On Tuesday, the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media, a California State Assembly committee, approved Senate Joint Resolution 4, a bill endorsing the replacement of the statue of Father Junipero Serra in the National Statuary Hall Collection on Capitol Hill with a statue of astronaut Sally Ride.
The bill, approved 6-0, will now be sent to the whole Assembly for final approval. The bill was barely passed by the State Senate in April in a largely partisan vote, 22-10, as Democrats voted for it and Republicans against it. 21 votes were necessary for passage.
Some critics argue that the switch originated more from a desire to remove Serra, a controversial figure, than to honor of Ride. SDSU history professor John Putman–who teaches at the same institution where Ride once worked–told ABC 10 San Diego, “Sally Ride is a perfectly fine choice, but I think this is much more about Junipero Serra and removing a symbol of the past.” He added, “Without Father Serra’s venture, there would be no state of California,” allowing, “Opponents see him as a symbol of oppression.”
Ride, who admitted being a lesbian later in her life, was celebrated by the LGBT community. Jo Michael, legislative associate at Equality California, said, “Dr. Sally Ride is an icon and an inspiration for women and girls and for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We believe it is high time for the LGTB community, and particularly LGBT youth, to be able to someone represent our community at this level and demonstrate that LGBT people can and do make history through their achievements,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Meanwhile, Catholic Online headlined an article, “California legislators who HATE Catholics want Father Juniper Serra statue OUT of Capitol.” A CitizenGo.org petition fighting to keep Serra’s statue in the Hall has been signed by 46,000 people. Catholic News Agency Executive Director Alejandro Bermudez, the creator of the petition, said that in replacing Serra’s statue, legislators were attempting to “banish” one of only two Latinos in Statuary Hall.
Serra’s history is tied closely with the state’s; in addition to spearheading of California’s missions, he also influenced the development of the state’s maps. He also collected funds that he sent to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. He is due to be canonized in September.
Serra’s statue has stood in the hall since 1934. The other statue from the state represents Ronald Reagan; it was installed in 2007.