The city of Modesto, Calif., says its decision on whether the parade can be held Aug. 24 in Graceada Park hinges on logistics and not the views of the organizers, city spokesman Thomas Reeves told the Los Angeles Times.
“So although the city does not share in the beliefs of some groups that choose to hold their events here, we may not be able to deny a permit based on an organization’s values,” Reeves said. The city is looking at “operational feasibility."
But the values behind the parade are precisely what Modesto community members are fighting over.
Behind the event is San Jose-based chiropractor Don Grundmann, who chairs the non-ballot-qualified Constitution Party of California. The organization, which says on its website that it believes in “individual liberty and limited government,” advocates against such policies as mandatory vaccination and a halt in state executions.
Grundmann also directs a National Straight Pride Coalition that is supporting the Modesto parade, though the group only has a presence in California right now. Grundmann told The Washington Post the event is meant to celebrate “everything that makes America great” with its mix of many causes and to counter what he calls a “coordinated attack” against a Christian way of life.
The group Modesto Progressive Democrats derided “straight pride” on its Facebook page as responding to discrimination that does not exist.
“Have you ever been fired from a job for being straight?” the group wrote. “Have you been banned from the USA for being Christian? No? That’s because it’s Straight pride day EVERY DAY.”
Critics of the Modesto event say “straight pride” is an excuse to promote homophobic views.
While fliers frame the planned parade as an affirmation of traditional values, Grundmann focused on an alleged “threat” to society from gay and transgender people when explaining the motives behind the event. He claimed without evidence that drag queen story hours being held at libraries around the country are plots to molest children and has stated on his Facebook page that members of the “Homosexual/Sodomy Movement” are likely “lying about any death threats to them” despite documented cases of intimidation and violence against gay people. This week, a Russian LGBTQ rights activist was found dead after her name appeared on a Web game in which players simulate hunting down and torturing gay people.
A spokesman for the city of Modesto did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Modesto community members have reportedly deluged City Hall with opinions on the event. Dismayed opponents of Grundmann’s parade are organizing a counterprotest in nearby Enslen Park in the event the straight pride celebration moves forward.
“People are shocked and blown away that this kind of event could happen in our community,” the Modesto Progressive Democrats’ president, Chris Ricci, told the Times.
City Council member Kristi Ah You told CBS Sacramento that she would not allow the event if it were her decision.
“I don’t think we need to give a permit for anything that when you go to the page it talks about whiteness, it talks about western civilization, it talks about being Caucasian,” she said. “That’s all hate crime stuff to me; that’s not okay.”
Ah You said she hopes the event stays low-profile, adding that she thinks it might attract only a handful of people. But Grundmann estimates he has already heard from about 250 people interested in attending, and the parade application has already drawn a torrent of attention.
“We’ve been getting letters, emails, comments, and phone calls all day about it,” the Council member said.