant after having been turned down by other transplant centers in Italy. He agreed to consider the request and eventually it was approved. That person is still alive and doing well. Dr. Marino said to me with obvious and justified pride, “He was a boy when he came to me and now he is a young man.”

Dr. Marino received much condemnation for his actions and was ordered not to perform any more transplants by Italy’s National Transplant Centre. Eventually the issue was reviewed and studied for three years before approval for more transplants for HIV positive individuals was given. They are now performed routinely in Italy.

When I told that I admired his courage in doing what was right he just smiled and said, “You have to do what is in your heart.”

I didn’t realize at that moment exactly how key that was to Dr. Marino’s political life as well. When I got home and did another Google search to make sure I was spelling his name correctly, I discovered that, as a candidate for Mayor of Rome, he is proposing civil unions for same sex couples. In a state like California where marriage equality was once a reality and we await the decision on Prop 8 from the United States Supreme Court, civil unions might not seem like such a big deal, but it is. In a country where then Prime Minister Berlusconi says in response to a scandal involving payment to an underage girl for sex says, “Well at least it proves I’m not gay.” It would be a very big deal to have any type of legal recognition for same sex couples, especially in the city of Rome, where there is a strong Vatican influence.

Dr. Marino is running as the nominee of the Partito Democratico, which is the center-left party. I haven’t seen any polls on the race so I don’t know how to assess his chances. If there is no one with over 50% in the first round of voting that takes place May 26 and 27, then a second run-off will take place two weeks later, June 7 and 8th between the two candidates who got the highest vote.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Not So Straight from the Archives

\

President Ford addresses the crowd at Valley Forge on July 4, 1976.

This photo of President Ford at Valley Forge on July 4, 1976 represents both American history and family history. On the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, President Gerald Ford came to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to sign legislation turning what had been preserved by the state of Pennsylvania as a state park, into a national park. It had been hoped at the time that the park might be expanded to include the 2,000 acres that lay south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to preserve those acres from suburban sprawl. That didn’t happen because the Park Service determined that the turnpike presented an insurmountable physical barrier to making the two areas into one park.

 My Grandfather’s farm, where I was born was part of that proposed park extension, as it had been part of a much larger farm during the Revolutionary War. It wasn’t until 1836 that my great, great, great Grandfather, David Wilson, and his wife, Eliza, purchased 100 acres of land that would be become Elda (the first two letters of Eliza and David) Farm where five generations of Wilsons lived, played and grew up. My Grandparents sold the farm in 1959.

I can remember at a very early age walking through a freshly plowed fields looking for arrowheads.  My older brothers found several. After several different developers tried to build projects on the land only to have the local authorities reject their plans, the local township acquired the land for a park, which was opened in 2004.  During the building of the park, which involved leveling land for a variety of athletic fields thousands of revolutionary era objects were found.

 

Geraldine Ferraro addresses a meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club in Washington, DC during the 1984 campaign.

This photo of Geraldine Ferraro addressing the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club in 1984 is also a mix of personal and historical importance. I had come out to my parents in 1983. This was the first campaign that I participated in as an out gay man and it was one of the first national campaigns that welcomed me as an out gay man. There were gay and lesbian delegates seeking conventions seats in both the Walter Mondale and Jesse Jackson campaigns.

This particular event took place in the Council Chambers of the District of Columbia City Hall when Congresswoman Ferraro arrived she had almost no voice and was suffering from a cold. She explained that ordinarily under the circumstances she would have called and asked for the event to be rescheduled. However she said that she knew if she did that there would be lingering doubts about whether she was really sick or just trying to avoid the group. She said she knew how important it was to the group that she be there and she wanted the group to know if was important enough to her for her to show up even though she wasn’t sure her voice would hold out. She gave a few remarks and spent most of the time answering questions from the group.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Not So Straight From My Archives — Daniel Ellsberg

This edition of  “Not So Straight From My Archives” was inspired by the news that Daniel Ellsberg had participated in a protest over SF Pride’s over the on and off again naming of Bradley Manning as a Grand Marshal for this year’s GLBT Pride Parade. At the rally he announced his intention to march in this year’s parade as part of the Bradley Manning contingent.

 

Daniel Ellsberg addresses an anti –war rally on the steps of the United States Capitol in 1972.

Daniel Ellsberg was the person who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and then the Washington Post in 1971. Both newspapers published excerpts from the study despite government objections on national security grounds. This photo represents one of the earliest attempts by me to document the history that was happening around me when I went to work on Capitol Hill in the 70’s.

Daniel Ellsberg speaks in front of San Francisco’s City Hall at an anti-war rally in 2007.

While there is much difference between the Ellsberg case and the Manning case, some of the issues remain the same. How truthful is our government being with its people? How much of classified information is really classified to save government officials embarrassment and is not about saving lives?

 

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On Scene with Bill Wilson and the Pope…Part 2

Pope Francis pauses before a statue of the Madonna on the steps of St. Peter’s on April 10, 2013

 
On the morning of March 13 I was awaken with the words from Fernando, “There is white smoke at the Vatican.”  We sat in front of the television for the next hour listening to very highly paid commentators tell us that the only thing they knew for sure was that the senior cardinal would appear on the balcony with the announcement, “We have a Pope.” And that would be followed by the name of the cardinal and the name he has chosen as his papal name. All that would be said in Latin a language that I do not speak or understand. I was prepared to wait for the translation.

 

Pope greets Cardinals after his April 10 General Audience

 
However when the announcement came I thought I heard the name Francis and it sent chills up and down my spine. “Chills” describes the goose bumps but it implies coldness and that is exactly the opposite of what I felt. It was as if a jolt of electricity had entered my body at the base of my brain. It then descended down each vertebrae to the base of my spine and then reverberated back up my spine. It was as if each nerve ending tingling with energy was newly alive. Of course this all happened within less than a second, but what I was left with was with the feeling it is different now.

 

Pope delivers his catechism lesson during his General Audience on April 10.


The Pope Francis made his first appearance not in the ermine fur trimmed cape of his predecessors, but a simple white cossack, adorned not with an ornate gold cross, but a simple silver cross. They spoke of a humble man who knows his priorities.  Then he asked the assembled thousands to bless him with their silent prayers. I thought maybe this is the man needed for the church at this time.

 

 Pope Francis blessing the assembled crowd on April 10.


When Benedict XVI announced his resignation I along with thousands of other thought about what they expected of the next Pope. I concluded that I would never expect the Pope to announce that he apologized to the GLBT for the injustice that the church had imposed on them. I just would be pleased if there was a Pope who emphasized what we share in common, our humanity, rather than our differences.

 

Pope Francis greets a VIP with a smile after his general audience.

 
During Holy Week the Pope went not to St Peter’s Basilica to wash the feet of his Cardinals, but in a trip reminiscent of Pope John XXIII, he went to a Rome prison for young people. There he washed the feet of twelve people among them two Muslims. That would have been tradition shattering enough, but he didn’t stop there. Two of the people whose foot he washed were female. That simple act shattered centuries of church tradition that since no women were among Christ’s disciples, they can play no role in the priesthood of the church. The Vatican was quick to issue note that the actions signified no change in church policy or laws but only reflected the personal wish of the Pope. But still every heart wishing for recognition, must have rejoiced at a gesture that this Pope understands the church teachings in a way that recognizes the dignity of all God’s creation.

 

The new Pope gets guidance on the next steps of his weekly audience.


So maybe this is another case of my expectations being to low. So while I wait for the announcement I would like the Pope to make, I wait with a new burst of energy and the hope that this is the change I’ve been longing for.

 

The Pope  leaves St. Peter’s Square after the General Audience of April 10, 2013.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Supreme Court

I wanted to get to the Supreme Court early so as not to miss a thing. My husband wanted to get there within a more reasonable time so as not to freeze while waiting. However when the local morning news interviewed a person in line at the Supreme Court, I recognized some of the people in line and decided I would leave as soon as possible. A short subway ride later and a quick walk from Union Station to the Supreme Court via streets I had walked many times as a Senate staffer, I arrived at the Supreme Court just as they decided to move the line of lawyers from the Supreme Court Bar to the side door they would be going through. This was the start of what I considered good luck for the day because it meant the line stretched out and I discovered there were many lawyers I knew from the GLBT legal organizations such as Lambda Legal, Freedom to Marry, GLAD, NCLR and AFER. I was glad that I had gotten there in time before they went inside where I would not be allowed to follow.

 

Evan Wolfson, Freeom to Marry, Mary Bonauto, GLAD, and Terri Stewart, Deputy City Attorney, San Francisco.

 

The rally sponsored by United for Marriage had an array of speakers that came from various aspects of the coalition backing marriage equality and the need for the repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). A military veteran, Lt. Colonel Linda Campbell, whose wife was allowed to be buried in a national cemetery only after receiving special permission  from the Veterans Affairs Secretary because DOMA prevents the Veterans Department from changing their policy to allow same sex couples to be buried together. 

 

Lt. Colonel Linda Campbell whose wife died in December and is buried in a national cemetery.

 

I was glad to have the opportunity to hear Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo speak during the rally. He is outspoken in support for gay marriage and his enthusiasm is infectious. Making reference to his mixed race heritage, he said that he “was a testament to progress because in the end, love is always going to win.”

 

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Brendon Ayanbadejo member of the world champion Baltimore Ravens.

 

Since Prop 8 was the subject of the oral argument on March 26, San Francisco was well represented. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom was among the elected officials who attended.

 

California’s Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom on his way to the Supreme Court.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson – Not so Straight from the Archives

Rather than the regular format of this column which features two people from my archives, this installment was inspired by my upcoming trip to Washington, DC and involves many friends who I won’t see on this visit. I was looking through my folder marked DC history. When I looked at this photo of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, taken at a performance they gave during an open house at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1984 I was immensely sadden.

GMCW performing in 1984. Many of the people in the picture are no longer living.

I helped take care of Chuck Bailey (second row third from left) when he was in the hospice unable to use his left side. He is standing next to Tom Dudley, whose family treated his partner with such respect during his memorial service, something that didn’t always happen back then. B.J. Sobus is the third from left n the back row. Of all the people in the picture the only one I know for sure is still alive is Ric Rosendall on the extreme right. That seems like such along time ago.

 Elizabeth Taylor signs an autographs after a performance of Little Foxes at the Kennedy Center.  

When Elizabeth Taylor was Mrs. John Warner I was able to photograph her as she left the Kennedy Center after a performance of “Little Foxes.” I was actually standing on top of a planter containing a tree to get elevated enough to take over her limousine which they parked on the sidewalk directly in front of the Eisenhower Theatre Stage Door. This was several years before her involvement in the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). But her tireless advocacy on behalf of people with Aids earned her the respect of many and made her a true heroine.

 

Elizabeth Taylor gets in her limousine after making some autograph seekers very happy.

I actually misfiled the following phots because I labeled them “Hands Around the Capitol” when in fact it was “Hands Around the White House”. When I googled  the name I came across an interesting article from a Philadelphia paper about the event.

The red ribbons meet south of the Ellipse in protest of President Bush’s Aids policy.
FROM INQUIRER WIRE SERVICES Posted: October 13, 1992

WASHINGTON — AIDS activists carrying simulated American flags with skulls and crossbones in place of stars ringed the White House yesterday to protest what they say is President Bush’s weak response to the fatal disease.

The thousands of demonstrators, who formed a human chain with the aid of 6,000 feet of red ribbon, chanted, “Three more weeks, Bush will go.” …

The mood was upbeat at the rally, organized by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or Act Up, and police reported no incidents. Park Police Sgt. Patrick Gavin said an estimated 5,000 people took part.

“We are politicizing the red ribbon,” said Mike Petrelis, who helped organize the rally. “We are sending a message to the President and to any future administration that we will not tolerate AIDS business as usual.”

 

Protestor carrying a coffin covered in flowers are at the start of one end of the demonstration sponsored by ACT UP

 

 

The entire article can be found at http://articles.philly.com/1992-10-13/news/25997559_1_aids-protest-aids-baby-aids-activists

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