Mayor Clashes with GSA

When the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) made its annual request that June 7 be proclaimed Gay Pride Day in the City of Los Altos, it got neither the immediate approval of last year nor the adamant resistance it found in 2006. Mayor Val Carpenter, who met with GSA members on Thursday, May 8, said she has more of a problem with the word “pride” than with the word “gay.”

Because Los Altos elects a new mayor every year, the GSA’s experience varies each spring when it approaches the mayor to request a proclamation for a day in June, the month celebrated internationally as Gay Pride Month. Former mayor Curtis Cole issued the proclamation right away last year. In 2006, however, national gay rights organizations helped the GSA organize a protest parade downtown after City Council amended its governing document to prohibit groups like the GS from requesting mayoral proclamations. The club can now request proclamations like anyone else, but they are not guaranteed to get one.

Cole and Carpenter were the two dissenting council members who voted against the prohibitive amendment on February 14, 2006. After the parade, City Council removed the anti-GSA clause from its norms and procedures document.

“Mayoral proclamations are not protected by the Constitution,” Carpenter said. “It’s in the discretion of the may … every mayor has a different point of view.”

Although she personally has no problem with gay people, Carpenter feels that proclaiming a “Gay Pride Day” would upset too many Los Altans. In her opinion, the word “pride” is too “in-your-face” for the Los Altos community.

“I think that it’s a polarizing issue in the City of Los Altos, and I think that working together with the GSA we can accomplish their goals without such polarization,” Carpenter said. “I’m open to finding other words to accomplish this.”

Carpenter suggested a “GSA Day” that would honor the community service work the club has done, or a “Tolerance Day” to promote respect for different sexual orientations.

“I’m focused on recognizing people for what they do, not for who they are,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter proposed alternatives in a meeting with GSA club president senior Tony Zhukovskiy on Wednesday, April 30, but the club voted to continue pushing for “Gay Pride Day.” A week later, Carpenter met with the entire club, along with GSA advisers and a representative from the gay rights organization BAYMEC. She stood by the original position but listened to the group’s concerns.

“Many gay people feel like every other day of the year is straight pride day,” Tony said at the meeting. “It’s progress if we can have just this one day to say that we are important as well to the community.”

Tony submitted a formal request to the mayor’s office on Tuesday, May 20. He hopes Carpenter will agree to the day’s original title.

“A proclamation for Gay Pride Day shows that the City of Los Altos … acknowledges that they’re proud to have that population as part of their community, just as they are proud to have any other type of people,” Tony said.