OAKLAND — A prominent Oakland supporter of the initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California who is president of the board overseeing the Paramount Theatre of the Arts is facing mounting opposition as his reappointment to the board is set for consideration by the City Council on Tuesday.
Lorenzo Hoopes, 96, a former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Oakland Temple, a retired Safeway executive and longtime member of the theater's board, donated $26,000 to 2008's Proposition 8 and was Oakland's single largest individual donor to the measure, records show.
The initiative was approved by 52.3 percent of voters and changed California's constitution so that only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized by the state.
"I think it's outrageous that we would appoint anyone who calls for discrimination and works hard to see discrimination written into California's constitution representing all of Oakland on the Paramount board," said Sean Sullivan, a West Oakland resident and a founding board member of Oakland's Rainbow Chamber of Commerce who is helping lead the opposition to Hoopes' appointment.
Hoopes is currently serving as the 11-member Paramount Theatre of the Arts board of directors' president, what he called a rotating position. The board selects its own members, "subject to the concurrence of the Mayor and the City Council," according to a city report.
Mayor Ron Dellums
The mayor's office was not aware of Hoopes' Prop. 8 donations when the appointment was sent to the council, spokesman Paul Rose said. Sullivan said he found that "surprising," however, because Hoopes' donations had been reported in the media, and because a coalition of gay and lesbian rights activists have consistently lobbied for greater representation on boards and commissions, including the Paramount's.
Opposition continues to grow. A Facebook group, "The Paramount-No Place for Homophobia," had 254 members as of Sunday.
"I don't think the council is going to approve him," said City Council President Jane Brunner (North Oakland). "I think we were all pretty surprised when we heard about (the donations to Prop. 8). I'm not sure council members think that represents the opinion of a lot of people in Oakland."
The council meets Tuesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Others say it would be foolish not to approve a 96-year-old man who they call a dedicated community servant. One Paramount board member, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the brewing controversy, called Hoopes a "tremendously hardworking and an extremely valuable member of the Paramount board" and "a member of the original committee that was formed to save the Paramount from the wrecking ball."
Hoopes said by telephone he was aware opponents were raising the issue of his Prop. 8 support.
"I don't agree with it," he said, "but it's their prerogative."
Hoopes, who was also a member of Oakland's school board from 1960 to 1977, said he's served on the Paramount board for 20 years and was involved in working on the theater, which he called one of the "treasures of the city," for years before that. His support for Prop. 8 was simple, he said.
"I think marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman," he said. "I think marriage is reserved for solemnizing the relationship between a man and a woman."
City Councilmember Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland) said he disagrees with Hoopes on Prop. 8, but believes he deserves a spot on the board.
"You have to look beyond (Prop. 8)," Reid said. "This is America. No matter how controversial the issue is, someone like him should be appointed based on his ability to serve and based on his past contributions to the city."
That doesn't pass muster with some. Michael Colbruno, a planning commissioner who is active in the local business community and a longtime gay and lesbian rights activist, said the appointment is a "poke in the eye" at a time when the legality of Prop. 8 is being challenged in federal court.
"It's the worst timing," he said. "It's so insulting. It's typical that the gay community in Oakland is being run over by a bus. If this were San Francisco, there would be 300 people in the streets."
Prop. 8 was unpopular in Alameda County with just 38.1 percent voter support. Oakland's elected officials have opposed the measure consistently.
Mayor Dellums officiated a number of same-sex marriages at City Hall before voters passed Prop. 8. His spokesman said the mayor was mulling over whether to ask for the Hoopes appointment to be pulled from consideration.
"We're going to make a final decision on Tuesday on whether or not to move forward," Rose said. "I won't have a definitive answer today or this weekend."
Sean Maher and Josh Richman contributed to this story.