The Porterville City Council found itself embroiled in another proclamation-related controversy when LGBT rights advocates protested in front of City Hall during its Oct. 7 meeting.
Coming Out Proclamation Shot Down
The protest was aimed at the council’s new proclamation rules and the failure of a recently-submitted request for a Coming Out Day proclamation to find any sponsors.
The new rules, passed after displeasure with the way last June’s LGBT proclamation was handled and issued, require a councilmember to ‘sponsor’ any submitted proclamations, then bring the matter to a vote. Because no one sponsored the proclamation, the council was not able to even to vote on it.
Numerous LGBT advocates spoke during the meeting’s opening public comment session, sharing their experiences coming out and why they felt a proclamation was not only important, but overdue.
The text of the submitted proclamation read, in part:
WHEREAS: There are numerous clubs, non-profits, and other organizations in Porterville, California, that work toward helping members of the LGBTQ+ community find the strength to come out, as well as cope with negative attitudes and stigmas surrounding the process. Some of these organizations include Gay Porterville, The Trevor Project, Porterville Equality and Fairness For All, Tulare-Kings Counties PFLAG, Porterville College Pride Club, and local Gay Straight Alliance Clubs at high schools.
Porterville’s newly-elected Mayor Milt Stowe declined to sponsor the proclamation because it was not all-inclusive, LGBT advocates said. The council had previously voted down or refused other LGBT-related proclamations for the same reason.
“The National Coming Out Day proclamation is geared towards a certain sector of the community. Coming out is a unique thing to the gay community. It can’t be inclusive. It can’t be any more inclusive than Cinco de Mayo or Black History Month,”
Brock Neeley, a local LGBT advocate, said. “We hope the one [Equality Proclamation] gets voted down, and we are going to bring the awareness forward, since they didn’t.”
By Any Other Name
In lieu of the desired Coming Out Day proclamation, Stowe sponsored a submitted “Celebration of Equality and Fairness and Respect for Rights for All Week” proclamation submitted by Barry Caplan of Porterville Equality and Fairness for All, which stated, in part:
The City of Porterville is committed to upholding the law of the land as well as the human rights of all persons in Porterville, including, but not limited to, United States citizens and citizens of other nations who have entered into the United States in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations, and including, but not limited to members of protected classes enumerated in US and/or California Constitutions and court decisions at the highest level in each jurisdiction, including but not limited to … Sexual Orientation.
“The second proclamation is about economic justice as it represents affirmation of rights of all that city council voted on in 2003 before the Prop 8 resolution in 2008,” Caplan said before the vote. “The only difference is that it lists the protected classes that were only implied in the original languge. That deserves a full and routine vote as well.”
“If that’s too much for them to vote on, then they’re going to have to stand up on the record and say we do not stand up for equal rights for all, even though we may have — or our predecessors did — in 2003,” Caplan continued.
The proclamation was rejected unanimously by the council.
“It’s so redundant. It’s legislative process that we’ve already put not in proclamation form but in resolution form and it’s almost written in such a way that it’s plagiarizing our own words,” Council Member Cameron Hamilton said during discussion of the equality proclamation.
“I still feel that recognition needs to be made, I don’t believe this proclamation does that,” said Council Member Virginia Gurrola. “I still feel that there needs to be recognition made for many of the reasons that were brought out today.”
“Well, I feel sorry for anybody who needs a proclamation to make themselves whole,” Hamilton said. “Plain and simple.”