Same-sex marriage and gay pride supporters filled City Council chambers Thursday night following news that officials were considering a resolution earlier this week to declare marriage as a formal union between a man and woman.
Though the proposal was pulled from the agenda after it was struck down by the Police Committee Monday, word had already spread throughout the state and across the country.
Mayor Del Jurney welcomed the crowd — some of whom had to stand in the hallway for lack of space — but then explained all city business had been canceled for the night.
The council panel was noticeably empty as several councilors were absent.
“By not having a quorum, we are not able to conduct city business,” Jurney said. “I kind of anticipated that might be the case.”
Councilors present included Art Sandoval, Barry Foster and Steve Henderson. The mayor rescheduled the meeting, including ruling on an ordinance to enact a Convention Center Fee, until next Thursday.
Jurney welcomed the crowd and opened the floor for comments, inviting anyone to speak about the marriage resolution though the issue had already been defeated.
Diane Whetsel, a resident, said when she read what was written in the Police Commission resolution, put forward by Councilor Savino Sanchez Jr., her heart sank.
“I read that resolution,” Wetsel said. “I felt it was a blatant attempt against residents. There is nothing I don’t agree with, except man and woman. I don’t have a different lifestyle than any of you. I have the same values, the same morals, the same integrity. It’s hard to hear. We are so much more similar than dissimilar in every way. We just want the same things that you all want — to be treated with respect and honor and we want to have marriage.”
Another resident said her first thought was “Ahh. Roswell is on the map again, and not for a good reason this time. We look like we’re prejudiced.”
After hearing from a few residents who were strongly opposed to the idea that the city would place the item on its agenda, Jurney explained how the process unfolded.
“It’s on the agenda because I allowed it to be,” Jurney said. “Not because I wanted it to be. I allowed it to be. Whether or not I agree with it, is irrelevant. I can’t choose not to let something come forward. That is not a democratic philosophy. It doesn’t mean the council, as a whole, embraces it. It means one or more councilors would like to see it.”
A 15-year-old boy told the council he was an artist whose mother was gay.
“If art was taken away from me, I would be devastated,” he said.
Father Dale Plummer of St. Andrews Episcopal Church thanked councilors for their explanations of the process.
“I also want to thank the people … citizens, the Roswell community for your courage, convictions and love in which you share your words,” he said.