North county Supervisor Paul Kelley voiced opposition to a resolution commending the gay and lesbian community Tuesday before later walking out of the Board of Supervisors session during a presentation on the item.
The move came early in the board's regular Tuesday meeting. Before the supervisors took up the consent agenda -- normally a list of items including proclamations or recognitions that require little or no discussion -- Kelley told Chairwoman Valerie Brown he would not be supporting Item 21 on the consent agenda.
The item was a resolution from the board commending the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for their contributions to Sonoma County.
Brown later called organizer Gary Saperstein and two other representatives from the gay community and tourism industry to the front of the room to present them with the commendation.
Kelley walked out of the room before the presentation, which included a photo session with Brown and the trio of representatives. He did not return to the room until the board took up the next item.
Brown later asked Kelley to clarify his stance on the resolution. He said he opposed it because he does not believe the county should recognize one group of people in the community and not another.
"I think Sonoma County is friendly to all people regardless of their sexual identity," he said later Tuesday in a phone interview. "I didn't think (the resolution) was necessary to single out a particular group."
Asked about other resolutions passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday recognizing emergency services workers and Conservation Corps North Bay workers, Kelley said those groups were different.
"We obviously recognize organizations for their activities and what they've done in the community," he said. "But should we be having a resolution just to recognize Latinos, or just Italian-Americans and their contributions to Sonoma County? That to me was the difference."
Kelley said he left the room at the time of the presentation to pick up paperwork he'd forgotten on a pair of regular agenda items.
The proclamation was devised by Saperstein, who recently launched a Sonoma Valley travel and event company targeting gay tourists and their friends.
The Sonoma City Council issued the same proclamation without a vote May 5.
It declared the county and city are both "gay friendly" areas, stating that they embrace legal equality, fair treatment and the personal dignity of all its residents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
Saperstein said he was surprised by Kelley's opposition Tuesday.
"It wasn't until I saw the resolution and saw his signature was missing that I realized it," he said.
Saperstein said he'd proposed the resolution before recent news of a court battle over the custodial rights of a gay couple sparked heated criticism of the county from the gay and lesbian community.
"I think it's unfortunate," he said of Kelley's stance on the resolution. "It's not a political issue. It's a humanitarian issue."
You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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