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No censure for Newport Beach councilman over anti-gay marriage remarks

The Newport Beach City Council decided Tuesday night after two hours of discussion that Councilman Scott Peotter should not face formal reprimand for his recent email criticizing same-sex marriage.

Keith Curry had asked his fellow council members to consider a resolution censuring Peotter for his use of a photo of the city seal on an email sent following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 26 ruling that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriages nationwide.

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However, Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon presented a softened version of the original resolution that did not censure Peotter but disassociated City Hall and the council from his comments.

The council voted 4 to 3 to approve Dixon's resolution. Councilmen Kevin Muldoon, Marshall "Duffy" Duffield and Peotter voted against the resolution.

"We need to stop acrimony over something that is not a city issue," Dixon said. "It's time to move on and it's time to do so tonight."

Peotter said the proposal to reprimand him with a censure was simply a strategy by his "political enemies" and would be more about censoring the content of his email rather than his use of the city seal, which some of his colleagues have said violated city law.

"The issue is my content," Peotter said, adding that the resolution to censure him "smacks of political correctness."

The email that Peotter sent to constituents took issue with the illumination of the White House in rainbow colors after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision.

"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.

His comments angered gay-rights leaders and Newport Beach residents, many of whom spoke out during Tuesday's meeting.

"His entire tenure has been one raging embarrassment," said resident Lori Morris. "He was not elected to be the ayatollah of Newport Beach."

Curry, who drafted the original censure resolution, said he believes that Peotter's use of the city seal on an email containing personal beliefs not shared by City Hall in general confused the public and brought embarrassment to the city.

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The resolution authored by Curry suggested 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.

But Peotter's supporters said the issue boils down to a public official's right to free speech.

Bill Becker, president of Freedom X, an organization tasked with protecting the viewpoints of conservatives, said if the council had chosen to censure Peotter it would be a violation of his religious and free-speech rights.

"He never said anything discriminatory," he said. "It's content-based and viewpoint-based discrimination."

Fry writes for Times Community News. 

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