Woonsocket Councilmember Gonzalez confirms opposition to bodily autonomy, marriage rights
Woonsocket City Councilmember Valerie Gonzalez is entering her second term with the support of a Democratic Mayor. She has a good chance of taking a leadership position on the Council with possible ambitions towards higher office in the state.She opposes both a woman’s right to control her own body and marriage rights for LGBTQ couples.
On October 24, on my way to early vote at Woonsocket City Hall, I encountered Councilmember Valerie Gonzalez campaigning for reelection. Councilmember Gonzalez, together with her husband Herson, is a co-founder and co-pastor of Vida Church in Woonsocket. I had a six minute conversation with her where I asked pointed questions about her views on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. Though I had received a call from her husband in 2020 in opposition to my resolution establishing Woonsocket’s annual pride flag raising ceremony, I hadn’t encountered any public record of her views on these issues. I learned a lot from this conversation, in which she repeatedly cited her church’s charter and discriminatory practices to justify her political positions. What I learned about her views led to me deciding not to vote for her, but I was not intending to make what I learned public.
However, it is now being discussed publicly that Councilmember Gonzalez, who won both her first election in 2020 and her reelection this year with the highest number of votes of all council candidates (9.2% and 10.5% respectively), is on the shortlist for election to the Woonsocket City Council leadership team at the meeting this evening, Tuesday, December 6th.
In both of her elections, Councilmember Gonzalez was given a significant amount of help by Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt. I believe she was the only city council candidate that Mayor Baldelli-Hunt, a Democrat, publicly campaigned for in 2020, despite being the only registered Republican running that year. And she ran as part of Mayor Baldelli-Hunt’s council team this year.
Because it appears she’s now being elevated to a leadership position in the city council, and based on other information I’ve gathered over the last few years, it seems that the Councilmember may be gearing up for an eventual run for higher office. While very conservative opinions on LGBTQ+ and abortion rights factor less into votes that a city councilmember would take, they become more relevant in higher office.
For these reasons I’ve decided to share my conversation with Councilmember Gonzalez.
Alex Kithes: I’d like to ask you point blank… do you support gay marriage?
Valerie Gonzalez: I would not. I would not vote for gay marriage, if you’re asking me that. I won’t. In our congregation there’s bylaws, the bylaws that we have to abide by.
Kithes: I mean, couldn’t you change those?
Gonzalez: Yeah, we could change bylaws, but at this current moment we wouldn’t. Because you have to understand we have some faith beliefs… The way that we interpret [the Bible], it wouldn’t allow me to just change those bylaws.
Kithes: If you were on the state level, and say…the Supreme Court overturned Obergefell that made marriage equality legal…and the state government was discussing whether to overturn marriage equality here, would you vote to overturn gay marriage?
Gonzalez: If I would vote to overturn gay marriage? I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it to that level if I’m honest with you. Because again, we have some faith values that drive our vote. I can tell you, for me, Roe v Wade is an easy one. We believe in the sanctity of life, and to me that’s one of the things that’s super dear. And I would never say otherwise just to gain a vote.
Kithes: So if an abortion clinic were trying to open in the city, and needed…some sort of zoning amendment to allow them or something?
Gonzalez: I can’t support. I can’t support that.
Editor’s Note: Uprise RI called Councilmember Gonzalez today and verified the conversation she had with Alex Kithes.
“I’m an ordained minister,” said Councilmember Gonzalez, “and I do have some conservative values… I am a believer in the conservation of life. I have been pro-life and I’ve been very vocal about that…”
As for the LGBTQ+ community in Woonsocket, “I’ve never discriminated, as a councilor,” said Councilmember Gonzalez. “I serve everyone. I understand that not everybody shares the same beliefs. Just because we don’t share the same beliefs we still treat each other with much respect.”
Councilmember Gonzalez also mentioned that there is a married lesbian couple that attends her church. “We’ve been welcoming, open… and [we would not] in anyway discriminate against anyone from that community.”