LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Southland lawmakers are criticizing a vote by the California State Senate to replace a statue in the U.S. Capitol of one of the state’s key historical figures with one of astronaut Sally Ride.
Authored by Democratic State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), the motion introduced Jan. 29 (PDF) calls for a statue at The National Statuary Hall Collection to memorialize Ride, who became the first American female astronaut to travel into space in 1983.
Ride died in 2012 at the age of 61 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
On Monday, the California Senate voted 22-10 to pass the motion. It will now advance to the State Assembly.
In a statement, Lara said replacing a statue of Father Junipero Serra, who founded numerous missions throughout California during its early history, with one of Ride would make her “the first member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to be placed in the Statuary Hall.”
Serra is expected to be canonized by Pope Francis during his planned U.S. visit later this fall.
But some state lawmakers argue that Ride is a state and national hero and should instead be honored with a statue at the national Air and Space Museum.
Orange County Rep. Bill Brough (R-Dana Point) released a statement saying such a move “will diminish a significant part of California’s history and legacy” and “sends the wrong message to the world” ahead of the Pope’s visit.
Stone also conceded that Serra has become somewhat of a controversial figure because of the how some early Spanish missionaries treated Native Americans.
“I think that removing Father Serra is an affront to Hispanics throughout the state of California, many of whom are Catholic, and would like to see Father Serra remain there,” Stone told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO.
“The bottom line is it’s still a part of California history, the good and the bad,” he said. “But I think the contributions that Father Serra made…is exemplary of the history that needs to be preserved.”
Each state is granted representation by two statues in the U.S. Capitol. California’s two statues are currently of Serra and Ronald Reagan.