Video: Protesters Slam Focus on the Family at Mayor's Breakfast

At Friday morning's community breakfast, Patch spoke with protesters who had gathered in opposition to the mayor's choice of Focus on the Family's Rev. H.B. London as keynote speaker

By Justin Chapman, Arcadia Patch, 3/4/2011

Early Friday morning around 6:30 a.m., before community breakfast got underway at the , about 100 people gathered in the parking lot to protest the mayor's invitation to Focus on the Family pastor H.B. London Jr. to speak at the event, with many criticizing that taxpayer money was used to host the breakfast because of the controversial position that Focus on the Family has regarding the gay and lesbian community.
More than a dozen different organizations that support the LGBT community helped organize the event and members from other organizations and churches showed up to protest what they view as Focus on the Family's hateful stance on gay marriage, gay families and other related issues. The protest was confined to a designated space in the parking lot where attendees of the breakfast parked.
As attendees made their way towards the community center, protesters chanted slogans such as "Focus on all families," "Jesus was no bigot," "We love Arcadia, too," "Focus on equality," and held up signs that read "Marriage is a Basic Civil Right," "Arcadia Cong. Church U.C.C. Loves Our Many Gay Members," "Are you really my mayor?" and "Where's Our Breakfast," among many others.
Around 10-15 Arcadia police officers stood watch over the peaceful protest. At the end of the protest, those protesting chanted thank you's to the officers on duty, who were respectful of the protest and did not interfere.
Although many Arcadians participated in the protest, people came from all over, including West Covina, Pasadena, Los Angeles, and even Northridge to show their support.
"We're here to protest the mayor's breakfast and his invitation to a speaker from Focus on the Family," one of the main organizers of the protest and an openly gay pastor who created a church in Pasadena called Good Shepherd with the goal of restoring the church as a sanctuary for everyone.
"I'm here to support all families, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. We're all part of God's family. We want to raise everybody's awareness that families are diverse. It's not just the narrow definition of Focus on the Family. Families consist of gay dads, lesbian mothers, blended families; we're all families and we all have dignity and worth and we're all loved in the eyes of God. If I could say something to the mayor, it would be, 'Shame on you. Shame on you for spending public money to invite someone from a hateful group like Focus on the Family.'"
Several young people were in attendance as well, a few of whom spoke to Patch about why they decided to join the protest.
"I'm here to support gay rights," said Andrew Cuann. "I have a lot of gay friends, and I just think what (the mayor and Focus on the Family) is doing is wrong, so I wanted to come out and show my support."
Marisa Watins, a friend of Cuann, reiterated his statement and added, "People are born this way. There is no cure. Homosexuality is not a disease, it's just what it is."
Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, the first to file the lawsuit for marriage equality in California and the only gay couple to be married in LA County, were also in attendance, even though they live as far away as Northridge.
"There are a lot of Arcadia residents here and a lot of us not from Arcadia, and the mayor called us outside agitators," Tyler said. "We're not really outside agitators because this is a civil rights movement. We will show up in every town, every rural area, everywhere, until we have equal rights and we will support our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. We're a peaceful group. If the mayor got to know us, he wouldn't be afraid of us."
Tyler also took issue with the fact that the mayor used taxpayer's money to host the breakfast, calling it "unfair."
"For him to use city money or taxpayer's money to have people who are in deep prejudice towards our community is really shameful of the mayor. To us it's like he's hosting the Ku Klux Klan. This idea of having to double the police force… as you can see there are a lot of ministers and children here. We're not the violent ones; we're the ones who are being violated by Focus on the Family, by them saying we're bad and sinful. The mayor will receive our message loud and clear, that bigotry belongs nowhere, and especially at taxpayer's expense. I don't think I would change the mayor's mind if I got a chance to speak to him, so I would just say to him, 'Shame on you, shame on you.'"

Marsha Izumi, an 18-year Arcadia resident whose son graduated from Arcadia High School, came out to support her transgender son.
"He lives every day to be himself and I think that takes a lot of courage," said Izumi. "I'm here to support him so he knows how proud I am of him. I disagree with Focus on the Family's position on transgenderism. They say that there are only males and females, and whatever you're born as is what you should be. But my child was born female and I've always known from when he was very young that he was meant to be a boy. I would consider myself religious; however I focus mainly on the love part.

"And I don't focus it on the idea that you have to be a certain way for God to love you. I think God loves everybody. Love doesn't have any boundaries. I wish the mayor would have chosen somebody that focused on all families, so that all of the community, not just those of us in Arcadia, but the community outside, that we support all families, and not just what Focus on the Family deems to be 'acceptable.' I want more acceptance of the LGBT community," Izumi concluded.
Gary Searer, an Arcadia resident who participated in the protest, believed the mayor would not get the protesters' point.
"I don't think the mayor is going to get our message," Searer said. "I think he may think twice about doing something like this again, but I think this is who the mayor is. We had nine people get up and talk at one of the council meetings. Three of them were moved to tears, and then the mayor mocked them."

The controversy hit particulary close to home for protester Eric Nakano, who was meeting. Nakano's father spent years working for Focus on the Family and as a child, Nakano was so deeply involved in the organization that he met and received a letter from Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family. Nakano even has appeared on the cover of one of the organization's magazines.

"It's very ironic that Focus on the Family, which talks about strengthening families, has, in fact, weakened mine," Nakano told Patch.  
Gary Schneeberger, Vice President of Communications for Focus on the Family, observed the protest outside and spoke to Patch about his thoughts on the whole situation.
"You gotta commend (the protesters)," said Schneeberger. "They're out here very, very early on a Friday to speak their mind. We don't necessarily agree with what they're saying but they have every right to do it and they're being very peaceful and respectful and I think that's great. Rev. London has been asked to speak on the subject of family, what family means to society, what family means to individuals, but none of the issues that have kind of been raised in the controversy, if you will, for the event. He's not going to talk about homosexuality; he's not going to talk about politics or public policy issues. He's going to talk about family.
"We don't agree with the things the protesters are saying," he continued, "but it's certainly their right to say it and I haven't heard anything that's disrespectful, I haven't heard anything that's been a personal attack against any of us, so good for them. That's their right to come out and do that. In terms of what we disagree with regarding the protestors' message, a) the speech is not going to be about any of the subjects they're speaking about. Secondly, yes, we do believe that God has designed human sexuality in a way that's best for society and best for people. Premarital sex, infidelity, and same sex activity are all outside the bounds of God's design. There's no hate behind that, there's no animus behind that. That's just the way we believe God has designed human sexuality as explained in the Bible."
For video of Mayor Amundson's comments and Rev. London's speech, .