Gregory Pettis, California, 1994
Born December 15, 1955
Cathedral City, California
Elected Mayor Pro-Tempore by the Council 1996-98
Re-elected 2000, 2004
Essay by Gregory Pettis for Out and Elected in the USA
Being a member of the City Council of a small resort community in the Southern California desert and it’s first openly gay member has been an enlightening and educational experience for myself, city staff, and the residents I have been elected to serve.
One of my most difficult things has been trying to balance the needs of the greater community with the expectations of the gay community. Cathedral City has had a history of being the valley city with the most sexually oriented businesses. The city has been embarking on a major redevelopment of our community and that has included attempting to clean up those businesses.
Members of our community have taken this as an attack on gay businesses and entered into a strident debate on the anti-gay nature of the city. This has also brought in the religious right into the discussion. This has made it quite difficult for the city and for the two members of the council that are gay.
One of the nicest things to happen to me was within one week of being sworn in. It was the city’s employee holiday party in 1994. I attended with my then-lover, and without thinking about it, we walked into the party holding hands. Immediately the City Clerk and other senior staff descended!
Since that night, our council has passed non-discrimination ordinances, domestic partnership status for our residents and benefits for city staff, appointed gays and lesbians to fully one-third of our public commissions, and in 1998, I was able to welcome a colleague as our second openly gay councilmember.
It’s been a joy!