When he closes his eyes, Brian Talbert can see each detail of the float he had planned to build.
It was going to be 27 feet long, have “a bunch of American flags,” a replica of the Statue of Liberty, “female impersonators” and the “most patriotic music anyone has ever heard.”
The design would be so powerful, Talbert said, that nobody at the 2017 Charlotte Pride Parade would ever forget it.
“You were going to look at this float and be filled with pride for being an American,” Talbert told The Washington Post.
Now it appears that Talbert — a fervent and openly gay supporter of President Trump and a member of a group called Deplorable Pride — will not get to ride his float through downtown Charlotte in August. Charlotte Pride, one of the largest pride organizations in the southeastern United States, has rejected Deplorable Pride’s float application three weeks after the group submitted it, Talbert claims.
Talbert said that his application was denied because he’s an outspoken Trump supporter and that Charlotte Pride accused him of being “anti-gay,” a charge he forcefully rejects.
“I can’t wrap my head around that,” said Talbert, who has a Trump-Pence bumper sticker on his truck. “I’m gay, I’m proud, I’m open and I’m Republican. I don’t see how I was going to be anti-gay anything because that would be anti-me.”
“I’ll defend any gay person from anyone who wants to discriminate against them because I fight for acceptance and gay rights,” he added.
Talbert said he plans to file a lawsuit against Charlotte Pride accusing the group of discrimination. He started a GoFundMe page this week to collect money for potential legal fees. In a single day, the page has raised more than $4,000 of its $100,000 goal.
Deplorable Pride labels itself “a movement” within the LGBT community that supported Trump’s presidential campaign.
Reached by email, Charlotte Pride released a statement saying the organization “reserves the right to decline participation” at events to groups that do not reflect the mission and values of the organization.
The statement said that policy is acknowledged in its parade rules and regulations, and noted that in the past, organizers have made “similar decisions” to decline participation from “other organizations espousing anti-LGBTQ religious or public policy stances.”
“Charlotte Pride envisions a world in which LGBTQ people are affirmed, respected, and included in the full social and civic life of their local communities, free from fear of any discrimination, rejection, and prejudice,” the statement added.
Charlotte pride did not respond to The Washington Post’s request to clarify its decision and explain whether Talbert’s application violated the organization’s mission. The group’s website said its annual festival attracts as many as 100,000 visitors.
The best-known conservative gay group remains the Log Cabin Republicans, which was formed in the late 1970s, according to the group’s website.
“The name of the organization is a reference to the first Republican President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a Log Cabin,” the site says. “President Lincoln built the Republican Party on the principles of liberty and equality.”
The Trump administration began removing LGBT information from WhiteHouse.gov on the day Trump took office, The Post reported. A report on the Labor Department’s website on LGBT workers rights was also removed.
In February, the White House said in a statement that Trump “is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The President is proud to have been the first GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression. The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”
But, as a Post editorial noted: “Hardly any time passed before Trump press secretary Sean Spicer took a different tone in the White House briefing room, saying that the ‘pendulum’ has swung away from religious people ‘in the name of political correctness,’ inflaming worries that the president may yet issue an executive order on ‘religious freedom’ that would condone discrimination. For those across the country at risk of being turned away, fired or denied housing because of their sexual orientation, it certainly does not feel as though the pendulum has swung nearly enough in their direction.”
Weeks later, the Trump administration revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity, taking a stand on a contentious issue that has become the central battle over LGBT rights.
Gay rights activists have been particularly vocal in their opposition to Vice President Pence, who the Human Rights Campaign has called “notoriously anti-LGBTQ.”
As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law allowing business owners to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender customers — legislation that sparked a national uproar and threats of boycotts until the legislature reversed course. “Mike Pence has never left any question about his animus toward LGBTQ people, from peddling a hateful and damaging ‘right to discriminate bill’ in Indiana … to his long-standing opposition to marriage equality — positions shared by Donald Trump,” HRC president Chad Griffin said last year, when Trump selected Pence as his running mate.
Before the inauguration, while Pence was living in temporary quarters in the D.C. neighborhood of Chevy Chase, several nearby houses displayed gay-pride rainbow flags in protest of Pence’s stance on LGBT rights, and a group of about 200 protesters staged a “Queer Dance Party” in the neighborhood to send a message to the new vice president.
“Dance is so integral to the queer community as a form of self-expression and a form of asserting our power and our beauty and our love for one another,” the protest organizer said. “The idea is to leave a mark that Mike Pence will never forget.”
The Trump administration has not acknowledged June as gay pride month, Newsweek reported. Pride month commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, a pivotal moment seen by many in the LGBT community as the beginning of the gay rights movement.
Talbert — a 47-year-old North Carolina native — said he was one of about 50 people who attended the first pride parade in Charlotte in 1994. He recalled that Christian demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at the marchers and that someone spit in his face. More than two decades later, he said, the discrimination continues — but this time it’s being directed at him by the gay community.
Talbert said he feels betrayed because it shouldn’t matter who you vote for.
“I want them to realize that they’re doing the exact same thing they say bigoted people are doing to them — they’re the oppressors now,” he said. “It’s disgusting, and every gay person in America should feel ashamed.”