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Pierce County Council turns cheek to gay community

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If the Republican majority on the Pierce County Council speaks for a majority of Pierce County, it might as well be 1954.

If the Republican majority on the Pierce County Council votes in accordance with the views and sentiments of the majority of Pierce County, well, as it turns out we live in a county of backwoods homophobes and bigots.

On Tuesday, July 8, in a process that’s usually nothing more than gracious formality, Pierce County Council members Calvin Goings, Timothy Farrell and Barbara Gelman — all non-bigots — asked the council to proclaim July 12 as GLBT Pride Day. The not unusual request was made on behalf of the organizers of this year’s “Out in the Park” Gay Pride festival, to be held the same day at Lincoln-Eldridge Park. It’s called a proclamation, and it’s something Goings says “they usually hand out like candy.”

Tuesday, though, was different. When Goings, Farrell and Gelman asked, at the council’s noon study session that precedes the evening meeting, to place the proclamation on the agenda, the Republican majority — Council Chair Terry Lee, District Three’s Roger Bush, District Six’s Dick Muri, and District One’s double-chinned County Executive hopeful Shawn Bunney shot down the idea. It was a move Goings, during his eight years on the Pierce County Council, had never seen anything like.

“We do (proclamations) regularly. I’ve never seen a council member not be able to get a proclamation on the agenda. It’s customary — something usually done out of courtesy,” says Goings. “The proclamation we proposed was pretty cut and dry, one that was very straightforward and opposed intolerance and bigotry.”

“In my eight years I’ve never seen the council treat members of the community so poorly,” Goings continues. “It was a low moment. I was shocked and completely dumbfounded that the Republican majority on the council would not stand up for equal rights.”

Not only did the Republican majority on the Pierce County Council refuse to voluntarily place the proclamation on the agenda — as is customary — when Goings made an official motion during the evening meeting, again asking to have the proclamation added to the agenda, the team of Lee, Bush, Muri and Bunney voted the idea down 4-3. To make matters worse, at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, when members of the community who gathered in support of the proclamation were finally given a chance to speak, several members of the Republican majority got up and left without hearing a word they had to say.

Score a victory for bigotry in Pierce County.

The decision seemed to catch everyone off guard, especially organizers and those involved with this year’s Out in the Park Gay Pride event.

“I was very surprised. It was a political backlash,” says Out in the Park’s Shelly Maas. “I actually took yesterday’s events as a catalyst. We’ve accomplished a great deal, but there’s still a lot to do.”

“It was quite stunning, and tremendously difficult to swallow,” adds Aimee Welch of Tacoma’s Rainbow Center. “It’s seems like an effort to not give us a voice, and not recognize us as human beings. To me it feels like they don’t want us here.”

The only good news in all this is no one I spoke with seems to think the vote represented the majority view of Pierce County.

“This was the Republican majority,” says Farrell. “I don’t believe the vote represents Pierce County.”

Let’s hope he’s right.

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