San Jose Council Candidate Crashes Press Event, Denies Claims of LGBT Discrimination

Steve Brown has repeatedly insisted that businesses should have the right to refuse service to people suspected of being gay. The San Jose City Council candidate indicated as much in a campaign questionnaire, public statements, one-on-one conversations and a recent endorsement interview with San Jose Inside.

Friday morning, the District 2 contender doubled down on that view while crashing a press conference convened to denounce his remarks. Outside the Billy DeFrank LGBT Center, where lawmakers and gay rights advocates were about to address his questionable convictions, he walked right up to the podium and began shouting at TV reporters about being misquoted and misunderstood.

He also tried to change the subject by alluding to a time in 2012 when he apprehended a pair of suspected bank robbers. “The San Jose Police Department actually gave me the highest commendation that a citizen could receive in San Jose,” he bellowed as people booed and told him to host his own event if he had something to say. “The highest commendation,” he continued over the din, “and I appreciate your support.”

After being walked off the podium, Brown continued ranting from the sidelines.

“Look, I’ve never discriminated and I don’t support discrimination,” he said. “If someone sits there and lies, and tells lies and grandstands, it’s wrong.”

Gabrielle Antolovich, president of the Billy DeFrank Center, tried to calm him down so the press conference could continue as planned. But Brown kept talking over her.

“There was no phone call from your organization asking me my stance or my opinion,” he told her, calling the event a ploy to prop up his opponent, Sergio Jimenez. “This is a very clear-cut, politicized position to try to bolster a candidate that has no bearing running for office, a candidate that doesn’t have the support of the community. This is a last-ditch effort to try to elect a candidate from special interests.”

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose), who is openly gay, waited at the lectern for Brown to quiet down so he could start his presentation. Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager—also an out-and-proud gay man—stood beside him.

“How could you be tolerant with intolerance?” Brown asked, while a District 2 resident held a rainbow flag in front of his face. “Is this tolerance? Is this a belief system of tolerance that supports the views of San Jose? We need to be a tolerant society. We need to be an accepting society for everyone’s views, for everyone’s point of views and their stances. And we cannot discriminate against people’s views, whether they are sexual discrimination, whether it’s views upon religion, race, creed.”

ABC7 reporter Chris Nguyen posted a video of the exchange.

Brown’s belief that the rights of business owners trump those of queer people is well established. He indicated as much in a voter guide before the June primary. Here’s the link. In it, he agreed with the following statement: “I support legislation that would prohibit discrimination against individuals, organizations and small businesses because of their belief that marriage is only a union of one man and one woman.”

Such laws have been blocked from taking effect in other states because of court rulings that they violate both the Establishment and Equal Protection clause in the Constitution.

But the issue with Brown’s views on the matter came to a head this week, once San Jose Inside published its take on the candidate based on a mid-August endorsement interview. “Brown seems uncomfortably sure of his positions, including the stance that business owners should have the right to refuse service to customers they suspect are LGBTQ,” the editorial read.

The article prompted this morning’s presser and drew condemnation from a host of local leaders, including San Jose Councilman Ash Kalra, whose seat Brown is vying to fill, as well as Rainbow Chamber of Commerce President Roark Clayton and Wiggsy Sivertsen, cofounder of pro-LGBT Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC).

“Steve, stop being a bully,” Kalra pleaded at one point in what CBS Channel 5 reporter Kiet Do aptly called “the most awkward press conference in recent memory.” “OK?” Kalra continued. “This is not your press conference. Learn how to be an adult.”

Gay rights advocates called on people and organizations that backed Brown to reconsider their endorsements. Supporters listed on his campaign website include San Jose Councilman Johnny Khamis, former Mayor Chuck Reed, former Councilman Forrest Williams and East Side Union High School District trustee Van Le. At least two groups so far have distanced themselves from the candidate’s comments.

The Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, which endorsed him earlier this year, noted that discrimination is expressly prohibited in its code of ethics.

“[We do] not support any law, rule or regulation that legalizes discrimination against any community, including our LGBTQ members, clients and friends,” chapter president Trisha Motter wrote in an email. “As an association of over 6,000 members, we are proud to represent a diverse community of business people and entrepreneurs who abide by a rigid code of professional ethics.”

The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, echoed that sentiment. “The [chamber] believes emphatically that businesses do not possess the right to refuse service to customers based upon their sexual orientation, and any suggestion to the contrary is false,” chamber CEO Matthew Mahood said.

BAYMEC President James Gonzales told San Jose Inside that Brown had every chance to recant his statement, but refused.

“We’ve given him plenty of opportunities,” he said. “Instead he crashed the press conference and he went bananas.”

This article has been updated.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Brown is unhinged and he clearly displayed that today. Hopefully the voters of that district reject the ignorance of his archaic values and reject this type of lunatic behavior. Well San Jose, if you wanted a Donald Trumpite of your own, ya just found it. Gross.

    • So what do you mean by bringing Trump into the debate? Apparently you have been played, manipulated, and feed lies by the media, whom are owned and operated by 93% of the liberal Democrates. It is one thing to share your displeasure for Brown, but another to fall in line with the misrepresentations and false narratives that they keep driving.

  2. Mr. Brown had plenty opportunity to clarify his position on businesses discriminating against the LGBTQ community. He didn’t. Instead he bizarrely ranted about his SJPD commendation.

    Disappointed to see Chuck Reed, Forrest Williams, and Johnny Khamis listed as endorsements on Mr. Brown’s web site.

  3. > Mr. Brown had plenty opportunity to clarify his position on businesses discriminating against the LGBTQ community. He didn’t.

    I didn’t know that gay wedding cakes were such a big issue in District 2.

    Macbeth was correct: “…full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.”

    The three people in DIstrict 2 who are going to vote against Brown because of gay wedding cakes, are the same three people who are going to vote against him because he didn’t denounce Donald Trump, and they are the same three people who are worried sick over rising sea levels and global warming.

    Plenty of fish in the sea. Throw those three voters back and get three others.

    • Delete your account. Again you fail to add any value to the conversation. You are an apologist for hate and bigotry. Even the San Jose Inside is sick of Brown bullying, lying and intimidating our neighbors.

      • > Delete your account. Again you fail to add any value to the conversation.


        What’s your position on tolerance? Are you for it or against it?

        > Even the San Jose Inside is sick of Brown bullying, lying and intimidating our neighbors.

        Also, are you running things now at SJI? Did Jennifer get fired?

  4. If a business doesn’t want to serve you because you are gay, do you really want a legal means of forcing them to do business with you? Why wouldn’t you just patronize and support the competition?

  5. People realize that some (many?) gay libertarians (“classical liberals”) agree with Brown’s position? The argument is roughly: if public perception turns homophobic again, then we run the risk of politicians mandating that LGBTQ can’t be let into business. I don’t agree with the argument, but it’s not a reflexively homophobic position to take if done carefully.

    What this Chamber candidate should have done: while Evan and Ash are holding a press conference so they can see themselves on TV, send out a tweet of you volunteering to mentor with a gay teen who has runaway from home because of the challenges of coming out. Speaks for itself. I can understand why this Chamber of Commerce dude (who is a novice at this btw so cut him some slack) made an ass out of himself at a press conference where a people who think they are a big deal called him homophobic.

    What this demonstrates to me is the high school level finger pointing and gossiping that really gets people to pay attention to politics is a road to hypocrisy because quite literally nobody is perfect (you put anybody’s life under a microsscope …) Example: I don’t like to bring this up because Kalra paid his debt to society, but his phrasing begs for it so reminder: Adults call a cab before they drive drunk.

    Labor’s candidate has a past as well that isn’t pretty…if local politics were interesting what would happen now is that the chamber candidate would bury the labor candidate in hypocrisy (the question I’d be asking is are we sure given labor candidate’s past that every one of the files he worked on as a DA investigator is a 100% clean…that he never got lazy and cut corners because those offices are overworked and underresourced?)

  6. “LGBT” is an issue of the urban elites: Upper East Side Manhattan, Berkeley, San Francisco, etc.

    DIstrict 2 is NOT where the urban elites live.

    My advice to Steve Brown is to keep his head on straight and recognize that “the times they are a-changin”. People can and do prevail over campaigns based on ugly progressive name-calling.

    Trump may not win in District 2, because he is not local, and doesn’t have the luxury of a personally campaigning in the area. But Trump has shown that the George Soros/LGBT oriented political warfare can be neutralized and that “LGBT” is not a guaranteed ticket to election for “progressive” candidates.

  7. So it seems Mr. Brown stands accused of being homophobic. As much as I’d like to use this information in forming my opinion of him, I can’t, because there’s no way to establish what the accusation even means without having some background on the person using it.

    Homophobic is not a legitimate word: it is a sociopolitical accusation that’s been foisted into the lexicon by activists (the charlatan who coined the word believed that prejudice against homosexuals was a psychological illness). Never mind that the meaning of the word phobia is “irrational fear,” a description that has nothing to do with how the heterosexual community has traditionally reacted to homosexuality (accuracy is seldom a concern to psychologists). But by branding it a phobia the culture destroyers sought to turn reality on its ear and paint the majority (and their values) as defective.

    With progressives dominating academia and the media it was only a matter of time before the sociopolitical accusation (homophobic) morphed from “a person prejudiced against homosexuals” into “a person who fails to support homosexual politics,” and finally into “a person disliked by proponents of homosexual politics.” This deception is, not surprisingly, identical to the way “anti-Semitic” morphed from “a person prejudiced against Jews” into “a person disliked by Jews,” an observation made decades ago by Joseph Sobran, who lost his job (of two decades) after writing an article critical of Israel.

    When one person calls another homophobic what is revealed is almost never anything credible about the values and beliefs of the accused, instead, all that is typically revealed are the sociopolitical convictions and/or emotional instability of the accuser, who is seldom anything more than a self-righteous, rock-hurling thug taking part in the politically-correct stoning of a decent citizen.

  8. ‘…and Wiggsy Silverstein [sic], cofounder of pro-LGBT Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC).
    Wiggsy SIVERSTEN has been an outspoken an effective champion of LGBTQ rights for decades, long before the term LGBTQ was coined. The least you can do, Jennifer and Josh, is spell her surname correctly.

    • So, you make the correction but do not acknowledge your error by posting a correction with an apology to Ms. Siversten for the error. All you wrote was that “This article has been updated”, rather than acknowledging your mistake as any person with integrity would have done.That’s one thing that happens when your lead opinion writer and her editor did not graduate from journalism school where journalistic integrity would have been learned. Have you no integrity, no shame? Stupid question on my part. Of course you don’t. This is the third time you have done that with corrections I have made.

      • As a fellow spelling and grammar scold I appreciate your noticing that Wiggsy’s last name was spelled incorrectly JMO. However… When correcting another’s spelling great care must be taken to get the spelling right yourself! Not Siversten. Sivertsen. As my old dad used to tell me, “Son”, he’d say, “Son. It’s not enough just to get the right letters. It’s important to get them in the right order too.”
        In these days of modern times the practice of pointing out grammatical and/or spelling errors is popularly portrayed as nothing more than gratuitous and pointless nit picking. I disagree with this lazy, millennial notion. To me, these errors reveal a lack of concern for accuracy on the part of the author and create a tendency to dismiss the legitimacy of the entire piece. When simple, knowable details of an article are reported incorrectly it really calls into question the credibility of other more substantive “facts” reported in the article- the ones that aren’t so easy for me to check.

        • John Galt: I am duly and properly chastised. Thank you for pointing out my error. I am blushing in embarrassment as I type this.

  9. I just can’t believe that in oh so tolerant left wing California that we have one minority trashing another minority and accusing yet another political minority of not being tolerant enough of their outrageous demands.
    But that’s stereotypical liberals for you!

  10. I note that gay couples cannot force even their nearest and dearest to participate in their same-sex weddings. But wedding service providers are forced to ignore their religious scruples and participate.
    Now, pardon me — I’m overstocked on baby goats that we ordered for the Feast of Sacrifice, and I have to scoop up their poopie.

  11. So how does it feel, lefties, when someone disrupts your carefully planned and orchestrated media events? Gee, a bit rude huh?

    Imagine people disrupting a political event. Wow, that sould never happen.

  12. “…where lawmakers and gay rights advocates were about to address his questionable convictions….” – Question to Jennifer Wadsworth: “Are you a reporter or an editorialist?”. If the latter, opine away. But if you’re presenting yourself as a reporter, please leave the opinion and the invective out of your story(s).

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