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3 Shasta County Supervisors Kill Pride-Month Resolution; Demonstrate Disdain, Disregard, for LGBTQ Community

Tuesday, Shasta County lived up to its growing reputation as a backwater, hateful, bigoted place when the trio of destructive supervisors obliterated chances for a Pride Month resolution. Had it passed, the resolution would have cost the county nothing, but would have been a show of support and encouragement for LGBTQ citizens, many of whom have faced discrimination for who they are and whom they love.

After supervisors and a slew of citizens spoke about the proposed Pride Month resolution, it fizzled out in a quick-but-agonizing-to-watch death on the floor of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors chambers. The resolution died, despite the fact that of all California’s counties, few are in as dire need of a Pride Month as Shasta County.

What made the resolution’s failure an especially bitter pill to swallow this week was it happened a few weeks after the 501, Redding’s only gay bar, had closed.

Murdered for being gay

Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder. Photo courtesy of “Not In Our Town”.

Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder are the top two reasons why Shasta County should have proudly celebrated Pride Month with nothing short of an annual rainbow-themed ticker-tape parade to enthusiastically embrace June as Pride Month.

Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder were among the most funny, talented, sweet, thoughtful, ethical, community-minded, brilliant men I’ve ever known. They were the life of any party; the guys you wanted to attend any potluck. They were trusting and optimistic. They didn’t believe in locking the doors of their Happy Valley home, because, well, why would they? Happy Valley was a happy, safe place where nothing as horrific as what happened to Gary and Winfield had occurred before, or since.

Gary and Winfield were also unapologetically gay. They were out and they were proud about who they were. They had gay friends and straight friends and liberal friends and conservative friends. Gary was such a horticultural purist that he propagated poison oak for his brainchild, the McConnell Arboretum, because it was native.

On July 1, 1999, Gary and Winfield were slaughtered in their bed by a pair of Redding brothers, Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams. The pair walked into the Happy Valley home and shot the couple to death. Gary was then 50. Winfield was 40.

The Williams were born-and-bred Shasta County young men whose family attended Bethel Church. In fact, the Williams family attended Bethel the same time I was there as a kid, between 1969 and 1978. The Williams brothers’ actions were fueled by hatred and religious justification. Around the same time, as if killing a beloved gay couple wasn’t enough, the Williams brothers torched some Sacramento synagogues.

Let’s avoid giving any more cyber ink to the Williams brothers than necessary, except to say that Benjamin Matthew committed suicide in jail, and his younger brother James Tyler brother is still in prison, and could be up for parole in about three years.

Why did Les Baugh’s daughter’s deliver explosive message?

Jen Watson is District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh’s daughter. She spoke out to enlighten the public about her father.

Tuesday morning, Jennifer Watson, Dist. 5 Supervisor Les Baugh’s daughter, presented one of the most explosive statements ever heard at a Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting. Watson, a mother of five, drove with her partner and children more than three hours to reach Redding so she could speak at the Tuesday-morning supervisors meeting.

Watson hasn’t been in communication with her parents for many years, but she’s monitored her father’s actions from afar and has watched the destruction he’s wreaked upon her former hometown. Following the meeting, she explained her motivation for addressing the board at this particular time in that particular way.

“I wanted to speak for the people who don’t feel like they can speak for themselves because of his far-reaching influence here,” Watson said of her father.

“I wanted the public to see that the happy family he and my mother pretend to have is a lie. They have put their politics and their religion above everything else and I’m sick of it.”

“I had to do this to show that there is hope, and that his teachings and influence can be rejected. If he had had the courage to show up and had voted for the resolution, I might have held out some hope that he could change. Essentially, his no-show was a no vote. That speaks volumes.”

Jennifer Watson’s statement

Jennifer Watson speaks before the Shasta County Board of Supervisors Tuesday about her father, Dist. 5 Supervisor Les Baugh.

“I was born and raised in Shasta County. My parents had taught me that anything other than heterosexual love was wrong. I was taught that my sexuality was a thing to be ashamed of. It took me a long time to reject those ideas and to find confidence within myself. Because of their political and religious influence, the teachings of my parents continue to affect countless individuals. Les Baugh is my father. I know he’s chosen not to be here today. I’m still going to say these things to him.

Your intolerance has hurt your community and your family. A few years ago, I met a woman from your church and her girlfriend. When she found out who my parents were, she begged me not to reveal her relationship status, for fear her family would be rejected by you and your congregation. She knew she would not be safe and accepted by you.

I have five children with five unique identities, but my father wouldn’t know that. I don’t trust him to respect and celebrate my children. They have seen his public statements, and they don’t trust him either. When I asked them what they wanted me to say to him, they said that they wanted him to know that they are proud of who they are.

I am so happy I was able to reject my parents’ teachings, and that I can celebrate my amazing children. I am so very proud they trust me to love them unconventionally, because that’s really what this is all about. Love in all its shapes, sizes, colors, and forms. Building real honest relationships by creating safe spaces for everyone. My father will never have a real relationship with anyone that he cannot respect, celebrate and take pride in. Regardless of the many layers of issues between him and I, his grandchildren will never seek out a relationship with him as long as he continues to use his religion as a weapon against those who have different beliefs.

In his reasoning for voting against this resolution last year, he called himself a man of God and a pastor, and he said that the board should not proclaim sexuality. No one is asking him to proclaim sexuality. That’s an individual choice for each person to make. But they have to have a safe place to do so. You’re all being asked to be a part of granting that safe space. Our sexuality is as much a part of us as individuals as our spirituality. And if he is allowed to proudly proclaim his spirituality, why can we not proclaim our sexuality? He’s not here, but I’m still going to say that if he had voted against this resolution, he can be assured that he’s telling his children and grandchildren that he does not respect their right to take pride in an integral part of their being. He’s telling us all that he cannot accept us for who we are. Thank you.”

After the supervisors meeting Watson said she was disappointed that her father hadn’t shown up.

“I really wanted the opportunity to speak directly to him,” she said. “I’m sure he heard I’d be there, and was too cowardly or embarrassed to face me.”

The assumption that Baugh deliberately skipped the meeting to avoid seeing his daughter was shared by many who’d heard of Baugh’s absence and were dubious. Baugh takes pride in a nearly perfect board-meeting attendance. The rare exceptions were when he was hospitalized for a neurological episode, and when he traveled to Israel for a trip. Likewise, another consensus was that although Baugh wasn’t in attendance in the board chambers, Baugh was watching virtually. This was such a prevailing belief that a few times speakers turned their heads to the left, up toward a video camera, and then addressed Baugh directly, as if he were sitting in an adjacent balcony, rather than elsewhere, monitoring the meeting.

At the conclusion of Watson’s statement, about half the audience cheered and applauded.

Patriots against LGBTQ resolution; progressives for it

One speaker during the public comment period was a woman who identified herself as a mother, a Shasta County resident and an American. She said that two of her adult children are part of the LGBTQ community. She explained that she didn’t want her children to be part of the LGBTQ community, not because of who they were, but because she was terrified about what might happen to them.

“I hear parents who say that this community will turn their children gay or turn your child transgender,” she said. “It doesn’t happen like that. Your children are who your children are. I hear people say, ‘What kind of parent am I if my child is gay?’ What kind of parent are you if you turn your back on your child because they’re gay? People talk about Jesus. The Jesus I know said, ‘Love thy neighbor’, not ‘Judge thy neighbor.’ ”

Another woman, who described herself as a Shasta County transplant, said this meeting was her first. She said her queerness is an integral part of her identity, and that it’s not about the behavior she practices, but who she is.

“When you think about it, when you’re single, do you cease being a heterosexual, or are you just a heterosexual because you are? And at what point in your life did someone have to tell you your gender, or is that something you felt on the inside?”

Among the speakers who were overwhelmingly against the resolution were familiar faces of people involved with the Red, White and Blueprint organization, widely recognized as frequent speakers at supervisors meetings. Many of the same people who’ve shown up at supervisors meetings for two years to protest state pandemic mandates, quote scripture, promote open-carry policies, and cast aspersions upon the county’s Dominion voting machines and the elections department’s credibility — were also in agreement against the Pride Month resolution.

Several anti-resolution speakers virtue-signaled their Christianity, morality, patriotism and belief that the LBGTQ “culture” and gay agenda was coming for the kids.

A look at North State extremists’ Facebook pages provided evidence of their disdain, dislike and distrust of the LBGTQ community.

Ultra-conservative, anti-establishment memes on Facebook by well-known players in the alt-right movement left no ambiguity.

Other anti-resolution speakers expressed concerns about gender confusion and of youth sports being overtaken by trans athletes.

State of Jefferson-promoter Rally Sally Rapoza was among those who spoke against the resolution. Her argument was that the resolution was basically about recognizing people’s private sex lives.

Rally Sally Rapoza speaks against the Pride Month resolution.

“How weird and creepy is that?” Rapoza asked, which elicited laughter from some audience members.

Rapoza was just one of a number of speakers who equated the Pride Month resolution as a promotional message about people’s sex lives.

Red, White and Blueprint devotee Melody Fowler also showed up to speak Tuesday. Recently, she was best recognized from her cameo on an ANC Facebook Live post.

Melody Fowler, right, films her group’s election-night confrontation of Cathy Darling Allen, left, Shasta County clerk/registrar of voters.

Fowler was one of the RW&B’s so-called “election observers” seen holding her phone/camera to capture her comrades’ invasion of the elections department where they peppered county clerk Cathy Darling Allen with questions and monopolized Darling Allen’s time on one of the most crucial nights in Shasta County’s history,

Fowler spoke of “The Enemy” (aka Satan), as the master of deceit. She described the LGBTQ’s “whole movement” as offensive.

Red, White and Blueprint promoter Melody Fowler speaks Tuesday at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting.

“You know, it’s one thing for adults to do what they want to do behind closed doors,” Fowler said. “But when you start going for the children, THAT is when people – good men – should step up – and good women – should step up.”

Overall, those in favor of the resolution spoke of inclusion, love, and the importance of Shasta County being a place where young people would feel safe, accepted and embraced for who they are.

Supervisors vote

During the meeting, many of those who rejected the resolution recited Bible scriptures as evidence against the “gay lifestyle”. Others saw the resolution as approval of sins that many speakers believe is an abomination before God.

The supervisors weighed in with their opinions about the resolution, too. Dist. 2 Supervisor Tim Garman, who gained his seat after former Dist. 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty was dumped in a dirty recall election, was considered a wild card. Pro-resolution speakers beseeched Supervisor Tim Garman to stand up for all his constituents and vote for the resolution. Some of the speakers were among a group of North State LGBTQ representatives who’d invited Garman to visit them, ask questions and learn more about the local LGBTQ community.

Dist. 2 Supervisor Tim Garman

At a meeting with the LGBTQ folks a few weeks ago, Garman referred to those individuals as “those people”. He also added, apropos of nothing, that he didn’t “hate anyone”.

Many LGBTQ members who’d met with Garman prior to Tuesday’s board meeting held onto hope that they’d gotten through to Garman, and that they’d convinced him to vote for the resolution. They hoped that perhaps Garman  would prove capable of thinking for himself, and breaking away from Supervisor Patrick Jones’ direction.

Alas, the group’s hopes were dashed after hearing just a few words from Garman’s mouth regarding his position with the resolution.

“Okay, so I’m not going to support this,” Garman said. ”I’m going to come right out and say that right now.”

Garman said he’d previously met with many people “on both sides of this”. Garman said he has family members who “follow this category” (meaning LGBTQ people). Garman said he’s spoken with many community members whose adult children are LGBTQ, and those parents don’t support the resolution, either.

“The reason that I’m letting you know is because I feel like I want to support a resolution that includes all of our society, not just a portion of it,” Garman said. “The other thing – the last one – we are all going to be old no matter who we are. So I’ll support stuff like that. But something that’s going to divide us, I’m not going to be interested in supporting, so that’s it.”

Supervisor Joe Chimenti explained why, for the second consecutive year, he would vote for the resolution. He said that the role of government is to create a culture of acceptance and respect for all citizens, even in Shasta County.
“I represent everyone in Shasta County, regardless of the district boundaries, regardless of their race, color, creed, sexual preference, religion,” Chimenti said.

“And really, that’s the ask today – is that we recognize all quality human beings as just that,” They’re quality human beings, and they make a positive contribution to our community, and that they should not, and they must not in a free society be judged based on that.”

Like Baugh, this would be a second year Chimenti voted whether to support the LGBTQ resolution or not. Chimenti did support the resolution.

“I represent everyone, and I plan to continue to do that for as long as I’m sitting in this chair.”

When it was Rickert’s turn to speak, she spoke of love, and her belief that God calls upon us to love everyone.
“And unless you walk in someone else’s shoes, you don’t get it. And I really feel strongly that we don’t know what it is to walk in the shoes, and I sit down and I support this community. I support everyone equally. The other thing is, I firmly believe that they have equal constitutional rights that the rest of us do, and they’re my constituents, and I don’t look at them any differently than all my constituents. So I just want to say that I support you, and I’m in support of this resolution.”

Rickert’s last sentence elicited some cheers and loud applause from the audience in the board chambers that seemed fairly evenly divided between those for the resolution and those against.

Supervisor Jones’ explanation for voting against the resolution – as he’d done last year – was brief.

“I will fight very hard for everyone’s constitutional rights,” Jones said. “But my position is not going to change on this issue with regards to sexual orientation. With that, Stephanie, can we have a roll call vote, please?”

No surprise to anyone at this point, Chimenti and Rickert voted for the resolution, while Jones and Garman voted against it, resulting in a 2-2 vote, since Baugh was gone. In the case of a 2-2 vote, the motion fails by default.

Just as Jones started to move on to other business, Rickert piped up and asked to make a motion to bring the discussion back to the board for a vote when all the supervisors were present. Jones didn’t bat an eye, and was as accommodating as could be.

A second vote was taken. Once again, Chimenti and Rickert voted yes, and Garman and Jones voted no, which produced another 2-2 outcome, which meant the motion failed.

A bemused Jones asked a crestfallen looking Rickert if she wished to make any other motions. She said no.

Later, after the votes were cast and it was obvious the Pride Month resolution was DOA, Redding satirist Nathan took to the lectern to directly address Garman.

“Congratulations, Mr. Garman. You proved us all right,” Pinkney said. “You’re a puppet. You did exactly what we thought you’d do. Yeah, congratulations. Moty was recalled, and now you’re just a second little Patrick there. You’re going to vote for everything he’s going to vote for, huh? Awesome. Puppet.”

Nathan Pinkney

MIA Baugh Humbug

The meeting started out bizarre. For one thing, the seat that should have held Les Baugh, who’s often boasted about how few times he’s ever missed a meeting, was empty. Supervisor Jones, the board’s vice chair, announced simply that, “Supervisor Baugh is out today.”

Baugh’s absence left the board with just four supervisors, which all but guaranteed 2-2 votes, which would result in any vote’s failure. Even though Baugh wasn’t present, his absence set the stage for a resolution-rejection without Baugh being there to take heat for how he might vote.

But the biggest outcome of Baugh’s absence was that his daughter, with whom he’d not spoken in many years, would be staring from the lectern at her father’s empty chair upon the dais.

Strong opposition against a symbolic resolution

During a break in the meeting, a group of people stood outside and chatted about what had happened inside the board chambers that morning. Disappointment was nearly palpable as supporters and members of the LGBTQ community grappled with the knowledge that their supervisors would work so hard to reject a resolution that was largely symbolic.

“It really says a lot about how they view us,” said a woman who attended the meeting with a friend. “They say they support gay rights and are accepting, but when it came to prove it with the resolution, it was all hot air. Why? What harm would come from passing that resolution? I just don’t get it. The resolution takes nothing away from them, but it means to much to us.”

One conversation between disappointed pro-resolution people was the hypocrisy that some of the those who spoke against the resolution have close relatives and friends who are part of the LGBTQ community.

For example, one mother who spoke against the resolution during the public comment period has a gay son. Another woman who lectured people in the audience about the evils of living a gay life, has a lesbian sister. And both supervisors who voted against the resolution have gay family members.

The words of one of the morning’s earlier speakers rang especially true:

“Be careful who you hate, it just may end up being someone you love.”

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If you appreciate journalist Doni Chamberlain’s reporting and commentary, please consider contributing to A News Cafe. Thank you! 

 

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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