Saturday, June 29, 2013

In the News: Buzz Feed

See original post and many more photos

The First San Francisco Weddings After The Fall Of Proposition 8

Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier were the first same-sex couple to tie the knot at San Francisco’s City Hall on Friday. Then, these happy couples did the same.
Justine Sharrock BuzzFeed Staff 

At 4:45 p.m. today, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, the Proposition 8 plantiffs, tied the knot at San Francisco’s City Hall. State Attorney General Kamala Harris officiated their wedding. “They have waited and fought for this moment,” Harris said. “Today their wait is finally over.”

When the news hit that San Francisco officiants were going to start wedding same-sex couples, some people dropped everything and ran to City Hall. Jessica Becker and Jacqueline Bralostozky ran out of the house, discussing on the way there in the car whether they really wanted to do this or not. They realized after they got married that they had left their apartment door open. Some were in town visiting for pride — like Randy and Kurt Andrews, from Palm Springs, who serendipitously were celebrating their seven-year anniversary today.

Over the course of the evening, dozens of same-sex couples joined them. Officiants, including city supervisors, read vows to couples in the city hall’s main lobby under the rotunda. Each time a couple said “I do,” a cheer would ring out. Cameras were constantly flashing.

One straight couple brought cupcakes for newlyweds. Another guy brought flowers for brides and grooms, knowing people in their rush wouldn’t have bouquets. Two volunteer pastors came in case there was need for more officiants to join the judges and city supervisors.

There was not nearly the same frenzied excitement as in 2008 when San Francisco wed same-sex couples in an almost gueriilla fashion before the passage of Proposition 8 in November of that year. It also wasn’t like the first time, in 2004, when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom began marrying same-sex couples in ceremonies that were eventually found to be invalid.

There isn’t the same fear this time around that this could end at any moment. People have a chance to plan a ceremony. Some even rushed down, got their license, and then decided to wait for a full ceremony. Others, however, didn’t want to wait one more day.

Here are scenes of love, happiness, and celebration from San Francisco’s City Hall on Friday.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In the News: The Guardian

Obama applauds Supreme Court's Doma and Prop 8 rulings – live updates
link to the original article

Eoin Reynolds reports for the Guardian from San Francisco, where religious leaders held a press conference to celebrate the day's news. A small crowd gathered San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, Eoin reports:
Reverend Roland Stringfellow said that many church leaders believe gay marriage is an affront to their religious freedom, but he and many others do not agree.
"Many clergy of a variety of faiths believe it is our religious freedom to welcome anyone who wishes to live in the light of life and truth," he said. "Today we open our doors to all couples who want to be joined in love."
Reverend Charles Lewis, a Lutheran minister with the Society of St Francis, has been working with the gay community in San Francisco since the 1960s. At that time the struggle was to prevent police harassment and violence towards gay people.
"It has taken us 50 years to get to marriage equality," he said, "but we must remain vigilant. What we have won today has been won by law and it can be taken away by law."
His colleague Megan Rohrer is the first transgender Lutheran minister, having been ordained in [2006]. She hailed the day as a victory but warned there is much more to do.
"There are still 37 states where it is not legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married," Rohrer said. "There are still some rights that are denied to transgender individuals. In some states the courts have denied the right of transgender people to marry at all because they do not recognise their gender."
Representatives of the Jewish community also turned out in support of gay marriage.
Rabbi Doug Kahn, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said: "The organized Jewish community overwhelmingly supports gay marriage equality out of an abiding commitment to civil rights in our society and therefore applauds today's Supreme Court decisions as a major step forward."

Monday, June 24, 2013

In the News: San Francisco Bay Gaurdian

Did the Hayes Valley Farm occupation help or hurt the cause of liberating urban space?

Activists who occupied the former Hayes Valley Farm site held the space and posted this sign before being evicted by police.
Did the recent activist occupation of a temporary urban farming plot help “liberate the land,” as they claimed, or might it actually make property owners less likely to allow community-based temporary uses on land awaiting development? And did the farmers of this once-fallow land inadvertently provide a new toehold to challenge a proposed housing project?

Promptly after Hayes Valley Farm ended its three-year stint to make way for long-planned housing that would be built on the lot, a group of activists (many from Occupy San Francisco) calling itself Liberate the Land took residency for nearly two weeks, renaming it Gezi Gardens in solidarity with protesters at Gezi Square in Turkey. At 2am on June 13, Gezi Gardens was raided by police and the activists ejected.
The rise and fall of Gezi Gardens has had some people within the San Francisco urban agriculture community questioning whether or not the occupation was helpful in promoting the cause for more green space in the city. For some involved in the urban agriculture community, the end of Hayes Valley Farm reflects a not-so-distant future for other green spaces in the community.

Pastor Megan Rohrer is executive director of Welcome: A Communal Response to Poverty and project coordinator for The Free Farm, a community garden on St. Paulus Lutheran Church’s land on Gough and Eddy Street. That plot, temporarily turned into green space with permission from the landlord, St. Paulus Lutheran Church, is scheduled to end its three-year stint in December to make way for housing construction, much like Hayes Valley Farm.

The Free Farm’s land will sprout a housing project with all low-income housing units, whereas the project being built on the Hayes Valley Farm site will have 40 low-income units out of 180 total condos. Regardless, the possibility of a similar situation to what happened with Hayes Valley Farm has Rhorer on edge.

“I have a nervous feeling that what happened with Hayes Valley Farm may happen with my garden. I just want everything to end smoothly and peacefully,” Rohrer said. “I respect what the Occupy folks are doing in bringing awareness, but feel that what they did was a little disingenuous. Since the start of Hayes Valley Farm, there was an understanding that condos would be built over it. It was going to happen eventually.”
Longtime San Francisco activist Diamond Dave Whitaker was one of the people that occupied Gezi Gardens. He’s not sure if the occupation will be prove helpful to the urban agriculture movement in San Francisco.

“I’m not sure. What I do know is that Gezi Gardens was one of the few wild spaces left here,” Whitaker said. “Not everything has to be done within the law. Time will tell if what happened there helped urban agriculture here.”

Katy Broker-Bullick, a site steward at the 18th and Rhode Island community garden, told us the occupation of Gezi Gardens served to spark a dialogue about green spaces in San Francisco.

“I appreciate what the Occupiers are doing at Hayes Valley Farm in so much as it draws attention to innovative, community-based green spaces in San Francisco, and serves to foster a balanced, open discussion of the function and importance of such sites for community connection and innovation in urban spaces,” Broker-Bullick said.

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-SF) is also weighing in on the discussion of urban green spaces in the city. Although he does not have a stance on the occupation of Gezi Gardens, he has made strides in trying to make urban agriculture more accessible with San Francisco’s Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, Assembly Bill 551. It calls for property owners to sign a contract that would zone their land strictly for agriculture for 10 years in exchange for decreased property taxes.

Ting doesn’t necessarily support those who occupied Gezi Gardens, but said this: “What I do believe is that we should be doing what we can to keep green spaces in San Francisco.”

Some groups in the city may respect what the Liberate the Lands attempts at occupying Gezi Gardens, but the politically active Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association wasn’t one of them.

On June 7, nearly a week before the raid of Gezi Gardens, HVNA President William Bulkley penned a letter to Mayor Ed Lee, pleading to end the occupation of that land: “The HVNA board of directors feels that the current situation on Parcels O and P places a health and safety risk to both the participants and our neighbors. We respectfully request that, as mayor, you direct your staff to take appropriate action in a swift and timely fashion.”

Yet Rohrer also said Occupy activists are a much-needed part of San Francisco’s urban agriculture community. “It’s because of the hard work from people who have been connected to Occupy that spaces, like the Free Farm, are running,”  Rohrer said. “We have a lot of Occupy folk who volunteer that put their hearts and souls into the soil.”

There are efforts to halt building on Gezi Gardens, though many of the people who had occupied the lot have “scattered to the wind,” Whitaker said.

Mona Lisa Wallace, an attorney working with Liberate the Land, is attempting to halt construction based on the grounds that an accurate environmental impact report was not done because the land was found to be exempt from a more current report. Wallace said the last report was done five years ago when Parcels O and P were classified as “disturbed land.” Since then, plants and wildlife have flourished on Hayes Valley Farm.

She said an appeal to the exemption from a current environmental impact report will be filed at the the Board of Supervisor’s office on Friday. “Over the years a habitat has been created for hummingbirds, bees, crows, and quail,” Wallace said. “The exemption from the environmental impact report does not free them from being in compliance with federal and state law.”