By Carole Cullum
May 8, 2000, weight and height anti-discrimination amendments were
unanimously approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and became
law on May 26, when Mayor Willie Brown signed the legislation.
For the full account of how we worked to
get this legislation passed, see the Spring 2000 issue of Radiance.
The legislation amended existing police and
administrative codes to include banning discrimination based on height and
weight, in housing, public accommodations, and employment.
Similar legislation was already in effect
in Michigan, Washington D.C., and Santa Cruz, California. We now have the
tools to insist that our needs be met in every area of our lives. Just by
having this law in place, people’s consciousnesses will be raised.
People are already talking about it. People need to be educated to
understand body size discrimination. Those involved with running
institutions such as movie theaters, restaurants, and airlines are among
those we’ll be “educating.” For example, a facility that doesn’t
have chairs without arms must now, by law, provide them.
To make this happen in your locale, you
have to get involved. Over my years of working in local politics, my
colleagues and I have created coalitions. We’ve worked with other people
on their issues and in their campaigns, thus creating alliances by helping
other groups with efforts unrelated to weight. Politics is about three
things: people power, energy, and money. We need to be involved on all
fronts. Go to your local Democratic headquarters, volunteer for the Gore
campaign or for your local congressperson’s race. Get to know local
officials, city council members, supervisors, and the mayor.
lucky because San Francisco is a very progressive community. I acknowledge
that this makes us very different. But efforts like ours can succeed even
in more conservative cities, even with Republicans in charge. It is always
important that you get to know your city and county legislators and staff
and to identify and work on areas of mutual concern–it will pay off in
the long run. Whatever your political affiliation, if you live in a
Republican-represented area, you are a constituent. The more people you
can build coalitions with, the more of a power base you will have. People
power can bring about change.
Start out by talking to city staff, perhaps
with the city manager or your mayor. Go to the decision makers in your
city. (Anybody can approach local politicians.) Ask, If the city were to
adopt something like this legislation, where it would start? People in
positions of power are actually delighted when citizens bring new and
interesting challenges to them.
Call a meeting. Get a group together to
approach politicians to talk about weight discrimination. The city
attorney’s office is a good place to go. They have to draft the
legislation, anyway. Write to me and get copies of the legislation. All
San Francisco did was to add “weight and height” to its existing list
of prohibited discriminations. Your city probably already prohibits
discrimination based on race, religion, age, gender, and so on. You would
simply propose adding weight and height to that list.
We brought statistics and testimony from
many people to our meetings with city officials, and we will be happy to
send you a basic packet. In San Francisco, the most moving testimony came
from sixteen-year-old Margarita Rossi, who talked about her experiences
when she went for medical care. She was no expert, just a strong young
woman who was willing to stand up for herself (see Radiance,
Personally, I am overwhelmed and flying
high! I feel that all my work over the years—in politics, in law, in the
community—has made a difference. This reaffirms the importance of the
work that I have done, and that we all have done. Together. ©
CAROLE CULLUM is a certified family law
specialist in practice in San Francisco with her law partner, Cheryl Sena.
She was appointed by Mayor Willie Brown to the Board of Appeals, where she
acted as president for two years and continues to serve today. She lives
in San Francisco with her domestic partner, Kathy, and her two dogs, Sandy
and Sally. E-mail Carole at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call her office at 415-863-5300.
To All San Francisco
Bay Activists & Friends on-line
As of May 26, 2000,
it is against the law, in the city and county of San Francisco, to
discriminate based on a person’s height or weight.
Woohooooo! We made
history!!! We did it! You did it! Thank you so very much for all of
your help, your wishes, your letter writing, your testifying, your
crossed fingers, your courage, your showing up on short notice, your
taking time to call and say you wished you could show up from
thousands of miles away, your wonderful support, and your caring!!!
I’m so grateful to
my colleagues in this process, Carole Cullum, Jo Kuney, Sondra
Solovay, and Frances White, for their commitment to the dream of
making our wonderful city a safe and respectful place for people of
gratitude also goes out to the people who took a public stand by
putting themselves out there publicly and proudly and testifying
before the Human Rights Commission and the Finance and Labor
Committee ...as well as to everyone who answered the call and
attended these important hearings. You all rock! Now it’s time to
—Big fat smooches!
Marilyn Wann, FAT!SO? chick
name is Jenna B. Sol. I am eleven years old, and I am supposed to be
overweight according to the height and weight charts. I heard from
my mother that there was an article in a magazine about you not
allowing the nondiscrimination against overweight people. I don’t
think you have felt the true pain of being discriminated against by
fellow students and grown people for being overweight, but I am sure
you might understand some of the pain. I don’t have much to ask
from you but I plead that you will feel for the hundreds of
overweight people and children. Please pass the law!
this is only a taste of what's inside the printed version of the magazine!