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Supe Proposes End to Walesa Street

by Heather Cassell
Wednesday Mar 27, 2013

A San Francisco supervisor is fed up with anti-gay sentiment from former Polish President Lech Walesa and wants to rename a city street that was named for him decades ago.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim this week proposed that Lech Walesa Street, a small alley located near Civic Center in her district, be renamed for the late gay rights advocate Dr. Tom Waddell.

The alley was renamed from Ivy to Lech Walesa in 1986 to honor the Nobel Prize-winner, who founded the Solidarity union and led the battle for democracy against the former Soviet Union.

Kim's proposal was in response to Walesa's recent televised homophobic and transphobic rant. During a March 1 appearance on TVN 24 responding to questions about current proposed legislation for civil partnerships for LGBT individuals, Walesa stated that LGBT politicians should "sit at the back of the parliament" or even "behind a wall."

"They have to know that they are a minority and must adjust to smaller things and not rise to the greatest heights, the greatest hours, the greatest provocations, spoiling things for the others and taking [what they want] from the majority," he told the newscaster. "I don't agree to this and I will never agree to it."

Kim's proposal to change Lech Walesa Street to Tom Waddell Place was supported by gay Supervisors Scott Wiener (D8) and David Campos (D9), along with Supervisor John Avalos (D11).

Waddell was an Olympic athlete and founder of the Gay Games. He died of AIDS-related complications in 1987. A health clinic named for him is located at 50 Lech Walesa.

Kim's staff said that members of the LGBT community and others have contacted the supervisor's office requesting the change.

"His recent comments [are] not representative of the city that I am a part of and its value of inclusiveness," Kim said as she introduced the proposal Tuesday, March 19. "This city is also a place that is a refuge for many members of our LGBT community. We didn't feel it was appropriate to continue to have his name on one of our streets."

Kim also acknowledged the importance of the Tom Waddell Health Center, which serves many in the LGBT community, particularly transgender patients.

"Tom Waddell is a commendable choice for the street, both because of his contributions to the LGBT community, and because the health center there bears his name," said Jeff Cretan, a legislative aide to Wiener.

The resolution will now undergo a 30-day review and a public approval process before the Board of Supervisors vote on it. If approved it would be sent to Mayor Ed Lee for his signature. Lee was out of the country this week on a sister city visit to Cork, Ireland, and Paris.

If approved, Walesa's name won't fully be gone from the street, which would bear Waddell and Walesa's names for five years during a transition period, according to city policies.

The Bay Area Reporter was unable to reach Jessica Waddell Lewinstein, Waddell's daughter, for comment by press time.

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