Porterville Mayor Virginia Gurrola has been voted out of office after she declared June to be Gay Pride Month in the small California city.
Back in June, Gurrola was approached about proclaiming it LGBT Pride Month, and after she approved it, the backlash began. Members of the council immediately called to repeal the mayor’s decision, citing religious reasons, among others.
In a blog post by a Porterville local, the pushback by council members is described as chaotic and hostile.
“Public comment during the meetings included a lot of vitriol directed at Mayor Gurrola by the religious community,” wrote blogger Jim Reeves, “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. Speaker after speaker rose to condemn the LGBT community, spouting falsehood after lie after endlessly disproven statistic and other made up nonsense.”
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While the Mayor and Vice Mayor are allowed to serve a two-year term, the city’s charter says that if a majority vote occurs, both can be voted out of office, and that is exactly what happened in Porterville. Both Mayor Gurrola and Vice Mayor Pete McCracken were voted out of their positions, and in their places are Cameron Hamilton and Brian Ward, respectively.
Supporters of Gurrola say that the reason she was voted out of office was due to the decision she made regarding LGBT Pride month, but others say that’s not the case. A comment on Reeve’s blog from a user named Helen Aromin maintains that the vote was normal and not done out of homophobia.
“A routine change in Mayors, [sic] is not just a Porterville City thing, it is throughout the every City, is normal and necessary,” says Aromin in the comment. “I am happy and proud of our City Council members. Check out IPorterville to see last night Council Meeting. Your personal views are rude and shameful, and does not describe Porterville and the Council in truth.”
Still, many who witnessed the council meetings over the last couple of months say that the decision to oust the mayor was based entirely on personal homophobic views.
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“Despite any protestations you may hear over the ‘real’ reasons for the changes,” says Reeves in his blog, “it’s clear the entire farce has been orchestrated by religious zealots, determined to prevent the recognition of the LGBT community by any and all means available, and to punish anyone who would dare to so recognize them.”