Opponents of an AIDS memorial designed in the form of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl thought they had scored a victory when California Assembly members removed a line from the state budget that reappropriated $400,000 for the project.
But through last-minute maneuvers, backers of the controversial plan managed to set aside the taxpayer money by shifting the project from the budget bill, passed Tuesday, to a trailer bill where it was buried at the bottom of a collection of unrelated items.
Republican assemblyman Ray Haynes told WorldNetDaily yesterday he was unaware of the move, noting it was made just before his staff received a final copy of the $100 billion budget proposal, AB 1765, and another 20 trailer bills.
The AIDS memorial was buried in section 53 of a 54-section trailer bill, AB 1756, he said, and he believes staffers simply didn’t have the time to find it and flag it.
“This was obviously serving up some interest group [the supporters] had an interest in taking care of, and I don’t think what they did was right,” he said.
The project, planned for Lincoln Park in northeastern Los Angeles, has been promoted by Assembly member Jackie Goldberg, a member of the legislature’s joint budget committee and the state’s Gay and Lesbian Caucus, which has sponsored a number of controversial bills this year.
Goldberg’s spokesperson did not return WND’s call seeking comment. A call to the office of Jenny Oropeza, vice-chair of the joint budget committee, also was not returned.
The money for the project originally was appropriated in 2000, but not disbursed, requiring reappropriation. But a public interest group has threatened a lawsuit on constitutional grounds if the state includes it in this year’s budget,
Haynes said the trailer bill, which he likens to a garbage bin that collects everything it can, included items addressing public utilities, the governor’s office on service and voluntarism and a law on income tax preparers.
The AIDS memorial, Haynes said, should have been in the main budget bill’s art’s council budget, which lawmakers almost completely eliminated in an effort to address the state’s devastating $38 billion shortfall.
AIDS memorial shaped in form of Quetzalcoatl
After deliberating overnight, the California Assembly passed by 56-22 a spending plan relying on deep cuts and borrowing rather than tax increases.
Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, who worked to remove the AIDS memorial from the Senate version of the bill, called its funding “highly objectionable.”
“It shows the Democrats priorities are with very narrow special interest groups at a time when we’re cutting money to classrooms, public safety and a whole lot of other things,” he told WND.
As WorldNetDaily reported, opponents call the project – known as “The Wall: Las Memorias” – a religious monument that breaches the First Amendment’s prohibition against establishment of religion and creates an environment of discrimination against neighbors who believe homosexuality is immoral.
Last month, the Sacramento-based Pro-Family Law Center hand-delivered letters to legislators in the capital, warning it would sue the city of Los Angeles and state if they approve funding for it.
Legal counsel Richard Ackerman said Tuesday his group would go ahead with the suit if Gov. Davis approves the funding.
Hollingsworth noted Davis, who faces a historic recall vote Oct. 7, has line-item veto power, which means he could strike the project from the budget without vetoing the entire bill.
The senator says his objection to the project is based both on the money and the content.
“My understanding from people I trust is that it does nothing to further the cause of gaining ground on the number of AIDS victims,” he said. “It probably makes the potential situation worse by trivializing the impact of lifestyle choices that put people at risk of HIV and AIDS.”
The project’s founder, Richard Zaldivar, told WorldNetDaily last month he was shocked the project would be viewed as unconstitutional.
“If this is going to be interpreted as being religious, then we need to start changing the names of California cities,” he said, noting Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and many others honor saints.
In an artist’s concept of the memorial, Quetzalcoatl, one of the major deities of the ancient Mexican pantheon, is described as representing “the principle of life as life-force.”
Model of memorial
The project is planned for an area with a large Hispanic population. Scott Lively, president of the Pro-Family Law Center, says some local residents are angry, contending the city planned and approved the monument in secret meetings, in violation of the law, to prevent opposition.
The project’s purpose, according to a website, is “to erect a memorial where a community can heal from their human loss to the disease of AIDS; where people can teach themselves about sexuality, HIV/AIDS and the dangers of cultural denial. To learn and to love who you were born to be … .”
Lively accuses lawmakers of being unwilling to buck the powerful homosexual lobby on public funding for special-interest projects.