Metro Weekly

LGBTQ advocates mourn death of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

San Francisco mayor was one of the co-founders of the "Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination" coalition

Ed Lee – Photo: Zboralski, via Wikimedia.

On Tuesday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who became the city’s first Asian-American mayor in 2011, died of a heart attack. 

According to the San Francisco Examiner, Lee was shopping at his neighborhood Safeway when he suffered the heart attack. He died just after 1 a.m. at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, surrounded by family and friends, the city said.

Lee carved out a reputation as an affordable housing advocate and defender of civil rights, including LGBTQ rights. He previously clashed with President Trump over the city’s sanctuary city ordinance, which protects undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Lee was a founding member of the “Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination” coalition, a bipartisan coalition of municipal leaders who advocate for the passage of comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the nation. To achieve that, the coalition has both lobbied Congress to pass the Equality Act, and, in the meantime, has advocated for passage of local ordinances preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Last week, Lee co-authored an op-ed with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney that critiqued some of the arguments made in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case pending before the Supreme Court. The mayors explained why the Supreme Court should reject religious exemptions to local nondiscrimination laws that would allow people to refuse services or goods to LGBTQ people.

“We cannot let discrimination flourish in our cities or in our country,” the mayors wrote. “Throughout history, this nation has overturned exceptions that let businesses turn away certain people. Through efforts that included the civil rights, gender rights, and disability movements, we have embraced a powerful ideal: When a business is open to the public, it must be unconditionally and equally open to all. Despite progress on many fronts, LGBTQ people continue to face daily attacks and hostility. Now, more than ever, we cannot open the floodgates to further discrimination.”

LGBTQ advocates and progressive allies praised Lee’s commitment to equality.

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Mayor Lee was a tireless advocate for LGBTQ equality who worked to make San Francisco a stronger, more vibrant, and inclusive community. As the first Asian American mayor in the city’s history, he was both a trailblazer and a dedicated public servant admired by millions. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and all those grieving his loss.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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