Diversity and ARC Ohio groups denied entry to parade
Kettering, Ohio--For the second year in a row, an LGBT organization was denied entry into the Holiday at Home parade in this Dayton suburb.
This year, a nationally-recognized HIV prevention program was also barred from marching in the Labor Day parade.
Diversity Dayton and the AIDS Resource Center Ohio�s Mu Crew both saw their applications to join in the festivities rejected by parade committee.
The Mu Crew, an offshoot of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention�s Mpowerment program, is an HIV prevention and education program that targets young gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning men.
The Mu Crew was recognized by Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin for their efforts in the area.
Mu Crew coordinator Andrew Hyde said that Holiday at Home, the private group that sponsors the parade and celebration, rejected them about a week before the event.
�The letter we received stated that our group was too political and too closely linked to a �hot-button� issue,� Hyde said.
�The Mu Crew is not politically affiliated,� he insisted, noting that the group �marched in the Martin Luther King Day parade to teach guys that it�s good to be involved and be proud of your community.�
�For us to be denied because we are too political or too linked to a �hot-button� issue was a great disappointment,� Hyde noted. �I feel that if there is any really obvious discrimination, this was it.�
After receiving his rejection letter, Hyde contacted Kathy Lewis, the parade coordinator, to question the denial.
He said that Lewis told him she could not find any proof of the Mu Crew�s community service on their website, despite the fact that there was no requirement on the entry application that there be such proof.
He offered to copy the commendation from McLin and send it to her, at which point she told him that she also could find no evidence on the website that the Mu Crew was a program of ARC Ohio. He pointed her to the appropriate links.
�The reasons she gave me over the phone as to why we were denied correlated not at all with the letter we received,� he explained.
�At that point, Kathy Lewis raised her voice and said, �Don�t make this a gay or straight thing,� � he recounted. �I told her, �I never mentioned gay or straight, I just wanted to know what was the hot-button issue you mentioned in your letter to us.� �
Holiday at Home organizers did not return a phone call by press time.
Last year�s rejection led to a group of Diversity Dayton members joining spectators at the parade, carrying a banner identifying the group.
The Dayton Daily News ran an editorial last year supporting Diversity Dayton, and Kettering Mayor Marilou Smith gave the group a thumbs-up when she passed them in the parade.
Kettering civil rights commissioner Bill Meers wore a T-shirt saying �Celebrate Diversity� and handed out 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.�
Meers told McKay that he invited parade committee members to attend civil rights commission meetings after last year�s parade, but none of them ever showed up.
�That shows more than anything that they know what they�re doing, they just don�t expect us to know what they�re doing and have all their excuses covered,� McKay said.
This year, Diversity Dayton members, joined by a few Mu Crewers, returned to the spectators� area to show their presence.
Hyde and McKay both hope that people will contact sponsors of the parade, listed at www.holidayathome.org, and urge them to push for full community inclusion in next year�s event. The first sponsor listed is the city of Kettering.
�I will continue to try to get my group involved in as much as we can in the community, so I will apply again next year,� Hyde noted. �I think a lot of the sponsors of this event will second-guess their sponsorship, knowing that this event is very blatantly discriminating against people.�
�Obviously, Diversity Dayton is going to be having another strategy meeting to look at this issue,� McKay said. �Two years in a row we�ve been denied. We know why, but the parade committee has their own excuses.�
He believes that marching in other parades might allow Diversity Dayton to put more positive pressure on Holiday at Home. He plans to apply for the Centerville Fourth of July parade, among others.