Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Contra Costa County Names June Pride Month

by Sam Levin
Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 3:17 PM

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors today officially named June "Pride Month." The decision was especially monumental considering that it was supported by all five supervisors, when last year the supes voted not to join San Francisco's lawsuit against Proposition 8. The only dissenting voter in that 2008 decision was Supervisor John Gioia, who presented the proposal at today's meeting.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors today officially named June "Pride Month." The decision was especially monumental considering that it was supported by all five supervisors, because the supes voted not to join San Francisco's lawsuit against Proposition 8 last year. The only dissenting voter in that 2008 decision was Supervisor John Gioia, who presented the proposal at today's meeting.

Gioia, representing District One, which includes Richmond, El Cerrito, and San Pablo, presented his case for recognizing the activities and contributions of the East Bay LGBT community and straight allies by advocating that the board collectively brand June Pride Month. "I am pleased with the board," he said of their decision, but added, "we should have done it a long time ago."

However, any LGBT-related activities most likely won't happen in June, which is also national Pride Month. Gioia staff member Terrence Cheung said that the majority of their activities will take place in July when they will partner with local LGBT groups such as Richmond Youth Student Empowerment (RYSE). Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, a member of RYSE, said that this morning's proclamation brought a lot of momentum for their movement that they hope to continue building upon. Next month, activities will include a gay prom, a movie night, an afternoon barbeque, a study on needs in the community, and several educational workshops. "This proclamation recognizes that this community has always been here," Dhaliwal said. She said that the supes' decision should help the LGBT community in the county be unafraid to "take the risk and say, ‘We are here, and we are not going anywhere.'"

The proposal was met with unanimous support. Gioia's presentation was, of course, timely with the Supreme Court decision two weeks ago to uphold Proposition 8, and the response at the meeting was very supportive, according to Cheung, who helped organize the initiative. Cheung said Gioia has gained a lot of local support from LGBT residents and allies.

Groups that came out to give their support include RYSE, Contra Costa Equality, headed by Leslie Stewart, Rainbow Community Center, and Ally Action. Additionally, a young gay male spoke of his experiences along with a single gay parent who recently adopted - adding an extra personal touch to the movement, said Cheung.

"We've been planning this for a long time," Cheung said, adding that the decision was fueled more by recent Prop. 8 drama. He added that Richmond will follow suit next Tuesday and also declare June Pride Month.

So why did the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors support Pride Month but not the fight against Prop. 8? Probably because there is a big distinction between supporting same-sex marriage and honoring diversity and minorities. "This has been a step-by-step approach," said Gioia. "This was not a resolution for marriage equality."

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