Mayor Mary Manross watered down a proclamation meant to honor Scottsdale’s gay residents until it became an “insult” and a “slap in the face,” members of the homosexual community charged Thursday.
The city’s Human Relations Commission, working with the Arizona Human Rights Fund gay rights group, drafted a proclamation to designate June as Gay Awareness Month in Scottsdale.
But what they received from Manross on Monday was a proclamation that celebrated the work of the commission, but made no reference to gay people or issues. Instead, the commission had to settle for a generalized “Human Relations Diversity Observance Month.”
“What the mayor did essentially is to make the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community invisible, which is an insult to those citizens of Scottsdale,” said Sam Holdren, Arizona Human Rights Fund field organizer. “It’s an embarrassment to the city.”
Manross, however, said the final version of the proclamation was meant to cast a wider net.
“After reading the draft that was suggested, I felt the work of the Human Relations Commission deserves to be recognized,” she said. “I thought that it was most important that it sound inclusive rather than exclusive, that it really represent the entire community. I think it was the right thing to do.”
Michèle deLaFreniere, Human Relations Commission’s chairwoman, said the proclamation intent was to reassure Scottsdale’s gay community in the wake of a December incident at a steakhouse in which two gay men were insulted and attacked by six men.
“I’m a trans-woman (transgendered). For me it’s a big issue,” deLaFreniere said. “We on the commission felt this was a good issue to help with healing.”
The original proclamation also was meant to help the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau’s efforts to attract gay tourism and to set a precedent for other Valley cities that might choose to honor their gay residents. It took three months to develop, and specifically included references to sexual and gender orientation, deLaFreniere said.
But those references were deleted from the final proclamation delivered at Monday’s Human Relations Commission meeting.
“These two particular things are very powerful aspects of issues that we go through. If they’re not in there, the proclamation is useless to us. Nothing of what we gave here is in there,” deLaFreniere said. “It hurt. I was offended.”
It was the commission’s intent that the proclamation be read at a City Council meeting, which gets much more exposure than commission meetings, deLaFreniere said.
Because of their disappointment with the proclamation, commission members deLaFreniere, Enid Seiden, John Tutelman and Carol Padwe voted unanimously to express the commission’s support and solidarity as the gay community celebrates June as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Observance Month.
The official, generalized proclamation shows Manross isn’t keyed into gay issues, deLaFreniere said.
“I don’t think she really understands the LGBT community has a whole. We are, as a community, one of the most hated communities in the world,” deLaFreniere said. “She has no understanding of this.”
Holdren said gay awareness proclamations have been noncontroversial in places like Phoenix, and that the watered-down Scottsdale version is offensive.
“It’s an insult, a slap in the face. It’s a no-brainer to adopt something like this,” he said. “It says to me that this mayor is out of touch with her constituency.”