A Central California mayor recently sparked controversy over his suggestion that victims of bullying "grow a pair" in response to a student-led anti-bullying effort.
Porterville Mayor Cameron Hamilton's comments came after a city councilwoman on May 6 asked the City Council to support the program, which would establish off-campus safe zones citywide for teens who are being bullied after school.
"I mean, I am against bullying, but I am getting damn tired of it being used as a mantra for everything that ills the world when all most people have to do is a grow a pair and stick up for them damn selves," he said during the council meeting.
Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola, who introduced the program, quickly snapped back at Hamilton.
"It is hard to stand up and maybe grow a pair when you are maybe a 10-year-old little girl," she said.
Melissa McMurrey, a member of the nonprofit group Gay Porterville, told KERO-TV Channel 23 in Bakersfield that Hamilton's comments demonstrated a history of opposition to the gay community. While the program is intended to support all bullying victims, she said Hamilton's comments were subtly directed toward the gay community.
Last year, Gurrola's attempt to declare June LGBT pride month was quashed by fellow council members. The council instead voted to replace the proclamation with a community charity month, the Associated Press reported.
Hamilton told The Times that if the group had issues with the conversation about bullying and safe zones, its members should have attended the meeting.
He said he has read comments about his statement and "it appears that the majority of our country has decided to speak up and say they agree with my analogy and are fed up with the zero-tolerance policy of our public schools."
Community members, McMurrey said, are planning to attend Tuesday night's City Council meeting to express outrage over Hamilton's comments.