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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