A Pride Month culture war unfolded at the state Capitol in Sacramento this week as Republican lawmakers walked off the floor during a ceremony commemorating the LGBTQ+ celebration.
The controversial event, which honored drag nun Sister Roma from the San Francisco-based "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence," drew strong reactions from both supporters and opponents of the ceremony.
Protesters representing Christian and Catholic groups gathered outside the state Capitol for a prayer vigil in response to the ceremonies on the legislative floor.
They expressed their discontent with what they deemed an offensive group of men dressing in drag as nuns. The 'Sisters,' known for their advocacy work and community service, recently made headlines for being initially uninvited and then re-invited to a Pride celebration at Dodger Stadium.
Republican Assemblyman Greg Wallis, representing District 47 which includes Palm Springs and other west valley cities, chose to stay and participate in the ceremony. In a statement, Wallis wrote he was "happy to participate in the ceremony on the Assembly floor where individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community were honored for their extraordinary achievements. Their contributions... are inspiring."
Democratic Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, representing District 36 including the eastern Coachella Valley, called the walkout unfortunate and disrespectful. "Everyone has the right to believe and stand for what they believe are important values. But the way that it was played out certainly was very disrespectful to the ceremony that was taking place and all of the people that were being recognized," Garcia said.
Sister Burna Cross, a member of the Palm Springs Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, attributed the walkout to a lack of understanding and fear. "Our organization is not here to teach hate or harm anyone. We believe that all people should be have the right to express the way they feel, love, and be."
Activist groups including Equality California condemned the Republican protest, considering it a slap in the face to the LGBTQ+ community.
"That respect was gone when those Republican leaders left the chamber. That was a clear signal that they're not in support of the LGBTQ+ community, while we're facing one of the hardest and most alarming attacks nationwide," said Jorge Reyes Salinas, communications director of Equality California.