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April 19, 2013

Cincinnati bars city funding from discriminating parades

Cincinnati--The city will not fund any parade that does not abide by municipal anti-discrimination ordinances following a unanimous council vote on April 3.

The measure, brought forward by Cincinnati’s first openly gay councilor, Chris Seelbach, came in response to the exclusion of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network from the St. Patrick’s Day parade last month.

It does not require parades to permit LGBT groups to march, nor anyone else, but it does not allow city funds to be used on parades that did not allow any of the groups listed in the city’s 2006 human rights ordinance.

Next year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers will have to pay for the $9,000 in free police services they received this year, if they choose not to comply with the human rights ordinance.

Cincinnati has four events that get some city funding. In addition to the St. Patrick’s festivities, they are the Opening Day parade, the Juneteenth festival and the Black Family Reunion.

GLSEN organizers were told last month they were not going to be allowed to march in the March 16 parade, nor were their youth leaders. The group advocates for safe-school programs and legislation.

The reason for the ban varies, depending on who is talking. Parade organizers alternately said that GLSEN failed to turn in their applications on time to participate, or that they could not participate because the parade does not allow promotion of political parties, social movements or causes, despite the presence of political groups, politicians and unions.

Seelbach’s office, however, said they were told that it was an Irish Catholic parade that didn’t want LGBT people involved.

Television anchor Nick Clooney almost pulled out of his role as honorary grand marshal. He decided to remain in his position, but made it clear to news outlets in the city that he was opposed to anti-gay discrimination.

The only Democratic member of city council to attend the parade was Laure Quinlivan, who walked next to a banner supporting marriage equality. Others, like Seelbach and vice mayor Roxanne Qualls, stayed out of the parade.

They were joined by Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48, who issued a statement on their Facebook page noting that the union’s constitution and contracts outline “our stance on discrimination. Unfortuantely the St. Patrick’s Day committee made a decision that does not coincide. Our hope is that the committee will reconsider their position on inclusion and Local 48 will be able to participate in [the] event next year.”

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City has long courted controversy by refusing to allow Irish-American LGBT organizations to march in their parade.

Boston faced a similar problem with the parade organized by the Allied War Veterans Council. In 1994, the Massachusetts Supreme Court told the organization to stop denying entry into the parade to LGBT groups; the council instead decided to not have the parade the following March.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled a year later that such parades are a form of protected First Amendment expression, and the Allied War Veterans Council went back to holding the parade. A second, LGBT-inclusive parade, organized by Veterans for Peace, follows immediately afterwards along the same route.

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