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How Do They Do That?: Bob Correa, outgoing Diversity Center executive director, Gypsy Powers, incoming executive director, and LuLu Manus, new transgender community coordinator, can invert type at will.


Angry and Gay

For those who like their slapstick theater laced with leftist acidity, the San Francisco Mime Troupe's annual performance in San Lorenzo Park (Oct. 1-2 at 3pm) usually hits the spot. They set up their compact, functional stage, deliver an afternoon of hilarity at the expense of Republicans, plead for donations and leave.

Gay rights activists had reason to be both angry and pleased last Thursday after GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER vetoed AB 849, the RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND CIVIL MARRIAGE PROTECTION ACT, but signed into law four other bills that protect and expand the scope of civil unions.

DIVERSITY CENTER executive director BOB CORREA and GLBT ALLIANCE co-chair MERRIE SCHALLER both agree the most important piece of legislation actually signed was AB 1400, the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 2005, which author and DISTRICT 27 Assemblymember JOHN LAIRD says is intended to "clarify and reinforce that all businesses that provide services, goods or accommodations to the public cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status."

"I'm really proud of John Laird," says Schaller, "and it's been so important to our community to have him--an openly gay legislator--there in the Assembly. His bill is a particularly big one, and if there wasn't the brouhaha around the marriage bill, we'd notice it more."

Also signed were AB 1586, which prohibits insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of gender identity; SB 565, which keeps homes owned by registered domestic partners from being reassessed when one partner inherits the home on the death of the other; and SB 973, which allows domestic partners of public employees, insured by PERS. who retired before 2005 to receive death benefits on the death of the retiree.

But ultimately the bill that drew the most publicity--and gay rights activists and supporters out to the Clock Tower last Friday afternoon--was of course AB 849, which defined marriage as a civil contract between two persons. Schwarzenegger says he vetoed the bill because it conflicts with PROPOSITION 22, passed by voters in 2000, which prohibits same-sex marriage.

In a press release issued after his veto, Schwarzenegger said that "the ultimate issue regarding the constitutionality of section 308.5 and its prohibition against same-sex marriage is currently before the Court of Appeal in San Francisco and will likely be decided by the Supreme Court. This bill simply adds confusion to a constitutional issue. If the ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, this bill is not necessary. If the ban is constitutional, this bill is ineffective."

GLBT Alliance co-chair THOMAS LEAVITT, who coordinated last week's protest, wasn't convinced.

"The governor vetoed fundamental inequality," says Leavitt. "It's great he signed all the other bills, but the biggest one of all was the marriage equality bill. Not signing that is just a total cave-in to the religious right, and it strips any pretense off of him being a moderate."

Says Correa, "He bowed to the right-wing conservatives that can fund his re-election instead of doing the right thing."

"On the other hand he did sign these significant bills," adds Correa, referring to AB 1400, AB 1586, SB 565 and SB 973. "It at least breaks down some inequality that will still exist until the equal marriage legislation really comes to fruition."

In the meantime, Correa, Leavitt and Schaller are bracing themselves for an onslaught of conservative ballot initiatives designed to block same-sex marriage and undermine civil unions.

"It looks like there will be ballot measures in June and November next year," says Schaller, adding resignedly, "I'm tired just thinking about it."

Diversity's New Digs

Meanwhile, Correa is pleased to announce new digs for the Diversity Center, over at 1117 Soquel Ave., across from the CAYUGA VAULT and next door to LOVEDOG TATTOO.

"The center was sort of tucked in the corner," says Correa of the former downtown location, adding ironically, "Having the words, 'gay,' 'lesbian,' 'bisexual' and 'transgender' brings us out of the closet."

So to speak--but the move was a long time coming.

"We've been looking for over two years off and on," says Correa. "We just found this great space. It has an outdoor yard, it's in a great neighborhood, there are so many good eateries and stores there and everyone's excited we're coming because of course we're going to bring lots of foot traffic."

With the help of dozens of volunteers spending hundreds of hours rebuilding and painting inside, the new center will celebrate its grand opening on Dec. 3, but it's already open and functioning. For more information, visit www.diversitycenter.org.

Spit and Polish

What's the second funniest thing about the 30TH SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL STAND-UP COMEDY COMPETITION? Almost none of it takes place in San Francisco. And the funniest thing? The comics, of course. This latter fact comes hardly as a surprise given that hundreds of wannabe WILL DURSTS and ROSEANNE BARRS audition for the privilege of competing in the annual event, and out of these herds only 30 are chosen--and only five of these selectees survive the grueling schedule--which involves competing for four weeks at 18 different venues--to make it to the finals.

As JON FOX, who organizes the annual event with his wife, ANNE, explains, "We try to have certain types of venues in each round of the competition--a college, a casino, a theater and a nightclub scene--to put comedians into different performance challenges and show who can thrive best in all situations."

This year, the final is being held this Saturday at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, a venue so intimate that the audiences are within spitting distance of the comedians--a reality that has already got finalist DON FRIESEN quipping, "Great. Then I'll save up my saliva!"

To be fair, Friesen, who won the event six years ago, relies more on self-deprecation than vitriol--a characteristic he hopes will help him beat out his four fellow finalists: San Francisco's manic KEVIN AVERY, DAVE BURLEIGH from the "mean streets of Los Altos," Fairfield-based Cain Lopez and Portland's most dangerous comic FLOYD J. PHILLIPS--to win the $30,000 prize and retake the title, which ROBIN WILLIAMS, DANA CARVEY, WILL DURST and ELLEN DEGENERES have held.

For his part, Friesen likes the 15-to-20-minute spiel time that comics are given in the final stretch of the event.

"It gives you a chance to show what you can do, especially if you're not a one-note comedian," says Friesen. "My shtick is a composite of my life experience. My act is almost completely clean. I'm a dad, I have two kids. I'm not angry, but I do have a lot of angst. I tried to do bitter, but making fun of myself works best."

Tickets for the 9pm Oct. 8 event, which Sue Murphy emcees, are $25/door or $20/ advance from Streetlight Records or Ticket web.com. For more information, call 415.383.4759.

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From the October 5-12, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

For more information about Santa Cruz, visit santacruz.com.

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