PASADENA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Activists from the Los-Angeles based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) beseeched the Pasadena City Council to reconsider Dr. Eric Walsh’s ability to serve as the director of the Pasadena Public Health Department during the weekly City Council meeting at City Hall on Monday night. Walsh, who is also a minister, was placed on administrative leave by the city last week following an April 30 editorial in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune calling for Walsh’s resignation from the city’s Health Department. The editorial was regarding Walsh’s ongoing and very publicly stated anti-gay prejudices – alongside demonization of various religions, ethnicities, and institutions – that many believe inhibits his ability to oversee treatment and care of a large, diverse community like that of Pasadena.
About 25 AHF activists dressed in coordinating red t-shirts that read “Take Action. #SpeakOut” filled the room awaiting their turn for public comment, during which six activists directly addressed the council on in the interest of the city of Pasadena respectfully requesting they deeply reconsider allowing Walsh to continue his post as director of the health department following his repeated public broadcasts demonizing homosexuality, single mothers, Muslims, and evolution.
“Public health relies on the confidence of all communities served,” said AHF President and Co-Founder Michael Weinstein, who led the group in addressing the council. “Stigma is our number one problem in fighting AIDS and sexually transmitted disease. A man who shames is not qualified to hold the position of Director of Public Health – for any city.”
Weinstein went on to remind the council that “public health is a scientific discipline” that should not be at risk for influence by religious beliefs that marginalize targeted communities. He also applauded Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses for their “total support” during AHF’s historic same-sex wedding ceremony held atop the foundation’s float in the annual New Year’s Day parade, saying, “that is the type of consciousness and the type of city that we believe Pasadena is.”
AHF’s Associate Director of Community Outreach Phil Reh and Community Outreach Manager Laila Goring both addressed the council with a respectful yet firm stance that Walsh – who decries the distribution of condoms and preaches for homosexuality to be re-classified as a mental illness, overturning a 1973 ruling against such discrimination – is unable to separate his personal beliefs from his ability to serve the community, and that “when a city official’s comments divide a community, it puts into question the integrity of the Department and the city.”
Following impassioned pleas from a gay man living with HIV that the Council appoint a health director who can show more compassion and understanding for the LGBT community, HIV-positive gay pastor Rev. Anthony Hill addressed the City Council, saying that God loves every person regardless of who they are on the outside.
“No one has the right to use the pulpit to criticize, to condemn, and to put down. That hurts my heart to see what he’s doing to our community,” Hill said of Walsh’s publicly advertised hate speech.
AHF’s Senior Director of Worldwide, Samantha Granberry, then addressed the council on both a professional level as a marketing director for a public health organization, and on a personal level as lifelong Pasadena resident and as a former patient of the city’s Public Health Department as a young, single mother. She said that, had she been exposed to Walsh’s hateful comments on single mothers at that time, she would have likely avoided doctor’s appointments for herself and her daughter.
“Dr. Eric Walsh is not qualified to be a public health director based upon his publicly declared views which directly alienate, marginalize, and stigmatize current patients of the Pasadena Public Health Department, as well as Pasadena citizens who might be future patients of the Pasadena Public Health Department,” Granberry said.
Following the activist’s speeches and comments from a pair of siblings supporting Walsh, Mayor Bill Bogaard stated that the matter of Walsh’s employment is “being handled by his supervisor, the City Manager, under total confidentiality.” However, Councilmember Steve Madison did make a public comment on Walsh’s “unfortunate” comments in an effort to assure the community.
“The City of Pasadena and its Public Health Department will open its arms and provide the full level of service to any person irrespective of their gender, sexual orientation, or medical history,” Madison said. “Our services are, and will remain, fully accessible.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the USA. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to over 300,000 individuals in 32 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia. For more information, visit www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @AIDSHealthcare