On Guard: What made SF Pride change its mind on Facebook’s parade sponsorship? 

click to enlarge Drag queen star Roma and other supporters of the #MyNameIs campaign are planning to protest at Facebook headquarters June 1. - ERIC RISBERG/2014 AP FILE PHOTO
  • Eric Risberg/2014 AP File Photo
  • Drag queen star Roma and other supporters of the #MyNameIs campaign are planning to protest at Facebook headquarters June 1.

If you're a high-profile donor to San Francisco Pride, you might be able to discriminate against the LGBT community and get away with it.

The Facebook real-name debate is raging again. Amid this push for digital civil rights, the San Francisco Pride board considered dropping Facebook's sponsorship of its parade. But it appears a phone call changed the board's mind.

Banning the social media giant would have been a bold move that might have put pressure on Facebook to change its stance on its controversial "authentic name" policy.

However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Gary Virginia, the board's president, and perhaps other board members to discuss the issue, according to documents obtained by The San Francisco Examiner.

Insiders said this call may have been key in swaying the vote in favor of Facebook.

Virginia did not return calls for comment.

The board backed Facebook in a 5-4 vote to allow the social media giant to march in the Pride Parade next month.

Last year, Facebook came under fire from local drag queens when its authentic-name policy led to local performer Sister Roma and others being barred from the social network. The policy allows users to report people they believe are using fake names.

Sister Roma and others said LGBT users were disproportionately targeted by bigots. Trans people, drag queens, drag kings and others in the LGBT community often go by something that is not their legal name, but nonetheless honestly reflects their identity.

As the issue heated up, others who rely on pseudonyms on Facebook spoke out. They included domestic violence survivors, people fleeing stalkers, teachers who want private lives away from their students, those transitioning to a different gender and many more.

"We firmly believe in and are committed to our authentic name policy," Facebook wrote in a statement last week, adding that "we've made significant improvements over the last nine months in the way the policy is enforced."

But Sister Roma, a leader in the #MyNameIs campaign, was in those negotiations with Facebook. She said she feels fooled, as the social media giant barely budged on its policy.

Supporters of #MyNameIs plan to protest at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on June 1. The protest is one thing, but a black eye from San Francisco's Pride board could have put serious pressure on the social media giant.

So what happened?

The Examiner obtained draft minutes of the contentious meeting.

"Since Gary [Virginia] mentioned it at the Tuesday meeting, advocates know that Mark Zuckerberg has been on the phone with us," say the minutes recapping testimony from board member Jesse Oliver. "What does it say if all it takes is a 15-minute phone call from Zuckerberg for Pride to sell out our own community?"

Board member Larry Crickenberger, who voted in favor of Facebook, said booting Facebook was the "nuclear option" and "too extreme," meeting minutes show.

Many worried a vote to ban Facebook would hurt future donations.

Before the board voted to back Facebook, member Jose Cital pleaded for his colleagues to put people's rights ahead of corporate interests:

"Why am I here? I am supposed to represent youth and I am a person of color, but my view is never listened to on this board. If we aren't here to take a stand, why are we even doing this?

"I don't care about raising money for a party. I care about making a difference."

Take Action: Join the #MyNameIs supporters as they take a caravan of buses to protest at Facebook HQ on June 1, and sign their Change.org petition at http://bit.ly/FBMyNameIs.

SF Weekly reporter Julia Carrie Wong uploaded the text of the Pride board's draft minutes online, which you can read below. Read her report here.

SF Pride Minutes 5.17.15

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at joe@sfexaminer.com.

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Bio:
Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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