Our Country, Their Parade

June 26, 1992

Every year on July 4th, Americans celebrate the signing of a document that declared the equality of all people. How sadly ironic that a Catonsville organization has brusquely denied a request by a gay and lesbian veterans group to march in the local Fourth of July parade. The action prompted Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-7th, to cancel his plans to take part in the parade, for which we commend him.

The Catonsville Celebrations Committee, the organizers of the event, explained the decision by saying the presence of the Gay and Lesbian Veterans of Maryland could threaten the safety of spectators and other participants. The committee fears that heckling of the group could touch off a small riot. Funny how the organizers would assume their fellow citizens could produce such ugly behavior.

It's bad enough that these 230 gay and lesbian Marylanders had to conceal central facets of their identities to serve in the armed forces. Of course, some gays and lesbians in the military were not so successful in hiding their sexual preferences, as a new congressional study shows. The report from the General Accounting Office indicates that the Pentagon spent nearly $500 million during the 1980s to recruit replacements for gays and lesbians forced out of the service. The Pentagon says homosexuality is a hindrance to "good order, morale and discipline," though other studies have found that not to be true.

If official attitudes are insulting, then gay and lesbian veterans are further injured when they are barred from marching in a community event that honors other veterans of our country's military.

Notice we said our country. The patriotic folks on the Catonsville Celebrations Committee might do well to keep in mind that the United States has been made great by the contributions of all varieties of individuals and groups.

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