On Monday, just as it has for the past 11 years, the City Council was poised to vote on a proclamation officially recognizing the Pride festival but, shortly after the meeting started, Deputy Mayor Toni Atkins announced that the proclamation had been removed from the docket.
Atkins' spokesperson told CityBeat the official nod to Pride was nixed at the request of the festival's board of directors, which recently landed in the crosshairs of James Hartline, a Christian conservative and "ex-gay." Late last month, Hartline broke the news that two of the more than 1,000 volunteers working with the event are registered sex offenders.
Pride spokesman Frank Sabatini Jr. said Hartline's revelation has prompted several special meetings and a consultation with the police. However, Sabatini said, the volunteers in question will still be allowed to work at the event.
"Pride stands behind them and stands behind those who are committed to rehabilitation and pose no danger," he said.
Armed with allegations that Pride was violating the law by allowing the volunteers to work in a setting where children would be present, Hartline, who publishes a self-titled online Christian news report, promised to rally likeminded citizens at Monday's City Council meeting. Although Hartline and about 40 supporters showed, they never got a chance to speak on the matter as the official request for the proclamation was dropped.
Careful not to minimize the proclamation's value, Sabatini called it an important showing of public support for the gay community that was a big deal when it was first issued in 1994. He noted that the proclamation helped Pride grow from a grassroots event in which participants once wore bags over their heads into the city's largest civic gathering, complete with corporate sponsorship. But Sabatini said that in recent years both obtaining the proclamation and facing inevitable opposition have become routine. Hartline and others, including former City Councilmember and minister George Stevens, have objected to the proclamation in the past but were never successful in their opposition.
Openly lesbian state Senator Christine Kehoe, who was on the City Council and sponsored the first proclamation in 1994, said it wasn't very controversial at the time, but she said she thinks the current City Council, decimated by the resignations of Dick Murphy, Ralph Inzunza and Michael Zucchet, may not have had the five votes needed to pass this year's proclamation.
"I think they were afraid if two people decided not to vote for it then the proclamation would not have passed and I think the Pride board was trying to avoid being embarrassed by losing a vote," she said.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Hartline claimed a "historic victory," but Sabatini told CityBeat Hartline only succeeded in "shifting the Pride board's priority" by bringing an issue to its attention, something he said the board was actually grateful for. Sabatini said Hartline's opposition had nothing to do with the decision not to seek the proclamation; board members were just too busy and focused on the weekend's events to attend Monday's City Council meeting.