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March 22, 2013

Cincinnati officials skip St. Patrick’s parade after organizers bar GLSEN

Cincinnati--Echoing exclusions of LGBT organizations in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York that have marred it for decades, the Cincinnati St. Patrick’s Day Parade rejected the city’s chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network from marching, along with its youth leaders.

“The reason? We ‘have gay and lesbian in [our] name,’ ” chapter community initiatives manager Ricardo Martinez said in a March 15 release.

“Thankfully, the community is rallying around our chapter,” he continued. “Councilmembers Chris Seelbach, Roxanne Qualls, Wendell Young, Yvette Simpson and Greg Landsman have announced they will not participate because of the decision.”

The parade nearly lost its honorary grand marshal, former television news anchor Nick Clooney. He weighed statements from GLSEN and from grand marshal Chris Shulte, who said that the group was denied a place in the parade because he did not want any political activism in it, and that GLSEN would not agree to forego political solicitations.

Another representative of the parade said that GLSEN had not applied to participate before the deadline for applications.

While organizers claim that the denial of a place in the parade for GLSEN has nothing to do with anti-gay sentiments, they repeatedly made mention of the “patron saint of Ireland,” and a Seelbach representative told WLWT Channel 5 that he was told organizers consider the parade a Catholic event.

Seelbach pointed out, however, that the city helps fund the parade, and it will not tolerate discrimination.

He is Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member.

“I strongly support inclusion of all members of our community who want to participate in events like this,” Vice Mayor Qualls said in a statement. “Cincinnati voters demonstrated their strong support for inclusion for our local GLBT community when they repealed Article 12, the anti-gay charter amendment, in 2004.”

“I remain hopeful that parade organizers demonstrate that they share the value of inclusion of all Cincinnatians and let GLSEN march to share their message of anti-discrimination. Although my campaign is registered to march . . . unless GLSEN is allowed to participate, we will not march,” she concluded.

Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48 also pulled out of the parade because of the exclusion of GLSEN.

President Matt Alter issued a statement on the union’s Facebook page. “Local 48 will not be participating in tomorrow’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The IAFF and Local 48 constitution’s and the Local 48 contract outlines our stance on discrimination. Unfortunately 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.”

He concludes, “We encourage members and their families to join us on April 1, 2013 for the Opening Day parade where all people are welcome.”

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