California’s 67th Speaker (and the first Black female to hold the title) Karen Bass took time off from trying to balance California’s budget and $15 billion deficit to meet with Los Angeles’ lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community at a reception held in her honor.
Held atop the Barnsdale Art Park overlooking Los Angeles, about 200 attendees gathered to welcome the newest Speaker. Attendees included: Los Angeles’ openly gay councilman Bill Rosendahl, State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, incoming Assemblymember John Perez, L.A. County Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman, the Black AIDS Institute’s Phill Wilson, NBJC’s Vallerie Wagner and Alan-Michael Graves, NAACP Boardmember Willis Edwards, Hidden Beach Recordings’ Thornell Jones, celebrity publicist Clarence Williams, promoter Ivan Daniel, as well as a host of other friends and supporters.
The event was chaired by Elliot Johnson, the former the former administrator of Los Angeles County Medical Center’s HIV/AIDS Outpatient Clinic (the largest in the county). Host committee members included: Al Ballesteros, Darrel Cummings, Oscar De La O, Matt Hamilton, Cesar Portillo, John Perez, Jeffrey King, Scott Campbell, Peter Sykes, Precious Stallworth, Paul Waters, Liliana Perez, Stephen Simon, Jan Ford, Peter Sykes, Rich Ryan, John A Perez, Jorge Amaro, and myself.
Actor and activist Wilson Cruz (“My So Called Life,” “Party Monster,” “Noah’s Arc”) served as the event’s emcee.
One sentiment that was repeatedly echoed throughout the afternoon was the historic times that we are living in. Not only with the selection of Bass by her peers as Speaker, but the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage, and Bass’ unwavering commitment to fighting for the most vulnerable, be they Black, brown, white, yellow, gay, or heterosexual, she’s truly been a leader.
During the Speaker’s remarks, she reaffirmed her support in fighting Proposition 8, a ballot initiative to change California’s constitution to exclude lesbians and gays from legally marrying. She also spoke about the challenges she’s facing in trying to balance California’s budget and fighting against those that want to balance that same budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. She reminisced about her time working in L.A. County USC’s emergency room and witnessing doctors who refused to treat patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and how we can never go back to those days and that everyone, regardless of status, color, gender, sexual orientation, and the ability to pay deserves to be treated fairly and humanely.
I’ve been a longtime admire of Bass from her Community Coalition days. When she came to the Assembly and began putting out legislation (that passed) in record time, running circles around her more seasoned colleagues, I knew she was one to watch. Her commitment to foster care, which is an issue near and dear to my heart as I spent my teenage years as a ward of the State of California, is surpassed by none and has earned her the admiration and support of so many.
A surprise during Saturday’s event was the announcement that the Speaker has performed her first same-sex marriage union. Bass officiated the marriage of Rabbi Lisa Edwards and her partner Tracy Moore on July 13, 2008.
Oh—she’s a supporter of Obama for President as well as has been from the beginning!
State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, the new chair of the Legislative Black Caucus took the time to reaffirm his support in defeating Proposition 8 which resulted in a thunderous applause from all in attendance.
Kudos to Elliot Johnson, the event sponsors, and all of my colleagues on the host committee for a wonderful and successful afternoon celebrating one of my favorite people, Speaker Karen Bass.