Cameron Hamilton inspired outrage in his central California city when the mayor suggested that bullying is too often blamed for the world’s problems, telling young bullying victims that they need to “grow a pair.”
The Porterville mayor was speaking in response to a student program proposing safe zones around town, places where students can find refuge from bullying. Hamilton cast the city council’s only vote against discussing the safe zones, an action that earned him criticism from city officials and gay rights advocates.
“It’s hard to just ‘grow a pair’ when you’re a 10-year-old girl,” Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola told the mayor.
Melissa McMurrey of the organization Gay Porterville said the mayor’s opposition to anti-bullying measures was insensitive to young gay people, who are often targets for bullies.
Cameron Hamilton said he opposed the anti-bullying legislation because it would be expensive and leave the city vulnerable to potential lawsuits if something happened within the safe zones.
Hamilton actually came into the position of mayor of Porterville after a scandal last year with anti-gay undertones. Virginia Gurrola, who at the time was serving as mayor, was forced out of office after declaring June to be LGBT Pride month.
Local blogger Jim Reeves described the aftermath:
“Public comment during the meetings included a lot of vitriol directed at Mayor Gurrola by the religious community, with at least two speakers calling for the Biblical punishment for homosexuality – that homosexuals are ‘worthy of death.’ A few screamed at the Mayor while waving Bibles in the air. Speaker after speaker rose to condemn the LGBT community, spouting falsehood after lie after endlessly disproven statistic and other made up nonsense.”
Council members voted against Gurrola’s declaration, then voted her out of office and replaced her with Cameron Hamilton.
The Porterville city council also sparked controversy in 2008 when Councilman Brian Ward introduced a measure supporting Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. The measure passed unanimously, making Porterville the only government body to officially support the measure.
After Cameron Hamilton ignited the controversy by telling bullying victims to “grow a pair,” the anti-bullying legislation was tabled until the next city council meeting.