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Valerie Susan Terrigno (born 1954) was elected to the first city council of West Hollywood, California when it was incorporated in 1984. She was selected by the council to be the mayor, making her the first openly lesbian mayor of an incorporated municipality in the United States.
Her best-known action as mayor was, after the city council passed an anti-discrimination ordinance, taking down a controversial anti-gay sign, "Fagots Stay Out," that was posted in a local landmark restaurant, Barney's Beanery. During her term, the council passed a strong rent-control law, and also began offering domestic partnership benefits, becoming the second American city to legally recognize same-sex relationships (Berkeley had passed a similar law a year earlier).
After serving for one year as mayor of the city (a largely ceremonial position that rotated annually among the members of the city council), she was convicted in 1986 of embezzling and misappropriating $9,000 in federal grant funds during her pre-mayoral time as chief executive officer of Crossroads Counseling Center, an agency for the poor and homeless in West Hollywood. On the witness stand Terrigno acknowledged making "errors in judgment" but denied any criminal wrongdoing. Federal District Judge Laughlin Waters sentenced Terrigno to 60 days, which she served in a halfway house. Terrigno claimed that she was targeted for being a lesbian, but jurors denied that her sexual orientation was a factor in their deliberations. She resigned her city council seat in 1986.
Terrigno's planned appearance at the 1986 West Hollywood gay pride parade, representing a local restaurant, sparked controversy. Parade organizers were prepared to bar her from participating but Terrigno voluntarily withdrew. Longtime gay activist Harry Hay, angered at what he believed was unfair treatment, walked the parade route with a sign reading "Valerie Terrigno walks with me". The backside of the sign read: "NAMBLA walks with me".
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