Open Letter from Mayor Curtatone

On May 15, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times


Open Letter to the Public:

It has come to my attention that offensive, homophobic slurs have been publicly spoken about a Somerville elected official, and a friend of mine. In light of this information, let me renew my stance on this and any other derogatory remarks against human beings in ours and any other community: This kind of abusive behavior has no place in our city – or any other.

Not only do I personally condemn all anti-gay slurs and insults, the City of Somerville has an ordinance on the books that proudly informs every resident and guest of our city that we stand in solidarity with all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as well as all residents of any gender, age, or ethnicity. I encourage everyone to take a moment to read it (below) and take it to heart.

We often speak about the fact that we are a city that prides itself on its diversity and its inclusiveness, but fostering tolerance sometimes takes action. In our city, we passed an ordinance as a first step, and each day we hold true to it. In Somerville, everyone is welcome and equal. The language of that ordinance reads:

It is hereby declared to be the public policy of the city, including its employees, agents and officials, to protect and promote the constitutional, civil and human rights of all people within the city. Further, the city asserts that:

All people have certain inalienable rights, including the rights to life, liberty, property, the pursuit of happiness and equal justice under the laws of the United States, the commonwealth and the city.

No person in our city shall have these rights constrained, reduced, ignored or violated; all people in our city shall be protected in the exercise of these human and civil rights.

No person in our city shall be unlawfully discriminated against in matters of housing, employment, education, contracts, purchasing or public accommodations, on the basis of: age, ancestry, citizenship, color, disability, economic status, ethnicity, family/marital status, gender, military status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or source of income.

The human rights commission shall work toward mutual respect and understanding among all individuals and groups in the city through improving the quality of public discourse and eliminating unlawful discrimination.

(Ord. No. 1993-1, 1-28-93)


Every human being deserves the right to respect, dignity, and decency. Know that in Somerville, these kinds of slurs and behavior will not be tolerated, regardless of whether the victim holds a public position or not. It is a basic human right to be treated equally regardless of sexual orientation, race, cultural background or any other quality or characteristic, and in Somerville, we will continue to honor that right.


Joseph A. Curtatone



20 Responses to “Open Letter from Mayor Curtatone”

  1. gregtowne says:

    From what I understand from reading the article in the globe, Courtney didn’t hear these slurs. Is that correct?

  2. Steve Keenan says:

    Kudos to Mayor Curtatone! Slurs, derogatory statements, etc.. should not be tolerated and should be condemned by all. The people who act in such a despicable manner are losers.

    I believe in live and let live.

  3. Bostom says:

    Every word Mayor Curtatone has written and quoted here is admirable, honorable, should be taken to heart by all of us, and except for one, is true.

    “Elected?” How can that be when the official’s own website and news reports of the official’s new post correctly say “appointed.”

  4. Steve Keenan says:

    I just saw Alderwoman Courtney O’Keefe on News 7. What a gracious and classy human being. Courtney, I will be in touch with you to work on your campaign.

    We need your kind of class,leadership, and decency. God Bless you. LIVE AND LET LIVE!

  5. mememe says:

    @greg correct, a friend of Courtney’s heard that something might have been said by some third party, the friend did not hear it herself.

    if its true, is a shame, as its not the way to treat someone, but we live in the age of sensationalism in Politics and News. So ‘she heard that someone said something that someone else overhears’ is now news

  6. ritepride says:

    Courtney has worked hard pushing for improvements to the Ward and supportive of local businesses. It appears the the behind the scenes “Good Old Boy” network is unhappy that she is popular to the people of her ward and the GOB sunk to one its all time lows. Keep up the good work Courtney.

    The mayor however speaks out of both sides of his mouth…” Every human being deserves the right to respect, dignity, and decency “. ” It is a basic human right to be treated equally..”

    As he does deliver on that regarding the eldery and handicapped and has deliberately ignored their cries for safety and action regarding the careless bicyclists who speed down the sidewalks in the squares and other unsafe actions by these same people, etc.

  7. amen says:

    I don’t know Ms. O’Keefe, but agree this crap can’t be tolerated. on the other hand, why the big deal. I’ve been called fat by a few kids, and I know kids get called all kinds of stuff all the time. I will call the paper the next time someone notices my excess poundage in a negative way.

  8. Steve Keenan says:

    I wish to respond to Amen. Amen, you have every right to feel hurt and injured. I don’t know you, but I know you are a good person. The nasty words and insults directed at you are wrong. You are a human being and you are entitled to respect. All people should practice mutual respect and tolerance, but as you and many others know from personal experience, this is not the case.

    As Doctor Martin Luther King preached many years ago, people should be judged on the “content of their character.”

    Sadly, there are mean and evil people in the world, but I believe the large majority of our fellow human beings are good people like yourself.

    May I make a suggestion? The next time some ignorant person says something offensive to you, react in a non-violent manner(violence never solves anything). Simply and calmly say to that person something like “At least I’m not you because that would be a real drag.” THen watch the look on their face.

    God bless you my friend-spread the word of mutual respect and tolerance around. We are all one in the eyes of God. Take care my friend.

  9. amen says:

    that’s all fine, my only point was that nobody cares about the slurs thrown at many people, all day long. for some reason, a passed-along-three-times insult rates newspaper time for one group, when it would never get mentioned for anyone else. See, you tell me how to handle it, because it’s my problem. When a special interest group is the victim, it’s a community problem. you’ve missed the entire point.

  10. Steve Keenan says:


    I don’t think I missed the point. Earlier, I condemned all slurs and derogatory statements directed at anyone. Had your awful experience been publicized, I and many others would have spoken out-it’s just that this is the first I heard of your experience.

    The issue of slurs and derogatory comments directed at anyone is a problem for all of us. How can you say nobody cares? That’s a broad statement to make. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have responded about you and the awful things said to you.

    People do care!

  11. Somerbreeze says:

    @ ritepride – The vile slurs aside, you mention:

    “As he does deliver on that regarding the elderly and handicapped and has deliberately ignored their cries for safety and action regarding the careless bicyclists who speed down the sidewalks in the squares and other unsafe actions by these same people, etc.”

    Your comment is corroborated by this, which I noticed;

  12. amen says:

    so to make my point more clear, if I picked up the phone and called newspapers to tell them I was slurred, or my child was slurred, it would go nowhere, nobody would care, it’s not news. my point is we make a special point when it’s a politically protected group. that’s it, you still don’t get my point, so drop it

  13. Steve Keenan says:


    I have a couple of questions for you. Did you ever contact any reporting agency about the awful things said to you?

    What “special interest” or “politically protected” group are you talking about?

    Do me a favor-I want to help you. Next time you or yours are harrassed, write about it in the Somerville News. Then we can take your situation to the appropriate agency and perhaps start a campaign in the City promoting mutual respect and tolerance for all.

    I am a great believer in mutual tolerance and respect for all. While serving on the Human Rights Commission some years ago I had the honor and pleasure of meeting a kind,caring, and passionate man named Lenny Zakim. Lenny has left this mortal life,but his message and teachings will be with me forever. Lenny was a great human being and a great leader at the Anti Defamation League.

    Try reading up on Lenny and consider joining the Human Rights Commission here in Somerville.

    And so there is no misunderstanding, let me be clear”I am my brother’s keeper.

    God bless you and your family and may love,peace,and happiness be with you all the days of your life. You are entitled to that!

  14. Rob says:

    I think what makes these alleged slurs newsworthy is that they were made toward an Alderman (or soon-to-be-Alderman depending on when the comments were made) within earshot of others at a public meeting–at least that’s my understanding. I could imagine any number of slurs (depending on how gratuitous) that might be directed at an Alderman at a public meeting that would be newsworthy: race, gender, weight, wealth, looks, etc.

    Interestingly, the Somerville News didn’t report on this story that I can find. It simply reprinted the Mayor’s letter, so perhaps the newspaper didn’t think it merited newsworthy reporting either. Likewise, the Somerville Journal chose to reprint the Mayor’s letter followed by a clarifying editorial stating that the incident described by the Mayor had nothing to do with one of their columnists. I actually learned about this reading an article in the Boston Metro on the T.

    Certainly if the incident was just one random person making a slur against another random person on the street, it wouldn’t make the news. It happens all the time.

  15. amen says:

    oh, dear God, will you drop it??? you are missing the entire point. enough already

  16. Harry says:

    Steve-Keenan, what is the “human rights” commission anyway? And I hope no taxpayer money go toward funding it. Why would the city need a human rights commission? If you break a law (hint: insulting someone is not breaking any law. Threatening someone is) then we currently have a ton of laws on the books to address that. Why do we need to create “special” laws or commissions for certain groups? Just for people who think they should be special or in some protected class?

    The quicker we get away from differentiating people based on color, religion or sexual preference then the less insults you’ll see hurled in both directions. It’s just so silly for grown adults to act like they can’t take being told the truth. If you’re fat – you’re fat. Big deal – lost weight or grow thicker skin. I think that is what amen is saying – he’s fat, he knows it and he really doesn’t care, but he’s also not asking or demanding special “rights” or laws be created for him.

    In your world everyone must have to walk around bubble-wrapped so they don’t get their feelings hurt and everyone should create their own special interest groups for everything imaginable. Human rights commission. pffftttt…. you must be making some cake off of that somehow – otherwise why do it. It serves no real function or use as we already have laws on the books that protect all the usual special people (minorities, LGBT, any religious group that is NOT Christian, etc.).

  17. Mr. Ward Four says:

    This is a made-up story to help the administration’s weak candidate and keep the Mayor in the news in a positive way, unlike the coming indictment story. Who said what? If it was a real incident, you would have the name and more. What a joke.

  18. Rob says:

    It doesn’t sound like what was said violates any law. Folks are generally free to say what they want unless they are making threats against someone or inciting violence. We’re all free to offend, and no one is entitled to be unoffended. Thank goodness for the 1st Amendment.

    That said, I appreciate that the Mayor called this behavior out as uncivil. These kinds of statements may not be against the law, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t mean-spirited, and the Mayor is trying to appeal to our better selves as neighbors and fellow community members. If someone publicly referred to an Alderman as a “lazy fat-f**k son-of-bit*h,” I believe/hope the Mayor and others would rightly condemn this kind of schoolyard nonsense.

    I can also understand why he wanted to remind people of Somerville’s anti-discrimination ordinances, but that’s not really in play here. No one is being discriminated against that I can see. Even the Alderman in question wants to move on from this incident.

    On the separate discussion of what gives slurs power and newsworthiness and therefore elicit the attention of the community, I’m not sure I know how to respond. Did you see the story about the 32-year old gay man who was shot dead on the street in New York last week for being gay? I can’t recall a single incident when a straight man was shot dead on the street for being straight. It’s in that context that slurs get their power. If someone says, “hey little fa*got, come here, I wanna talk to you” to a gay man on the street, he would probably think the person is about to assault him. So slurs in this context are more than just hurt feelings. They can be about encouraging a culture of fear and violence against a whole group of people. That’s not the Somerville I want to live in.

  19. amen says:

    well said, Harry. when my kid is called a retard because of a learning problem, we handle it here at home, and it’s heartbreaking. Maybe next time I will call and see if anyone cares? wasting my time.

  20. Steve Keenan says:

    Rob’s answer and analysis is excellent. Good writing Rob. Harry, I don’t like cake and sweets-lots of bad ingredients. I try to eat healthy-bananas,fruits,veggies,lean meat, and other other healthy foods. You can have your cake and eat it too!! God bless you Harry-I really enjoy your writings though I am not often in agreement, but in this great nation of ours, you have the right to speak your mind. Take care my friend.

    Hope to see you at the next Community Blood Drive in the City. Were you at the last one at the High School? I don’t know what you look like, but there were a lot of fine Somerville people and people from other areas. But we didn’t get cake-we got juice,water,raisins, and lots of other healthy things.

    Hope to see you at the next drive.

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