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HRC ranks California companies high on Corporate Equality Index

But enforcement may be an issue

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As the nation’s largest LGBT rights lobbying organization, the Human Rights Campaign often comes under strong criticism from the LGBT community for its strategic political decisions. But there is no doubt that the nation’s corporate decision-makers take HRC’s Corporate Equality Index very seriously as they seek the “best and brightest” employees and a loyal customer base.

This is not hyperbole. The governor of Georgia vetoed a pending anti-LGBT religious freedom bill after HRC President Chad Griffin reached out to Hollywood to cease production in the state, followed up by threats to boycott from the NBA and other corporate giants. The HRC threat of economic boycott over the abhorrent anti-LGBT HB2 helped Roy Cooper beat the incumbent Republican governor and the state legislature subsequently voted against the anti-LGBT law, though key provisions of the anti-LGBT law remain.

On Thursday, HRC released its 2018 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) showing that i120 companies in California are among “a record number of the nation’s major companies and law firms are advancing vital policies and practices to protect LGBTQ workers around the world.”

“This year, a record-breaking 609 businesses earned the CEI’s top score of 100, up from 517 last year — a single-year increase of 18 percent. This record sets a new high water mark for corporate leadership over the 15-year history of the CEI,” according to an HRC press release. “In total, 947 companies and law firms were officially rated in the new CEI, up from 887 in last year’s. The report also unofficially rated 137 Fortune 500 companies, which have yet to respond to an invitation to participate in the CEI survey assessing their LGBTQ policies and practices.”

In California, the average ranking for the 120 companies and law firms is 91 with 81 earning 100 points, 15 earning 90 points and above, and 10 earning 80 points and above.

The report spells out its criteria and breaks the ranking down accordingly for a number of different areas such as Automotive, Banking, a slew of Computer-related companies, and Engineering and Construction, etc.

KB Home worked with “The Ellen Show” to build a house for a viewer in 2012. (Photo is a screen grab of a video)

In the latter category is the Los Angeles-based firm KB Home, which received a ranking of 35. The low ranking is achieved by having half-hearted non-discrimination policies and a zero in the category “positively engages the external LGBTQ community.” But why would KB Homes need to do any positive LGBT external outreach if it assumes LGBT viewers regularly watch HGTV or “The Ellen Show,” which has featured the construction company in the past. More recently, KB Home made news for the anti-gay rant spouted against comedienne Kathy Griffin and her boyfriend by CEO Jeffrey Mezger.

Mezger subsequently apologized after KB Home’s board of directors threatened to fire him if he did it again and cut his 2017 bonus by 25%.

It not clear if or how HRC included the incident in their deliberations.

HRC did consider the external factors at work regarding two complaints against Walmart brought by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As a result, HRC suspended its rating of the corporate giant, pending remedial action.
TLDEF Executive Director Jillian Weiss noted that the suspension is an opportunity to put companies on notice that their good policies might not be reaching the shop floor. “We hope this will deliver the message to Walmart and others that good corporate policy is not enough. It must be accompanied by strong enforcement mechanisms, or it is mere window dressing,” Weiss said in a press release. “TLDEF will continue to bring suits on behalf of transgender people who experience discrimination in employment, education, health care access and public accommodations.”

Overall, however, the news is good.

“At a time when the rights of LGBTQ people are under attack by the Trump-Pence Administration and state legislatures across the country, hundreds of top American companies are driving progress toward equality in the workplace,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The top-scoring companies on this year’s CEI are not only establishing policies that affirm and include employees here in the United States, they are applying these policies to their operations around the globe and impacting millions of people beyond our shores. In addition, many of these companies have also become vocal advocates for equality in the public square, including the dozens that have signed on to amicus briefs in vital Supreme Court cases and the 106 corporate supporters of the Equality Act. We are proud to have developed so many strong partnerships with corporate allies who see LGBTQ equality as a crucial issue for our country and for their businesses.”

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Northern California

Hate group wins federal lawsuit settlement with Yolo County Library

The anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremist group Moms for Liberty had sued in federal court alleging their free speech rights had been violated

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Mary L Stephens Davis Branch of the Yolo County Library. (Photo Credit: Yolo County, California)

DAVIS, Calif. – Yolo County Library officials this week announced that they had agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Moms for Liberty, a group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremist group, after library officials had shut down their local chapter’s anti-transgender forum last August.

The lawsuit had been filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California on behalf of Moms For Liberty by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group listed by the SPLC as a hate group and the Institute for Free Speech.

In addition to $70,000 in damages and attorneys fees, the settlement calls for library policy to mandate that staff “shall not interfere with presentations or other speech by individuals or groups that have reserved meeting rooms based on the content of such speech” and to instruct staff to “curtail any disruptive behavior” during events.

The settlement further stipulates to allow Moms for Liberty – Yolo County, Independent Council on Women’s Sports, California Family Council, and other parental rights and women’s advocates to use the library to hold a discussion on fairness in women’s sports.

Last August 20, during the course of a presentation by Sophia Lorey, a former college soccer player at Vanguard University, Lorey had repeatedly misgendered trans female athletes and then in commencing her remarks, stated “current 10-year-old girls cannot live out the same dream as long as men are allowed to compete in women’s sports.”

Lorey, who has podcast devoted to transphobic misinformation, works as a Outreach Director for the California Family Council. The purpose of her presentation and the forum according to the event’s sponsors was to inform and make parents aware of the California Interscholastic Federation’s participation policies for transgender athletes in high school girls’ sports.

As Lorey continued her presentation she was warned by the Regional Manager for Yolo County’s library system, D. Scott Love, that misgendering trans athletes would not be permitted to continue. In addition supporters of Moms for Liberty and the California Family Council, there were also pro-LGBTQ+ supporters who had loudly interrupted Lorey, making statements such as ‘trans women are women.’

The interruptions coupled with Lorey’s insistence on labeling transwomen “biologically men” caused Love to take further action and he disbanded the event asking the participants and audience to leave.

Anti-trans activist and former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines shared the video of the altercation via Twitter and applauded Lorey.

This is ridiculous, but not shocking….a female athlete silenced for calling a spade a spade. They won’t even engage in a civil conversation. Props to this gal for sticking her ground,” she wrote.

The outrage by the far-right ballooned after anti-LGBTQ+ social media pundit Chaya Raichik who runs the Libs of Tik Tok X (formerly Twitter account) with over 2.4M followers tweeted:

“UNREAL. California library kicked out a group holding an event after they “misgendered” people by referring to males in female sports as males. The librarian suggests it’s against state law to misgender.”

On August 21, after Libs of TikTok’s posts on X, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office was notified by a local news station regarding an email from an unknown source that made a threat to the Mary L. Stephens Yolo County Library in Davis. The email made a threat to detonate a bomb and include some form of hate speech.

The Davis Police Department quickly responded to the scene and evacuated approximately 10 county employees. Two adjacent buildings were also evacuated in an abundance of caution.

The Yolo County Regional Bomb Squad and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department K-9’s responded to the scene. A search of the building resulted in negative findings.

The Sacramento Bee reported: A Sacramento-area library was evacuated Monday morning and a nearby elementary school and high school sheltered in place after law enforcement was notified of a bomb threat containing anti-LGBTQ hate speech, authorities said. It was the third threat against the library in the past week, police and deputies said.

The threats continued for the next week as Yolo County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on August 29 saying: “The Mary L. Stephens Davis Branch Library has been targeted by bomb threats. These messages share a common thread of hateful content and revolve around a heated meeting there. The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating these incidents, with the FBI, to identify suspects.”

After the announcement to the settlement of the lawsuit was made public, the Davis Phoenix Coalition, who works with LGBTQ+ youth and its chair, Anoosh Jorjorian, provided ABC10 with the following statement:

“The Davis Phoenix Coalition is dedicated to ending hate crimes, bullying, and identity-based discrimination. We appreciate that our public library has been put in the difficult position of providing a space for free speech while also protecting the safety of their patrons. We hope cases such as these might open the question of when hate speech crosses a line into being threatening or inciting. The humanity and rights of all Americans should never be a subject of a debate.”

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the Institute for Free Speech weighed in saying in a statement:

“Women have the right to speak about their concerns regarding men competing in their sports, and public officials have a constitutional duty to uphold that right regardless of whether they agree with the point of view presented,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Shutting down discussions about biological differences between men and women is, sadly, a growing trend among activists seeking to erase women and harm children. While they should never have shut down the event, Yolo County library officials are right to change course and enact policies that align with the First Amendment. We are hopeful other public officials—whether at libraries, schools, or anywhere else—see this as an opportunity to take a strong stance for the speech and assembly rights of all Americans.”

“This settlement is a clear victory for free speech and the First Amendment,” said Institute for Free Speech Vice President for Litigation Alan Gura. “Yolo County officials tried to silence speakers and shut down an event because the ideas expressed there didn’t comport with the officials’ preferred ideology. As a result of this lawsuit, Yolo County has now agreed to respect the right of all Americans to freely express their views in public spaces without fear of government censorship.”

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Riverside County

Riverside County school district settles suit with anti-trans teacher

She had requested a religious accommodation, saying the district’s policies went against her beliefs “regarding human sexuality and lying”

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Jurupa Valley High School, Riverside County California. (Photo Credit: Jurupa Valley High School/Facebook)

JURUPA VALLEY, Calif. – The Jurupa Unified School District agreed to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a former teacher terminated over her refusal to follow District policies regarding transgender or gender-nonconforming students, citing her Christian beliefs.

The school district, located in Riverside County, in an agreement reached Tuesday will pay Jessica Tapia, who taught physical education at Jurupa Valley High School, $285,000, as well as $75,000 for her attorneys’ fees. JUSD however did not admit any wrongdoing and both parties agreed to not disparage each other or file future lawsuits. Additionally Tapia agreed to the stipulation to not seek future employment with the district.

The Los Angeles Times reported that as revealed in court documents, Tapia had refused — hypothetically, in statements to district personnel — to use students’ preferred pronouns, to allow them to use the locker room matching their gender identity, or to “withhold information” from parents about their child’s gender identity.

Julianne Fleischer, one of Tapia’s attorneys, called the settlement an “incredible victory,” the Times also reported.

“Her religious beliefs were not accommodated when they could have been,” said Fleischer, legal counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a Murrieta-based nonprofit religious liberties group. “We think it sends a strong message that there’s a price to pay when you ask a teacher to lie and withhold information.”

Jacquie Paul, a Jurupa Unified spokesperson, told multiple media outlets that the settlement was a “compromise of a disputed claim.”

“The decision to settle this case was made … in the best interest of the students, such that the district can continue to dedicate all of its resources and efforts to educate and support its student population regardless of their protected class,” Paul said in a statement.

Tapia was hired by the district in 2014, first as a substitute and later full time, and taught both middle school and high school physical education. She was fired in January 2023, after she requested a religious accommodation, saying the district’s policies went against her beliefs “regarding human sexuality and lying,” according to the lawsuit.

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Los Angeles County

Culver City considers ordinance for gender neutral public restrooms

It has 11 design elements for security, privacy, light, ventilation, & signage- key concerns for users of public restroom facilities

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Culver City is a five-square-mile, urban community of 40,779 residents surrounded mostly by the City of Los Angeles but also shares a border with unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. (Photo Credit: Culver City)

CULVER CITY – On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved the introduction of an ordinance requiring Gender Neutral Public Restrooms for new construction projects.

Newly constructed buildings will soon be required to include gender neutral public restrooms in Culver City. Existing buildings will not be required to retrofit current layouts but may voluntarily do so. The ordinance needs two readings at City Council meetings prior to going into effect.

The proposed ordinance requires single-user and multi-user public toilet facilities to use signage indicating that the facilities are accessible to all users, and not restricted to persons of a specific sex or gender identity. There are 11 design elements for security, privacy, light, ventilation, and signage, which are key concerns for all users of public restroom facilities. Staff also noted the new ordinance would likely cutdown on square footage needed for restrooms in new buildings.

The City Council began Monday’s meeting with declaring five proclamations which included:

Proclaiming May 2024 as Jewish American Heritage Month. In the proclamation, it stated Culver City shares an obligation to condemn and combat antisemitism wherever it exists, to include Jewish Americans in all facets of civic life, and to stand with the Jewish American community against hatred or bigotry in our city and country. The City Council calls upon all residents to celebrate the rich and diverse heritage of the Jewish American community, including those who live, work, and play in Culver City, playing a vital role in contributing to all aspects of life in Culver and honors the generations of residents and immigrants who have enriched our nations’ narrative.

During the month of May, Culver City celebrates Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month and pays tribute to the contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders who have enriched our history and been an integral part of our community. The theme for AANHPI Heritage Month in 2024 is “Advancing Leaders Through Innovation” which celebrates lasting contributions of persons of AANHPI descent, from technological advancements to social/political changes, while navigating significant cultural and systemic barriers. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders lend their rich heritage to enhance our community, playing a vital role and contributing to all aspects of life in Culver City. The City Council celebrates the diaspora and honors the generations of residents and immigrants who have enriched our nations’ narrative.

May is also Historic Preservation Month. This year Preservation Month focuses on “People Saving Places” which recognizes everyone doing great work of saving places – in ways big and small – and inspiring others to do the same. The Culver City Historical Society, established in 1980, continues its mission of collecting, preserving and exhibiting the history of Culver City and its environs through new partnerships to expand and diversity audiences and incorporate future generations into their work. The City Council encourages all residents and visitors to discover or re-discover, honor, and share the unique history of Culver City.

The City Council also proclaimed May 2024 as National Cities, Towns, and Villages Month in celebration of America’s local governments and the National League of Cities’ historic centennial anniversary. Over the years, it has has successfully championed federal legislative solutions that support municipalities and has worked closely with Congress and the Executive Branch to educate policymakers on the realities of local implementation. The City of Culver City is a proud member of the National League of Cities, and has benefited from the organization’s research, technical expertise, federal advocacy and opportunities to learn from other local governments.

In its final proclamation of the evening, City Council recognized National Bike Month. Culver City has participated in this important effort by implementing the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, hosting events like CicLAvia, sponsoring the Culver City Walk & Rollers program, and installing and maintaining a growing network of bike lanes and paths. You can view the map on the Culver CityBus website. Culver City, community organizations, and partners throughout Los Angeles County have worked together to promote greater public awareness of bicycling throughout the month of May. The City Council encourages all community members and students to reap the benefits of bicycling as a form of transportation and exercise.

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Los Angeles County

New on the LA County Channel

You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles


New on the County Channel

Culture Club South Bay Culture Club, a non-profit organization located at the historic Bruce’s Beach, honors the legacy of Willa and Charles Bruce, who established a beach resort in Manhattan Beach in the 1900s. In collaboration with LA County, Culture Club promotes diversity and inclusion among children through activities like surfing, volleyball, education, and culinary experiences. This program creates lasting memories while paying tribute to an important piece of local history.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

In Case You Missed It

Commercial Acquisition Fund Grants Available For Nonprofits

The Los Angeles County Department of Economic Opportunity recently launched the Commercial Acquisition Fund to provide grants to qualifying nonprofit organizations to support the acquisition of vacant or abandoned land and buildings in designated communities that were most negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commercial Acquisition Fundis funded by the County, with $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds and will be awarded as recoverable grants, ranging from $500,000 to $2,000,000. Acquisitions and funding must occur before December 1, 2024.

The deadline to apply is May 20th at 5:00 p.m. To learn more, apply, or sign-up to attend a community webinar, visit lacaf.info.

At Your Service

LA County Rent Relief Program is Reopening!

Following a successful initial launch, the Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program is set to open for a second round of applications. Landlords affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can apply to receive up to $30,000 per rental unit to cover past-due rent and other eligible expenses incurred since April 1, 2022.

The application window will open Monday, May 20, 2024, at 9 a.m. and will close on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, at 4:59 p.m. To learn more about the eligibility criteria, and to receive a direct link to the application when it goes live, visit the LA County Rent Relief Program website at lacountyrentrelief.com.

Out and About

Marina Culture Jam on May 26th

Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Month at the Marina Culture Jam event on Sunday, May 26! Presented by the Department of Beaches and Harbors and The Music Center, Marina Culture Jam is a FREE special 3-part series featuring live performances and more!

Click here to learn more and RSVP for this free event.

Photo Finish

LA County’s Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center’s Animal Assisted Therapy Program. (Photo: Los Angeles County/Mayra Beltran Vasquez)

Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

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Southern California

Triple A: Gas prices drop for four straight weeks

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.24, which is eight cents lower than a week ago

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Triple A Auto Club/Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Local gas prices have dropped for four straight weeks, but California continues to be the only state with an average price above $5 a gallon, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.24, which is eight cents lower than a week ago. The average national price is $3.60, which is four cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.21 per gallon, which is eight cents less than last week, 18 cents less than last month, and 37 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.23, which is six cents lower than last week, 14 cents lower than last month, and 41 cents higher than this time last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.22, which is five cents lower than last week, 14 cents lower than last month, and 38 cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.12, which is eight cents lower than last week, 19 cents lower than last month and 36 cents higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.23 average price is three cents less than last week, eight cents less than last month, and 40 cents higher than a year ago today.

“California continues to have the highest average gas prices in the U.S., and despite a month of price declines, the state average price is still more than 40 cents higher than Hawaii, which is the second most expensive state for fuel,” said Auto Club Spokesperson Doug Shupe.

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on May 16, averages are:

051624 Final

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Los Angeles

LA Pride Parade announces grand marshals, KABC 7 to broadcast

The parade route begins at Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue ending at Sunset and Cahuenga boulevards in Hollywood

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Actor George Takei, wrestler Cassandro El Exotico and LAFD Chief Kristin Crowley will serve as grand marshals of the 2024 LA Pride Parade. (Photo montage: LA Blade)

LOS ANGELES – Actor George Takei, wrestler Cassandro El Exotico and LAFD Chief Kristin Crowley will serve as grand marshals of the 2024 LA Pride Parade, LA Pride has announced.

The 2024 LA Pride Parade and block party is slated for Sunday, June 9, in Hollywood, and ABC7 is returning as the official broadcast and streaming partner.

According to KABC 7 the parade will have three grand marshals. Takei is designated the “Icon Grand Marshal.” As an actor he was most known for playing Hikaru Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series and films. But he is also an accomplished activist for social justice and LGBTQ+ causes.

“To be recognized in this way by the LGBTQ+ community, an extraordinary group of individuals who have fought tirelessly for equality, is truly overwhelming. As someone who has witnessed the struggles and triumphs of our community over the years, I am filled with gratitude for the progress we have made and inspired to continue the fight for full acceptance and equality for all,” Takei said in a statement.

Cassandro El Exotico is designated the “Legacy Grand Marshal.” Born Saul Armendariz, he is known as a Mexican professional wrestler known for breaking barriers in the world of lucha libre by embracing his openly gay identity in the ring. The film “Cassandro” about his life starring Gael Garcia Bernal was released last year.

Crowley will serve as the “Community Grand Marshal.” She was named Los Angeles Fire Department chief in March 2022, becoming the first woman and first openly gay person to hold the position.

ABC7 will broadcast the 54th annual LA Pride Parade on June 9 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The coverage will be hosted by Ellen Leyva and “Good Morning America” weekend co-anchor Gio Benitez, with David Gonzalez, Sophie Flay and Karl Schmid reporting from the parade route.

Graphic via LA Pride

The parade route begins at Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue heading north, then east onto Hollywood Boulevard, then south onto Cahuenga Boulevard, ending at Sunset and Cahuenga boulevards.

After the parade, the LA Pride Block Party starts at 12 p.m. on Hollywood Boulevard.

Latin superstar Ricky Martin was previously announced as the headliner for the Pride in the Park festival the night before the parade, Saturday, June 8.

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Los Angeles County

City of Downey bans Pride Flag, Mayor labels it attack on LGBTQ+

The mayor in his remarks prior to the council’s vote framed the agenda item as an attack on the LGBTQ+ community

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City of Downey Mayor Mario Trujillo and city council members during a recent regular meeting. (Photo Credit: City of Downey/Facebook)

DOWNEY, Calif. – After a tense back and forth between city council members during Tuesday night’s regular meeting, notably between the city’s Out LGBTQ+ Mayor and Councilmember Claudia Frometa, the council voted 3-2 to implement a ‘neutral’ flag policy agenda item brought forward for a vote by Mayor Pro Tem Hector Sosa.

During the discussion, Mayor Mario Trujillo noted that the proposed agenda item had been lobbied for by a select few residents at the behest of a California chapter of Boston, Massachusetts-based anti-LGBTQ+ group MassResistance. The mayor in his remarks prior to the council’s vote framed the agenda item as an attack on the LGBTQ+ community.

The group is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for lies and propaganda and according to the SPLC, one of the most active chapters has been in California, run by perpetual right-wing activist Arthur Schaper, a columnist for TownHall.com and freelance writer based in Torrance, California.

Years long effort to ban the flag

In July of 2021, The LA Wave media outlet reported that Sandi Padilla, the Downey chapter leader of MassResistance said her chapter planned protests on the Pride flag and possibly other LGBTQ+ related issues at future City Council meetings. In June of 2021, the city council had voted to fly the LGBTQ+ Pride flag every June.

“We will definitely continue,” Padilla told LA Wave reporter Arnold Adler. “We won’t stop now. We elected the council members. We are their constituents. They should listen to our voices.”

Padilla said she has lived in Downey for eight years. Members of her chapter say City Council members went against the will of the majority of city residents when they approved flying the Gay Pride flag at the June 22. 2021 City Council meeting. The vote in favor of flying the flag was 4-1 vote, with then-Mayor Claudia Frometa dissenting.

The Downey City Clerk’s office told the LA Wave eight of 14 speakers opposed the Pride flag at the June 22, 2021 meeting and eight emails on the subject were all in opposition to the flag.

The Downey Patriot Newspaper reported on April 11, 2024 Mayor Pro Tempore Sosa asked city staff to “agendize a conversation” on the subject of a neutral flag policy, and what litigation the city could potentially expose itself to in the absence of adopting one. A neutral flag policy would ban the flying of nongovernmental flags on city buildings.

Currently the city of flies four flags – the American, California, city and MIA-POW flags – year-round.

During the public comment, Ari Ruiz, District Director for Assemblymember Blanca Pacheco, a former mayor of Downey delivered a message from Assemblymember Pacheco:

Then Councilmembers Blanca Pacheco and Catherine Alvarez, raise the LGBTQ+ Pride flag at Downey City Hall in 2021.
(Photo Credit: Blanca Pacheco/City of Downey Facebook

“Good evening Mayor Trujillo, Mayor Pro Tem Sosa, and Councilmembers Frometa, Pemberton, and Ortiz.

Due to the legislative calendar, I am unable to attend tonight’s Downey City Council meeting, where you will be voting to adopt a new Flag Policy. Therefore, I have asked my District Director to deliver brief remarks on my behalf and communicate my opposition to the proposed Neutral Flag Policy, which does not allow for freedom of expression. 

A pre-existing policy addresses this matter, affirming that if the City Council approves the display of the PRIDE flag or any other flag designated as a ‘commemorative flag,’ the flag  is recognized as an official form of government speech, which is permitted. For instance, if the City Council authorizes the display of the PRIDE flag, the display can be no longer than 30 days.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” However, for some people, equality is not so evident, particularly when concerning who we love. 

During my tenure as a public servant, which has included serving the people of Downey as their Mayor and Councilmember, and now as their Assemblywoman, my goal always has been to ensure that all constituents are treated with respect and dignity. I believe that the current policy champions equality and inclusivity, mirroring the diverse community of Downey and extending a warm welcome to the LGBTQ+ community.

Thank you,  Assemblywoman Blanca Pacheco”

On Wednesday in a statement after Tuesday’s vote, Assemblymember Pacheco told the Blade:

“As someone who has always believed in the importance of inclusion and representation, it’s disheartening to see the Downey City Council adopt a neutral flag policy. When I served as mayor pro tem, we took a step forward in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of our community by flying the pride flag. While I respect differing opinions, I believe that embracing diversity strengthens our community and fosters a sense of belonging for all residents. I remain committed to promoting equality and acceptance in Downey and elsewhere.”

The results of Tuesday’s vote. (LA Blade graphic)

In a heated rebuke of the mayor’s remarks saying that the vote to ban the Pride flag was an attack on LGBTQ+ Downey residents, Councilmember Fromenta disagreed strongly saying that this was an issue of not showing favoritism or political endorsement of a group of people versus maintaining a neutral and appropriate acknowledgment of the nation, the state and city’s unity based on the whole of the city’s residents.

The Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Elected Officials (LACLEO) association, in response to the City Council of Downey’s vote to ban the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, expressed its “profound disappointment,” in the decision.

LACLEO President and Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang told the Blade in a statement: “This is a flag that symbolizes hope, freedom and unity. As an association representing over 50 LGBTQ+ elected officials, we are deeply disappointed but also incredibly surprised. Downey hosted the first pride celebration of any city in southeast Los Angeles County, flying the Pride flag proudly.”

The council vote was even more surprising given the fact that Mayor Mario Trujillo and Councilmember Horacio Ortiz are out-LGBTQ+ officials and who both voted against the measure LACLEO told the Blade.

“It just doesn’t make any sense for the leaders of a community that has been supportive of their LGBTQ+ constituents in the past to now adopt what appears to be a mean-spirited measure. At a time when we need to come together as a society more than ever, this can only serve to create division and discord where there was none,” Prang added.

LACLEO member, City of Downey Mayor Trujillo reiterating a portion of his remarks from Tuesday’s council meeting prior to the vote noted: “The flag has particular poignance for LGBTQ+ youth – it sends a message that this is a safe space and that you are welcome. Suicide is at epidemic levels and we should be doing all we can to be welcoming.”

 “We must work to discover solutions that expand inclusivity and that acknowledge the diversity that enriches the places we all call home”, said LACLEO Vice President Ed Reece, who also serves as LA County LGBTQ+ Commissioner and Claremont City Councilmember.

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Long Beach

Long Beach Pride kicks off as Pride flag is raised at civic center

“This symbolic gesture demonstrates the City’s commitment to supporting and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community now and into the future”

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Image courtesy of Long Beach Pride

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The city of Long Beach kicked off its Pride week and month activities Tuesday with a ceremonial flag raising in the Civic Center Plaza in downtown. With City Manager Tom Modica, Fifth District Councilwoman Megan Kerr, Parks and Recreation Director Brent Dennis and Ninth District Councilwoman Dr. Joni Ricks-Oddie looking on, Mayor Rex Richardson hoisted a Progress Pride flag on a city-owned flag pole.

“Long Beach is a city of acceptance, and we proudly celebrate diversity and inclusivity across our entire community,” said Mayor Richardson. “It is our duty to take a moment of pause to celebrate the raising of the Progress Pride flag to reflect the visibility, contributions, and resilience Long Beach’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community.

In June 2023, the Long Beach City Council adopted a resolution recognizing the week of Long Beach’s annual Pride Festival and Pride Parade, taking place this year over the weekend of May 18-19, as Long Beach LGBTQ+ Pride Week and directing to annually raise the LGBTQ+ Progress Pride Flag at Long Beach Civic Center Plaza and light City assets during that time. The resolution additionally recognizes May 22 annually as “Harvey Milk Day” in honor of his birthday and recognizes the month of June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The recommendation to adopt a resolution was brought forward by Fifth District Councilwoman Megan Kerr and approved by the City Council.

“This symbolic gesture demonstrates the City’s commitment to supporting and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community now and into the future,” said Fifth District Councilwoman Megan Kerr. “I commend our City Council, City leadership and City staff for their dedication to equality and diversity.”

Long Beach Pride is kicking off Pride season this weekend, May 18-19, 2024

The 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade is kicking off on Sunday, at 10 a.m. Audiences can tune-in to special coverage on parade day on nbcla.comtelemundo52.com, on the free NBCLA and Telemundo 52 mobile apps and on the stations’ free 24/7 local news streaming channels NBC Los Angeles NewsTelemundo Noticias California.

Led by an esteemed lineup of grand marshals, the 2024 Long Beach Pride Parade will feature over 130 participating organizations, businesses and stakeholder groups showcasing a variety of vibrant and engaging floats and displays. The parade will commence at Ocean Boulevard and Lindero Avenue then travel along iconic stretches of Ocean Boulevard to Alamitos Avenue in Downtown.

IVY Queen, the Queen of Reggaeton, will headline the Sunday lineup of the 41st annual Long Beach Pride Festival, scheduled for May 19th, 2024.

Tickets Now Available: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/41st-annual-long-beach-pride-festival-tickets-816143115027

General tickets for the Long Beach Pride Festival are now on sale, starting at $40. These tickets grant festival-goers access to a weekend of exuberant celebration, stellar performances, and a welcoming community environment.

Earlier this year, the City of Long Beach announced it will serve as the official host and funder for the 2024 Long Beach Pride Parade while Long Beach Pride, the nonprofit that traditionally produces the parade, restructures its organization. This year’s parade will coincide with the Long Beach Pride Festival, taking place Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19 along the Downtown waterfront. The festival is a separate event organized by the Long Beach Pride organization. More information about the festival will be available at longbeachpride.com/festival.

More information about the 2024 Long Beach Pride Parade is available at longbeach.gov/prideparade.

The City of Long Beach

Long Beach is nestled along the Southern California coast and home to approximately 466,000 people. As an award-winning full-service charter city, Long Beach offers the amenities of a metropolitan city while maintaining a strong sense of individual and diverse neighborhoods, culture and community. With a bustling downtown and over six miles of scenic beaches, Long Beach is a renowned tourist and business destination and home to the iconic Queen Mary, nationally recognized Aquarium of the Pacific and Long Beach Airport, award-winning Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center and world-class Port of Long Beach.

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West Hollywood

WeHo’s Rainbow Neon Dog gets public art dedication

Community members gathered at Williams S Hart Park for a public art dedication of the public artwork Rainbow Neon Dog on Friday, May 10, 2024

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Dedication of the Rainbow Neon Dog Art Installation. (Photo by Paulo Murillo/WEHO TIMES)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Community members gathered at Williams S Hart Park at 8341 De Longpre Avenue for a public art dedication event for the installation of the public artwork Rainbow Neon Dog on Friday, May 10, 2024.

The event offered some words by Rebecca Ehemann, WeHo Arts Manager of the City of West Hollywood, who introduced Mayor John Erickson to the podium with Pet Mayor Winnie. “This is the best part about being in the City of West Hollywood,” said Mayor Erickson. “We have our amazing Arts Department. Thank you so much for all of the amazing work that you do. We are just so excited to welcome the Rainbow Neon Dog as part of our city’s urban art collection.”

Dedication of the Rainbow Neon Dog Art Installation – WEHO TIMES
Dedication of the Rainbow Neon Dog Art Installation – WEHO TIMES

The mayor made a joke about his motor being slow every now and then in reference to the neon art that stopped rotating shortly after being installed. “We’re excited to see it start spinning again and have it at this entrance right here at our beautiful historic William S. Hart park at 10 feet high 10 feet wide. And three feet deep as radium barking neon dog is the perfect way to announce a presence here at this park.

Also in attendance were council member Chelsea Byers and council member Lauren Meister.

The Rainbow Neon Dog may not spin, but it still lights up. There was a countdown to its lighting as part of the ceremony. Community members had an opportunity to enjoy the art installation and walk away with a custom pin in the shape of the neon art as a memento.

Dedication of the Rainbow Neon Dog Art Installation – WEHO TIMES

There were rumors that some local residents were going to use the dedication to protest improvements coming to Hart Park; however, the rumors turned out to be false. The ceremony happened in perfect harmony.

@wehotimes A City of West Hollywood CLASSIC is BACK!!! The Neon Dog is fully restored and installed at its new home on The Sunset Strip. On Wednesday, September 14, 2022, the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission unanimously approved the proposed Neon Dog project for installation at William S. Hart Park & Off Leash Dog Park, a property leased by the City of West Hollywood, but owned by the City of Los Angeles. The neon dog was connected to Collar & Leash. On January 21, 2020, the City Council accepted a gift of the neon dog sign from Joseph Chan and Charles Chan Massey. The neon sign was restored and conserved very much like the Rocky & Bullwinkle sculpture that is also on display on Sunset Boulevard. #wehotimes #wehonews #wehocity #weho #westhollywood #neon #neonart #wehoarts #art #streetart #thesunsetstrip @weholove @Paulo Murillo @City of West Hollywood @CityofLosAngeles ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

The Rainbow Neon Dog is the most recent addition to the City’s growing Urban Art Program and consists of a reconditioned, electrically rotating neon sign in the shape of a barking dog set atop a supporting pole that raises it above street level to be enjoyed by pedestrians and vehicles alike traveling along Sunset Boulevard in either direction.

Dedication of the Rainbow Neon Dog Art Installation – WEHO TIMES

The sign measures 10-feet-high by 10-feet-wide by 3-feet-deep. It was designed in 1990 by Wilson Ong for the Collar & Leash pet store formerly located at 8555 Santa Monica Boulevard. In 2020, after the closure of the store, the owners gifted the sign to the City of West Hollywood for inclusion in the Urban Art Program collection.

At its new location along the iconic Sunset Strip, the sign is guaranteed to become a novel cultural attraction and will serve as a wayfinding device for the entrance to Hart Park while continuing the City’s efforts to activate Sunset Boulevard with pedestrian-friendly experiences.

The Urban Art Program provides a mechanism to integrate free and accessible art into the urban fabric of the City. In particular, the Urban Art Program is motivated by a desire to ameliorate some of the effects new development has on the community. New development often results in intensified use of land where larger structures seem imposing and inaccessible to the public. Urban art can help soften this effect and provide interaction and connection between the public and private domains.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, which include the “Hot Topic” column in Frontiers magazine, where he covered breaking news and local events in West Hollywood. He can be reached at [email protected]

The preceding article was previously published at WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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West Hollywood

OUTLOUD Presents Pride @ Bev Center with Drag Talents 

Join the legendary drag artists of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Saturday, May 18 from 1pm to 4pm in Grand Court at the Beverly Center

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Los Angeles Blade/WeHo Times graphic

By Mike Pingel | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Drag icon Alyssa Edwards joins OUTLOUD Presents PRIDE @ BEV for a panel discussion and performance alongside other iconic drag artists from RuPaul’s Drag Race including Plane JanePlastique Tiara, and Laganja Estranja. The panel discussion will focus on ‘living out and proud’ and will be moderated by OUTLOUD host Ryan Mitchell.

This year, OUTLOUD Presents PRIDE @ BEV is a proud supporter of OUTWORDS, a local Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that captures, preserves, and shares the stories of LGBTQ+ elders, to build community and catalyze social change. One hundred percent of ticket proceeds will be donated to OUTWORDS. All guests must be 18+ and purchase a general admission ticket to enter the event. 

Attendees can also win big at Beverly Center’s Spin Wheel, enjoy beats by DJ Asha, and get snatched at the Glam Station by Sephora. Guests 21 years of age and older can RSVP to secure their spot for Drag Bingo and a Beauty Demo hosted by Make Up Forever. 

100% of proceeds from OUTLOUD Presents Pride @ Bev will be donated to OUTWORDS, a LA local nonprofit organization that captures, preserves, and shares the stories of LGBTQIA2S+ elders, to build community and catalyze social change.

WHEN:   Saturday, May 18 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. PT

WHERE:  Grand Court of Beverly Center on Level 6

8500 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048

To purchase tickets please CLICK HERE.

Experiences included with your General Admission ticket:

  • Live drag performances by Alyssa Edwards, Plastique Tiara, Plane Jane and Laganja Estranja
  • Drag Bingo hosted by Athena Kills (21+) *RSVP required
  • Beauty Demo hosted by Make Up Forever (Attendees will receive a deluxe setting spray!) *RSVP required
  • Beverly Center Spin Wheel
  • Glam Station by Sephora
  • Photo Moments
  • VIP Lounge with bar and bites
  • Beats by DJ Asha
  • OUTLOUD Music Festival At WeHo Pride VIP wristband pick up

Event Rules

  • All guests must be 18+ to enter the event space.
  • If consuming alcoholic beverages, all guests must be 21+ and present a valid government ID.
  • Food and beverages are available while supplies last.
  • Children and pets are not allowed in the event area.
  • Parking validations are not available. Parking is $1 per hour up to 4 hours, and $2 per hour thereafter.
  • OUTLOUD Music Festival, created by Jeff Consoletti, launched in 2020 as a ten-episode series on Facebook in lieu of Pride Celebrations happening in cities across the country due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, quickly becoming one of the first major virtual LGBTQ+ showcases.
  • Since its debut, OUTLOUD garnered over nearly two billion media impressions and won several industry-topping awards including multiple SHORTY Awards for Best Use of Facebook and Best Use of Twitch, a MARCOM Award & a Cynopsis Digital Award for BEST LGBTQ Series.
  • Follow @OfficiallyOUTLOUD #WeAreOUTLOUD. http://weareoutloud.com.

About Beverly Center:
Located at the edge of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, Beverly Center features the best in luxury and contemporary retail, along with delectable street level restaurants with everything from modern fresh favorites to fast-casual eateries. Home to over 90 stores, all beneath an impressive skyline, Beverly Center is anchored by Bloomingdale’s & Macy’s and is home to L.A.’s largest collection of luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Saint Laurent, Ferragamo, and trending fashion brands including Mango, Zara and H&M.

For more information, visit beverlycenter.com.

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Mike Pingel

Mike Pingel has written six books, Channel Surfing: Charlie’s Angels & Angelic Heaven: A Fan’s Guide to Charlie’s Angels, Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman, The Brady Bunch: Super Groovy after all these years; Works of Pingel and most recently, Betty White: Rules the World. Pingel owns and runs CharliesAngels.com website and was Farrah Fawcett personal assistant. He also works as an actor and as a freelance publicist.

His official website is www.mikepingel.com

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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