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A Matter of Values, Political Semantics

May 04, 1989|DANA PARSONS | Times Staff Writer

When a citizen group decided last year to call itself the Irvine Values Coalition, member Christina Shea had some misgivings.

Shea had no qualms about the group's goal, which is to force Irvine to remove a reference to gays from an anti-discrimination ordinance. But she found the group's name troubling.

"I don't know if I'm comfortable with our name, because it has the connotation of being a right-wing, odd-duck group," said Shea, mother of three and member of the steering committee.

"I think it's sad that because you may be more conservative and have values that are more conservative," she said, "that people look at you and think there's something odd about you. I'm not that kind of person--at least, I don't think I am. So I wish we had named ourselves something else; I don't know what."

In a decade when religion and politics have increasingly commingled, the Irvine group is the latest county organization trying to ward off what is seen as assaults on "traditional values."

Scott Peotter, leader of the Irvine coalition, said he knows that the designation traditional values upsets some people. "It'll stir up some people who say, 'Gee, exactly whose values are they using? They certainly don't represent my values.'

"When we say traditional values," he said, "what we're referring to are traditional values that come from the Founding Fathers, that are repeated and shown throughout the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution--God-given, inalienable rights. So it refers to the Judeo-Christian set of values, and that's the background that we're coming from."

The rights ordinance adopted by the Irvine City Council on July 12 bars discrimination based on a person's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, physical handicap or sexual orientation. In March, leaders of the Irvine Values Coalition delivered 5,433 validated petition signatures to City Hall, forcing the City Council either to eliminate the sexual orientation designation or place the issue before voters.

The City Council is expected to act on that choice Tuesday. The issue could be placed on the ballot as early as November or be delayed until June, 1990.

The Irvine Values Coalition was formed last summer and had about 75 original members, but six to 10 people have met somewhat regularly and done most of the planning since then, the group's leaders said.

Peotter said his group does not want to discriminate against gays but is opposed to the ordinance because members believe that it gives gays special protection.

"We're against special rights for any group, and particularly homosexuals, because it's a group based on behavior," Peotter said.

The ordinance "more or less gives legislative approval of their life style, which I don't think is acceptable," he said. "What people do in their own bedroom is their own business, but when it comes out of the bedroom and is legislated over the rest of the citizens, that's where I have problems with it."

The petition backers are concerned that Irvine has endorsed homosexuality at the expense of the "traditional family," Peotter said. The gay life style, he said, "doesn't lend itself to the traditional family. I don't think Irvine should be in business to promote the alternative family. . . .

"Obviously, the city's interest and promotion of day care shows Irvine really wants to be a pro-family type of community. That's not to say homosexuals aren't welcome, but the promotion of their life style is not in the same line as being pro-family."

Peotter said the group is not concerned with allegations that it is imposing its values on others: "It's not a matter of if there are going to be values; it's a matter of whose values they're going to be. We think the traditional family and their values haven't been represented. In the case of the human rights ordinance, the homosexual group imposed its values on the rest of the community, and we're reacting to that."

The group is forcing the issue, Peotter said, because "the thing that got most of us is: If we don't take a stand now, where do we take a stand? There's got to be a point where there is no compromise.

"As we've gotten into this, we really see that Irvine is just one of the building blocks in a move to do it (pass similar ordinances) throughout Orange County. If we can make a stand now in Irvine, it will do a lot to stop similar ordinances from passing in other cities."

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