Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Monday, July 8, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

San Francisco scales back boycott of business from anti-LGBT states

The city had hoped a national boycott of businesses from anti-LGBT states would materialize and bring about a sea change. It never materialized.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — It started as an effort to unite blue states and cities while exerting economic pressure on red states like Texas and North Carolina, whose legislatures had enacted anti-LGBT laws. Seven years later, San Francisco's Administrative Code Chapter 12X is on its way out.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a measure Tuesday loosening restrictions on construction contractors in 30 states around the country, meaning the city will be free to seek bids for construction from companies which had been cut out because of the discriminatory laws enacted by their state’s legislature. As San Francisco continues to grapple with rising building costs at a time when housing is in critically short supply, city leaders have doubted the efficacy of Chapter 12X.

Supervisors voted 7-4 Tuesday to allow the city to seek bids from construction firms in those 30 states, a vote which drew support from both progressives and moderates on the board while leaving four of the most progressive supervisors on the other side.

“This timely change will increase competition but will not change the city’s commitment to equality,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who introduced the measure.

Others weren’t so sure. Supervisor Shaman Walton expressed the most concern about watering down the measure. “I’m still not sure of the negative impacts this will have on the local community," Walton said.

Walton, who represents the city’s racially diverse Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood, said he was concerned about the effects Safaí’s measure would have on local contractors, a concern also voiced by Supervisor Connie Chan. And Walton said watering down Chapter 12X meant giving business to companies that don’t share San Francisco’s values.

“You can’t just put this legislation together out of the blue without those conversations,” Walton said.

Still, progressive Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the heavily Hispanic Mission District, supported the proposal.

“I think 12X provides an easy way to pretend we're doing something on an issue without doing anything at all,” Ronen said. And while a national boycott would be a great way to assert the city’s values and stances on issues such as LGBT and women’s rights, “that’s not what happened with 12X,” she said. It hasn’t affected the states it was meant to and has “prevented us from doing business with half the country.”

Then-Supervisor Scott Wiener proposed Chapter 12X in 2016 as a way to exert influence over states which had begun enacting increasingly draconian anti-LGBT laws following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that marriage is a fundamental right guaranteed to same-sex couples. The hope at the time was that other governments would join in.

As the years passed, San Francisco used 12X even more broadly by targeting states that restricted access to abortion and voting rights.

But the national boycott never happened and even Wiener — now a member of the California Senate — has called for the end of Chapter 12X. Most of the members of the Board of Supervisors agree, even a few of those who voted against the measure Tuesday, and have stated they want to take another course of action.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, a gay man whose district includes the iconic LGBT enclave Castro District, has proposed new legislation to replace 12X. Supervisors will consider that later this month.

Categories / Government, Regional

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.