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Residents In California’s Least Gay-Friendly County Respond To SCOTUS Ruling

Celeste Alvarez |
June 28, 2015 | 1:51 a.m. PDT

News Editor

Rainbow American flag waives in wind. (Flickr/nathanmac87)
Rainbow American flag waives in wind. (Flickr/nathanmac87)

As Facebook feeds filled with colorful rainbow flags and other moving forms of positive support for equal marriage, a billow of dissent and fear of diseases spewed from a daily newspaper’s comment feed in Imperial County on Friday.  ​

“Kids will be confused with same sex marriage. It’s wrong. Depression, isolation, disease,” a Facebook user named Angela Salceda commented. 

Another reader by the name of Monica Cardenas commented, “Lord have mercy for your people.” 

The majority of dissenting public comments flooded in as a response to a Facebook post by the Imperial Valley Press that asked readers to weigh in on the Supreme Court’s landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide Friday morning. 

For many Imperial County locals the dissent and bigotry on the feed is not all to surprising.

READ MORE: Same-Sex Marriage Legalized Nationwide

The thoughts expressed in the comments stemmed from one of the few counties in California to vocally and actively defend Proposition 8, the state’s gay marriage ban. 

Imperial County, a primarily Latino border community with consistently high national rates of unemployment and poverty, gained a reputation statewide for maintaining strong conservative values with about 70 percent of local voters approving Proposition 8 back in 2008. 

By 2009, the county had even experienced a decrease in the number of marriage licenses issued by three percent following the state’s initial legalization of same-sex marriage while the rest of the state saw an overall increase, according to data collected by the Los Angeles Times

The county’s board of supervisors and a deputy clerk also attempted to defend Proposition 8 in federal court, before having their case dismissed by the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2011, noted the Sacramento Bee

Although the county has been complying with the legalization of same-sex marriage in California since the state over turned Prop 8 in 2013, sentiments on the controversial topic have remained disappointed by the ruling. 

“My views are my view, and my views may differ with the law, but I will be in compliance with the law,” County Clerk-Recorder Chuck Storey said in an interview with the local newspaper, Imperial Valley Press in 2013. “My views also require me to comply with the law.” 

In the hopes of bringing about acceptance in Imperial County, the local community has since created non-profit organizations in support LGBTQ residents. 

The Imperial Valley LGBT Resource Center recently opened with the goal to “create a safe place and empower the LGBT community by connecting them to essential resources” in the hopes that “[o]ne day equality in the Imperial Valley will be embraced,” according to the group’s mission statement. 

READ MORE: LGBTQ Community On A Roll: Prop 8 Plaintiffs Acknowledged

Resident can also turn to an organization called PFLAG El Centro, which was founded last year with the mission to provide “support, education, and advocacy for LGBTQ individuals and their families and friends.” PFLAG holds monthly meetings within the First United Methodist Church in El Centro, according to Carmel Edwards, secretary of PFLAG El Centro. 

There are student run LGBTQ support organizations also in the county, which can be found at Imperial Valley Community College and at the local high schools including at Southwest High School and Calexico High School, Edwards also noted. 

Today, as Americans across the nation come to terms with the historic victory for marriage equality, public opinion regarding same-sex marriage is slowly shifting in Imperial County. 

Although most of the comments on the Imperial Valley Press Facebook post opposed the ruling, writing harsh criticism and even bigotry toward the LGBTQ community, other users embraced the Supreme Court ruling and its victory for equal marriage. 

The post also received more than 450 likes within 15 hours and more than 140 comments. Some of the diverse feelings expressed in the comments can be found below:

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly noted Imperial County’s involvement with Prop 8 as well as the number of LGBTQ support groups in the county.

Reach News Editor Celeste Alvarez here or follow her on Twitter here.



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