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The Valley of the Grinch

While I live and work in San Diego, I hail from the Imperial Valley.

In many ways, San Diego has served as a safe haven for LGBT people - youth especially - from the Imperial Valley, as it is the nearest place with any sort of queer community.

And who isn’t grateful that Cher moved out of El Centro? I’m certain her transgender son Chaz Bono is pleased he didn’t have to grow up in a town that voted 74% yes on Prop 22 and 69% Yes on Prop 8. This is, after all, the place that tried to kick me out of school for being gay and shut down all after-school programs to prevent a Gay Straight Alliance Club from forming.

So why would I bring these tiny towns to your attention now? What is so important about Imperial County in the marriage equality movement? Tuesday the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, in a 3-2 vote, moved to intervene in the Federal court case challenging Prop 8’s constitutionality. They are siding with the "Yes on 8’ers"! The case, know as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, is only 26 days away and we have a sound chance of beating back Prop 8.

Here comes the shady part: The motion was passed Tuesday without being clear on the agenda. The public had no time to weigh in on the matter. The case does not affect the running of county business. To top it all off, in less than 24 hours the County had already filed with the court. Sound fishy yet?

In their filing, they claim to have brought up the matter in November, but again, a quick investigation into their past agendas shows no clear item to address what is an intensely controversial issue. Let’s just say Imperial Valley residents were quite surprised when they opened their papers this morning, whatever their thoughts on Prop 8 are. Because the timing of the vote is around the holidays, it also seems that the next day for public comments to be heard, will be only 2 days before the court’s deadline and 6 days before the trial begins.

Very upset over the actions of my home county, I picked up the phone and eventually was able to have an hour long conversation with the Chair of the County Board of Supervisors, Wally Leimgruber, and the County Executive Officer, Ralph Cordova, who both attempted to assure me that their interest was in protecting the will of the voters in their county. In questioning how they were able to bring up the motion, the topic was avoided and I can only assume that it was then brought into their agenda as an “emergency item.” EMERGENCY?! REALLY?! It was quite transparent that the Chair was using this opportunity to appease the voters as he attempts to run for re-election.

Mr. Wally also informed me that he was approached by the Alliance Defense Fund (the anti-equality guys with money) to bring the issue to the board with the promise that they would pay all of the county's expenses with regards to the case. This, I must mention, is a good sign for our side. Our opposition is so desperate for support that they sought out a small county to help add legitimacy to their case.

Efforts are now underway to try to undo the board’s decision, but it won’t be easy. There is also still a chance that Judge Vaughn Walker may throw out the motion altogether, since Imperial County has nothing to lose from this case and therefore has no legal standing.

So again, why is this all so important? These types of anti-queer decisions only fuel the fires of hate and discrimination. As we have seen an increase in hate crimes since the passage of Prop 8, we know that these despicable acts only legitimize those who seek to treat us differently and even bring us harm.

I ask those of you who know people from the Imperial Valley to pick up the phone and have a conversation with people you know and love in the area. Encourage them to contact their supervisors and ask them to bring this back to the board and change their vote. We cannot allow these politicians to play the Grinch coming to steal our dignity and our rights in the cover of night.

To schedule an appointment with any Board Member please contact:
Jenell Guerrero, Administrative Secretary to the Board of Supervisors

Voting for (call and ask them to reconsider):

District 1 - Supervisor Louis Fuentes
Communities Represented by Supervisor Fuentes:

District 2 - Supervisor Jack Terrazas
Communities Represented by Supervisor Terrazas:
El Centro, Heber & Ocotillo

District 5 - Supervisor Wally Leimgruber
Chairman of the Board
Communities Represented by Supervisor Leimgruber:
Holtville, Winterhaven, El Centro, East Side of Imperial, Palo Verde

Voting against (call and thank them):

District 3 - Supervisor Michael W. Kelley
Communities Represented by Supervisor Kelley:
Seeley, Plaster City, El Centro & West Side of City of Imperial

District 4 - Supervisor Gary Wyatt
Communities Represented by Supervisor Wyatt:
Brawley, Calipatria, Westmorland, Niland, Salton City, Salton Sea Beach, Desert Shores, Bombay Beach