Bay Area LGBTQ organizations are calling out Santa Clara’s mayor, after her election opponent leveled accusations she’s enabling homophobic attacks on him.
Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC)—one of the most prominent LGBTQ political organizations in the region—issued a letter calling on Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor to denounce a blog where homophobic comments have been made and issue an apology for platforming it, or she should be removed from office. The organization said her defense of her actions last week was unacceptable, pointing to instances across the nation where hate speech leads to real-life physical harm.
Drew Lloyd, BAYMEC board president, told San José Spotlight politicians need to confront people who attack members of the LGBTQ community, if they say they are allies.
“Despite living in what is touted as an affirming place for LGBTQ+ people, we continue to see open aggression and hate against our community and against people of color and immigrants,” Lloyd said. “We need leaders who will step up and confront hate-mongering by telling their supporters that their hate speech has no place in our community.”
Councilmember Anthony Becker, running for mayor in Santa Clara against Gillmor, told San José Spotlight last week he wants to see her denounce local blogger Robert Haugh of Santa Clara News Online. Becker said she should demand Haugh to stop allowing homophobic comments and threats targeting him, and stop promoting the blog—but she refused to do so, despite criticism from other councilmembers. Becker said in the past few months he has received death threats and been subjected to multiple online homophobic slurs.
Gillmor said last week she has never shared a blog post that contained a homophobic message. She would not comment on denouncing any attacks on Becker.
On Monday, Equality California, the largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights group, said on Twitter it stands with BAYMEC and calls for Gillmor to denounce the hateful comments against Becker.
Responding to BAYMEC’s tweet, Gillmor said she supports BAYMEC and the LGBTQ community.
“I do not condone inappropriate or hateful comments that any readers left on that column or any column,” she said. “Hate speech, threats or bullying is not acceptable in our city.”
Asked if she would renounce the blog or homophobia against Becker, Gillmor did not comment, but told San José Spotlight the city has an ordinance “Prohibition Against Discrimination” and a zero tolerance policy to protect people from all forms of discrimination.
“Our city must remain a safe and welcoming place for all of our citizens,” she said.
Blogger denies allegations
Haugh has said on his website and on BAYMEC’s post that he supports the mayor and did not know homophobic, racist or threatening statements were inside his blog posts.
When another Twitter user provided screenshots of emails sent to an address with Haugh’s name, asking why their attempts to submit comments defending Becker were not acknowledged, Haugh said he never received an email.
But Haugh responded to questions from San José Spotlight from that email address, saying “I believe Anthony Becker is using BAYMEC for political purposes and to retaliate against my site which has reported on his abusive behavior toward residents.”
Haugh has requested BAYMEC investigate Becker and determine if his campaign “used the organization for political purposes inappropriately.” Haugh said he has edited or removed comments when he learned of anti-gay content.
“I am unaware of any homophobic comments existing on my website,” Haugh told San José Spotlight.
Becker told San José Spotlight he is frustrated with Haugh’s statements about homophobic comments on his platform and that Gillmor has not denounced the blog.
“I think it shows a lot of these Gillmor supporters are basically mean-spirited,” he said. “She hasn’t spoken out bluntly against Santa Clara News Online because it’s the forum of choice for her supporters. It says to me that Mayor Gillmor supports lies and misinformation and she will do it because it supports her narrative. And it’s harming other people.”
Contact Natalie Hanson at [email protected] or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.