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Calif. town mayor stripped of duties for declaring June LGBT pride month

Thursday, September 19, 2013
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PORTERVILLE, Calif. — An ongoing clash in Porterville, Calif., between the mayor and city council members over a proclamation designating June as LGBT Pride month, has cost the mayor and vice mayor their jobs.

Mayor Virginia Gurrola and Vice Mayor Pete McCracken were stripped of their largely ceremonial titles earlier this week after the other three council members — Brian Ward, Greg Shelton, and Cameron Hamilton — voted to strip them of their positions.

Virginia Gurrola

Virginia Gurrola

Under the city charter, the duties of mayor and vice mayor are rotated among elected council members, who select from their peers who will fill those positions. The charter also allows for council members to strip the mayor and vice-mayor of their duties by simple majority.

Gurrola and McCracken will remain active city council members, without their mayoral titles.

The controversy first erupted at a June 4 city council meeting when Gurolla issued the proclamation recognizing the LGBT community, despite a unanimous objection by city council members.

While issuing proclamations is solely the jurisdiction of the mayor, the remaining council members typically sign onto the document. But at the July 16 council meeting, Hamilton, Ward and Shelton voted to rescind the proclamation, and replaced it with a resolution designating June “a month of community charity and goodwill to all in Porterville.”

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Public reaction to Gurrola’s initial proclamation had been met with approval from the city’s LGBT community, and outrage from those opposed.

Jim Reeves, a local LGBT activist blogger said at least two speakers at the July meeting called for a Biblical punishment for homosexuality – that homosexuals are “worthy of death,” while others “screamed at the Mayor while waving Bibles in the air.”

Three LGBT rights activists — members of the activist group Get Equal — were arrested and detained by the police at the same meeting.

The Porterville City Council was the only city government in the state to support Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California in 2008.

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