Venezia: Peotter shouldn't use city seal in criticism of gay marriage

*This column has been updated, as noted below.

Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter is at it again with another email blast that many, including me, find offensive.

This week he sent out something criticizing the Supreme Court's decision to allow gay marriage in all the land.

In the latest, he writes:

"The Supremes — I know, The Supreme Court (that would be 5 out of 9 guys in black robes) decided 10 days ago to overturn 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition, by redefining and allowing gay marriage.

"All of a sudden, a lot of the 'important stuff' of the city didn't seem so important.

"I like how the White House is really quick on the 'important' stuff like this rainbow lighting.

I do find it interesting that the homosexual movement adopted the rainbow as their symbol, as it was God's symbol that he wouldn't destroy the world by flood again ... Maybe they are 'wishful thinking ...'"

If Peotter had taken the time to do a simple Internet search, he would have discovered the rainbow flag's history has nothing to do with End Times.

It was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978 and flew that year in the first San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade.

Many suggest Baker's inspiration was Judy Garland's rendition of "Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz."

But more important, the city of Newport Beach does not issue marriage licenses to anyone — gay or straight — so this seemingly official correspondence, which makes use of the city seal, makes even less sense.

Orange County gay leaders were incensed and called on the city to make clear its position.

"I'm disgusted an elected official would issue such a homophobic hateful message," says Kevin S. O'Grady, executive director of the LGBT Center of Orange County. "It is even more disturbing that the site on which this message appears carries the seal of the city of Newport Beach. The use of the seal gives the appearance that this bigoted message is endorsed by the city. If the city does not endorse this message, they should repudiate it immediately."

O'Grady told me his organization plans to send an official letter of protest and is urging members and supporters to do the same.

The views shared in Peotter's email blast are clearly his own and some city leaders are quickly distancing themselves. I talked with two councilmen who aren't standing by their peer.

"In my opinion, personally and as mayor, council member Peotter's comments on the 'Supremes' are inappropriate ... and are not reflective of city policy," said Mayor Ed Selich. "Council member Peotter is entitled to his opinions but he should choose a platform where his personal opinions cannot be confused with or misconstrued to be city policy."

In a prepared statement, Newport City Attorney Aaron Harp reiterated that Peotter's comments were made in a "personal capacity and not intended to reflect the position of the city of Newport Beach."

"The city welcomes and values its citizens, visitors and employees, irrespective of sexual orientation or marital status, and embraces Newport Beach's place in a diverse and vibrant Southern California," he added.

Indeed, the city's anti-discrimination policy applies to sexual orientation.

But this city still has not taken any steps to stop Peotter's use of the official city seal in his email blasts, even though its usage is against city policy.

"This is why we have a law against allowing extremist council members from using the city seal for their own intemperate rants," Councilman Keith Curry explained. "Mr. Peotter should spend more time focused on trying to make this a better city for all of our residents and less on his national political agenda."

Newport Beach's top municipal executive, who belongs to the class of folks Peotter doesn't believe should marry, said he will continue to uphold the city's policies.

"As the city manager, who happens to be a married gay person, I will continue to administer the city's detailed personnel policies and rules in a manner compliant with state and federal law," City Manager Dave Kiff said. "We are an organization that adheres to and respects the laws of our land."

Of course I wanted to talk to Peotter about this, but he didn't return my calls.

But this isn't his first go around with anti-gay rhetoric.

In 1989, as president of a group called the Irvine Values Coalition, he stated, "Homosexuals, like any other citizen, are welcome in the city of Irvine. We just don't want homosexuality promoted in Irvine."

According to the Los Angeles Times he worked on a campaign to take out civil rights protections from an Irvine city ordinance. The campaign succeeded.

[Updated: 11:45 a.m., July 8] On Wed. I received a call from Selich. He told me he has had conversation with Peotter who has now agreed to remove the city seal from his website and future email blasts.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

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