Guest Commentary: Pride Celebration Remembers Fallen Activists in LGBTQ Rights Struggle

Courtesy of the Phoenix Coalition

by Gloria Partida

This weekend The Davis Phoenix Coalition, which puts on the City’s Pride Celebrations, produced their yearly painting of rainbow crosswalks around Central Park in preparation of June being Pride Month. The crosswalks in addition to being beautifully colorful and engaging, are a visible reminder that members of our LGBTQ+ community are supported and seen in the City of Davis. Our city has had a long history of social justice activism from a number of notable long-time residents. In the LGBTQ+ area the big three are Cathy Speck, Ellen Pontac and Shelly Bailes. Speck and Pontac have recently passed away within the last year. Davis Pride will remember Ellen’s love of dancing by honoring her at a dance area on June 13th at the Davis Pride music Festival and will honor Cathy and her memorably decorated trike by awarding a prize to the most decorated bicycle at Davis’ bike party on June 25th, which will be transformed into the Davis Rainbow Ride.

(Now former Yolo County Clerk) Freddie Oakley chats with activists Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac along with (now former) West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon on February 14, 2007

Shelly and Ellen worked diligently to get the City of Davis to issue proclamations against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and for marriage equality.  They lobbied the County to pass resolutions, sometimes in the face of hostile opposition. They also put on the 1st Pride celebrations in Davis before passing them on to the Davis Phoenix Coalition. Cathy’s statement in Support of Marriage Equality is part of the Congressional record for the Hearing on the Respect for Marriage act. As a person with ALS she was keenly aware of the fact that the person she loved and had been her partner for many years would not be entitled to her social security when she passed away. In spite of their activism to raise awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community on March 10th 2013 my son Lawrence “Mikey” Partida was brutally beaten because of his sexual orientation. Because of their activism the community rallied and supported my family and joined me in founding a non-profit dedicated to promoting and celebrating diversity and inclusion.

During the trial for my son’s assault, we were surprised to learn that the hate crime enhancement would be difficult to convict on and that if we were successful, it would not add much to the sentence. The fact that it would not add much to sentence was not concerning to us. We believe in restorative justice and rehabilitation. My son’s assailant was young and although the incident was incredibly traumatic and has left my son with life altering deficits, I felt called to prove my beliefs. For my son, the issue of the hate crime enhancement was particularly important. Since their inception in the late 60’s and, update in 2009 via the Mathew Sheppard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crime Prevention Law, hate crime laws, have been challenging to enforce but also the only recourse communities targeted for their identities can point to for justice.

Before the late sixties, much of the injustice and often violence aimed at a person’s identity was swept away. Passage of these laws certainly has not put an end to this but there is no denying that this policy has done much to change the perception of what is acceptable in our society. For my son, being small and slight, he acknowledged that the hate crime enhancement was the only way he could fight back. It was important to him to have the assault on his identity seen. It was important to him to represent his LGBTQ+ community in saying this is not ok.

Adding to a person’s sentence may not cause them to reconsider the moral wrong of discrimination. At this point in an adult’s life bias is often too engrained. While I am always hopeful, since this experience, I have often wondered if it would be helpful to have people convicted of hate crimes, who are associated with hate groups, made to register in the same way that sex offenders must register. It would be helpful to know before moving in next door to a white nationalist convicted of a violent crime for instance if you were a member of a protected class. I am sure there are much deeper considerations and know this is indeed a slippery slope. Still, this incident will forever make me worry about who’s path my children will cross.

The recent rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and attacks on members of the Asian community have once again raised the question of what can be done, from the stand-point of policy, to prevent hate crimes, incidents and speech. The answer leaves many feeling helpless. Speech is protected, incidents which often involve speech are not crimes and actual crimes are hard to convict. Still the fact that we are willing to call out hate as a crime sends a deeply felt validation to many communities targeted for their identities. The current laws we have against discrimination can go a long way provided we support them with education, hiring practices, and inclusive actions by individuals.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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2 Comments

  1. Ron Oertel

    I am sorry that this occurred to your son.  But, I have some concerns regarding some of your other comments.

    I have often wondered if it would be helpful to have people convicted of hate crimes, who are associated with hate groups, made to register in the same way that sex offenders must register.

    I don’t believe that the majority of hate crimes are committed by those associated with “hate groups”.  (Sound like that was true in your son’s case, as well.)

    It would be helpful to know before moving in next door to a white nationalist convicted of a violent crime for instance if you were a member of a protected class.

    Are you claiming that only those in protected classes are victims of hate crimes?  If so, I’m guessing that you don’t have much experience with big-city public schools or transportation systems.  Can’t tell you the number of times I’ve experienced or witnessed attacks on those whom you might not consider to be in a protected class.  Of course, there’s a purposeful/political societal-blindness regarding this reality – despite the number of times its pointed out.

    I also suspect that the implication regarding “whiteness” in regard to this topic is harmful, and could even foster an environment which encourages hate crimes. While also being perhaps largely inaccurate, regarding “who” is committing hate crimes.

    I am sure there are much deeper considerations and know this is indeed a slippery slope.

    True.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Of course, it’s not always obvious regarding who “qualifies” to be in a protected class, but protected-class status is not the motivator regarding what I’ve witnessed.  Including “verbal confirmation” that would meet the definition of hate crime.

      This, by the way, is a reason for Davis’ popularity. With the exception of incidents such as that which occurred with your son (which is well-known and widely-condemned), Davis schools are viewed as relatively “safe” and functional.

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