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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 9, 2005

Kettering parade protest boosts Diversity Dayton

Kettering, Ohio--A young LGBT equal rights group got a boost over its protest of a suburban Dayton Labor Day parade off limits to them.

Diversity Dayton, a group that was organized online to promote diversity and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, was told by organizers of the Holiday at Home parade that they were too political, too controversial and too gay to have a float or march as a unit.

The parade is produced by the Kettering Holiday at Home Foundation, a non-profit corporation of volunteers that organizes the community�s Labor Day weekend festivities. The city of Kettering buys a sponsorship and city officials participate, but it is not a function of city government.

Ten Diversity Dayton members staged a quiet protest after being told by organizers, �Our primary concern is that Diversity Dayton is made up [of] people in the gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. community.�

�We believe your entry�s subject matter is tied too closely to �hot button� issues in the political arena,� wrote the parade�s coordinator in a letter rejecting the application.

Diversity Dayton organizer R.J. McKay said the protesters sat along the parade route near the grandstand, behind a banner that said �Diversity Dayton.� This made them easily recognizable as protesters, given press coverage of the matter, including a Dayton Daily News editorial supporting them.

McKay said spectators offered them support and Kettering mayor Marilou Smith gave the group a �thumbs up� when she rode past.

Vice mayor Peggy Lehner stopped by the group to tell them she thought they should have been in the parade, McKay added.

The city�s civil rights commissioner Bill Meers wore a T-shirt saying �Celebrate Diversity� and handed out half-page printed flyers saying, �I am concerned that our neighbors and friends may have gotten the wrong impression that Kettering is not a welcoming community. Many others in Kettering join me in reaching out to those who are gay.�

�I want to let them know that there are many good people in Kettering working to make this a community in which racism and bigotry have no place. All good people--gay or straight, black or white--are welcome in Kettering. Those who believe in human rights must speak out and not leave our gay friends with the impression that Kettering is not a welcoming community.�

McKay said that after the group moved to an area where the banner was more visible to media, a volunteer parade marshal approached them and asked them to take it down.

�I asked him, �Are you asking me or telling me?� � said McKay, � �Because I asked to be in the parade and was told no, so if you are just asking, I�m not going to do it.� �

The marshal left, but three police officers on bicycles pulled up and watched the group for the rest of the parade, according to McKay.

McKay said the attention and the protest were �a positive for the LGBT community.�

McKay said he doesn�t know why the city officials didn�t try to sway the parade organizers, but appreciated their support at the event.

�Next year we are going to re-apply,� said McKay, �and we will do it earlier and make a bigger push since I have seen the support we did have.�

McKay said they will involve the event�s sponsors in future protests. Those include National City Bank, Dorothy Lane Markets, Tannenberg Kennels and Clear Channel Radio.

�But right now, [Diversity Dayton] is moving on to other things,� said McKay. �We are looking forward to the Equality Homecoming event at the Statehouse October 1, and to fundraising for Equality Ohio here.�

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