Virginia Gurrola, the Mayor of the town of Porterville, located in a largely Latino and agrarian part of California, was voted out of her job by the town council after signing a proclamation for gay rights. The Vice Mayor, Pete McCracken was voted out of his position too.
Gurrola, the former director of admissions at Porterville College, won the Latina Leadership Network Madrina Award in 1998 for “…promoting the interest of Latinas in the California Community College system,” as well as demonstrating “…outstanding leadership skills and -mentorship toward all Latinas,” and has been active in the college as well as the town. As Mayor of Porterville, she was serving one year of a two-year rotation Mayoral rotation among the town’s council members, according to the New York Times. The council members voted 3 to 2 to strip her of her position.
It all started when Gurrola, a 62-year-old mother and grandmother of 7, was approached by a resident to sign a proclamation making June gay pride month. This led to fierce opposition by religious groups and council members, including Cameron Hamilton, who voted against Gurrola and is now the new Mayor. The Council also rescinded the Mayor Gurrola’s LGBT proclamation and replaced it with a general proclamation of good will.
The events have led to bitter opposition between groups. According to the Sacramento Bee, “three protesters who favored the proclamation were arrested at the City Council meeting on suspicion of disorderly conduct following that decision.” The day of the signing, different groups against and for the proclamation made their feelings known. According to a blog post from June, local LGBT activist Jennifer McGuire said of the day when Gurrola signed the proclamation, “that was one of the scariest and most horrific experiences of my life! I have never been in the same room with people (yes, multiple people) that actually called for my death and the systematic extermination of LGBT people.”
But in comments to the New York Times, the new Mayor Cameron Hamilton says those who opposed the gay rights proclamation have been unfairly portrayed. “It made it sound like we beat the hell out of them and would never embrace them — this redneck Central Valley desert town,” said Hamilton. “There’s just no truth to that at all. We’re a very loving community.”