Originally published: March 13, 2014, 12:17 p.m.
Updated: March 13, 2014, 5:24 p.m.
UPDATE (March 15, 2014): LGBT band allowed to march openly on Saturday, but parade organizers still fund Knights of Columbus
UPDATE (March 14, 2014): Charlotte LGBT leaders release joint statement asking for change in St. Patrick’s Day policies/practices, asking Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray to withdraw as parade grand marshal
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A portion of proceeds from this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Charlotte Goes Green Festival will be given to a Catholic fraternal organization that has a history of anti-LGBT advocacy efforts. Organizers of the parade are refusing to comment on the connection to the anti-gay group.
The Charlotte St. Patrick’s Day Parade Foundation and its related DyerHart Productions present the annual events in Uptown Charlotte each year, sponsored in part by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) and its related Charlotte’s Got A Lot visitors web portal.
On Wednesday, qnotes published a commentary detailing the parade’s anti-LGBT policies forbidding rainbow flags and their past censoring of the words “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” from LGBT groups’ marching contingent biographies.
But, the parade and festival also throw financial support toward the Knights of Columbus, a national Catholic fraternal organization that has reportedly spent as much as $15.8 million on anti-LGBT causes from 2005 through 2012, according to an October 2012 report from Equally Blessed, a national organization of Catholics committed to “full equality for LGBT people in the church and civil society.”
On Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day Parade Foundation board member Frank Hart refused to comment on the connection to the Knights of Columbus, accusing qnotes of distortion.
“I’ve seen everybody talking about being excluded but I’m still waiting to find out who that person is,” Hart said. “Nobody’s been excluded. All of this is a bunch of stuff to get you publicity. I’m not going to help you in that department anymore.”
Hart has yet to say whether the parade will change its policies and has not commented on the group’s connection to the Knights of Columbus.
CRVA Director of Communications Laura Hill said her group’s sponsorship of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was “nominal,” about $1,000 last year. Additionally, CRVA has changed the way it handles event sponsorship. They no longer give cash, she said, but support events through marketing and promotions.
Events like Charlotte’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration help promote the city as a destination, Hill said. CRVA supports a wide range of events throughout the year.
“We tend to look at a lot of different events that come to us for that kind of support,” Hill said. “Everything from Speed Street, [St. Patrick’s Day], Taste of Charlotte, you name it. We’re looking at events that promote the destination as a whole. … Our destination plan speaks to all that Charlotte has to offer, whether it’s a special event, an attraction or a restaurant. That’s what we’re marketing to at the end of the day.”
Hill wasn’t aware of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s policies or their connection to the Knights of Columbus.
“I’ll definitely take the concern back to my organization,” Hill said. “We obviously support the LGBT community and realize it’s an avid travel audience, but we also want to support events in Charlotte that are tourism draws and St. Patrick’s Day is one of them.”
Hill said she’ll be discussing the issue with her colleagues at CRVA and following up with qnotes.
CRVA’s CEO, Tom Murray, is serving as the parade’s grand marshal.
Knights: $15.8 million opposed to LGBT equality
The funds spent by the national Knights group and some local affiliates include some $6.25 million in direct support of anti-LGBT marriage campaigns seeking to prohibit same-sex marriages in several states across the country, including California, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, Washington, Maryland and Maine.
In 2008 alone, the Knights spent $2.3 million against LGBT marriage equality, including a $1.1 million contribution to California’s Proposition 8 effort and a $500,000 contribution to the National Organization for Marriage.
In 2009, the Knights followed up with an additional $1.4 million contribution to the National Organization for Marriage. The national group has been the primary proponent of anti-LGBT marriage laws and other efforts across the country, including in North Carolina, where it contributed $427,590 to the anti-LGBT NC4Marriage campaign.
In addition, the Knights spent another $9.6 million in contributions to a variety of conservative religious groups that often engage in anti-LGBT advocacy efforts. The top recipient was the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which exists to train theologians according to anti-LGBT doctrines on marriage and family. Another group, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, received the second-highest total contributions. The Becket Fund is a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that specializes in defending religious groups. The law firm has defended so-called “religious liberty” cases in which groups have attempted to avoid LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination laws.
qnotes has also reached out to the Charlotte Pride Band, an LGBT and ally band which will march in the parade this weekend, as well as other LGBT groups like the Charlotte Royals Rugby Football Team and Charlotte Pride, both of which have marched in past St. Patrick’s Day events.