MODESTO -- Free speech or hate speech? It’s a question that prompted people to pack Modesto’s City Council chamber Wednesday.
They were focused on whether a "straight pride" event should be allowed in the city.
Critics say the National Straight Pride Coalition does not celebrate heterosexuality. Instead, they say the group spreads a hateful, anti-gay message and has white supremacist undertones.
Up until a few days prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the group’s website claimed to promote the superiority of whiteness and Western civilization, among other things.
Twelve-year-old Aleena Gomula-Kruzic summed up the fears many have about the group’s position.
“If this group are allowed to express their fiery and hateful rhetoric, people will get hurt,” she said.
“When you invite terrorist hate groups to an event and then the city stamps that approval, that’s no longer protecting their First Amendment, that’s hate speech,” said attorney Jessica Self.
“Everyone is trying to sensationalize this event and it’s going to be much like a church service,” said the “straight pride” event co-organizer Mylinda Mason.
Mason says they are not a hate group.
“I know everybody likes to go and celebrate sodomy but we actually want to celebrate heterosexuality,” she said.
Despite language toward the LGBTQ community that some find demeaning, Mason said the event is based in love and what she calls “speaking Christian truth.”
“We care about and love the homosexual community but there are certain sins like sodomy that lead to death,” Mason said.
Wednesday, the vast majority of voices were against the event.
Among Mason’s opponents was her own gay son, Matthew.
“I have personally heard her use hateful, harmful rhetoric when describing the LGBTQ+ community,” he said.