On Sunday morning thousands of people celebrated the Lunar New Year by witnessing the procession of politicians, community leaders, organizations, and businesses participating in the 2013 Tet Parade. Other than some intermittent rain, and a generator failure, the parade went smoothly. There was no conflict between organizers and the Partnership of Vietnamese LGBT Organizations and their supporters who were excluded from entry in the parade. The organizers even went so far as to bar the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations from including the LGBT contingent with their entry.
There were some notable elected officials absent from the parade this year, many specifically because of the decision to exclude the LGBT group. No members of the Orange County Congressional delegation, including Congressmembers Alan Lowenthal and Loretta Sanchez, were in attendance. State Senator Lou Correa declined to attend. First District Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen was absent. Westminster City Councilman Sergio Contreras was absent along with the school board members from Westminster and Garden Grove. While Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido and Mayor Pro Tem Sal Tinajero had announced they would be in the parade, however they joined the Council members David Benavides and Roman Renya who had withdrawn their entries in the parade on Friday and did not attend. No member of the Santa Ana City Council participated in the parade. Also absent was Garden Grove Councilman Kris Beard.
Assemblyman Tom Daly did participate in the parade, but he stopped his car and got out to greet, and offer his support to, the pro-equality demonstrators.
Rancho Santiago Community College District Trustee Jose Solorio kicked Assemblyman Daly’s move up a notch by exiting his vehicle to join the demonstration, ans then sent his car on its way for the organizers to announce his name, to their embarrassment, without him in it. Solorio did not rejoin the parade.
Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey carried a LGBT Pride flag along with South Vietnamese and American flags as she walked along the parade route.
We note that former Democratic Assembly Candidate Joseph Dovinh joined his wife, Garden Grove Councilwoman Dina Nguyen in the parade. Dina Nguyen, as one of the two attorneys representing the parade organizers in their discriminatory practices was expected. Mr. Dovinh, for all his protestations that he was a pro-LGBT democrat during his Assembly bid, turns out to be nothing more than another anti-LGBT bigot.
What we witnessed today, was a respectful demonstration of political courage and principle. The elected officials who chose to not participate in the Tet parade this year, did so on the principle of equality for all. When Santa Ana Councilman David Benavides told me on Friday that he was withdrawing his entry in the parade he said; “I canceled my participation in the Tet Parade and sent a message to the Chairman of the organizing committee that my decision was due to their discrimination against the LGBT community. It was the right thing to do.”
I appreciate the efforts of Assemblyman Tom Daly to be supportive, but just acknowledging those demonstrating in support of equality is not the same as taking action in direct response to discrimination. While I also appreciate Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey for her effort to show solidarity by carrying a pride flag quite frankly, that’s not enough.
It would have been nice if Councilwoman Carey had followed the lead of her colleague Sergio Contreras and stayed home. Mr. Daly took several steps towards the line of opposing blatant discrimination in its most basic form. But be did not follow the lead of his predecessor in the State Assembly, Rancho Community College District Trustee Jose Solorio.
Trustee Solorio stood firm on the right side of the line between condoning discrimination and opposing it. There was no grey area in his action, and there were likely some political costs. But he took his stand anyway. He did the Right thing, and shoved that fact under the noses of the parade organizers. The fact is, those who took a stand today, be it to not participate, to carry a flag, pose for pictures with those demonstrating, or withdrawing during the parade, all took a stand. Next comes the work they all need to do to make sure this type of discriminatory behavior never happens again at a public event using public facilities.
There is a solid line when it comes to support for equality and opposition to discrimination and bigotry. Public officials can only ride on one side or the other. Straddling the line, or looking for area’s of grey, is simply unacceptable.