Newport Beach backs diversity after official's same-sex marriage email

After more than two hours of discussion about a councilman's recent statements regarding same-sex marriage, the Newport Beach City Council this week approved a resolution reaffirming the city's support for diversity, equality and inclusiveness.

Dozens of speakers, including residents and members of the LGBT community, criticized Councilman Scott Peotter for his July 6 email blast to constituents, which took issue with the illumination of the White House in rainbow hues after the Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

The city's resolution, which was approved 4 to 3, requires that when council members share personal opinions, they ensure that their statements cannot be construed as being the position of the council or city.

Peotter was among those voting against the resolution, which also reaffirms the city's policy of not discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation.

Peotter remained quiet — his gaze sometimes cast downward — as speaker after speaker requested that he step down from his position on the council.

Before the council's vote, Peotter apologized to the public, city staff and his colleagues.

"It was never my intent to inflame the community," he said. "I never had any intention to hurt anybody. I was stating an opinion on a very prominent issue of the day."

The councilman says he's not homophobic but favors a traditional view of marriage and believes that the Supreme Court should not have interfered with marriage laws.

Tom Pollitt, founder of the Newport-Mesa Tea Party, said the 1st Amendment allows Peotter to share his views about same-sex marriage, even if people disagree with his opinions.

"It's intimidation," he said of the public outcry. "Soon no one will be able to express their opinion because they are intimidated."

Some residents and City Council members took issue with Peotter's use of the city seal in his email blast. Mayor Ed Selich requested last week that Peotter remove the emblem from future emails, and the councilman agreed to do so.

But fellow Councilman Keith Curry says that doesn't go far enough.

Curry is seeking a resolution to allow the council to refer Peotter's use of the city seal to the Orange County district attorney's office for investigation. He also asked that the council consider a formal censure against Peotter.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

Fry is a staff writer with Times Community News.

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