PORTERVILLE, Calif. – A Central California mayor's remarks that bullying victims should toughen up and defend themselves has sparked anger among some city officials and gay rights advocates.
At a recent City Council meeting, Porterville Mayor Cameron Hamilton said he opposes bullying but thinks it is too often blamed for the world's problems. Hamilton said some people need to "grow a pair."
The mayor was responding to a student program proposing safe zones around town with signs directing children to places where they could seek refuge from bullies. Porterville is a community of 55,000 residents 70 miles southeast of Fresno.
Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola backs the safe zones and told the mayor, "It's hard to just 'grow a pair' when you're a 10-year-old girl."
Melissa McMurrey of Gay Porterville told KFSN-TV that she felt attacked by the mayor's comments. She said bullies often target young gay people.
Hamilton cast the lone vote against further discussing the safety zones. He told The Associated Press on Friday that he's not anti-gay, but he opposed the plan because it would be costly and expose the city to lawsuits if a safe zone turned dangerous.
"The message is, together we can all fight this thing," Hamilton said of bullying.
The proposal has been pulled from discussion at next weeks' council meeting.
Last year, the city was at the center of a flap when the council in a split vote replaced a proclamation declaring June as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month with a resolution calling June a month of community charity and good will to all. Hamilton said he voted in favor of the change, wanting to include everybody.