Dianne Feinstein honored as ally, trailblazer for SF's LGBTQ+ community despite complicated history

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Feinstein honored as ally, trailblazer for SF's LGBTQ+ community
San Francisco's LGBTQ+ community honors Senator Dianne Feinstein as an ally and a trailblazer despite its complicated history.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Dianne Feinstein was an ally and a trailblazer for the LGTBQ+ movement.

But her history with the community was more complicated than many people may realize.

It takes a small army of volunteers to replace a gigantic rainbow flag flying over the Castro District.

"So today, as we lower the rainbow flag in memorium for Dianne Feinstein, we raise the rainbow flag, and we raise a beacon of hope for people everywhere," said Terry Asten Bennett, president of the Castro Merchants Association.

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Senator Feinstein had become a huge champion of the LGTBQ+ rights.

"I think she'll always be known as a person who brought the city together right during the burgeoning of the LGTBQ movement when Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were assassinated," said Andrea Aiello, Castro Business District executive director.

Cleve Jones was there when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated.

"I go way back with Senator Feinstein -- back to the 70s," Jones said.

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Jones explained the relationship Feinstein had with the LGTBQ+ community.

"She was very adaptive. Sending signals to the community that she supported us and acknowledged us. At a time when very few politicians did at all, she did. But it would only go so far," said Jones. "She was willing to host and perform commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples in her home and her garden. But, (she) was one of the last significant Democratic Party leaders to embrace full marriage equality."

"She was out there and fighting for equal rights and social justice all the time during the AIDS crisis," Aiello said.

California Senator Scott Wiener described Feinstein's efforts during the peak of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

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"When HIV hit in the 1980s, a lot of political leaders ran for the hills," Wiener said. "San Francisco, under Dianne Feinstein leadership, literally created the model on how to fight HIV/AIDS -- a model that has been replicated throughout the world."

That included a controversial decision.

"In the early-to-late 1980s, there was a lotto of debate on how to best fight HIV and our Department of Public Health did decide to close the bathhouses. That was a terrible mistake," Wiener said.

But, all in all, local leaders say Feinstein listened to health experts and followed through.

"Dianne Feinstein listened and made that commitment. Many lives were saved as a result," Wiener said. "She was there for our community. She's going to be deeply missed."

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