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In test for conservative tradition, Downey to consider establishing LGBTQ Picnic

The Downey City Council will consider the establishment of an LGBTQ Picnic at its March 23rd, 2021 meeting. The agenda item comes as a direct result of the November 2020 election, when Downey voters opted against electing any additional heterosexuals to the City Council.

The push for the Picnic comes in the form of discussion to be led by Council Member Catherine Alvarez, who entered office as Downey’s first openly bisexual woman. While the City did not provide further details on her discussion, Downey community members noted last year that LGBTQ were organizations, such as TransLatinas, were present at Alvarez’ victory party.

Similarly, Council Member Mario Trujillo, Downey’s only gay male Council Member, regularly features the LGBTQ community on his social media, and posts images of himself and his husband, Henry Ceja Trujillo, often spending time with Trujillo’s children.

Catherine Alvarez with Tania Jimenez, Founder of TransLatinas, at Alvarez’ victory party (left). Mario Trujillo with his husband Henry Ceja Trujillo at Trujillo's 51st birthday celebration in 2019 (right).

A changing City

Downey has traditionally been a conservative City, but there is evidence its people are shifting to the left.

During the national George Floyd protest movement of early June 2020, Donald Arrington, a local college student, organized a Black Lives Matter march in Downey. The march was attended by hundreds of youth, and Arrington also helped to organize the first ever Southeast L.A. PRIDE March, right outside Downey City Hall, on June 28th, 2020. At least 50 youth and supporters marched down Firestone Blvd., notably chanting “Black Trans Lives Matter.”

Moreover, following the PRIDE March, youth organizers founded Downey Resistance, which has led protests and public comment sessions against not only the policies of the City Council, but also of the Downey Unified School District.

Perhaps the most significant recent political change in Downey is that the Republican Party has fallen out of favor with voters: In the 2017-2019 City Council, Republicans held the majority (Frometa, Rodriguez, Saab), and now only Frometa remains, with all other Council Members being registered Democrats (Alvarez, Ashton, Pacheco, Trujillo).

Will Alvarez’ proposal pass?

For the LGBTQ Picnic, Alvarez may be counting on support not only from her LGBTQ colleague, Trujillo, but from Sean Ashton, who is noted for awarding the first ever Mayor’s Downey DNA award to Zoey Luna, a local transgender student and actress whose story and emerging career was profiled by the L.A. Times in October 2020.

The agenda for the March 23rd 2021 Council meeting notes that the LGBTQ Picnic, “brought forth at the request of Council Member Alvarez” has “no fiscal impact at this time.” In addition to the Council’s deliberations, it is expected that community members will speak on the item at the meeting.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Downey—the largest City in Southeast L.A.—is undergoing a transformation away from political conservatism.

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