WATCH: National Victory, Local Limbo for County LGBT Community

Porterville’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community gathered Wednesday, June 26 to celebrate the day’s 5-4 Supreme Court rulings invalidating California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, fully aware that their battle wasn’t over – neither nationally nor locally.

The court’s ruling on Proposition 8 came after a series of lawsuits beginning shortly after the proposition passed 52 – 47%.

Marriages

Rebecca and Erica Madrid are married by Minister Luanne Darr near the Tulare County Superior Court in Visalia. Photo by: Jordon Dean
Rebecca and Erica Madrid are married by Minister Luanne Darr near the Tulare County Superior Court in Visalia. Photo by: Jordon Dean

On Friday, June 28 — only two days after the court’s Wednesday ruling — the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unceremoniously lifted a stay that would have prevented same-sex weddings from happening for 25 days after the Supreme Court’s ruling; the Supreme Court turned down a challenge over the weekend that would have forced the stay on weddings to return.

The court’s announcement came down at 3:23PM Friday: seven minutes before the Tulare County Clerk-Recorder’s office was set to close. Same-sex couples who wanted to get married in Tulare County had to wait until Monday to marry.

The first couple to get married in Tulare County after the Supreme Court’s dissolution of Proposition 8 were Erica and Rebecca Madrid.

“We’ve been domestic partners for about almost three years,” Erica said. “It’s different.. now I can really say, oh, she’s really my wife.”

“We raise two kids together — she has a six year old, he’s going to be seven tomorrow … and then I have a ten year old,” Rebecca said. “We’ve always considered our domestic partnership our marriage.”

“I think they’re more excited about the actual wedding, ’cause they talk about, ‘oh, we’re going to get dressed up, we’re going to go and give you guys the rings..’,” Erica said.

Celebration

On the same day as the Supreme Court decision, LGBT community members and heterosexual supporters from across Tulare County gathered in Porterville, across from its city hall.

“I’m not gay, but I am gay today,” Sarah Villicana, a participant, said at the event.

The celebration drew a crowd of nearly forty people; after speaking across from city hall, the participants painted their cars and led a contingent of cars around Porterville.

Supporters of the LGBT community celebrate the Supreme Court's rulings across the street from Porterville City Hall on Wednesday, June 26. Photo By: Jordon Dean
Supporters of the LGBT community celebrate the Supreme Court’s rulings across the street from Porterville City Hall on Wednesday, June 26. Photo By: Jordon Dean

“Because of everybody coming together, all over .. from all over Tulare County, we have this amazing network now, this amazing support group, so that none of these kids have to grow up feeling the way that we did,” Jamie Garza, a participant, said. “I don’t know how else to express what this means to our community, and what this means to me personally.”

The event can be viewed at the bottom of this article.

Proclamation fight

While the overturn of Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act were cause for celebration both statewide and nationwide, Tulare County earned the distinction of overwhelmingly voting for the proposition — 75%, the highest percentage in the state — and Porterville was the only city in the state to pass a resolution supporting the passage of the proposition.

Porterville Mayor Virginia Gurrola during the June 19 Porterville City Council meeting. Photo by: Jordon Dean
Porterville Mayor Virginia Gurrola during the June 19 Porterville City Council meeting. Photo by: Jordon Dean

In some ways, the climate in Tulare County and across the state has changed significantly since 2008. The Supreme Court rulings aside, Visalia and Porterville’s city councils both passed LGBT Pride Month proclamations since that time; the proclamations, non-legislative acts, served as a token of goodwill, acceptance, and support towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs) in their respective communities.

Visalia has, by all accounts, passed such a proclamation twice without any major protest.

The same could not be said for Porterville.

On June 4, the City of Porterville issued a proclamation naming June 2013 as LGBT Pride Month. The proclamation was signed only by Mayor Virginia Gurrola; the rest of the city council declined the option to sign it.

“To my knowledge, there were no other council members that signed the proclamation, except for Mayor Gurrola. I just wanted to be on the record in that regard,” council member Brian Ward said at the June 4 meeting.

“Although I do support anti-bullying and suicide prevention for all people, I think wrapping it up into the LGBT agenda is wrong, I think it divides the community, and it should have came forward as an anti-suicide or anti-bullying measure, not as an LGBT measure.”

The proclamation met significant resistance from Gurrola’s fellow councilmembers and from community members who gave arguments inspired by personal religious beliefs; the meetings became raucous at times, and one man was arrested at the first meeting.

It was found so controversial that the council added agenda items to discuss its repeal, a review of the proclamation process, and a replacement proclamation removing any reference to the LGBT community on its June 18th meeting agenda; the meeting drew crowds from both sides, and video from the meeting can be viewed here.

All items passed; all three topics will be next discussed at the July 16 meeting at 291 N. Main St, Porterville, CA.

Use your voice

Your email address will not be published.