Jennifer and Joan Hold A Big Gay Wedding – in the heart of Prop 8 Country

jennifer_joan_neils_wedding

Joan Davis (L), Pastor Neil Climer, Jennifer McGuire
Photo credit: Penny Sick

Visalia, California

Saturday, October 26, 2013, was another milestone in Visalia’s LGBTQ history.  On one level, it was simply a wedding, mostly of interest to the happy couple, their family and friends.  On another, it served as a significant signpost on the journey towards equality for a rapidly changing nation.  Jennifer McGuire and Joan Davis were wed at the Visalia Veteran’s Memorial Hall, in a ceremony attended by family from across the country, friends, and notable locals such as Visalia’s Mayor Amy Shuklian and her partner Mary Randol, as well as many prominent members of the LGBTQ community.

You may remember some of the recent incidents reported here at QueerLandia regarding gay rights issues in this reddest-of-red portion of California.  Visalia itself has been good, but only 35 miles away in the same county, Porterville has been another issue.  The differences in response to marriage equality have been stark.  You’d be amazed the two cities are in the same state, let alone only miles apart in the same county!

This blog is not about that controversy, however.  It’s about a big gay wedding!

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History repeats: Conservative California community to again proclaim June LGBT Pride Month

After the proclamation, June 2012, Visalia, California

After the proclamation, June 2012, Visalia, California

There are two Californias.  The first is the California of Hollywood, Berkeley, and San Francisco.  That’s the California most people have in mind when they think about the Golden State.  Liberal, open-minded, live-and-let-live.  Traditionally, a very blue state.

I don’t live in that California.  I live in the vast Central Valley, home to places like Merced, the community hardest hit in the nation by the collapse of the housing market, the ever-denigrated Fresno, and Johnny Carson’s foil, Bakersfield.  My California is deeply red, generally poor, and conservative in the extreme. (there are four churches of conservative denominations within a block of my home!)  Things are, however, to paraphrase a video campaign, getting better.

Last year, the City Council of Visalia, my hometown, proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month.  That was (and still is) a first in the Central Valley.  Next Monday, history is set to repeat itself, with the second LGBT Pride Month proclamation by the Council.  Visalia is still the only city or county body in Central California to make such a proclamation.

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Cool college queers in Porterville

Check out these cook kids from the Porterville Pride Club!  We added the link to their FB page on our Visalia page of links. It takes a lot of courage to be out and proud in a small farming community in the Central Valley of California.  There is no greater form of activism than leading an open and honest life in front of your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers.  Truth!

PC Pride Club

Another LGBTQ First in Tulare County, California

Another first for Tulare County, California.  Acting on the last-minute offer of space at the annual County Fair, local LGBTQ activists and organizations pulled together a display highlighting local and national resources and events.

This is a momentous occasion for the LGBTQ community here.  Tulare County, in the heart of California’s vast Central Valley, is firmly in the “red” portion of the state.  Proposition 8 (California’s initiative on the 2008 ballot to overturn the State Supreme Court ruling granting marriage equality) passed here with 75% of the vote.

This booth represents the second major advancement of LGBTQ recognition in Tulare County this year.

SPECIAL UPDATE: 9/12/12 0530 hrs Pacific
The LGBTQ Booth won first place! Pictures soon!

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History in a small town

California, to much of the rest of the nation and world, is the epitome of liberalism and the home of acceptance for the LGBT community.

Home to world class Pride events such as THE Pride Parade, San Francisco, and huge affairs in Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Palm Springs, and even Fresno (it’s the home to one of the nation’s oldest and largest LGBT film festivals), California is often thought of as the heaven of the gay world.

There’s a part of California, however, where that mindset is as foreign to the residents there as might be the Klingon home world.  There are really two Californias.

The one most people think about when they think “California”, is the politically liberal, social progressive place the conservatives love to rant about.  “Hollywood values”, or “San Francisco values” are epithets spat out like some horrid evil that’s ready to consume the unwary.  The California that has Governors, Mayors, and City Council members vying for spots in convertible Corvettes and Jaguars as they wave to the crowds lining the streets for Pride Parades.

I live in the “other” California, and history was made here yesterday.

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Visalia, California City Council to Proclaim June LGBT Pride Month

Located in California’s vast Central Valley, just about exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Visalia is a community of 125,000, and is the county seat of Tulare County.  The region is conservative, both politically and socially, being a strong “red” area on maps during elections.  With a 3 to 1 ratio of Republican to Democratic voters, change sometimes comes slowly.

This Monday, June 18, 2012, however, will mark a historic day in the local LGBT community.  On that date, the city council will proclaim June as LGBT Pride Month in Visalia.

Ten years ago, a high school student in VIsalia had to sue the school district over harassment he underwent at the hands of other students, and even teachers.  Over the years, change has been slow.  Lately, however, with the change in public attitudes towards LGBT people’s rights, even Visalia has been affected.

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Marriage Rally, Visalia, California, on Valentine’s Day

Gay couples around the country went to their county clerk’s offices in the annual Freedom to Marry Valentine’s Day action today, to once again demonstrate the inequality faced by same sex couples.  Here’s some pictures from my neck of the woods, a particularly conservative area (3 to 1 registered Republican to Democratic party voters, and voted 75% for Proposition 8, the California Constitutional ballot initiative that took away the right to marry, and was recently overruled, twice, but is still in effect).

This action was held at the Tulare County Superior Court, in Visalia, California.

Eight couples attempted to get marriage licenses, but were turned away.

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