Calif. Town Elects Gay Mayor

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday May 5, 2010

The California town of Sierra Madre, population just under 11,000, has its first gay mayor--but neither he nor many others see it as a big deal.

"It does take you by surprise because the fact is you don't see yourself as any different than anyone else and what you have as different than anybody else," Joe Mosca, 37, told local paper the Pasadena Star-News for a May 2 article.

The Pasadena Star-News noted that Mosca joins three other openly gay mayors in Los Angeles County, including Redondo Beach's Mike Gin, West Hollywood's John Heilman, and the mayor of Manhattan Beach, Mitch Ward.

Mosca, who is an attorney, and his husband, Dr. Matt Bosse, were married during a six-month period when marriage equality was legal in California, before the marital rights of gay family were put to popular vote and rescinded in 2008. The men are also the parents of an adopted son, Garrett, the article said. Mayor Mosca acknowledged both publicly at the April 27 ceremony that appointed him to the office.

"I'd also like to thank my partner Matt, who is absolutely my strength in life and always gives me the ability to focus on what's important in life and my son Garrett, the little red-head right there who is up past his bedtime," said Mosca in his address. "Just one look in his eyes and his smile, it just really kind of makes you feel like the world is perfect."

Mosca told the newspaper that he expected his personal life to have little to do with his performance as mayor. "I think Sierra Madrens are very progressive but I don't think it's something that is expected for me to be involved in LGBT issues. It's more expected to be involved in regional organizations that are going to help us out."

Added Mosca, "For [the town's residents], the quality of life in Sierra Madre and what we are doing about the police department and the fire department and some of the other issues in the city, the budget, are much more pressing and much more important than whether Joe's gay or straight, and rightly so."

About his family life, Mosca said, "I have the luxury of not necessarily always thinking about these things, and really feeling like what Matt and I have is very special and no different than anyone else."

Across the country, in Gainesville, Florida, another openly gay man, Craig Lowe, also won the mayor's office--despite leafleting campaigns that claimed that Lowe would support an "agenda" that included "Gays in Women's Restrooms," as well as "Gay Marriage," "Gay Public Sex Education," and "Gay Oriented Churches," among other things.

The "Gays in Women's Restrooms" citation may have referred to a Gainesville city ordinance that offers nondiscrimination protections to transgendered residents and allows them access to the restroom that fits their own gender identity. Lowe defended the city's ordinance in 2009 as the leader of a pro-ordinance group, and voters reaffirmed it the ordinance in March of 2009. Critics claimed that sexual predators would use the ordinance as a cover to gain access to women's restrooms and prey upon female victims. When voters affirmed the ordinance, Lowe told the media, "Gainesville is a place that will not allow discrimination. Gainesville has shown itself to be a welcoming place."

Public perceptions of transgendered individuals frequently, but erroneously, label transgendered people as gay. Where gay people are sexually attracted to others of the same gender, they do not have a sense of being the gender that is opposite to the one their anatomy reflects; transgendered people, on the other hand, may be attracted to either gender, but what determines whether a person is transgendered is a deep and persistent sense, often expressed from extremely early ages, that a person's true gender is the opposite of one's physiological gender. A transwoman, for example, will have a man's body--but be utterly, and without question, convinced of her true female gender, physical appearances notwithstanding.

The leafleting was not the first smear campaign directed at Lowe because of his sexuality. A previous leafleting was carried out by the "Concerned Citizens of Gainesville," who claimed that Lowe was " 'responsible' for legally allowing men into women's restrooms!" The leaflets continued, "If you believe that the women's restroom is no place for a man then... Say no to Lowe for mayor of Gainesville!"

Craig Lowe won an April 13 runoff and will be sworn in as mayor of Gainesville on May 20.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.