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Is Auburn moving toward a pro-same-sex marriage stance?

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Are Auburn residents’ feelings about gay people shifting in light of the U.S. military's don’t ask don’t tell repeal, the election of Gavin Newsom as deputy governor, a new Gay Straight Alliance club at Placer High and continuing gay rights activism? Just over two years ago, Auburn voters had a chance to show how they felt about Prop. 8, which put the idea of limited marriage by a man and woman - not same-sex unions - to a statewide test. When the votes had been tallied, a count of votes at Auburn polling places showed that the city electorate reflected more of a statewide position than Placer County's. The final vote was 53.4 percent in favor of Prop. 8 at Auburn polling places while the county as a whole voted 59.9 percent for it. Statewide, the measure passed with a majority of 52.46 percent. Since then, California voters have elected pro-gay rights Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of San Francisco. And on the local front, a Gay Straight Alliance club was established for the first time at Placer High School. The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” regulations in the U.S. military shone the spotlight back on gay rights efforts in December. Reflecting the split on both the statewide and local vote, however, differences in opinion in Auburn continue to reflect a major division on a highly contentious issue. Enrique Manjarrez, community outreach coordinator, with the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center, said the Gay Straight Alliance started late last year at Placer is an important step for any community. “It builds respect and prevents bullying, which prevents suicide,” Manjarrez said. “Things are getting a little better. I’m not saying Auburn is a backwater town. It’s growing and tolerance levels are going up.” But Manjarrez, who grew up in and around his family’s Auburn restaurant business, said there is room for improvement. He said another avenue of understanding is Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which has a chapter in Placer County that meets monthly on Mondays at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital. “Auburn has a lot of Republicans and I know of one parent who was a conservative Republican who didn’t reject their gay son when he came out,” Manjarrez said. “She found PFLAG and she and her husband are amazing activists.” Pastor Rob Patterson of Bell Road Baptist Church in Auburn said he hasn’t seen any apparent change in perceptions in the community since “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed in December. “However, in America as a whole, perceptions have been changing over the last 20 years – primarily due to the concentrated efforts of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists who have wielded influence over the television and movie industries,” Patterson said. Patterson said he recently shared passages in the New Testament with his congregation that state homosexuality is one sin among many others that can be problematic in the lives of any man or woman. Using the “GBLT” abbreviation for “gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender,” Patterson said that being greedy, a liar, boastful and a thief are sins treated as seriously as homosexuality, sex outside of marriage and adultery. “My teaching to the cross-generational membership of our church is that we should continue to identify ‘sin’ as such and teach biblical truths that these sins can be forgiven through a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Patterson said. Patterson said it could be argued that people are born with a propensity to greed, to lying or to steal. “However convincing the argument, in whatever culture these behaviors appear, the traditional preaching of the Bible would stand firm that these same behaviors not only are detrimental to society but also hurt the very person who continues in such a lifestyle without repentance,” Patterson said. Michelle Fish, an Auburn social worker with the Salvation Army, supported Prop. 8 and a gay marriage ban, speaking at one of the Auburn rallies that drew hundreds of people in the summer of 2008. “I still believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” Fish said. “And I believe profoundly that God created us because a male and a female has so much to offer a child.” Fish said she still loves the gay person and respects their views. “But I know what I believe and stand firm on my faith,” Fish said. “This isn’t like San Francisco. I think we’re more compassionate and a careful community toward all. But we have to be careful about that. We can’t be tolerant all the time.” Johnnie Terry, a Sierra College teacher in Rocklin, can point to that school’s Rainbow Alliance for gay students as an example of how he’s seen the school develop a new level of tolerance. Terry, who has been with the same gay partner for 26 years and has three adopted children, said that one of the breakthroughs came when faculty started putting stickers on their doors with a triangle flag that told gay students that they would be supported in class. “It galvanized the campus,” Terry said. “This has never been a campus where people have been hostile but it sent out an invitation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual students to be who they are.” Terry says the group now averages about 30 students at its meetings. And he’s hopeful that with support for marriage equality will increase as younger students grow older and move into the communities – like Auburn – they will choose to settle down in. “From what I’ve been told, full equality in society is really tied to the passage of time,” Terry said. “Tolerance is a step that will take place before equal citizenship and mutual respect.” Timeline: Gay rights and gay marriage Here are some of the key dates in the history of gay rights and gay marriage advocacy: 1533 – English common law tradition of criminalizing sodomy starts with a proclamation from King Henry VIII 1961 – The Vatican rules anyone “affected by a perverse inclination” toward homosexuality isn’t eligible to take religious vows or be ordained within the Roman Catholic Church 1967 – The Supreme Court strikes down a Virginia law against interracial marriage, with the court declaring that marriage is a “fundamental civil right” 1973 – The American Psychiatric Association votes to remove homosexuality from its official list of mind disorders. Conservatives accuse the organization of giving in to political correctness 1986 – The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that homosexual activity between consenting adults in the privacy of the home was not protected by the Constitution 1990 – The Supreme Court upheld the right of the American military to discharge gays and lesbians in the armed forces 1996 – The Southern Baptist Convention announced a boycott of all Disney parks and products because of the corporation’s decision to give insurance benefits to partners of gay employees and hosting Gay Days at Disney theme parks 2004 – City officials in San Francisco started issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples and performed the first known marriage of a homosexual couple in the U.S. 2004 – President George Bush said he would support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage 2004 – The California Supreme Court issued a stay ordering San Francisco officials to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples 2005 – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes a bill approved by the Assembly and Senate to allow same sex marriage 2008 – State Supreme Court votes 4-3 to overturn ban on same-sex marriage 2008 – Prop. 8 passes as a constitutional amendment intended to override the court’s decision 2010 – Repeal of military “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay employees 2010 – Gavin Newsom, a proponent of same-sex marriage as mayor of San Francisco, elected state lieutenant governor Sources: About.com, KCRA.com