Posts Tagged ‘pride’

Guest post: The Problem in Porterville

July 17, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

Band Together for Band Town

Band Together for Band Town

This is a guest post by Barry Caplan, of Porterville Equality and Fairness for All

Porterville, CA is a small city of 55,000 in the Central Valley midway between Fresno and Bakersfield, nestled at the eastern edge of the Central Valley and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Last night, our City Council continued its 5-year escalation of anti-LGBT measures with a triple-header. These may have been the first anti-LGBT measures passed in California, or even in the entire U.S., since the twin Prop. 8 and DOMA rulings from the US Supreme Court last month.

How did this come to be?

In late summer 2008 Council unanimously passed a Resolution in favor of Prop 8, and a nascent LGBT community was born. We addressed Council at every opportunity, and when another anti-LGBT Resolution was proffered, it was defeated 3-2 after a 90 minute public hearing primarily featuring fire-and-brimstone preaching, praying and other church activities. Council and the city were shocked at the outcome of the vote.

After that, there was an effective political truce. We monitored Council so the wouldn’t do anything inappropriate, and they mostly behaved. With the additional energies not needed to spend on Council, the growing community turned towards do-gooding in town. Much of the work has been devoted to mental health issues, such as suicide prevention and anti-bullying efforts, in Porterville and the surrounding Tulare County.

That continued for 4 years, when, at the beginning of June, Brock Neeley approached recently elected Mayor Virginia Gurrola to issue a LGBT Pride Month Proclamation using the City’s standard procedure. She readily agreed and it was scheduled to be presented at June 4th’s Council meeting.

At that point, all hell broke loose. All four Councilmen objected at the reading of the Proclamation, breaking protocol that they all sign it and shake the hands of the recipients. Only Mayor Gurrola signed it and only she came off the dais to shale the hands of the volunteers.

An overflow crowd was present, just like in 2009, and the ensuing public comments were so mean-spirited it left the Mayor in tears. It would not be the last time she cried by a long shot.

For a total of four meetings in seven weeks until last night, the Councilmen fomented anti-LGBT crowds, who have included Westboro Baptist associates and worse. Still, three of them, with one on the fence, raced to find a way to rescind a Proclamation, which we think is unprecedented in California, and to replace it with a thinly disguised religions Resolution (not Proclamation) designed to show tolerance for all. In addition, changing the process of how Proclamations are issued so that LGBT-related proclamations will likely never happen again was on the agenda.

In the end last night, on a series of 3-2 votes, the process was changed, the Proclamation was rescinded, and the bogus Resolution installed. As the final action was take, GetEqual activists from the area, including Robin McGehee (who is from our area), staged a civil disobedience action. Three were arrested, and the Council dais broke out in chaos as well. There was enough yelling at each other on the dais to draw watchful police eyes focused there.

Again, the Mayor was left in tears. So was the LGBT community of Porterville, but not for the same reason.

What is next?

In the short term we ask for the response of the public to send their thoughts to each of the Councilmembers and to cc: us so that we know what has been said. Mayor Gurrola spoke that in the last six weeks, she has received support messages from across California and the US and even the world. We don’t know what the others got besides a copy of a petition with over 1000 names on it. We encourage you to contact them and let us know what you said so we can leverage that in coming campaigns.

Voted with us: Mayor Virginia Gurrola, Vice Mayor Pete McCracken

Voted against us: Brian Ward:, Grag Shelton, Cameron Hamilton

Our email:

Our community has grown from about 5-8 people in 2008 to well over 100 people willing to speak at Council. Many individuals — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — came out to speak, several to say they were coming out for the first time. Very powerful under such circumstances. And many more have approached us but not been willing to speak.

One of the last public speakers last night before the votes was a local young man who said he was coming out at that time. None of us knew him. He spoke of how he hated his life, living in Porterville, growing up here, the people here, everything. He slipped away in the crowd. Our trained mental health and suicide prevention volunteers are worried and trying to identify and find him. At the same time, at the instigation of Councilman Brian Ward, a school psychologist by trade who moonlights on Council demeaning and diminishing public mental health work, managed to ram through all that he wanted.

As a community, we will regroup and make a better Porterville. We are aiming first and foremost to reach out to the outside world, to have connections with people and groups with whom we can partner and who will look in on us. We have begun that effort, but it is just a start. There will be much more to come with your help.

If I woke up one day soon and a lot of skilled graphic artists who could help us had introduced themselves, that would not be a bad day. We have plans, but we have limited skillsets. That is an area where I can anticipate any help would be very high value to us.

We will take this hit, and set about the work with you to making sure Porterville becomes part of California again. The best way right now to join us is to like our Facebook page. Be sure that you are set to receive all of our notifications. We will be in touch there!

Barry Caplan is coordinator of Porterville Equality and Fairness for All (PEFA), a coalition of local LGBT supportive groups, and local chapters of national organizations. Please like PEFA on facebook at You can find all the latest coverage, including videos, on this facebook page. You can email PEFA at

Equality Roundup: One Big Weekend

August 21, 2012 By Josh Steichmann

sj pride la equality awardsWe’re a little bleary-eyed this morning; call it a hangover from the big weekend.

San Jose Pride was a blast — we sent interns from San Francisco to build support and collect postcards in favor of SB 1172 and they did a great job. The rest of the field staff was out in Boyle Heights having Breakthrough Conversations about marriage.

Then we had the Los Angeles Equality Awards (see some photos here) where we got to hang out with folks like Jane Lynch, Jonathan Capeheart and a (shirtless!) Wilson Cruz. Because we’re great big nerds, it was just as much fun to see people like Assemblymember Betsy Butler and State Senator Ted Lieu. Oh, and Dolores Huerta “just happened” to be wearing her Congressional Medal of Freedom.

We’ve got an exciting week ahead of us too, not least because SB 1172 is likely to be voted on sometime in the next few days: A little background here, and Towleroad has some of the opposition, while The Examiner focuses on the precedent that banning this damaging and deceptive so-called “therapy” could have.

Other briefs: San Francisco approves largest LGBT low-income senior housing in America; Madonna speaks out against homophobia in Russia and is sued by nine homophobes, a Nevada hospital reminds us again why domestic partnerships aren’t the same as the freedom to marry, and MetaFilter covers Baltimore’s FemmeCon.

And for fun, a new season of Husbands is up, about an accidentally-married couple of guys determined to make it work.

Before Stonewall: Fourth of July Annual Reminder Day

July 4, 2012 By Josh Steichmann

annual reminder“It was done as what we called the Annual Reminder Day, on Independence Day, July 4th, to remind the public that there is still a significant minority of Americans who do not benefit from the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Barbara Gittings, founding member of the Daughters of Bilitis.

From 1965 to 1969, the East Coast Homophile Organizations, or ECHO, bussed activists from the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis in to politely protest in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall in favor of equality, opportunity and dignity. The 37 who marched the first day included Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Kay Tobin, Jack Nichols and Craig Rodwell — all important forces in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality movement.

An ad in the Village Voice on July 3, 1969, read in part: “The demonstration — a lawful, orderly, dignified one — is intended to remind the American public that in its 16,000,000 homosexual citizens, male and female, there is still one large minority of our people who are not benefiting by the high ideals so solemnly proclaimed for all on July 4, 1776.”

Round trip fare was $5.

The Annual Reminder Day was transformed in 1970 — the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) voted to make the annual celebration more relevant in order to reach more people by moving the time and location to commemorate the Stonewall Riots as Christopher Street Liberation Day. In 2005, Philadelphia commemorated the first march with their first LGBT historical marker.

But let today be our annual reminder that despite the amazing advances we have made, there are still millions of Americans, and Californians, who do not enjoy the full dignity, opportunity and equality that we as a nation aspire to.

Video of Barbara Gittings interviewed about the Annual Reminder by Vito Russo

Village Voice ad for bus trip to Annual Reminder

Philadelphia historical marker

Jack Nichols with sign

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Equality Roundup: Pride in California / Equality across the U.S.

June 26, 2012 By Josh Steichmann

sf pridePride Pride Pride! We were at SF (scroll down), George Takei was in NY as were couples celebrating their paper anniversary with placards. In Chicago, it was about diversity, Minnesota’s same-sex marriage struggle made theirs about politics (and we’re looking OK so far), and OccuPride crashed SF’s march. Google even hid a Pride easter egg

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the first same-sex civil union was held on a military base, and it looked a lot like a wedding, with an Evangelical Lutheran Chaplain officiating, a couple in formal dress and mothers crying.

Even as anti-equality marriage foes qualify in Maryland, one of the main proponents of our Prop 8 has changed his views. It’s an important piece to read, and one of the things to keep in mind is that we win by increment, not by shock and awe. That David Blankenhorn clings to unwarranted assumptions about the differences between same sex and mixed sex unions shouldn’t overwhelm lines like, “I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over,” or his references to the “equal dignity of homosexual love,” or “Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness.” It is frustrating that it took Blankenhorn so long to acknowledge something so basic to so many of our lives, but recognize his support of comity and fairness will be more convincing to those still stuck on the other side of the fence than all of the obvious (to us) civil rights arguments we can muster. He also helps us reinforce the message that much of the resistance to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people does stem from homophobic animus. That he recognizes this may make it easier for those lagging in the moveable middle to accept that as well. As per always, we recommend the excellent Movement Advancement Project series on Talking About LGBT IssuesRead the rest of this entry »

EQCA at San Francisco Pride

June 25, 2012 By Shaun Osburn

More than 75 dedicated staffers, interns and volunteers came out to support the work of Equality California during the 2012 Pride festivities in San Francisco.

More than 1,000 signatures were collected in support of SB 1172, a bill that would ban licensed therapists from subjecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth to dangerous and discriminatory sexual orientation change efforts. A great number of volunteers also joined in early Sunday morning as we marched alongside other grassroots organizations in the Pride Parade down Market Street.

A big thank you to everyone who made this weekend possible and to everyone who took the time to talk with an EQCA representative and sign their support! Didn’t get to sign a post card in support of SB 1172 at Pride, send an email to your representative here.
san francisco pride