O’Grady: Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter’s Hate Speech Requires Public Rebuke

In response to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter yesterday posted a bigoted and hateful statement on his website.

And he did so under the official seal of the City of Newport Beach.

As part of his post, Mr. Peotter suggested the LGBT community had appropriated the Rainbow (flag) in an effort to spare ourselves God’s retribution.

He called it “wishful thinking.”

Peotter implicitly promoted the belief that LGBT people should be destroyed.

It is a hateful, disgusting message and Peotter should be condemned by every decent person.

When Peotter was called on to explain his remarks, he doubled down on his bigotry while claiming he is neither homophobic nor against the LGBT community. In defense of his original post, he said “the homosexual movement is taking a symbol that was meant for something else and is corrupting it for their use.”

This is nonsense, and obscures the real issue: his implied suggestion the LGBT community should be destroyed.

Peotter can think whatever he wants to about the use of the rainbow flag. The heart of his message, however, is profoundly disturbing.

For too long, those who have condemned our community’s fight for justice and marriage equality have assured us they aren’t against the LGBT community; instead, they are against the expansion of LGBT rights.

This is, at best, rhetorical hair splitting, and at worst, a cover for bigotry.

If one believes the LGBT community’s civil rights should be limited, if one argues the LGBT community doesn’t deserve the same rights and liberties enjoyed by every other American, you’re a homophobe.

It is that simple.

Imagine making a similar statement about any other community, “I really like the Latino/Asian/Black/Jewish/Muslim community but they certainly don’t deserve full and equal civil rights.”

It is hypocritical and bigoted, and one would be rightly condemned.

Peotter isn’t the only public official/leader in the community to engage in such duplicity.

Pastor Rick Warren has said he has, “many, many gay friends” and he “doesn’t think they have the right to marry.”

You don’t get to have it both ways; you don’t get to eat your gay wedding cake and call for legalized discrimination.

In the last election, Young Kim’s campaign used an incredibly transphobic video to attack Sharon Quirk-Silver and voters elected Kim.

Peotter and his ilk, have said criticism of their hate speech is an equally repugnant action, and an attempt to enforce political correctness and speech codes.

Mr. Peotter, Rick Warren, and Young Kim all enjoy the constitutionally protected right to say whatever they please.

That does not, however, make condemnation of their hate speech an attempt to limit their 1st Amendment rights.

Quite the opposite, in fact: We should hear their bigotry and hate speech expressed in a public forum.

It gives us an insight into their character, and it offers others the right to condemn their speech.

Before coming to the LGBT Center OC, I was the Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League. I spent my days monitoring neo-Nazi activity in the county, and condemning their virulent hate speech. At the same time, I passionately defended the white supremacists’ right to engage in such speech.

Hate speech and the spread of hateful ideas won’t stop until people of good character stand up and demand it stops.

Peotter implicitly called for the destruction of the LGBT community: That is vile hate speech and he should be condemned by every decent person in the county.

Only then will we begin to move beyond hate.

Kevin S. O'Grady, Ed.D. is Executive Director of the LGBT Center OC.