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June 10, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, June 10, 2005

Gay Pride Month no big deal for council Gay Pride Month no big deal for council (June 10, 2005)

By Jon Wiener

If you blinked, you might have missed it.

In stark contrast to the tortured deliberations of the Los Altos City Council, Mountain View Mayor Matt Neely quickly declared the month of June to be Gay Pride Month in the city for the second year in a row.

Not coincidentally, the measure's easy approval is in marked contrast to the position of Los Altos civic leaders. Last week, those officials cited the controversial nature of the topic in explaining to a group of gay students why they would not issue a proclamation in support of Gay Pride Day.

Still smarting from the council's rejection of their request, the students of Los Altos High School's Gay Straight Alliance turned to Mountain View to find support from political leaders.

Neely opened Tuesday night's council meeting by presenting a framed statement to Juan Barajas, the director of Outlet, a support program for gay teens. The statement read, "To achieve a just and fair society we must respect one another," adding that Gay Pride Month "offers each of us a chance to affirm our understanding."

Alison Tarbell, the former president of the Los Altos GSA and now a student at Harvard, said she appreciated the gesture.

"It's good that this can be done easily. It's not something that needs to be a giant public fight," she said.

Neely exercised his right as mayor to issue a proclamation without debate, rather than submit the issue to a vote. Last year, the council voted unanimously that June would be Gay Pride Month.

Council members said their support of the students had little to do with Los Altos' recent vote.

"This is about recognizing the gay, lesbian and bisexual community and the contributions they make," said council member Mike Kasperzak.

Even so, some had trouble hiding their scorn for their Los Altos colleagues.

"We were appalled," said Neely, recalling the reaction to news last year that Los Altos had rejected a Gay Pride Day. (The Los Altos Council later recanted and approved a Gay Pride declaration, along with one for "Tolerance Day" -- a move that did not mollify the high school students.)

For his part, Neely has become something of a hero to the activist groups.

"It's totally the opposite" of how they were treated in Los Altos, said GSA adviser Ruth Gibbs. The Los Altos council members "just shot them down. They made them feel worthless."

E-mail Jon Wiener at [email protected]

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