The council of the small city of Porterville, California, in the state's conservative Central Valley, voted on Tuesday night to remove its mayor from her position — in part, it appears, because of her advocacy for LGBT rights. In June, she faced fury from citizens demanding she rescind a gay pride proclamation, with some comparing gay relationships to pedophilia.
Mayor Virginia Gurrola, who assumed the leadership position of the five-person council last year, called for the city to recognize June as LGBT Pride month. She cited her experience as a teacher as a rationale for ensuring young people felt accepted. The next month, a majority of the council voted to rescind that designation, following a contentious hearing described by a city resident, via Towleroad.com.
Council members Ward, Shelton, Hamilton, and to a lesser extent McCracken, all spoke against the proclamation the night it was issued. Public comment during the meetings included a lot of vitriol directed at Mayor Gurrola by the religious community, with at least two speakers calling for the Biblical punishment for homosexuality – that homosexuals are “worthy of death”. A few screamed at the Mayor while waving Bibles in the air.
Segments of the city's meetings are available online. This video, an animation from which is below, shows public comments from the crowded June 18th meeting, two weeks after the proclamation went into effect.
"I, as a heterosexual," one woman says, "would like a proclamation for July celebrating heterosexual pride." The audience titters. "I can point to numerous contributions by heterosexuals such as: the founding of our country, the Constitution of the United States of America, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, just to name a few. Likewise," she continues, "I vote August to be Christian heterosexual pride month." A man yells out, "Yeah!" Later, she suggests that Pride Month was a slippery slope to the legalization of pedophilia.
Another man calls the proclamation "state-sponsored insanity." A third suggests that the Council will be held accountable to God. Each spoke in front of an audience that included a large number of people wearing rainbow flag paraphernalia.
That meeting came eight days before the Supreme Court threw out California's Proposition 8, paving the way for the reinstantiation of gay marriage in the state. In 2008, when Prop 8 was on the ballot, the city of Porterville passed another proclamation — endorsing the measure, and calling for an end to legalized same-sex marriage. Three-quarters of the county voted for the proposition.
Talking Points Memo reports on the Tuesday vote that cost Gurrola and her vice mayor their positions.
The city council in Porterville, Calif. voted to oust both Mayor Virginia Gurrola and Vice Mayor Pete McCracken by a 3 to 2 vote, according to the news station. Gurrola told KFSN that there was no basis for her removal, but said she was not surprised by the vote since she's a supporter of gay rights.
The position of mayor in Porterville is largely ceremonial. Neither Gurrola nor her vice mayor loses their seat on the Council itself, just the title — suggesting that, like the Pride Month proclamation, the vote was meant more than anything to send a message.
Photo: Students in Porterville say the Pledge, 1993.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.