Catonsville's shameful parade

June 30, 1994

If the Catonsville Celebrations Committee ruled that an orderly and respectable group of people could not march in the local Fourth of July parade expressly because they were homosexual, that would be shameful enough.

But when the celebrations committee says the Gay and Lesbian Veterans of Maryland cannot participate in next Monday's parade on Frederick Avenue because of their sexual orientation, the panel commits an even greater disgrace by displaying such ingratitude -- laced with bigotry -- toward former service men and women who were willing to risk their lives for their fellow citizens, including all the good citizens of Catonsville.

This is not the first time that the veterans have been denied a chance to march in the Catonsville parade.

Two years ago, armed with a new Baltimore County law that effectively granted control of parades to their organizers, the committee barred the gay and lesbian vets.

Last year, a new committee bylaw stated that any group wishing to join the parade had to be sponsored by a committee member. Of course, no one on the committee, which has never hidden its disapproval of homosexuality, would back the veterans. So they were excluded once more.

This summer, after a controversy over the parade permit that ended with the committee again running the event, the veterans are being shut out for the third year in a row.

The committee appeared to make a concession by saying the vets could march under a Veterans of Foreign Wars banner, rather than the sign bearing the name of the local gay and lesbian veterans organization. This latter banner was not permissible, the committee explained, for it would violate the prohibition against "political statements" during the parade. Really? Is the committee also saying that the singing of patriotic songs and the convoy of office-seeking candidates waving from convertibles will likewise be forbidden at the Catonsville event?

Sarcastic questions aside, it is painfully obvious that the parade committee does not want the gay and lesbian vets to march because -- and only because -- they are homosexual. Catonsville might be proudly conservative, but this exclusion of the veterans group goes far beyond the reasonable bounds of political ideology. It is ungrateful, it is deplorable and it shows how little the members of the parade committee understand the concepts of equality and freedom that are honored on Independence Day.


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