The mayor of a California city in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area has drawn criticism from citizens and business leaders after refusing to issue a proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month and describing LGBTQ+ identity as a “choice of lifestyle.”
As the Los Angeles Blade reports, 2023 was the first year since 2014 that the city of Torrance, California did not issue a Pride Month proclamation. While the city reportedly does not sponsor Pride events or fly the Pride flag over its city hall, former mayor Patrick Furey did issue the proclamations beginning in 2014.
But this year, Mayor George Chen, who was elected in 2022 after Furey retired, opted to break with that tradition, frustrating local LGBTQ+ residents and business owners who say the city has seen an uptick in hostility toward the queer community. Last year, Pride decorations outside local businesses were torn down, according to the Daily Breeze.
Early last month, the paper reported that Chen turned down a request to issue the annual Pride Month proclamation. The mayor said that his decision was not meant to be a public condemnation of the LGBTQ+ community.
“To me, it was a proclamation request,” Chen told the Daily Breeze in early June. “I denied the proclamation request because this is a certain choice of lifestyle for some people, and I respect each person’s personal choice. It does not rise to a proclamation.”
However, the choice to play pickleball apparently does rise to that level; earlier this year, Chen issued a proclamation declaring April National Pickleball Month, the L.A. Bladenotes.
Frustrated with the mayor’s decision and last year’s vandalism, members of the Downtown Torrance Association (DTA) reportedly came up with a plan to hang rainbow Pride banners on the downtown business district’s light poles, where vandals cannot reach them. The DTA also drafted its own Pride Month proclamation, which was ratified by all 50 of the DTA’s member businesses, the L.A. Blade reported.
Members of the organization read the proclamation aloud during a June 6 city council meeting. But according to the Daily Breeze, the mayor’s office has the right to decline any proclamation request made by a Torrance resident, per city policy. Chen declined the DTA’s request.
The L.A. Blade reports that the morning after the meeting, security cameras outside one downtown business captured city officials removing the DTA’s Pride banners. At a subsequent meeting after business owners rehung the banners, city representatives reportedly told DTA members that they could face misdemeanor charges if they did not remove them.
Additionally, Chen and the Torrance city council have reportedly failed to issue formal statements condemning anti-LGBTQ+ graffiti that began appearing on city bridges.
The situation has been devastating for members of the local LGBTQ+ community and their allies.
“I’m seeing people in my community losing hope,” Adam Schwartz told the L.A. Blade. “It’s destroyed people’s trust in the city. A lot of people can hear this and go, ‘Oh, Torrance is such a backward, bigoted place,’ and that hurts everyone in Torrance.”
“It’s frustrating for me to see that I’m still not really welcome,” said Silas Quinn, a transgender Torrance native who moved back to the city last year. “I’m still not really what Torrance wants to be a part of their community.”
But Isabel (Douvan) Schwartz, who helped draft the DTA’s proclamation, remained defiant. “This will not stop the Downtown Torrance Association from finding other ways to celebrate Pride,” she told the L.A. Blade. “Next year, we will find another way to celebrate.”