Tulare County Leader Board Addition



You know those lists where this that or the other thing is presented, and some poor city or county gets zinged for the most something-or-other that’s not particularly nice?  We get that here, from time to time.  Teen pregnancies, air pollution, GOP voter registration, etc.  Well, I think we should add “super fly capital” to that list. Quite possibly due to the (approximately) 250 or so dairies we have in our agricultural wonderland, we’ve bred our own super fly.

Super fly?  Yeah, super fly.  With the wonderful weather we’ve had the past few days, I made the mistake of leaving the front door open in order to enjoy fall in all it’s glory.  Turns out that was a bad idea, since I don’t have a screen door.  (which would seem to defeat the whole idea of open to the outside, but anyway…)  It appears several Musca domestica decided to buzz in and visit.  I can’t get them to leave.

I’m also being out maneuvered by the little buggers.  No matter how quick I am, or how sneaky, I’m not having much luck in my noble quest to rid my home of the pesky critters. They seem to have some super-natural ability to spot the newspaper on it’s speeding course to their destruction, and they simply are suddenly someplace else.  I could swear I hear tiny little laughs, too.

It’s bad enough having them loitering around inside the house, but they seem to find me particularly interesting.  Especially when I’m trying to sleep. They’ve got the entire house to play in, and they want to land on my nose?? Really?  I’m sorry, that’s just not acceptable.

I may have to break down and buy a no-pest strip.  Victory in the insect battles through modern chemical warfare.  (and a new screen door) You’ve been warned, Super Fly Musca domestica.

AB 2501 – Sen. Fuller responds, Conway still silent 10/27/14



On August 28th, I posted the blog “California legislature passes bill banning “gay panic” defense, area Senator and Assemblywoman both vote NO.” In it, I say I was looking forward to hearing from Senator Jean Fuller and Assemblywoman Connie Conway and receiving an explanation for their NO votes on the bill. As of September 26, I had still not heard from either. On September 28, I posted Governor Brown signs AB 2501, banning “gay panic” defense. I once again directed inquiries to their official government websites, as I had done on the 28th of August.  On Saturday, October 25th, I received a letter from Senator Fuller (after several Facebook and Twitter inquiries directed at both parties).


fuller_ab2501_1025_14-1024x691(PDF of the entire letter)

“It is my feeling that AB 2501 will unnecessarily undermine a core legal principle of murder and manslaughter without any promise of increasing public safety.”

The only conclusion I can draw is that Senator Fuller believes “gay (or trans) panic” is a reasonable reaction to a non-violent sexual advance, and that a homicide charge could therefore justifiably be reduced to manslaughter.  This is simply not acceptable.

“Already the California Penal Code and California Criminal Jury Instructions direct the jury to arrive at a just conclusion.  As a result, in California, the “panic defense” this bill intends to outlaw has never been used successfully.”

I’m afraid I don’t fully trust juries to arrive at a “just conclusion” when faced with some crimes.  Too many people have been exonerated, by DNA or other evidence, of capital and life-in-prison crimes after being convicted by a jury.  To risk justice to a court and jury whose prejudices against the LGBT community could easily outweigh a “just conclusion” would deny the victim the full expression of the law.  I also don’t trust that just because the “gay panic” defense has not been successfully used overtly in the past that it therefore never will.

“Additionally, it is unclear that this defense would be inadmissible in murder cases even with these changes.”

I’m not sure I understand this one at all.  A state law, it would seem to me, would have to be overturned by the courts as unconstitutional if it were unacceptable.  Some evidence is already prohibited in court actions by state law, and to exclude a claim of a panic defense to a non-violent sexual advance from a member of the same gender is entirely within the purview of the legislature.  (The state is saying with this law that it is not reasonable to respond in a deadly manner to a non-violent sexual advance.  Women have to deal with this all the time.  Can you imagine if they reacted with deadly violence to even some of the unwanted sexual advances they deal with on a regular basis? The streets would be littered with the bodies of heterosexual men.)

There’s an interesting paper about the “gay panic” defense in which the author (Cynthia Lee, The Gay Panic Defense, 42 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 471 (2008)) argues against banning the strategy as a matter of law.  Although the author makes interesting observations, and presents what seems a reasonable framework for her position, I can’t fully agree with her.  The gist of her argument is that allowing the use of the panic defense would require the idea that the defendant was reasonable in their reaction to the non-violent sexual advance to be fully vetted in court, and exposed as unjustifiable.  Her claim is that by banning the defense, the justification is never examined directly, but the prejudices that might permit it instead operate at the sub-conscious level.  While there may be some justification in this assumption, I’m not convinced allowing the defense to claim “gay panic” is in the best interests of society, or the victim.

The paper was developed over several years, and published in 2008, during California’s Proposition 8 controversy.  The dramatic changes in public perception of the LGBT community, as well as Federal Courts across the country finding no basis for bans based on sexual orientation, brings us to today’s world where we’ve come so far as to recognize that deadly violence in reaction to a non-violent sexual advance is a non-starter as a defense against homicide charges.  The state legislature and the Governor were right to pass and sign this bill, and those (all Republicans) who voted against it are wrong.

Watching elected GOP officials across the country react to court cases involving the LGBT community this past decade leaves me doubting anything but animus towards us on their part. Political posturing for base constituencies, rather than any principled stands are the actions we’ve seen from most.  (a few have recently came around, but most not until they saw the writing on the political walls. Anti-gay positions are a long-term losing proposition. Some of them have figured that out.)

I hope to hear from Assemblywoman Conway regarding her NO vote on AB 2501.  So far, silence.  My thanks to Senator Fuller for (finally) responding.  While I don’t agree with her reasoning or her vote, I do appreciate the letter.


9-1-1 tales: You’ve really got to know where you are! 10/21/14

The Robinsons couldn’t call 9-1-1. If you’re as lost as they were, then Houston we have a problem!
The Robinsons couldn’t call 9-1-1. If you’re as lost as they were, then Houston we have a problem!

It happens with excruciating regularity: a cellular 9-1-1 caller has no idea where they are.  I took another one of those last week, and it’s very possible that only technology saved the caller from violent injury.

An inebriated spouse, the middle of the night, and the middle of nowhere is not a good situation in which to find oneself.  Tulare County is huge.  Even not counting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, we’re still one of the larger counties in California.  Telling the 9-1-1 dispatcher you’re on “the road to Tulare” really doesn’t help much.

My caller was using a disconnected cell phone, which can still dial 9-1-1 if it has power, and for several minutes into the call the system was not providing GPS data that would allow me determine a location. Fortunately, it eventually sent the latitude and longitude, and I was able to pinpoint where “on the road to Tulare” they were. Deputies were dispatched, and the issue was resolved.  If not a happy ending, then at least not a tragic one.

We rely on technology, and most of the time it serves us well.  When your safety, and quite possibly your life, depends on it working as designed, however, it’s not wise to place all your trust on everything functioning to perfection.  The phone may usually know where it’s at, but if you don’t, and the technology doesn’t perform, we’re left with only a few options to try and find you, and none of them are quick.

The bottom line: know where you are.

And the disclaimer – as with all my posts that refer to 9-1-1, these are my comments only, and do not represent an official statement by any agency, department, or other government body. 

PFLAG October: LGBT History Month: Suing Dallas PD in 1979 10/14/14



October is LGBT History month, and the Tulare-Kings PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) will dedicate this month’s program to a historic lawsuit filed by former Dallas City employee and current 30+ year resident of Visalia, Slade Childers. After applying for a position as a civilian employee in the police department’s property and evidence division, where he twice scored higher than any other candidate during testing, Childers sued for violations of his civil rights when it became clear that he was denied the job due to his sexual orientation and affiliation with the gay-friendly Metropolitan Community Church.  Ultimately losing the court battles with a ruling by the United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division, on March 30, 1981, the case is nonetheless a historic moment in the battle for LGBT civil rights.

Childers will talk about being a young gay activist in a major American city only a few short years after the New York City Stonewall riots of June 1969.  Reflecting on the prejudices of the general public, the police department, and the courts, Childers will give us a look back at the early days of the LGBT equality movement, and how it felt to those deeply involved at the time.

Tulare-Kings PFLAG’s October meeting will be this Sunday, October 19, at 3pm.  Meetings are held the third Sunday of each month, at the Educational and Cultural Center, Congregation B’nai David, 1039 S. Chinowth, Visalia.  Meetings begin at 3pm, and conclude at 5pm.  The public is invited.

PFLAG provides a safe and confidential space place to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity, and works to build a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.

There is no cost to attend, and membership is optional.

PFLAG Tulare and Kings Counties is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status.

National Coming Out Day and Porterville City Council – Politics as usual 10/10/14

Photo: Yesenia Valdez
Photo: Yesenia Valdez

Politics as usual

The Porterville City Council, despite recent elections and the unfortunate passing of respected and re-elected member Pete McCracken (requiring the council to appoint a replacement), has yet to experience the growth we in the larger LGBT community in Tulare County had hoped to see.  The recent refusal of the Council to issue a proclamation requested by the Porterville LGBT community to recognize National Coming Out Day on October 11 spurred another peaceful protest in front of City Hall, and had numerous speakers take advantage of the public commentary periods in last Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The Porterville Reporter carried this account of the council meeting.

As we continue to see Porterville reacting in an officially hostile manner towards a group of their constituents (see former Mayor and current Council member Cameron Hamilton’s comments at the end of the Recorder’s article, and of course his famous “just grow a pair” remarks), we can’t help but compare that to Visalia’s actions these past three years (here),(here), and (here).  Porterville has a long row yet to hoe before we see that city treating it’s citizens equally.  (The proclamation is not “inclusive”? Really? Do they not understand the very nature of a proclamation? They’re MEANT to single out a person, group, or organization for recognition, and the Council has done just that for decades in Porterville.  Only the LGBT community gets singled out for “not inclusive”.)

I’ve posted blogs regarding National Coming Out Day before (2013),(2012),(2011).  This year I was hoping to include Porterville in the celebrations, but, once again, we’re treated to the Council flying it’s discrimination flag at full staff.  This year’s National Coming Out Day theme is “Live Your Truth“, and with the recent flurry of public announcements by internationally recognizable individuals (Cokie Roberts, Michael Sam, Tom Daley to name only three) that they are gay, and with the dizzying progress made in marriage equality in the courts,  equality has been marching across our land in a way few ever thought possible.  That march is solidly blocked at the Porterville City limits.

Addendum: In my blog post of September 24, 2014, Porterville City Council Still Snubbing LGBTQ Community, I stated  ”Council member Virginia Gurrola, the former mayor who was removed from that ceremonial office for her issuance of the June 2013 LGBT Pride Month proclamation, has also declined to step up and sponsor the request.”  Mrs. Gurrola, when interviewed by the Porterville Recorder, said she had not “declined”, but had not been asked to sponsor the proclamation.  I put out a request for comments among my friends on Facebook, many of whom are much better writers than I, describing the situation, and asking if ‘declined’ was used in an acceptable manner.  The consensus was that it implies that the person who was being mentioned had been asked and subsequently refused to take an action.  My usage was intended to convey that someone who knew an action was needed but didn’t take that action had declined to act.  My intent was to convey the latter, not the former.

Photo credit: Yesenia Valdez 

Nunes’ government site posts image insulting to transgender community 9/30/14

Johnny Depp as Ed Wood

In a display of incredible insensitivity and insult, Devin Nunes, on his official Congressional website, used the above picture in “The Nunes Digest” to link to a report of the California legislature passing a bill allowing death certificates to reflect the expressed gender of the decedent.

It’s already difficult enough for transgender individuals to navigate life’s slings and arrows, but to have a Congressman post such an insulting image to represent them is deplorable.  The picture of Depp as Ed Wood does not reflect what transgender is, but is clearly an a snarky put-down of both a Democratic attempt to respect a group of citizens long treated poorly by society, and of that group itself.  Nunes should be ashamed.

Here’s a screen capture of the post lest it disappear:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 10.29.14 PM


Governor Brown signs AB 2501, banning “gay panic” defense 9/28/14

California Governor Jerry Brown
California Governor Jerry Brown

Governor Jerry Brown has signed AB 2501, legislation that removes “gay panic” as a defense that would reduce homicide charges to manslaughter.  No longer will killers be able to claim they were acting from panic or passion when they killed someone who they either knew or found out was gay or transgender.  Now they will face the full charges for their crime, just as if they had killed a heterosexual person.  No more “momentary insanity” claims because someone of the same gender (or transgender) made a pass (or you thought they made a pass) at you.

Local representatives Senator Jean Fuller and Assembly woman Connie Conway both voted no on the legislation.  Requests on the day following the vote in Sacramento last August to each, asking them to explain their no votes, have gone unanswered.  Senator Fuller’s office did place a phone call to me last Friday, after I posted this follow up blog, and Tweeted directly to both, but has not replied to my email response as of this posting. It’s illuminative to notice that every NO on the August 27 vote was made by a Republican. Not a single Democrat voted against.  I would sincerely like to hear why my GOP representatives would vote NO on this bill.  I don’t understand the thinking that would lead them to do so, and some explanations would be welcome.

California is now the only state that bans the “gay panic” defense.  It is hoped that other states will now follow our lead, as they did with the banning of “reparative” therapy for minors.

Fuller, Conway – still no response to my question 9/26/14



On August 28, I posted a blog about the California State Legislature’s passage of AB 2501, the bill that would remove the “gay panic” defense in homicide cases.  Both of my elected representatives, Senator Jean Fuller and Assemblywoman Connie Conway voted no.  (the bill still awaits Governor Brown’s signature)

On the same day of that post, I visited the websites of Senator Fuller and Assemblywoman Conway, and asked each for an explanation for her vote.  As of this posting, I have not heard back from either.

Honestly, I didn’t really expect a detailed response from the Senator or the Assemblywoman.  I did at least expect a form response along the lines of “thank you for your comments, I’ll keep them in mind”, or something similar.  Not even as minimal a response as a form-letter email ever arrived at my inbox.  I’m left to wonder if the offices of both cross-checked my name to donor lists, found zero, and relegated my emails to the bit bucket.

I’ve again visited their websites, and utilized the “contact us” feature, and reminded them of my request.   I suppose it’s possible that their email system swallowed my submissions, and nobody in the offices ever saw it.  It’s also possible, I suppose, that electronic gremlins snuck in and wreaked havoc, chewing on the bytes that made up my messages.  Without more than the automatic submission verification, there’s really no way for me to know.

I am sensing a pattern here, however.  Fuller and Conway don’t respond, and Devin Nunes avoids debates and refuses to see people who repeatedly try to set up an appointment.  All three are Republicans in, at least recently, solidly GOP districts.   It would appear that something talks to these politicians, and it’s not the average voter.  I wonder how long our region will put up with such dismissive representation?  Hopefully no later than November.

Porterville City Council Still Snubbing LGBTQ Community 9/24/14



Once again the LGBTQ community of Porterville is feeling the pain of a snub from the City Council.  After last year’s fiasco over a LGBT Pride Month proclamation and subsequent rescission, which then led to both the Mayor and Vice-Mayor losing those ceremonial positions, and a change in the process of presenting proclamations, the City Council is again deliberately ignoring the gay community and their allies.

Activists in Porterville are reporting that a request for a proclamation recognizingNational Coming Out Day, October 11, has died for lack of support from any of the council members.  (New rules for proclamations require a council member to sponsor the request, rather than the former method, where community members simply filled out a form, and the Mayor issued it, if it met the minimal requirements.) It initially appeared, according to Elliot Trueblood of Gay Porterville, that Council member Monte Reyes would sponsor the request, but that support has been withdrawn.  Council member Virginia Gurrola, the former mayor who was removed from that ceremonial office for her issuance of the June 2013 LGBT Pride Month proclamation, has also declined to step up and sponsor the request.  (Gurrola is running for Tulare County Board of Supervisors in District 5, the seat currently held by Mike Ennis.  One assumes she will not risk alienating the conservative district with another gay-related action.  The LGBT community of the region is understandably disappointed and upset with Gurrola over this political stance.)

Even with two new members, the Porterville City Council still cannot be trusted to do the right thing.  Politics are still placed above respect and inclusion, and the LGBTQ community in that city, and their allies, must still deal with deeply ingrained homophobia and lingering animosity.

Compare Porterville’s official animus towards the gay community here, here, here, and here, to Visalia’s acceptance and inclusion, here, here, here, and here.

Porterville has a long anti-gay history.  From being the only city council in California to officially vote to support 2008′s Proposition 8 (removing the existing right of marriage for same-gender couples), to votes urging defeat of gay rights bills in the California legislature, to 2013′s Pride Month proclamation and resulting fiasco, and now refusing to recognize National Coming Out Day, even new blood on the Council is not enough for it to do the right thing.

Air Force drops “so help me God” from oath requirement 9/30/14



After having quietly re-instated the requirement to say “so help me, God” in enlistment oaths last year, the United States Air Force, on September 17, 2014, notified it’s members that the statement would be voluntary on the part of the person taking the oath (or affirmation, for those whose personal ethics or religious convictions don’t allow oaths) .

The issue came to a head recently when a sergeant at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was told he would not be allowed to submit re-enlistment documents without “so help me, God” printed on them, and would not be allowed to take his oath without the religious wording.  The anonymous sergeant’s current term of enlistment was due to end before November, and the commanders at his base were enforcing Air Force regulations requiring the religious oath.  The Air Force was the only branch of the United States military requiring the wording remain on documents and in verbal oaths.

When the sergeant challenged the requirements, with the help of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (staffed mostly by Christians, btw), the chain of command immediately jumped into action, sending the matter up to the Department of Defense General Counsel.

I’m going to assume the following occurred at that office:  Someone pulled out a copy of the United States Constitution, and read Article VI, Clause 3, and immediately sent out a memo stating ”that an individual may strike or omit the words “So help me God” from an enlistment or appointment oath if preferred“.  I could be wrong, it might have been a bit more complicated than that, but it should not have been.

The Air Force has been for some time dealing with issues of religious fundamentalists trying to impose their dogma.  From issues at the Academy to the recent oath fiasco, Christian right wingers have been trying to impose their faith, or at the very least limit membership to people who agree with them, on service members.

This is another blow, where their attempts at turning the US military into a Christian army doing “God’s” work have been stymied by that pesky Constitution.  It is the right of every United States citizen to serve in the military if they so desire, and religious affiliation (or non-affiliation, or non-belief) (or sexual orientation, for that matter, another bugaboo of the Christian right) cannot be a determining factor.  There are plenty of other reasons someone might be denied the chance to serve, from criminal records to health issues, but adhering to a required religion is not one of them.

It’s important that the mightiest military in the world remain secular, and out of the control of religious zealots.  From the time of the Crusades to todays ISIS (or ISIL, if you prefer) and Boko Haram, religious militaries are a threat to the peace of the world.  When you have people in charge who think they’re doing “God’s” work, nobody is safe.

(In the interest of full disclosure, the Air Force declined my enlistment in the early ’80′s, but not for what you might think.  I was in deep denial then, so being gay wasn’t an issue.  Being an atheist also was not an issue.  I took the ASVAB test, and scored in the high 90′s.  I was told I could do anything in the Air Force I wanted, except accounting.  (I don’t know if that means I scored to low on the math section, or to high.)  No, the reason my enlistment was declined was that I was too skinny.  I was 25 pounds under their minimum requirement for someone of my height.  The recruiter said I was the first such recruit prospect that he’d seen with that problem.  Plenty of overweight prospects, but none of the opposite.  So, I didn’t go.  Best that I didn’t, I suspect, although I would have loved to have been involved in the Air Force’s space programs.  I’ve heard the Air Force’s space budget is bigger than NASA’s.)