“I’m Cecil Williams and I am pissed!”
This was how Rev. Williams of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco greeted volunteers -- many of them attending a conference for lesbian and gay politicians which begins in San Francisco today --who had gathered in Glide’s lunchroom to help with food distribution at Thursday’s lunch service.
“I’m pissed at the Mayor of Vallejo, California," Williams explained to a smattering of applause and cheers. "I will not let him define who I am with [nor] whether I’m going to heaven or hell. He cannot determine my destiny nor yours either."
Rev. Williams was referring to comments made by Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis that gay people would not go to heaven, and he was addressing a group from the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference who’d come to help the hungry.
Denis Dison, Vice President at the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute, traveled from Washington D.C. to help out with the conference that brings together openly LGBT politicians from around the world.
“There are about 450 openly LGBT elected officials in the United States. When this conference first began 25 years ago there were maybe a dozen,” Dison said. “So, we’ve really come a long way but there are still half-a-million elected officials in the United States so we have a long way to go still.”
While Vallejo might not have a gay-friendly mayor, in the South Bay, openly-gay 26-year-old Evan Low was recently selected by the City Council of Campbell, Calif., to be that city’s youngest openly gay mayor and the youngest Asian American mayor in the country.
And State Assembly member John Perez's name is being bruited about as the leading contender to become the state's next speaker.
“It’s great that people like Evan Low are being elected as Campbell's mayor," said Dison. "It’s wonderful that John Perez is being considered to be Speaker for the Assembly in California. I think when people see openly gay and lesbian elected officials working for their entire communities it really changes their perception of who we are as a community.”
Dison continued, “I think that the more young people see that gays and lesbians can get involved in politics and their own government younger in their lives it gives them hope that they can actually change things in their own government without waiting for our straight allies to get things done.”
The 25th International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference is scheduled to welcome people from all over the world this weekend, including Berlin, Germany Mayor Klaus Wowereit, U.S. Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest as well as hundreds of others.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom -- who's proved hard to keep track of recently -- is scheduled to attend the opening reception.