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San Francisco reverses Reagan-era ban on LGBTQ data collection

SF LGBT Center
San Francisco LGBT Center on Market Street

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to allow the City to collect sexual orientation demographic data from employees on a voluntary and confidential basis.

The new law repeals a longstanding ordinance that previously banned the city from surveying such data. It was originally enacted in1985 to protect LGBTQ City employees from potential stigma, discrimination, and harassment during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced the repeal during Pride Month in June. Breed said in a statement that the former ordinance, while once necessary, "has now outlived its purpose." Discrimination on the basis of HIV status, sexual orientation, and gender identity has since become legally prohibited at the city, state, and federal levels.

Mandelman, who is openly gay, said that demographic information will enable tracking of LGBTQ employees in citywide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and support targeted strategies for LGBTQ recruitment.

He also added that more representative data will increase the visibility of the City’s diverse LGBTQ workforce who "drive our buses, fight our fires, and clean our streets." The City and County of San Francisco is San Francisco’s largest employer with a total workforce of approximately 37,000.

I am a researcher and writer from Oakland, CA. I cut my teeth in radio at my college station and since graduating, I’ve worked as a paralegal, arts administrator, maritime historian, and most recently, a fellow at WorldAffairs, a global politics radio show and podcast co-produced with KQED. In my work, I am interested in the intersections of race, climate, and labor rights as well as place-based narratives of marginalization and the relationship between local history, public space, and identity formation, especially among queer and BIPOC communities. I am also passionate about drawing on the performing arts—particularly theater and music—to develop interview/storytelling practices grounded in mutual repair and community-building.