Archive | On Scene With Bill Wilson

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



that result

 in actions

 that make




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 ( and Joshua Taylor can be found at .

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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 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.”



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

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There is an old saying, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” So consider this the Supreme Court scorecard of players that will appear before the Supreme Court next Tuesday, March 26 to argue Hollingsworth v Perry.

In order to have a legal case you need plaintiffs that would be the Perry in the title. Kris Perry is actually one of four plaintiffs in this case.



Jeff Zarillo speaking and (l to r) Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Chad Griffin, AFER Director, and Paul Katami

In this case the defendant is Dennis Hollingsworth who is involved because of his part in the proponents of Proposition 8 which bans marriage for same sex couples. I can only say that if Dennis Hollingsworth was present at any of the legal proceedings I didn’t get a picture of him. However the lawyers arguing on his behalf did appear. The lead attorney for the defendants is Charles J. Cooper who has argued several cases before the Supreme Court

Charles J. Cooper will make the arguments on behalf of the Prop 8 backers

Arguing the case on the other side are lead attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies. They both have experience at the Supreme Court perhaps most notably when they were opposing attorneys in Bush V Gore.


Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart, City Atty Dennis Herrera, David Boies,Ted Olson

The general counsel for Prop 8 Andrew Pugno made more appearances in the media center during the trial than Mr. Cooper did.

Andrew Pugno Prop 8 general counsel.


The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) is the organization behind the legal case or as their website says, “the sole sponsor” of the legal challenge to Prop 8. On the first day of the trial in this case I was able to get a good picture of the AFER staff and supporting lawyers entering the courthouse. At the time of the original trial Chad Griffin was Executive Director of AFER. When he became head of the Human Rights Campaign Adam Umhoefer replaced him as Executive Director.



A. Umhoefer/AFER, C. Dusseault and E. Monagas, lawyers, C. Griffin/AFER E.D.


The conventional wisdom is that Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the swing vote. If that is true then I am very optimistic because given his track record in previous decisions regarding gay rights –  Romer v Evans and Lawrence v Texas – he wasn’t just in the majority he wrote the majority opinions.


Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in previous gay rights cases.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson at the Supreme Court

On Tuesday, March 26, I will be at the United States Supreme Court photographing an historic moment in the history of the GLBT movement and in the history of the United States. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Perry v Brown better known as the Prop 8 case. It is one of two gay marriages cases before the Supreme Court this term. It will not be the first time that I’ve witnessed history on the Supreme Court plaza. I worked as a clerical assistant for a United States Senator from April of 1972 until September of 1979 so I was living in Washington, DC during the Watergate scandal that ultimately ended with the Supreme Court ruling that President Nixon cold not claim executive privilege and withhold the tapes of White House involvement in covering up the Watergate burglary.

Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski and his Assistant Philip Lacovara on the steps of the Supreme Court July 8, 1974.

I remember that day being very fortunate in being in the right place at the right time to get photos of lawyers from both sides of the issue. Nixon’s team was headed by James St. Clair.

James St. Clair represented Nixon as he sought to claim executive privilege prevented him from releasing tapes.

The day that the decision was announced in the Nixon tape case the Court was packed with interested spectators. People understood that the Supreme Court was going to decide whether the President of the Untied States was above the law. Fortunately for our democracy they decided he wasn’t and ordered him to release the tapes.

The Supreme Court Plaza on July 24, 1974 as people leave the Court after Nixon tapes decision was announced.

I was still living in Washington, DC in 1986 when the Hardwick case was argued before the Supreme Court. The decision in that case is what gives me pause when thinking of the outcomes of the Prop 8 case.

Laurence Tribe, who argued the Hardwick case, answers press questions after the oral arguments. March 31, 1986

However much has changed in the last twenty seven years, most notably the Hardwick decision was overturned by the Lawrence decision in 2004. While I feel that Scalia, Thomas and Alito will never vote to extend rights to GLBT people, I don’t see any other Justices wanting to follow their lead. No longer can any Justice say that they don’t know any gay people or that they didn’t think it was important.

Anti-Gay Protestor surveys the marriage equality supporters after the Ninth District Court of Appeals heard arguments.

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ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON: Not so straight from my archives — C

Okay, I’ve had a difficult time trying to chose who would be my next subjects for this series. There are so many people whose last names start with C that I couldn’t make up my mind. Cesar Chavez, Aaron Copland, Ben Cohen, Wilson Cruz were all possibilities, however the decision was made easier when I realized that I’m writing this on President’s Day. It is only fitting that President Carter and President Clinton be the subjects for this journey to the archives.


President Carter answers question at a Town Hall Meeting on May 8, 1980 in Philadelphia.

I wasn’t actually media at this event. I was lucky enough to have my name drawn for one of the 1,500 tickets that were available to the public. Originally the event was supposed to take place in November and was cancelled due to the Iranian hostage crisis. However it was rescheduled in May. The President answered questions from the audience for about an hour and a half.

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, President Jimmy Carter, Mrs. Trudeau and Mrs. Carter wave from the balcony of the White House on February 21, 1977.

One of the first heads of state that President Carter welcomed to the White House was Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The media stand position was changed from what it had been during previous welcoming ceremonies I had attended. So what I had thought would be a good position turned out not to be although it did allow me to get a good shot of the President, Prime Minister and their wives on the balcony of the White House.

President Clinton and Greek President Constantinos Stephanopoulos review the troops as part of the Welcoming Ceremony May 9, 1996.

The only invitation I got to attend a White House welcoming ceremony during the Clinton administration was for the President of the Helenic Republic, Constantinos Stephanopoulos. This time I was aware of were the President was going to walk when he and his guest reviewed the troops. I was able to position myself at spot where they came closest to the crowd. It was clearly difficult for the President not to acknowledge the cheers of the crowds, hence the smile on his face.

President Clinton acknowledged the crowd’s ovation at a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Robb of Virginia on October 3, 1994. Lynda Johnson Robb is on left next to Senator Robb.

This is another time when I was not media, but managed to get a front row view. I had worked on Senator Robb’s campaign. This is the year that his opponent was Oliver North. It is widely accepted that if the Republican party of Virginia had nominated anyone else but North, Virginia would have been part of the Republican gains of 1994.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Valentine’s Day

This week contains two anniversaries for Fernando and me. On February 14, 1991 we were among the first people to become Domestic Partners. We expected long lines but when we arrived at City Hall at 8:40 we found no lines. We were the tenth couple to register as Domestic Partners. The excitement happened later that afternoon when all the couples came back to City Hall and had their turn down the central staircase in City Hall. My dominate memory of that occasion was the incredible cheers of the crowd as each couple was announced before they ascended the stairs and the inordinate fear that I would be the first to miss a step and fall down the steps.

William F. Wilson and Fernando P. Orlandi wait  for ceremony honoring Domestic Partners on February 14, 1991

It doesn’t seem possible that nine years have passed since Fernando and I became “Spouses for Life” on February 12, 2004. We were among the first to take advantage of Mayor Newsom’s decision to extend to same sex couples the right to marry. I can say that moment changed my life profoundly, but probably not in the way one might think. It didn’t change my love or my living arrangements. We had mingled our finances many years before so the commitment we made that day wasn’t new to us. What was new to us was the feeling that we were not second class any more.
When we walked out onto the steps of City Hall we weren’t Domestic Partners or bonded in Civil Union, we were married just like thousands who went before us and thousands who would follow us.


Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio leave San Francisco City Hall after their City Hall marriage in 1954.

As we walked down the steps of City Hall I turned to my husband and said that I should call my Mother and let her know. So I dialed her number and when she answered I told her we were married. I can still hear her next word. It was simply, “Congratulations!”


Minna Tao, Deputy Assessor/Recorder Wilson and Orlandi Spouses for Life February 12, 2004

Over the next few days it really hit me that I had never thought about getting married because I believed that wasn’t an option for me. I was willing to fight for Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions because I really felt that they were good enough. I never viewed them as the stepping stones to marriage equality. The profound change came as I examined my life with the new awareness- What else had I accepted that I could never do because I thought I wasn’t good enough?
To my fellow “null and void” marriage celebrants from 2004, Happy Nine Anniversary! To my fellow Domestic Partners in 1991, Happy 22nd Anniversary!

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Sotomayor in SF

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s book tour brought her to the bay area with appearances before the Commonwealth Club on Monday and the Watermark Institute on Tuesday. Justice Sotomayor explained that one of the reasons she wrote her book, My Beloved Country, was so that the reader could feel a connection with her story in some way and be inspired to think if she can make it so can I. She succeeded in a way she probably hadn’t considered because as I sat in the audience of the Herbst Theatre during her Commonwealth Club appearance I thought, “Did I just hear my own coming out story?”


Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

She talked about finding the one person in your life who will love you unconditionally and make you feel secure. In her case it was her grandmother. I know that I lucked out on that score because it was my parents who instilled in me the same feeling that Justice Sotomayor expresses when writing, “Whatever their limitations and frailties, those that raised me loved me and did the best they knew how. Of that I am sure.”

Justice Sotomayor’s Commonwealth Club appearance on March 28

I also related to her saying that you should find a mentor. I’ve always been aware that there were certain people in my life who mentored me and they seemed to come into my life when I needed them. While I never had the gumption to say to them as she advised, “I need to learn what makes you succeed.” I did learn, perhaps more by example than words.

Justice Sotomayor at Watermark Institute evnt on Tuesday, March 29.

In the context of the Justice’s diabetics, learning to love herself enough to take care of herself took on a physical dimension. Controlling the disease through medication and a careful monitoring of blood sugar makes a full and long life possible. I don’t think I would be alive today if I hadn’t learned to love myself enough to know that living in a closet was not good for my mental health. I think issues of self-worth are something everyone has to deal with. Whatever makes you different, you have to overcome the feeling of not fitting in.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at Herbst Theatre

She also said that one of the benefits of writing the book was that she found out family stories that she hadn’t known. She urged anyone with aging family members to sit down and talk with them about family history. One of the people she talked with about her history was her uncle who died three months after she had completed her interview with him. I find myself in total agreement as I try to deal with boxes of family history. If only I could ask my uncle about this picture.

Posing with her new book before sitting down to sign hundreds of copies.

She said in both appearances that she decided she had to write an honest memoir because in reading other memoirs she was some times left with the question, “Did I learn anything I didn’t already know? Was I inspired?” I can definitely answer yes to both questions when it comes to Justice Sotomayor’s book, “My Beloved Country.

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Bill Wilson: Not so Straight from my Archives — Tammy Baldwin and Joe Biden

This trip to my archives was inspired by Tammy Baldwin being elected to the United States Senate. Among the people who were elected to the seat she now occupies was Senator Gaylord Nelson, who served in the Senate from 1962 until 1980. My first paying job was working for Senator Nelson as a clerical assistant from April of 1972 until September of 1979. One of the people who worked in our office was hired by Senator Biden so I became good friends with several people on his staff.

Senator Biden at a Senate hearing in 1977.


To say that I was in the closet at this time would be a very vast understatement. I believed that I was the only person in the world attracted to people of the same sex. I also believed that if I were to look someone in the eye they would be able to tell and that wouldn’t be a good thing. I can now look back and realize how incredibly naïve I was, but at the time it was very painful trying to find a way to fit in.


Senator Biden campaigning for the Presidency in 2008

If we were walking in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building I could show you the exact spot were I was when I realized that I could look people in the eye and still keep my secret. While the phrase, “I never thought I would live to see…” is overused, it fits in this case because the memories are so recent and so real.

Tammy Baldwin and Zoe Dunning pose during a reception in San Francisco.

There is always a special burden placed on anyone who is the first of any category to assume an office.  Senator Baldwin has prepared herself well serving in Congress as a Representative from Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district. I hope that she will enjoy a long tenure in the Senate like Senator Biden who spent more than thirty years in the Senate before being elected Vice President.

The Vice –President of the United States swears in Tammy Baldwin as a United States Senator.

Before January 21 this is where my article would have ended. However as a gay man listening to President Obama use his second inaugural speech to connect Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall was a very powerful affirmation. That very frightened young man who spent seven years walking the halls of the Senate in fear now knows he isn’t alone. Future generations of similar young people will never have to doubt their worth and someday will live with equal treatment.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Inaugurations

I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this article how my inaugural memories are in perfect alignment this year. It is 100th anniversary of the inaugural of the President with the same last name, the 40th anniversary of my first attendance at a Presidential Inaugural and the 20th anniversary of my participation in an Inaugural parade.  

Woodrow Wilson becomes President on March 4, 1913
Copyright Underwood & Underwood, NY

The only reason I purchased this photo is that President Woodrow Wilson and I share the same last name, but as far as I know there is no blood relation. What I find most interesting about this photo is the lack of visible women. This was the last inaugural before women got the right to vote in 1917.

President Nixon takes the oath for a second time with his family in attendance.
Copyright Bill Wilson

In April of 1972 I started a job on Capitol Hill working as a clerical assistant for a Democratic Senator. There wasn’t much demand for tickets to see the inaugural in person, but for me it was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.  This inaugural was held on the east side of the Capitol, where traditionally it had been held until Ronald Reagan decided it should be held on the west side of the Capitol with its view of the National Mall.  

President and Mrs. Carter become the first and only couple to walk the entire route of the Inaugural parade in 1977.
Copyright Bill Wilson

When I saw the inaugural parade of Richard Nixon in 1973 I never guessed that one day I would be a participant in one. In 1977 I couldn’t get tickets to the swearing-in so I found a vantage point in front of the Department of Labor Building were I witnessed Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter walking down Constitution Avenue (in the blocks before it joins Pennsylvania Avenue)  and felt the electricity of the crowd as people realized they were walking.


The NAMES Project contingent lining up for the Inaugural parade of William Jefferson Clinton January 20, 1993. Bill Wilson (left) Elizabeth Glazer (right).  Photo from the collection of Bill Wilson

The NAMES Project contingent was one of the last contingents to march in the 1993 Inaugural parade. It made for a very long day. Among the marchers with our contingent were Elizabeth Glazer and Bob Hattoy, the two HIV positive individuals who addressed the 1993 Democratic National Convention and Mary Fisher, the HIV positive individual who had addressed the 1993 Republican National Convention. Some of us carried panels with the names of people who had died of AIDS and some people carried banners with quotes from Bill Clinton’s campaign speeches.

The President and Mrs. Clinton, The Vice President and Mrs. Gore and their friends in the Presidential reviewing stand as The NAMES Project contingent passes. Photo from the collection of Bill Wilson

The parade went off with military precision and pace. The sun was setting as we stepped off and people were leaving to get warm and ready for the night’s festivities. You could see people in the buildings as you passed and hear people as the clapped and yelled encouragement. It wasn’t long before we made the turn from 15th Street onto Pennsylvania Avenue which was lit by television lights so it was as light as day.  We were in front of the President.  I was marching on the side closest to the Reviewing stand, carrying a panel I had made for Dan Bradley who had headed the Legal Services Corp. and worked with Mrs. Clinton. I swear that as I looked up the President pointed to me and mouthed the words, “I knew him.” I nodded and responded with a thumbs up. I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. So after we continued to 17th Street I said to the person on the other end of the banner, “Did the President just acknowledge us or was it my imagination?” She assured me he had pointed to us. I have to admit that I still was skeptical. I probably would have remained so except that in the article Taylor Branch wrote for “Life” magazine about the Inauguration was the following quote, “…a sudden hush announced the approach of the Aids Quilt. The Clintons and Gores looked somberly to the floor at first, uncertain how to fit mortal desperation into the festivity. But as the Aids marchers waved buoyantly, they responded with smiles and raised thumbs. Paired marchers carried banners honoring selected AIDS victims: Max Robinson, Brad Davis, Congressman Stewart McKinney, Ryan White. ‘He was head of the Legal Services Corporation’ said the President, pointing to a banner for Dan Bradley.”

President Clinton looking at NAMES Project panels on World Aids Day December 1, 1993 before a speech at Georgetown University  Copyright White House Photo

The panel I made for Dan Bradley was sewn together with other panels that were carried in the Inaugural Parade and made into several 12 x12 sections. One of those sections was displayed as President Clinton spoke at Georgetown University on World AIDS Day December 1, 1993

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Bill Wilson — Not-So-Straight From the Archives

This series is based on photos from my archives of famous and not so well known people that I have taken photos of over the years. Since I had originally thought I might call this the ABC’s of Gay History the subjects will be in alphabetical order.

Muhammad Ali at a reception in the US Senate Caucus Room. 1970’s

I don’t know why I am so eager to retell the story behind this photo because it is one of the more embarrassing moments in my life, but I always end up with a smile so I tell it. Muhammad  Ali was the guest of honor at reception sponsored by Senator Huddleston (D-Ky.) held in the US Senate Caucus Room. The room was very crowded as he made his way around the room. Trying to stay close enough to get some good photos I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see Ethel Kennedy who asked me if I would mind taking a photo of her with Ali. Of course I said, “Yes!” When Ali noticed her she asked if she could get a photo. He agreed and they turned to me. You have to understand that Ethel Kennedy is about five feet and Ali is over six feet so to get them in the same photo I had to back up. As I’m trying to back up I realize that there are hundreds of people watching me so I got really nervous. When I get nervous my hands start to shake. Noticing this Ali says, “Don’t worry you have no reason to be nervous.”  That of course only made me more nervous. So Ali comes toward me and takes my hand in his and says, “It’s okay.” By this time everyone is laughing and I’m turning what must have been the deepest red on record.


Former NBA, John Amaechi and Ambassador James Hormel at AmFAR’s Fall  Gala on November 1, 2007. 

This picture also posed the same problem of differences in heights except that without hundreds of people crowding around the solution was much easier. John Amaechi is a former NBA player who came out in 2007. He joins a rather limited list of retired athletes who came out. Among them are former NFL players Esera Tuaolo , Roy Simmons , and Dave Kopay , and former Major League Baseball players Glenn Burke and Billy Bean. The photo was taken of John Amaechi and Ambassador James Hormel at the AmFAR (American Foundation for Aids Research) Fall Gala in 2007.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson

 With the fiscal cliff averted and his second inauguration coming up President Obama now faces the question of what his Cabinet will look like during his second term. We already know his choice for replacement of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is Senator John Kerry.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a Commonwealth Club appearance in San Francisco.

With little or no opposition Senator Kerry is expected to sail through Senate confirmation. I think that we can be confident that the strides GLBT people have made in the State Department will remain intact under Senator Kerry’s leadership.

Senator John Kerry at a campaign stop in 2004.

I know that some people might think my example of the US Embassy in Rome having a part in getting Lady Gaga to appear at EURO Pride in Rome in 2011 might seem trivial, but I think it symbolizes the fact that GLBT people now see the American Embassy as a resource for change. There are many countries the world over where it is still illegal to be gay and knowing that the American Embassy understands their plight provides hope.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was CIA Director when he spoke at the Commonwealth Club.

As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has overseen the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy that had prevented openly gay or lesbian people from serving in the military. President Obama choice for his replacement is Senator Chuck Hagel. Even though Senator Hagel has apologized for his “insensitive” remarks regarding James Hormel serving as ambassador, his record raises concerns about further implementation of the repeal under his tenure. This will be an issue if the Supreme Court were to rule the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA) was unconstitutional. DOMA is federal law that prevents gay and lesbian couples married in states were it is legal from getting the same federal benefits as a married heterosexual couple get.
Another cabinet level officer who has announced she is leaving is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson. One of the legacies of her tenure at EPA is the increased fuel efficiency standards – pushing the industry to do what is right for the environment. One of her stops on a tour of the Bay Area in February of 2012 was a visit to Mission Motors in San Francisco. The original goal of Mission Motors was to build an electric motorcycle that would break the world’s land speed record. Unfortunately the economic downturn took the bottom out of the luxury motorcycle market. No one was interested in their finished product, but they were coming to them with requests for more efficient lightweight electric motors and other technology. They realized that they didn’t have to produce a final product, but rather their motors could be used in making more fuel efficient vehicles of any kind. After Jackson’s visit to Mission Motors one of the company officers turned to me and said, “The untold story of the mandates is that without them we wouldn’t be in business.”

EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, during a visit to Mission Motors in San Francisco on February 2, 2012.

That statement was reinforced a week later at a press conference announcing that the San Francisco taxi fleet was the greenest in the country. When regulations were enacted in 2008 that sought to reduce carbon emissions there was no industry leader in favor of them. No one saw the benefits of using alternative fuel vehicles and they wouldn’t be using them without the Board of Supervisors mandating the goal of reducing emissions by 20% of 1990 levels. They acknowledged how wrong they had been at a February 8, 2012 press conference where it was announced they had actually reduced the emissions by 49%. In 1990, the average San Francisco taxi emitted 59 tons of GHG emissions per year, and today the average taxi in the City emits 30 tons, a 49 percent reduction. That reduction was achieved because 92% of the taxi fleet is hybrid or CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) vehicles. It would be 100% but there is not a good alternative fuel wheelchair accessible van on the market. The reason the alternative fuel taxis are so popular is the economic benefit to the drivers, who fill them up at half the cost and the owners who spend less time and money on brake repairs.

 Board of Supervisor President David Chiu is reflected in the window of a cab as he affixes a “Clean Air Vehicle” sticker.

“When I announced this goal, many people didn’t think it could be done,” said Lieutenant Governor Newsom. “The clean taxi program has shown that aggressive action is possible at the local level to make major reductions in carbon emissions, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate a new green economy”
In the next four years the EPA administrator, whoever it is, will be subjected to a lot of rhetoric regarding the economic impact of environmental policies. I hope they will have the courage to continue to tell the entire story as Lisa Jackson did on her stop at Mission Motors.

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Bill Wilson’s Year in Review

Any list of highlights for the year 2012 would have to include the re-election of President Obama. The thought of any Republican taking office induced in me a gut reaction that I’ve not experienced since Oliver North ran against U S Senator Charles Robb in Virginia in 1994.

The fact that the election provided a turning point for many GLBT issues was just the icing on the cake. As a results of the election we now have an openly lesbian United States Senator, marriage equality in the states of Washington, Maryland and Maine and no constitutional ban on marriage equality in Minnesota.

Then Congresswoman now United States Senator from Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin during a San Francisco fundraiser in Diamond Heights.

 So while I had several weeks of wonderful relief after the election, that knot in the gut has returned since the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Prop 8 and Defense of Marriages cases. While I have little doubt that the Court will rule Prop 8 and DOMA unconstitutional, you just can’t be sure until it is in writing.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the majority opinions in the Romer and Lawrence cases, will have the opportunity to forge another majority in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases.

Another highlight of 2012 for me was the America’s Cup World Series in August and October. Having the opportunity to spend a couple of hours a day during the races on the bay in one of the mark boats was an experience that was enjoyable and unforgettable. 

The boats currently in use for the America’s Cup are catamarans with two hulls. The boats go faster with only one hull in the water. The first day I was out on one of the mark boats, it was a practice day. At one point, the Luna Rossa Swordfish boat was headed in our direction with one hull completely out of the water; I realized, as it got closer, that it wasn’t going to go by us as much as over us, and if it lost momentum the hull would come down on top of us. My initial reaction was to jump out of the way but luckily I remembered that wasn’t possible because I was in a boat; so I just kept taking pictures and thought if it does hit us I will have some great exclusive photos.

The boats that will be used in the actual America’s Cup trial and defenders races next year will be almost twice as big as the ones that raced this year. I can’t imagine how awesome that will be. Because the boats are bigger the course will be enlarged to include more of the bay than was used this year. I prided myself on the fact that I didn’t have a problem adjusting to the motion while out on the bay and going ashore I had no trouble walking on land. It wasn’t until I was going through hundreds of pictures I had taken while deciding which to use on my website that I found myself getting a little queasy.

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On Scene With Bill Wilson and President Obama

President Obama acknowledges the cheering crowd of supporters as he descends the stairs from Air Force One after it landed at SFO on Monday, October 8.


It was billed as the last campaign trip to California.  It remains to be seen whether it will be the last trip to California as President or just the last trip to California during his first term. It began Monday afternoon shortly before 2 pm and ended Tuesday morning at approximately 9:20 am.

President Obama spent a few minutes working the fence line at SFO greeting supporters. 

There were actually two parking shuttles full of well wishers on hand to greet him. The departure was closed to the public. The President left SFO on his way to campaign in Ohio. There are no greener pastures than California, but Ohio is considered a swing state still in play.

President Obama turns to wave to the media as he boards Air Force One on October 9,    

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