Newport Councilman Peotter’s opposition to gay unions draws criticism

Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter angered gay rights leaders Tuesday after circulating an email that criticized same-sex marriage and the LGBT movement’s use of rainbow imagery to advance its cause.

The message sent to constituents

took issue with the illumination of the White House in rainbow-colored hues after the June 26 Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay 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,” he wrote in the email, which was widely circulated Monday. "… maybe they are wishful thinking.”

Kevin O’Grady, executive director of the LGBT Center of Orange County, interpreted the comments to mean that Peotter believes that being gay is sinful and that those who marry could incur divine wrath.

“I’m sick and tired of politicians using the gay community to express their bigotry without there being any response to it,” O’Grady said.

Peotter said he was simply referring to a passage in the Old Testament that explains how the rainbow was a gift from God to mankind as a symbol of the promise that he would not flood the world again.

“The homosexual movement is taking a symbol that was meant for something else and is corrupting it for their use,” he said. “The people that are out there criticizing me for [the email] are leading the cry for no name calling and tolerance, but they’re intolerant of any view but their own.”

He went on to explain that he found the use of the rainbow “ironic” for biblical reasons.

The email also featured an image of the Newport Beach city seal and a photo of gay couples celebrating in the nation’s capital.

“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,” he wrote.

O’Grady called Peotter’s statements “homophobic” and “disturbing.”

Peotter said that while he is not at all homophobic or against the LGBT community, he stands by the thoughts in favor of traditional marriage he presented in the email and his position that the high court should not have interfered with the laws.

“It’s obviously a predominant issue in our society right now,” he said. “I felt like I couldn’t ignore it.”

While entitled to it, Peotter’s opinion does not reflect the city’s position as a whole, another member of the City Council said.

“From my standpoint personally, and speaking as mayor, his comments are inappropriate for a council member and not reflective of city policy in any way,” Newport Beach Mayor Ed Selich. “He should have chosen a platform where his opinions wouldn’t be confused with the city’s.”

Newport Beach City Hall has shown support for gay employees. The highest-ranking administrative official, City Manager Dave Kiff, is both openly gay and married.

While O’Grady said that while the nation is becoming more tolerant, Orange County has some ground to make up.

“When I share some of the things we hear being said in Orange County, my counterpart in Los Angeles asks what country I’m living in,” he said. “Orange County is a long way behind the rest of the country.”

Peotter often sends email blasts with the city seal pictured on the top to inform the community about issues being discussed by the council. Monday’s email also gave an update about the new artwork that will be installed in Civic Center Park and the debate over wood burning fire rings.

This isn’t the first instance that Peotter has made his stance on homosexuality public. He once belonged to the Irvine Values Coalition, which in the late 1980s launched an effort to remove gays and lesbians from protections contained in Irvine’s human rights ordinance.

The coalition also sought to prohibit Irvine’s council from defining “sexual orientation as a fundamental human right,” the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.