Bias Complaint Filed Against Pride

by James Patterson
Monday May 13, 2013

LGBT unrest over the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee's controversial selection and retraction of imprisoned Army Private First Class Bradley Manning as a Pride grand marshal has now escalated to the legal arena with a complaint to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

In a six-page filing prepared by local gay attorney and District 8 resident David Waggoner, 38, nearly 30 signatories initiated a Complaint of Unlawful Discrimination against the San Francisco Pride board of directors with the HRC on May 7.

Former parade grand marshals Gabriel Haaland and Gary Virginia, and Swords to Ploughshares staff attorney Becca Von Behren were among the 21 individuals who signed on to the complaint. [Full disclosure: attorney Paul Melbostad, who serves as the Bay Area Reporter 's legal counsel, also signed the complaint.]

Among the five organizations to endorse the complaint are the Bay Area Military Law Panel and the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild.

The complaint said the board had "repudiated San Francisco Pride's electoral college's selection of Bradley Manning as a 2013 grand marshal for the Pride parade." This action violated city administrative codes, arts funding guidelines, board marshal selection policy, and board non-discrimination policy, the complaint charged.

"Pride is subject to the city's non-discrimination laws because it receives city funding," Waggoner said in an email. He confirmed to the B.A.R. that the complaint had been officially filed with the HRC with copies emailed to Pride officials.

"If SF Pride reverses its decision [on Manning], the complaint will be withdrawn," said Waggoner, a former president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.

He is not planning any actions or charges against any individual on the SF Pride board. He said he did not ask any local LGBT elected officials to sign on to the complaint.

The complaint states, "Bradley Manning is a gay and possibly transgender soldier who is currently facing court-martial for his role in giving classified [government] documents to WikiLeaks." It stated the materials leaked exposed "war crimes committed by U.S. service members in Iraq, as well as embarrassing diplomatic cables."

The complaint also states "the Pentagon's treatment of Manning has amounted to torture under international law."

"SF Pride received $58,400 from the City and County of San Francisco's Grants for the Arts program in fiscal year 2012-2013," the complaint stated. The complaint includes some of the inflammatory language of Pride board President Lisa Williams used in an April 26 statement when she clumsily explained the Manning selection decision was a "mistake" by a rogue employee who she said was "disciplined."

In a May 7 statement, SF Pride acknowledged it received the complaint.

"SF Pride will be responding to that complaint in the proper forum, not in the press and/or at board meetings," the board said.

"The next step in the process," said Waggoner, "is that HRC will decide if they have jurisdiction to investigate." Meantime, he said, "I would hope that Pride will simply do the right thing and reinstate Manning and save everyone the hassle of further conflict."

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  • Bob K, 2013-05-13 02:30:08

    SILLY, STUPID QUEENS --your effort ought to be going toward getting rid of the catholic archbishop who threatens Gay rights and Gay lives. Instead you make Gay folks look silly and petty by going to court. Manning is on trial, and not available to actually BE Grand Martial. In addition, his guilt or innocence is not ours or yours to judge, and would not be changed by your wishing him innocent.

  • Ben, 2013-05-14 00:29:12

    Not so smart, Bob. How do you propose we get rid of a Catholic archbishop? And would the next one be any better? We know what Manning did and it was no different than Daniel Ellsberg’s heroic exposure of government crimes in the Pentagon Papers. Guilty or innocent then of what? I agree, let’s stop the squabbling and just take a principled stand for once!

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