Porterville, California mayor ousted after declaring support for LGBT community

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The mayor of Porterville, California, Virginia Gurrola, was removed from office on September 17—and some are calling it retaliation by the city’s council, for having issued a declaration that June is LGBT Pride Month earlier in 2013.

In Porterville, the mayor must be on the city council and is elected only by them; consequently, the mayor may be removed from office by them at any time by a simple majority vote. The council has also made their views on the LGBT community clear before; in 2008, they announced their public support of Proposition 8, making them the only governmental body in California to take an “official” position on the matter.

When then-Mayor Gurrola received a request from community members asking that she issue an official Pride Month proclamation in June 2013, she reviewed it to ensure it met with city guidelines, then approved it and presented it at a Council meeting, as per procedure.

However, because Porterville is largely conservative, the proposal was met with strong opposition from many members of the religious community; blogger Jim Reeves reported, “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… with at least two speakers calling for the Biblical punishment for homosexuality—that homosexuals are ‘worthy of death.’” He also noted, “Above it all, on the wall behind the council members, are the words ‘IN GOD WE TRUST.’”

That July, in a virtually unheard of move, the Council rescinded Gurrola’s Pride proclamation by a vote of 3-2. In addition, it passed a new resolution, making it a requirement that any mayoral proclamations in the future must also be approved by the City Council. Two months later, another 3-2 vote saw both the Mayor and Vice-Mayor removed from office.

Gurrola was unruffled at the September 17 meeting; according to the Recorder Online, before the vote she said, “As a mayor have I lost anything? No, because this position doesn’t define who I am. […] I am confident in the decisions I’ve made as mayor. I won’t take them back. I’ve been very comfortable with the decisions I’ve made.”

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