“Standing up against anti-LGBT hate laws.”
The headline caught my attention. We’re all familiar with these laws. States like North Carolina have passed virulently anti-LGBT — and particularly anti-transgender — laws that demonize members of our community.
The author also caught my eye: Supervisor Scott Wiener. On the same day Wiener published this op-ed piece, another story broke: One of Wiener’s top boosters, who has a despicable history of working to undermine protections for LGBT Californians, was hosting a reception for Wiener, and the supervisor not only refused to distance himself from her, he was going to attend her event.
So Wiener wants us to boycott North Carolina, but he won’t boycott an event hosted by a supporter who opposes transgender rights and went so far as to say that gender-neutral bathrooms could lead to rape.
Wiener’s ally, Josephine Zhao, was part of a press conference in 2013 protesting AB 1266, the groundbreaking law that allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. Zhao claimed gender-neutral bathrooms would lead to “public moral issues, violence and even create conditions for more incidences of rape on school campuses,” according to the World Journal, which reported Zhao’s remarks at the time.
In his opinion piece, Wiener praised companies that have pulled out of North Carolina due to that state’s anti-LGBT stance. Last week, he had the chance to show that kind of bravery and backbone by refusing to attend Zhao’s banquet. Instead, he gave a typical politicians answer that he does not “agree with all [his] many supporters.”
Apparently Weiner thinks implying transgender students are going to rape people is an area of legitimate disagreement.
Of course, his hypocrisy is explained by the fact that Zhao is a major pro-landlord activist, appearing at City Hall events to oppose efforts to protect tenants. This fact is what makes this story more than just a profile in cowardice: It’s actually a window into Wiener’s political identity.
Wiener loves to promote himself as a champion on social issues. But whenever those issues come up against the wishes of big developers and landlords, they get thrown out the window.
Wiener claims to be a champion for LGBT residents. But not for the 40 percent of LGBT homeless youth. There, he follows the lead of his corporate backers, who criminalize their status as homeless. Harvey Milk offered hope to young people across the company who were leaving their homes because their families rejected them. Unfortunately, when they arrive here now, similarly rejected by their families, they can’t find housing and end up homeless.
And of course, Wiener’s support for mass transit encompasses Google buses but not free Muni for youth.
Donors and political allies get a pass from Wiener. Putting Zhao aside for the moment, let’s not forget that Wiener has taken thousands of dollars in donations from Thomas Coates, the man who spent nearly $1 million to overturn rent control in California. Wiener has said he “doesn’t agree” with Coates’ position, but he still cashed the checks.
The picture that is coming together is of a cynical politician who will exploit any issue, pander to any voter and say anything to get elected. And who is perfectly willing to throw “dearly held” beliefs out the window to appease his political benefactors.
Wiener preened on the pages of this paper that he was “standing up against anti-LGBT hate laws” — but he couldn’t even stand up against a clearly transphobic supporter, who just happens to be a landlord activist.
Is this really someone we want in the state Senate?
Gabriel Haaland is a former president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and has organized for transgender rights in the workplace and in health care.