Council Chambers were packed Tuesday as the City Council issued its annual proclamation recognizing Pride Month in front of a standing-room-only crowd, a move that drew praise and protest from residents who participated in the public comment portions of the meeting.
Peggy Stabile, a founder of the local chapter of PFLAG, which stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, accepted the recognition on behalf of the group.
In her comments, Stabile sought to explain the significance of the city’s proclamation by sharing a letter her son wrote to her 35 years ago, which is how he came out as gay to her because he was afraid to confront his parents on the topic.
She also noted she was speaking in response to a letter to the editor published on the opinion page of The Signal that questioned why the city is celebrating Pride Month.
“It broke my heart to hear that my son felt shame for the majority of his childhood and adolescence, harboring a secret he felt he could not share, living in terror that somebody would discover that he was gay,” she said, discussing how he felt pressure from all angles to hide who he was for fear he wouldn’t be accepted.
“This is what Pride Month is all about — the removal of shame that should have never existed,” Stabile added, sharing examples of some of the oppression felt by the LGBTQ+ community, which often has resulted in self-repression.
Diane Zimmerman, who wrote the June 9 opinion letter in The Signal that several commenters including Stabile referenced, spoke during public comment to clarify her intent. She said she was told about “nasty references” she received after her opinion letter and recent comments at a William S. Hart Union High School District board meeting
“The majority of us may disagree with an L, G, B, T or Q lifestyle, but that does not in any way mean we are against anyone for believing one or another of these lifestyles is where they belong,” she said, adding that conversation is for a person and their creator. “We and most of those in any of these alternative gender communities are 100% against any kind of sex or gender being included in young children’s education before they have reached full puberty the natural way.”
While a large group supported the proclamation with applause from the back of the room, the public comments on the topic were relatively split, with approximately two-thirds of the speakers in favor of the proclamation.
Mary Morris, a former local school psychologist who identified as gay, shared stories about students who have shared their stories and struggles with their sexual identities, including one whose parents threatened him with being disowned or going to conversion therapy.
Part of her challenge, she said, is that she wasn’t able to truly discuss her own identity, because she was worried about the repercussions she’d face at work.
A resident speaking in opposition to the proclamation referred to the move as the setting of a bad precedent for the city.
“My feeling that I’m getting from all of this is that in the name of unity, we’re actually creating separation — this is a slippery slope that we’re going down here,” said Santa Rivera, referring to the fact that the city is a diverse community.
“So the slippery slope is, you’re going to have different ideologies needing proclamations as well,” Rivera said, questioning rhetorically whether there should be a religious appreciation month for Catholics like herself. “What I’m trying to say here is that by trying to be inclusive, with such a diverse population, we’re missing the points, because nobody here is getting along. You can feel the division, right away … so how is that making everyone feel included?”
Andrew Taban, a former PFLAG board member, said there’s no need to put a limit on the number of proclamations. After all, he said, there’s a Hamburger Day, and the fact that Council Chambers were packed on the occasion of the city’s fourth annual declaration shows how far the city has come.
He also mentioned Zimmerman’s letter and said he was disheartened by the opposition to the proclamation, as it was only meant to recognize the struggles and contributions of a community.
During general public comment, Steve Baron took the opportunity to say the city should send a letter of protest and cancel all involvement in Saturday’s Santa Clarita Dodger Day due to the participation of what he called a bigoted LGBTQ group, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, in the baseball team’s Pride Night, which is Friday. To take any action on that, the city would need to agendize any sort of formal action, including the sending of a letter, which was not done prior to the meeting or after.
Andrea Rosenthal, a representative of Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, also spoke about how the community values inclusiveness, although at certain points the meeting dissolved into both sides of the discussion shouting at each other, and Mayor Jason Gibbs had to call for order on multiple occasions.
Mario Presents, who identified as a gay Palmdale man who said he always felt comfortable and accepted in Santa Clarita — even in his “cha-cha heels,” he said — called the pride flag a symbol of unity, not a nation. But he also felt the need to call out the LGBTQ community’s “predatory and debaucherous” behavior, sharing some of the ways its members victimize each other through online means.
While he supported unity, he feels flying the pride flag alongside the American flag was problematic, because no one ideology or religion should be given preference, saying the community would never fly the flag with the Star of David on it during the High Holidays for the Jewish faith.
“A country that puts one ideology, religion or group above another is a country destined for division,” he said. “Santa Clarita is one city with many people and many lifestyles, but more importantly it is a city dedicated to freedom and justice for all. We are one country and we only need one flag to represent us.”