Tom Ammiano

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Tom Ammiano
Tom Ammiano.jpg
Tom Ammiano on Harvey Milk's 77th birthday
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 17th district
13th district (2008–2012)
In office
December 1, 2008 – November 30, 2014
Preceded by Mark Leno
Succeeded by David Chiu
Member of the
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
from District 9
In office
Preceded by district created in 2000; prior terms were on city-wide seat
Succeeded by David Campos
Personal details
Born (1941-12-15) December 15, 1941 (age 74)
Montclair, New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality United States
Political party Democratic
Domestic partner Tim Curbo (deceased)
Children 1
Residence San Francisco, California, U.S.
Alma mater Seton Hall University
San Francisco State University
Occupation Politician
Profession Teacher, activist

Tom Ammiano (born December 15, 1941) is an American politician and LGBT rights activist from San Francisco, California. Ammiano, a member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, served as a member of the California State Assembly from 2008 to November 30, 2014. He had previously been a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and had mounted an unsuccessful bid for mayor of San Francisco in 1999. He was succeeded as California's Assemblyman for District 17 by San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu on December 1, 2014.

Early life[edit]

Ammiano was born and grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. He attended Seton Hall University in 1963 and received a bachelor's degree in communication. He is Italian American. He was an Easter Seals Camp counselor in the summers of 1962 and 1963, later attending San Francisco State University in 1965 where he received a master's degree in special education. He taught English to children in South Vietnam as part of International Voluntary Services (IVS), but left shortly after the Tet Offensive in 1968.[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

Briggs Initiative[edit]

Ammiano is a former public school teacher. In 1975, he became the first public school teacher in San Francisco to make his homosexual orientation a matter of public knowledge. In 1977, Ammiano, with activists Hank Wilson and Harvey Milk, co-founded (No on 6) against the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned any gay person from teaching in California. The movement achieved success the following year, in 1978.[citation needed]

San Francisco Board of Education[edit]

In 1980 and 1988, Ammiano ran for the San Francisco Board of Education, and was elected in 1990. He was subsequently elected its vice-president in 1991, and then president in 1992. As president of the Board of Education, Ammiano was successful in his efforts to include a gay and lesbian sensitivity curriculum for all students in the San Francisco Unified School District.[citation needed]

San Francisco Board of Supervisors[edit]

Among his accomplishments on the Board of Supervisors is the creation of the San Francisco Health Care Security Ordinance, which was passed by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Gavin Newsom on August 7, 2006. This makes San Francisco the first city in the nation to provide universal healthcare access.[1][2] Ammiano was the main architect of the city's Domestic Partners Ordinance, which provides equal benefits to employees and their unmarried domestic partners. It requires companies which do business with the City and County of San Francisco to provide the same benefits.[citation needed]

In 1999, Ammiano came into conflict with San Francisco's Roman Catholic community when the Board of Supervisors, at Ammiano's request, granted the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a charity group of drag queen nuns, a street-closure permit for Castro Street for their 20th anniversary celebration on Easter Sunday.[3]

1999 mayoral campaign[edit]

In the San Francisco mayoral race of 1999, Ammiano mounted a successful write-in campaign in the November election, preventing the incumbent Willie Brown from achieving a victory without a run-off. While Ammiano lost that second election in December, Ammiano's campaign galvanized more radical voters in San Francisco, and had a major impact on the composition of the new, more liberal Board of Supervisors the next year. There is a documentary about the 1999 mayoral election, titled See How They Run.[4]

California State Assembly[edit]

Ammiano introduced the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, to the California State Assembly in February 2009, calling for the legalization of cannabis statewide. The proposal would regulate marijuana like alcohol, with people over 21 years old allowed to grow, buy, sell and possess cannabis. With the state's severe budget shortfalls the bill has been discussed in light of revenue generation as well as savings from decriminalizing and prosecuting marijuana-focused possession crimes. The bill failed the assembly's Public Safety committee by a 3-4 vote on January 12, 2010.[5]

Ammiano authored legislation, Assembly Bill No. 1266, which was passed in May 2013 by the State Assembly:

Existing law prohibits public schools from discriminating on the basis of specified characteristics, including gender, gender identity, and gender expression, and specifies various statements of legislative intent and the policies of the state in that regard. Existing law requires that participation in a particular physical education activity or sport, if required of pupils of one sex, be available to pupils of each sex. This bill would require that a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs, activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records.[6]

Petitions were collected to require a referendum on the legislation in question, but the Secretary of State of California, Debra Bowen, issued a decision determining that, due to disqualified signatures, the threshold of votes had not been reached to force the referendum in question.[7] Pacific Justice and Capitol Resource institutes, representing opponents of AB 1266, sometimes called the "co-ed bathroom bill", dispute this, filing a lawsuit, opposed by the State of California, to have the disqualified signatures validated and petitioners' names made public, which the State argues are confidential. Karen England of the Privacy for All Students said “We are preparing for the next stage of the battle. After months of waiting, we now get to see why so many signatures were thrown out. Certainly some signers were not registered to vote or had moved without changing their address. But it is also certain that many of those signatures were rejected based on reasons that will not survive a legal challenge.” The president of the Pacific Justice Institute, Brad Dacus, said, “We have been playing by their rules. Now it's our turn to go in and make sure they have properly treated signatures as they should be.” Dacus stated that the organization is willing to go to court.[8]

Pro-referendum forces attested that ballots were mishandled due to malfeasance and incompetence, in Tulare and Mono counties, respectively. Pacific Justice said that in Tulare, the county mailroom clerk simply refused to sign and accept a package from a FedEx driver. In Mono County, the signatures were delivered, but county personnel did not process them until after the deadline.[9]

A Sacramento judge rebuked elections officials for those actions. Judge Allen Sumner of the Sacramento County Superior Court said the thousands of signatures from the two counties must be counted.[7] A spokeswoman for the California Catholic Conference said the issue should be handled by school officials, not lawmakers. "Our legislature tends to get involved in things that are better handled in local school districts ... One size does not fit all", she said.[6]

Judge Sumner ruled against Bowen and ruled the signatures had to be accepted. The reason for this is that November 10 was a Sunday, and November 11 was Veteran's Day, a holiday, and the election offices in the two counties were closed. The judge wrote, "Ever since the voters enacted the referendum power in 1911, courts have liberally construed its provisions to protect the voters' power. The fact that the deadline for submitting petitions falls on a weekend preceding a holiday, or the county registrar closes a[t] noon on Friday, should not prevent Petitioner [Gina Gleason] from having her petition signatures accepted."

On March 25, 2014, the Pacific Justice Institute initiated a lawsuit in the Sacramento Superior Court to compel Secretary of State Debra Bowen to place the veto referendum on the ballot. The group argues that county election officers "improperly" invalidated around 17,276 petition signatures.[10][11]

Schwarzenegger acrostic memo[edit]

In October 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger appeared at a Democratic Party fundraiser at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel. Many in the room thought the governor’s appearance was, as Ammiano described it, a "cheap publicity stunt." [clarification needed] When former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown introduced the governor, Ammiano shouted "You lie!" in a copy-cat of Representative Joe Wilson's remarks during President Obama's congressional address a month earlier. Ammiano walked out yelling that Schwarzenegger could "kiss my gay ass". In a video of the event, an audience member is heard yelling "Kiss my faggot ass!" at Schwarzenegger, leading some to conclude that "faggot" was what Ammiano actually said, and that "gay ass" was a censored version of the quote. However, Ammiano did not use the word "faggot", and the person yelling "kiss my faggot ass" was someone else.[12]

Four days after the fundraiser, Schwarzenegger vetoed Assembly Bill 1176 authored by Ammiano that had cleared the State Senate 40-0 and the Assembly 78-0.[13][14][15]

Schwarzenegger sent a memo to Ammiano explaining the veto. The letter contained a hidden message that, when using the first letter of each line along the left margin, spelled out 'fuck you'.[16] Governor Schwarzenegger denied the hidden message was inserted intentionally,[17] media outlets consulted a mathematics professor, who reportedly determined that the odds that it was simply a coincidence were astronomical.[18][19]

Personal life[edit]

Ammiano was in a 16-year domestic partnership with a fellow schoolteacher, Tim Curbo, who died of complications from AIDS in 1994. He has one daughter and is now a grandfather. Aside from his teaching and political careers, Ammiano has been a stand-up comedian since 1980. Ammiano portrayed himself in the film Milk (2008).


  1. ^ The Bay Area Reporter Online|Mayor signs healthcare measure; accessed April 11, 2014.
  2. ^ San Francisco Leads Nation with Health Care For Uninsured; accessed April 11, 2014.
  3. ^ "Mock Nuns Hold Easter Party Despite Protests", Catholic World News, April 1999.
  4. ^ Rabin, Nathan (2003-12-15). "See How They Run (DVD)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  5. ^ Eskenazi, Joe (2010-01-12). "Puff, Puff, Pass: Ammiano's Pot Bill Clears Assembly Committee". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  6. ^ a b Los Angeles Times, "Assembly approves bill on gender identity in schools" by Chris Megerian, May 9, 2013; accessed April 11, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Suit against State of California over AB 1266,, April 2014; accessed April 12, 2014.
  8. ^ California Referendum on AB 1266,; accessed February 26, 2015.
  9. ^ State accused of bending rules for bathroom bill,; accessed April 12, 2014.
  10. ^ California_Referendum on AB 1266,; accessed November 7, 2014.
  11. ^ Pacific Justice Institute vs. Debra Bowen (California Secretary of State),; accessed November 7, 2014.
  12. ^ Andrew Belonsky (October 8, 2009). "No, Sir, Arnold Will Not Kiss Your "Fa**ot" Ass". Gawker. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  13. ^ Carla Marinucci (October 8, 2009). "Ammiano to Schwarzenegger: "Kiss my gay ass"". SFGate. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  14. ^ Phillip Matier; Andrew Ross (October 28, 2009). "Did Schwarzenegger drop 4-letter bomb in veto?". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  15. ^ Allysia Finley (October 29, 2009). "The Fingernator". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  16. ^ Arnold Schwarzenegger (2009). "AB 1176 Veto Message" (PDF). State of California. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  17. ^ Associated Press (March 18, 2010). "Schwarzenegger "F*** You": Did Gov Send Lawmaker Obscene Message Through Acrostic Poem?". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Odds Schwarzenegger's 'I F--k You' Message Was Coincidental? About One in Two Billion, Says Math Prof. Ashley Harrell", SF Weekly, October 28, 2009; accessed April 11, 2014.
  19. ^ Null and Vetoed: "Chance Coincidence"? by Philip B. Stark, November 3, 2009; updated February 8, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kevin Fagan and John Wildermuth. "Ammiano's Long Road From Jersey Kid to Mayoral Candidate", San Francisco Chronicle, November 13, 1999.
  • Erin McCormick. "Ammiano's career as an 'inside outsider'", San Francisco Examiner, December 7, 1999.

External links[edit]