County supervisors careful about wording in LGBTQ resolution

Supervisor Robert Rivas makes statements on the issue at a board meeting, as shown in this screen shot from CMAP.

County officials and residents want to make sure a new ordinance addressing issues in the LGBTQ community includes acceptable wording.

Supervisors Robert Rivas and Margie Barrios discussed an LGBTQ draft resolution with community members at a town hall Wednesday. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

The draft resolution recognizes the need to discourage discrimination against the county’s LGBTQ community.

“Research shows youth who are perceived to be LGBTQ are at a greater risk of being targeted, harassed, and bullied in school, and experience risk of suicide at a rate that is two to three times higher than their straight peers,” the draft resolution reads.

Barrios invited attendees to grab copies of the draft resolution from the back of the room.

“We don’t want this to be all about the supervisors putting the resolution together,” Barrios said. “We want to make sure that we reach out to you and if the wording is not what you believe it should be, give us some ideas.”

There was discussion concerning the use of the word “tolerant” in the draft resolution.

“A lot of my students, and I agree with them, there’s an issue with the word tolerant because it implies you’re putting up with someone,” said Rebecca Conklin, a San Benito High School English teacher. “The word accepting, or the word acceptance, is a little more welcoming.”

County Behavioral Health Director Alan Yamamoto said he wanted to make it clear that the agency is welcoming to provide support services.

“When I read words in this ordinance like higher rates of suicide, violence, bullying…those are not emotionally or psychologically healthy experiences for anybody,” Yamamoto said. “I want to make it totally clear that those are normal experiences to be traumatized by people who treat you like that, and that we are totally open to providing support services.”

Hollister City Councilman Ray Friend spoke about the draft resolution and agreed with other speakers that wording is important.

“I’m kind of embarrassed as a city leader that it’s 2016 and we’re just now starting to talk about this,” Friend said. “It’s time to do this. If there’s anything I can do to help you guys bring the city into this, I’d like to do that.”

Rivas shared an early idea he had to form an LGBTQ commission, but said administrators advised caution because of possible staffing issues. He invited County Clerk Louie Valdez to share an idea.

“One thing that I think would be appropriate for Hollister to discuss and consider is instead of creating an arm of government as a commission … is to consider pursuing establishment of a nonprofit organization that will involve all sectors of the community,” Valdez said.

Rivas closed the town hall by thanking attendees for coming.

“We’ll work with the city, we’ll work with our board and work with our city representatives to continue this discussion and dialogue,” Rivas said. “We are always open to receive input, emails. Our staff is as well. Certainly, students know where to find me, you guys can come and bug me anytime.”

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