Long Beach Pride: Public officials criticize a parade grand marshal, but advocate says objections are ‘irrational’

LONG BEACH — A Los Angeles County prosecutor and Long Beach police sergeant, both gay men, have criticized the selection of a grand marshals in Sunday’s Long Beach Pride Parade, but a local LGBTQ activist says their criticisms are “irrational” and “highlights their own fears about sexuality.”

The parade steps off 10:30 a.m. at Ocean Boulevard and Lindero Avenue.

RELATED: Guide to Long Beach Pride 2017 – Everything you need to know

The grand marshal in question is Rory Moroney, who is gay. The 50-year-old Long Beach resident was arrested in 2014 inside a public restroom at Recreation Park by an undercover Long Beach police decoy and prosecuted for lewd conduct and indecent exposure, but a Long Beach Superior Court judge threw out the case.

RELATED: Long Beach Police discriminate against gay men in lewd conduct arrests, judge says

LEWD CONDUCT RULING

In his ruling, the judge not only dismissed the case, but also delivered a blistering assessment about the Long Beach Police Department’s treatment of gay men.

The judge said the department’s intention and tactics of the lewd conduct sting operations that are deployed at public restrooms showed that the department is hostile toward and intentionally targets gay men in those operations. Those discriminatory actions also violated Moroney’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law, the judge said.

Q Voice News posted an article on April 29 in connection with the one-year anniversary of the decision, which was historic for the Long Beach gay community because it was the first time a Long Beach Superior Court Judge had made such a ruling. Various defense attorneys during the past two decades had made numerous attempts at having similar cases dismissed, but none prevailed.

In his ruling, the judge said “the presence and tactics of the decoy officers actually caused the crimes to occur” and nobody was present who would be offended by the conduct — a vital requirement when defining lewd conduct, according to a landmark 1979 California Supreme Court case.

SOCIAL MEDIA REACTION

When the article was publicly shared on Facebook, Mario Trujillo, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, posted several public comments.

“While I understand and appreciate the significance of the ruling … why name this guy the grand Marshall for the Pride parade? I mean, he just went Into a bathroom to jack off!,” Trujillo said.

“As an openly gay man, I am not necessarily proud to honor a guy who went to this bathroom to satisfy his urges,” he said. “We need to hold ourselves accountable.”

Later, Trujillo said, “My post speaks for itself.”

A short time later, Rico Fernandez, a sergeant with the Long Beach Police Department, posted his reaction.

“I stand by Mario Trujillo. Moroney is not representative of who I am as a gay man. He did nothing heroic whether or not the police were found to have used inappropriate tactics.”

The judge actually called the tactics “invidious discrimination.”

‘IRRATIONAL FOCUS’

Porter Gilberg, executive director of the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, said he’s disappointed in the comments about Moroney.

“It takes the attention off the illegal actions of the police department and serves no purpose other than to highlight their own fears in general about sexuality,” Gilberg said. “The LGBTQ community was founded on sexual liberation, but people continue to be puritanical with sexuality.

“It’s inappropriate to criticize people’s sexuality and bring up moral panic,” he said. “There’s an irrational focus on him in the bathroom.”

‘TENACITY, FORTITUDE’

Denise Newman, president of Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Pride, the nonprofit group that organizes the parade and two-day festival, said Moroney was selected as the Bob Crow Community Grand Marshal for his “tenacity and fortitude.”

“Rory was caught in a sting operation and instead of taking a plea bargain, which probably would have impacted his life, he took a stand and fought back,” Newman said. “He had the tenacity and fortitude to fight back, and it was proved that he was right.

“We applaud that tenacity,” Newman said. ““We need that in this day and age so our civil rights are not taken away.”

Rory Moroney will be one of the grand marshals in Sunday’s Long Beach Pride Parade. Photo: Q Voice News staff.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBT community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBT students.