Pomona's Gay-Human Rights Vote Criticized

I was dismayed and outraged with the Pomona City Council's decision to renege on their previous decision to allow a Gay-Human Rights Week (Times, Feb. 28). According to Mayor (Donna) Smith, who gave the deciding vote on this very controversial and heated issue, her main reason behind her decision to expel gays from Gay-Human Rights Week was that she did not want to give "special" rights to select groups.

"Special" rights? Were Mexican-Americans asking for special rights in order to celebrate their culture and heritage on Cinco De Mayo Day? Were Afro-Americans asking for special rights when they asked to celebrate Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month? What about the Irish St. Patrick's Day, a day in which our Irish community celebrates their culture and heritage?

Similar to other minorities, which includes Chicanos, Afro-Americans, Asians, Mexican-Americans and Jewish Americans, lesbians and gays have their own culture, their own heritage. Our history goes way back; for example, did you know that Plato was gay? We have experienced the violent prejudice during the infamous Stonewall Riots; we have suffered the loss of a great leader, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was assassinated because of his sexual orientation.

The only difference between gays and lesbians being recognized as a unique and separate culture compared to other minorities is that we are not all the same color. Because our status as a minority group cannot be based on the color of our skin or religious orientation we are being refused the same recognition, through "pride weeks," that hundreds of other minorities are privileged to have.

Many of the people who argued against the proclamation for a Gay-Human Rights Week claimed that lesbians and gays choose to be homosexual. I ask you this, why would I, as a lesbian woman, choose to live a life style in which I am forbidden to legally marry the person I love? In which I am unable to hold my partner's hand in public for fear of being attacked? Why would I choose a life style where, just by writing this letter and stating my name, I am at risk of losing my job or my life? Why would I choose a life style that is not recognized but rather ostracized by society? Gays and lesbians are too frequently looked upon as strictly sexual beings, but this is not the case.

Lesbians and gays are your mothers, your brothers, your fathers, your sisters, your sons and your daughters. We are a loving people who have asked the City Council for the right to be recognized as a unique and separate culture. Yet, because of (Councilman) Clay Bryant's political game-playing (do his constituents realize that it was he who first introduced and approved the original proclamation?), (Councilman Mark A. T.) Nymeyer's ignorance and homophobia, and Mayor Smith's fear and weakness, gays and lesbians were denied the basic human rights given to all minorities in the United States; the right to celebrate our culture and heritage as the unique and contributing culture that it is.

KIM HANRAHAN, Board member, Pomona-San Gabriel Valley Gay and Lesbian Coalition

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