After an hour of public comment and over 30 minutes of debate among council members, the Porterville City Council voted Thursday, July 16, to create new guidelines for proclamations, strike down the LGBT Pride Month proclamation, and in the same vote replace it with a resolution declaring June 2013 as a “Month of Community Charity and Goodwill to all in the City of Porterville.”
All motions passed 3-2, with Councilmembers Greg Shelton, Brian Ward, and Cameron Hamilton for, Mayor Virginia Gurrola and Vice-Mayor Pete McCracken against.
College of the Sequoias professor Robin McGehee at the July 16 Porterville City Council meeting. Photo by: Jordon Dean
The proclamation’s rescinsion and replacement, after being separated at the last meeting, were rolled into one motion and voted on together.
The move effectively put an end to a month and a half of vigorous public debate in Porterville over the proclamation.
New guidelines passed at the meeting require a majority of the members on the council to approve each proclamation. In the past – and in the case of the LGBT proclamation – only the mayor needed to approve a proclamation for it to be adopted by the city.
“It’s going to take a lot longer to get proclamations now, but that’s what we’ve got to do,” said Shelton, during a contentious council debate.
After the vote, Councilmember Cameron Hamilton, with Shelton seconding, moved to consolidate the votes on the replacement resolution and the proclamation repeal into one vote. Hamilton previously moved to separate the two at the last meeting.
The possibility of merging the resolution and the controversial LGBT proclamation was brought up by Shelton during the debate on the repeal/replacement motion.
“I’m asking if it’s something you would consider, in the spirit of compromise,” Shelton asked Gurrola. “Do you want to draw two lines in the sand here, or do you want to bring people together? I’m just asking if it’s something you would explore.”
“And you’re willing to put the LGBT community in there?” Gurrola asked Councilmember Ward, author of the replacement resolution. Ward responded that he was not.
“No. My question is, why does the LGBT community get special treatment?” Ward said. “Why isn’t it charity to everyone?”
“Don’t say that I’m not interested. Don’t say that I want to draw the line. That is not my intent.” Gurrola said, referring to the inability to merge the two. “You can say it as much as you want. I know who I am. I feel good, and I can stand in front of God right now.”
Immediately following the vote, a pro-resolution protest erupted in the chambers. Four protesters with pro-LGBT signs jumped up and began chanting “shame on you” to the councilmembers.
Protesters Jennifer McGuire, Robin McGehee and Mehmet McMillan were taken into police custody following the outburst. The council meeting was put to recess for 15 minutes before continuing.