UPDATE (March 15, 2014): LGBT band allowed to march openly on Saturday, but parade organizers still fund Knights of Columbus

The following is a joint statement released today by several leaders of the Charlotte LGBT community. qnotes‘ publisher, Jim Yarbrough, and editor, Matt Comer, are signatories. For more information see this fact sheet or the qnotes update published yesterday or this commentary published Wednesday. Additionally, Charlotte Pride Band has issued a statement, as well; the LGBT band will march in the parade tomorrow.

Local LGBT leaders call for changes to anti-LGBT policies and funding at St. Patrick’s Day Parade, ask Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO to withdraw as grand marshal

A member of the Knights of Columbus in a past Charlotte St. Patrick's Day Parade.
A member of the Knights of Columbus in a past Charlotte St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Photo Credit: James Willamor, via Flickr. Licensed CC.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Several leaders of Charlotte’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are today calling for significant policy changes and an end to anti-LGBT funding by Charlotte’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, planned for tomorrow, Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Uptown Charlotte. Additionally, the leaders are calling on Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) CEO Tom Murray to withdraw as the parade’s grand marshal and stop his organization’s future support of the event until changes are made.

The Charlotte St. Patrick’s Day Parade Foundation currently bans rainbow flags when used by LGBT groups marching in their parade. In the past, organizers have also stripped out the words “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” from the descriptions of groups marching in the parade, as read by emcees during the event.

The undersigned leaders are encouraged that St. Patrick’s Day organizers have never forcefully excluded LGBT marching contingents and are hopeful they will make immediate changes to their practices at their parade tomorrow.

But, the leaders note with great concern that a portion of the proceeds from the parade and/or festival will benefit the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization that spent $15.8 million on anti-LGBT marriage campaigns and other anti-LGBT causes from 2005-2012, according to a report from Equally Blessed, a national organization of LGBT Catholics.

The undersigned leaders are publicly calling upon St. Patrick’s Day event organizers to change their policies and immediately halt all funding of the Knights of Columbus. The national Knights group was one of the largest contributors to the National Organization for Marriage, whose president has compared gays to pedophiles and whose nearly $500,000 contribution in 2012 was the single largest contribution received by proponents of North Carolina’s anti-gay constitutional amendment.

Furthermore, the undersigned leaders call on CRVA CEO Tom Murray to withdraw as the parade’s grand marshal and halt his organization’s support of the St. Patrick’s Day events until these changes are made and publicly communicated. There is no reason why the CRVA, partly funded by taxpayer dollars, should associate itself with an event that funds an organization known for anti-LGBT advocacy that seeks to strip LGBT North Carolinians and Americans of their rights and dignity.

The undersigned leaders also note the similarity between Charlotte’s St. Patrick’s Day policies and those of similar events in Boston and New York City, where LGBT people, including in the past an Irish LGBT group, have also been told they cannot march or participate openly or with the flag which represents their community and identity.

Charlotte deserves civic events and governmental agencies that will welcome all of the Queen City’s residents and citizens openly, equally and with dignity.

Signed,

Scott Bishop
Chair, Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee

Matt Comer
Editor, QNotes

Janice Covington
Chair, 12th Congressional District, LGBT Democrats of North Carolina
Chair, 29th Precinct, Charlotte, N.C.

Sarah Demarest
Attorney

Anthony Dondero
President, UNCC Trans* Port

Tommy Feldman
Editor, Charlotte Pocket Rocket Guide

Ann Gonzales
Director, Charlotte Business Guild

Chris Gray
Member, LGBT Community Center of Charlotte Board Trustees

Glenn Griffin
Operations Director, LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

Richard Grimstad
Co-Director, Charlotte Pride

Mel Hartsell, MSW

Jamie Hildreth
Member, Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee
Development Chair, Charlotte Pride

Jonathan Hill
Entertainment Chair, Charlotte Pride

Craig Hopkins
Co-Director, Charlotte Pride

Laura Maschal
LGBT Community Activist

Chad Sevearance
President, Charlotte Business Guild

Rodney Tucker
Executive Director, Time Out Youth

Nate Turner
Community Liaison, Charlotte Black Gay Pride

Natasha W. Tutt
Vice President, Charlotte Business Guild

Connie Vetter
Attorney

Dave Webb
Parade Chair, Charlotte Pride

Lacey Williams
LGBT Community Organizer

Shane Windmeyer
Executive Director, Campus Pride

Mark Wisniewski
Publisher, Visit Gay Charlotte

Jim Yarbrough
Publisher, QNotes

Lee Ziglar
President, UNCC Spectrum

Signatories as of 12:30 p.m. on Friday, 3/14/14. If you wish to sign onto this letter, please contact Matt Comer at editor@goqnotes.com or 704-625-6449.