SF Pride Announces Grand Marshal Nominees

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 6 MIN.

Organizers of San Francisco's LGBT Pride parade and celebration have announced the nominees for the 2014 grand marshals, and voting went live this week.

Public voting for the grand marshals, who typically ride in the parade, will conclude March 17. People may vote at http://www.sfpride.org/vote, which also includes locations for polling stations where people may vote in person.

"We received over 50 nominations for the three categories of awards. The board had a difficult time narrowing it down to the number of people on the ballot. There were so many qualified people and organizations," said Gary Virginia, board president of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee.

There are also three Pink Brick nominees. The faux award is given by Pride each year to someone who has caused significant harm to the LGBT community.

Virginia said the number of qualified nominees "made it very challenging for the board, but ultimately, we feel like we chose individuals and organizations who represent the best of our community," while the Pink Brick nominees especially reflect what's happening internationally.

Results from public polling will be reviewed and certified by Pride's board and will be published no later than April 8.

As usual, the nominees are made up of a wide array of community activists.

Individual Grand Marshal Nominees

Brian Basinger has run AIDS Housing Alliance/San Francisco since he founded the group 10 years ago. He's led the charge to open an LGBT-welcoming homeless shelter in the city, among other efforts. He also co-founded the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Youth Alliance when he was 17 and the Freedom to Marry Task Force of Northern California in 1995.

For years, he's also been advocating for the rights of low-income renters in the city, especially recently as concern has grown around people being evicted from their homes.

"On behalf of the 2,100 homeless LGBTQ community members who are homeless and the tens of thousands of us who are clinging to hope for our future in San Francisco. On behalf of the countless LGBTQ community members around the globe facing persecution today, who need San Francisco to remain a beacon of hope for a future world where they can be at home by being themselves, to color our world with a pride, I welcome this nomination and invite you to vote for me and my comrade in the struggle for housing rights - Tommi Avicolli Mecca," Basinger said in a Facebook message. [More information on Avicolli Mecca is available later in this list.]

Lenny Broberg is an out gay San Francisco police officer, the 1992 International Mr. Leather, a competitive softball player, and a "highly sought after" emcee and auctioneer, Pride said in a news release. Broberg regularly helps fundraise for groups including AIDS Emergency Fund and the Human Rights Campaign. He's currently an inspector assigned to the San Francisco Police Department Gang Task Force.

"I was happy and a bit overwhelmed," Broberg said in a Facebook message when asked for his reaction to being nominated. "I am fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in some wonderful events, meet caring and compassionate people and get to make a bit of a difference in someone's life. To have those efforts acknowledged and recognized by one's peers and community is truly special."

Judy Grahn is the author of the memoir A Simple Revolution: the Making of an Activist Poet, which chronicles the first 40 years of her life, from her first love to arrest and shaming in the military and on to her founding the Women's Press Collective in Oakland.

"Her pro-lesbian, pro-woman, pro-LGBTQ, pro-people's liberation writing helped fuel several movements," Pride's news release said.

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy has been a transgender activist, instigator, and community organizer for more than 40 years and is currently executive director of the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project.

"Miss Major has worked tirelessly for social justice and the human rights of transgender women of color," according to Pride.

Jewlyes Gutierrez, 16, is a transgender student at Hercules Middle/High School who was charged with battery after she reportedly fought back in a schoolyard altercation that came after she had allegedly suffered long-term peer bullying. Her alleged attackers were not similarly charged. A judge recently ordered Gutierrez to enter a conflict resolution program.

Like Basinger, Tommi Avicolli Mecca is also a longtime housing rights advocate. Avicolli Mecca works for the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco and has written or edited four books, the most recent being Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation.

Melanie Nathan is an attorney and the founder of Private Courts, a global human rights advocacy firm based in the Bay Area. Nathan is known for her advocacy blog http://www.oblogdeeoblogda.me and for her pro bono work, which includes assisting persecuted LGBT Africans to escape from countries where they are criminalized. She's also established a rescue fund for LGBT Africans seeking refuge.

"I was so honored to receive the nomination and thank SF Pride," Nathan said in a Facebook message. "I hope that it will help bring more attention to the international LGBT issues our community should be more cognizant of, especially in Africa."

Leah Neaderthal and Leanne Pittsford are also nominated for individual community grand marshal. Neaderthal is the chief marketing officer at Start Somewhere, which offers design, database, and technical support to groups. Pride called her "a marketing guru who's obsessed with helping social good organizations succeed through great design and smart technology." Pittsford, Start Somewhere's founder and CEO, assists nonprofits with growth.

John Weber is vice board chair of the Imperial Council of San Francisco Inc. and has been honored by the Black Coalition on AIDS for his fundraising work. Among other recent activities, Weber lent his voice to a rally honoring slain Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato.

Rounding out Pride's list of nominees, Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Ph.D., is an Oakland-based award-winning artist and writer who directed the documentary Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen. He also runs the blog, blac (k) ademic.

The Advocate magazine recently named Ziegler one of the Top 40 Under 40 LGBT Activists. He also founded Trans*H4CK, which spotlights trans-created tech and trans- led startups.

Organizational Nominees

Bob Basker Post 315 of the American Legion?claims to be the only congressionally recognized, chaptered American Legion Post in the United States named after an openly gay World War II combat Army veteran. Post 315 is also a Pride community partner.

The GLBT National Help Center, which is based in San Francisco, provides peer-support, community connections, and resource information to people from across the country with questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. The group operates two national hotlines, among other services.

Since it was founded 40 years ago, the Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco Inc. has provided diverse areas of the community with charitable and personal support.

"Thousands of people's lives have been materially and positively affected by the kindness and charity of the people who support the Grand Ducal Council," according to Pride. " ... the Grand Ducal Council has raised over $1.6 million to help AIDS, breast cancer, domestic abuse, and homelessness-related causes."

The San Francisco Night Ministry provides middle-of-the-night pastoral care, counseling, referral and crisis intervention to people in distress. Upon request, a night minister will meet anyone anywhere in the city. Calls to the group's crisis line come from around the Bay Area and beyond.

"We are delighted and honored to be a nominee for organizational grand marshal and are grateful to those who nominated us," Lyle J. Beckman, the ministry's director, said in an email. "This is our 50th anniversary year and we look forward to sharing the story of our involvement in the LGBTQ communities over the years, and our commitment to continue to provide crisis intervention, counseling, referral services and care every night of the year."

The San Francisco Trans March is the final organizational grand marshal nominee for this year. The march's mission is to inspire "trans and gender non-conforming people to realize a world where they are safe, loved, and empowered," Pride's news release said. The march, which is San Francisco's largest transgender Pride event, typically takes place on the Friday of Pride weekend.

Pink Brick Nominees

This year's slate of Pink Brick nominees starts with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. In January, Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which prohibits gay marriage and involvement in gay societies and organizations, among other things. Penalties can be up to 14 years in prison for gay marriages.

Scott Lively is an anti-gay U.S. pastor accused of engineering Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act, and saying LGBT people are the "new Nazis."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has enforced an anti-gay propaganda law and "given a green light to harassment and intimidation," while saying it doesn't discriminate against anyone, Pride said.

One individual grand marshal will be selected from the community voting and one will be chosen by Pride's membership. The board also has the authority to select additional individual grand marshals, and other honorees are expected to include celebrity grand marshals. There will be one organizational grand marshal.

The Pride board already announced that it's named Chelsea Manning an honorary grand marshal for this year's parade. Manning, the transgender Army private convicted of espionage for releasing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks, was named a grand marshal last year before the board rescinded the honor. That move sparked protests and months of controversy. Manning is now serving a 35-year sentence at a military prison.

This year's Pride festivities are set for June 28-29. The theme is "Color Our World with Pride." For more information, visit www.sfpride.org

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Read These Next