Newport Beach councilman who criticized gay marriage could face reprimand

Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter could face a written reprimand from his colleagues during a meeting Tuesday, a month after he wrote an email under the city seal that criticized same-sex marriage.

The City Council will consider censuring Peotter for his email, which was widely circulated July 6. A censure would formally express disapproval of his statements. It would not affect his status on the council.


"The community still hasn't heard what the balance of the City Council feels about Mr. Peotter's comments," Councilman Tony Petros said Friday. "The discussion of the censure allows us to let the community know if we think it's acceptable to make those types of remarks under the city banner."

Peotter's message sent to constituents took issue with the illumination of the White House in rainbow-colored hues after the U.S. Supreme Court's June 26 ruling that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex unions nationwide.

"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," Peotter wrote in the email. "Maybe they are wishful thinking."

Peotter said at the time that he was simply referring to a passage in the Old Testament.

"I know, the Supreme Court (that would be 5 out of 9 guys in black robes) decided … to overturn 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition by redefining and allowing gay marriage," the email stated.

The comments sparked ire from members of the LGBT community and Newport Beach residents who spoke out during a special council meeting July 14 that Mayor Ed Selich called to discuss the issue.

In response to the outrage, the council approved a resolution by a 4 to 3 vote reaffirming the city's support for diversity, equality and inclusiveness.

The resolution requires that when council members share personal opinions, they ensure that their statements cannot be construed as being the position of the council or the city government in general. Peotter and council members Marshall "Duffy" Duffield and Kevin Muldoon voted against the resolution.

Peotter has said he is not homophobic but believes the Supreme Court should not have interfered with marriage laws. He favors a traditional view of marriage as between a man and a woman.

"The intolerance I have received from the LGBT community … not from everybody … was very intolerant to my perspective," he said during the July 14 meeting.

He did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Councilman Keith Curry and some community members said the resolution did not go far enough in condemning Peotter's statements or his use of the city emblem.

Curry drafted a new resolution in which the council would disapprove of and apologize for Peotter's remarks.

"The City Council recognizes that council member Scott Peotter has a right under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to express his personal opinions," the resolution states. "However, his use of a picture of the official seal of the city and identification of himself as a city councilman confused the public, media and members/representatives of the LGBT community, bringing embarrassment to the city."


The resolution suggests that Peotter's comments, made "under color of authority," could be construed as creating a hostile workplace at City Hall for members of the LGBT community.

If the resolution is approved, it would be the first time since 2003 that a council member was censured in Newport Beach.

The council also will consider whether Peotter's use of the picture of the city seal should be referred to the Orange County district attorney's office for investigation because city laws prohibit use of the emblem for unofficial purposes, the resolution states.

Kevin O'Grady, executive director of the LGBT Center OC, said Peotter should be censured for his comments.

"The council has a fantastic opportunity here to reassure all employees and residents, as well as the broader LGBT community, that Newport Beach is an open and welcoming community," O'Grady said.

Tuesday's council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive.

Fry writes for Times Community News.