Black and openly gay Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden is in the news today.

The L.A. Times has reported that Oden, sent a letter welcoming Colorado based conservative group Focus on the Family to Palm Springs for their "Love Won Out" conference slated to take place this Saturday.  Focus on the Family believes that gays can “overcome” their homosexuality and teaches that gays and lesbians lead deviant and un-Christian lifestyles and have a choice in their sexual orientation. 

Oden sent conference organizers a letter noting how "pleased" he was that they were holding the event in the area.

"It’s a pleasure to welcome you," the mayor wrote to Focus on the Family, which is holding the conference. "We are so proud to have you here in the Palm Springs area."

Palm Springs has one of the nations largest percentage same-sex couples, needless to say, some of Oden’s constituents are not happy.

Oden said Thursday that the group had requested a welcome letter months earlier, and that he doesn’t regret sending it.

"Not long ago people were saying they didn’t want us in their communities," he said. "If we now turn around and say we don’t want them, where does it stop?

"If we want the acceptance and understanding of others, it’s also important for people to see we’re willing to extend the same courtesy to others."

Now, I work for an elected official and we get those letter requests all of time.  It’s standard for organizations to ask for a letter of greeting from local elected officials.

But just because it’s standard practice, doesn’t mean you have to submit the letter.

One of Oden’s gay constituents said that if the KKK was having a conference and requested a letter, he doubted that he’d receive the same welcome.

In the letter, according to a copy released by Focus on the Family, the mayor urged participants to "discover all that makes this a great place to live and visit…. We are going to do everything we can to make you want to come back. We’ll tempt you with so many things to do and see that you will just have to return."

Gay activists are planning to protest outside of the conference…as they should be.

I like Ron a lot.  I admire him and I think he’s a great guy but I am not sure how I feel about this.

He didn’t have to submit the letter, in fact he could have ignored the request.  I don’t think it would have hurt him at all.  I understand his reasoning for doing it, but it just doesn’t fly with me.  Focus on the Family will never accept gays, I don’t care how welcoming you are.  I think  Ron knows this as well.  However, if it was a ploy to get some coverage and to turn heads, then job well done, you certainly captured my attention.

What I really want to know is does the Mayor plan to join the protestors who plan to hold affirming signs of gays and lesbians outside of the conference on Saturday?