If Bay Area peaceniks had their druthers, the whole SF Pride Manning-gate imbroglio would end tonight. Pride board members are scheduled to have a meeting at 7 p.m., at which point they'll probably discuss the issue and make a final decision on whether to reinstate Bradley Manning as a grand marshal in absentia.
If they do, says San Francisco attorney David Waggoner, then everything else will fall into place: Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg will march in place of Manning, the queer U.S. soldier accused of passing along classified information to Wikileaks. Manning's trial starts in June.
If Pride doesn't back down, Waggoner says, Manning-gate could get resolved in San Francisco Superior Court.
Waggoner and several other local attorneys paved the way for a legal skirmish this morning when they filed a complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, alleging that Pride's Board of Directors had discriminated against Manning. Alleged traitor or not, the 25-year-old soldier had been picked fair and square, Waggoner says. He'd been nominated by former grand marshal Joey Cain, approved by the electoral college, and shunted through the board's seemingly byzantine voting process.
It wasn't until after the press releases went out that a few high-profile naysayers -- namely, San Diego gay rights activist and Navy vet Sean Sala, and D.C.-based gay air force lieutenant Josh Seefreid - raised a stink on Facebook, calling for a national boycott of SF Pride. Pride president Lisa Williams panicked and repudiated the nomination, chalking it up to a rogue staff member. Williams couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but local peace activists called it an act of cowardice.
"An entity that receives public funding from San Francisco cannot use that funding to turn around and discriminate against someone based on [his] moral convictions," Waggoner says, noting, in the complaint, that SF Pride received $58,400 from San Francisco's Grants For the Arts Program last year. "It's clear and obvious discrimination and that's illegal in San Francisco."
The Human Rights Commission complaint retreads that argument and accuses Williams of suppressing free speech because she banned all members of Pride's leadership from supporting Manning. Waggoner and the other signatories balked at Williams' invitation to protest at the parade, calling it simple "bait-and-switch logic."
"...the Pride Board apparently forgot that Pride itself was founded on the celebration of dissent," the complaint concluded, echoing another argument that's created major faultlines in San Francisco's LGBT community, over whether increased corporate shilling has caused Pride to lose sight of its vision.
To further complicate things, SF Pride's board released another statement within hours of the Human Rights Commission complaint, again blaming Manning-gate on an error -- albeit a procedural one, this time. Board members claimed that because Manning is not a "local" hero, his nomination violated Sections 3.3 and 5.2.3 of the Grand Marshal/Pink Brick policy.
"Mr. Manning might rightfully qualify as a nominee for Celebrity Grand Marshal or another community grand marshal spot, but not as the Electoral College's nominee, as a matter of longstanding, written policy," Williams, et. al. write in their statement. And so the plot thickens.
Hopefully, the Human Rights Commission will step in and resolve things.
If not, well -- San Franciscans, brace yourselves for a long, snarly battle.