I am not entirely sure how to start this article or which direction I want to start from. What I do know is that I hope to instill enough courage and confidence when you finish reading this article.
The City of Visalia has now issued a proclamation for their LGBTQ population for two consecutive years honoring the people and their various contributions to the City. President Obama signed a proclamation declaring June LGBT Pride month nationally, and thousands of cities across the country, every year, have similar proclamation. This has inspired a resident of Porterville to push for the same. Earlier this year this resident requested I submit the paperwork but I will admit I dropped the ball given the hustle and bustle of everything else going on. And to be honest, never in my wildest dreams think they City of Porterville would even consider it. Not that this made this a low priority for me it just meant that I had a whole other series or organizing to do assuming we’d have to mobilize a protest. But, I digress.
I received a phone call from the Porterville resident Brock Neeley whom had submitted the paperwork late last week. Brock had called to tell me that the Mayor would be honoring our proclamation. The news was met with sheer joy. Excitement and tears of happiness rang from both sides of the phone line. The proclamation was to be addressed at the next City Council meeting Tuesday June 4, 2013. I want to note that anyone, regardless of their cause is able to request a proclamation honoring whatever subgroup or cause. It is solely at the Mayor’s discretion to sign off on the proclamation and not necessary for the City Council members to sign off on for it to stand. However, it is customary for the City Council members to sign off on the proclamation as well. The sole signature on the proclamation last night was our Mayor Virginia Gurrola. Each Council member refused to sign and then made it a known on public record that they do not approve of this proclamation.
I want to be brief with my personal accounts of last night’s City Council meeting because I would like to encourage you to watch some of the video’s from the event as well as view the articles listed below. I can assure you that the YouTube video’s does no justice of the physical feeling sitting shoulder to shoulder with the people you will watch say those things to our Mayor and to the LGBTQ population as a collective. I want to encourage you to be safe out in our streets but do not be afraid. It has proven an effective method that telling our personal stories have a big impact on those who claim not to know anyone that is gay. I was shocked and appalled sitting in a room with people feeling completely free and justified spewing hate speech just feet from me. I am mad! I want you to feel empowered. I too want you to be angry that this went on last night and at little to no repercussions toward the people stating such hurtful things. When it was my turn to get up and speak I felt pure terror. I am not an expert at public speaking but I am far from a newbie at it. But, last night speaking with my back toward the crowd had me literally shaking. Not because I feared what the foes behind me thought but more so feared that I would be physically attacked. I am not one for exaggeration nor story telling but I cannot stress enough how difficult it was to formulate complete sentences last night but it happened and I still encourage you to be brave for us.
(Trash found outside City Hall after the meeting)
(Please keep in mind that this is an edited version. If you have the time please check out the below YouTube channel for unedited accounts of the City Council meeting)
Here is the link to the YouTube page where you can find last night’s issuing of the proclamation followed by oral communications from the public:
This isn’t the first time we’ve been publically berated and it certainlly won’t be the last. I’d like to reference a video from 2008. Please note the gentleman speaking about increase in colon cancer amongst gay’s is still on City Council.
After reading some of the comments in the section of the initial article released from the Porterville Recorder it was clear the evening would be met with some challenges but it still did not prepare me for what was endured.
Here is the initial article posted by the Porterville Recorder prior to the City Council meeting:
Here is the second article from the Porteville Recorder after the meeting:
This article is from Queerlandia, later reposted on the Visalia Times Delta where Jim Reeves gives a great account of his personal experience there. Jim is the initiator of this and previous year’s LGBTQ proclamation in Visalia. http://blogs.visaliatimesdelta.com/alternatingcurrents/2013/06/05/porterville-city-council-meeting-erupts-in-anti-gay-hatred/
A wonderful blogger and queer activist in San Francisco picked up our story as well. Within the comments following the article is a comment from the infamous Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church disowning Porterville’s very own Kenneth Avila as one of their own. Kenneth Avila is the guy you see standing on the side of our streets with the God Hates Fags signs. http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/06/04/california-mayor-issues-lgbt-proclamation-despite-hateful-city-and-council-members/
(This is Kenneth Avila whom is being arrested and his predecessor maintaining his stance)
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has even touched on our story. Granted it’s not a full account of everything that went on last night but it is still a great article that celebrates the true achievement of the evening.
The HRC has also launched a campaign to back our Mayor up by signing a digital letter to her; thanking her for her courageous efforts. Please take the time to fill this out:
I do not want to take away from the historic occasion itself. Having a proclamation is a huge deal for us. The verbiage for the proclamation that was signed solely by the Mayor is as follows:
(You see, something hardly offensive or summoning of the anti-Christ)
I am truly proud of those who came out in support of us last night. I am in awe of the packed house.
Coming out last night took courage! All of you are my personal hero’s!
This is something to be proud of. This is history in the making and Mayor Virginia Gurolla needs to hear from us. Tell Virginia she’s on right side of history! The Mayor needs our support. Please consider sending her a personal thank you note. Tell her who you are. Tell her how her acknowledging us has impacted you. Tell her about your personal coming out story. Tell her about your gay brother or sister. Your gay aunt or uncle. Tell her about how YOU are impacted by her brave actions. Please tell her your story!
A handwritten note is always the strongest message:
City of Porterville
Attn: Virginia Gurrola
291 North Main Street
Porterville, CA 93257
But, if you’re short on time or stamps… a personalized email would be great too:
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