This Saturday will be the first gay pride festival in the Quad-Cities, but organizers have encountered some hurdles in their effort to get some cities to issue proclamations for the day.
In Bettendorf, a proclamation honoring diversity was issued but with no mention of gays and lesbians.
East Moline’s mayor refused to even bring it forward, citing differences with a sponsor, according to festival organizers.
And the Davenport City Council approved the measure Wednesday but two aldermen voted against it.
Organizers of the festival point out they’ve been successful at getting their proclamations approved by the governors of Iowa and Illinois, as well as the cities of Rock Island, Moline, Milan and Davenport. And they say they won’t let objections over the proclamations have an impact on the
“We’re not going to let anyone spoil the party,” said Jane I. Duax of Davenport, who’s
on the committee organizing the festival, which is being
held at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.
The measure submitted to the http://www.bettendorf.lib.ia.us/">City of Bettendorf sought to recognize the “humanity and dignity” of the area’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, as well as their “contributions to the stability and development of this region.”
But last week, Mayor
Mike Freemire instead read a proclamation recognizing the “diversity of its people,” saying “that diversity should be respected and all people be given the opportunity to enjoy their lives in peace.”
It did not specifically mention gays and lesbians.
Proclamations in Bettendorf fall under the mayor’s discretion.
Freemire said at the council meeting while it was presented by festival organizers, “it occurred to me that it really is a great time to recognize not just one group but all people’s human worth and dignity.”
Organizers objected, and Rich Hendricks, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad-Cities, declined to accept the revised proclamation.
He told the council it’s good to recognize human dignity, but the contributions of gays and lesbians should be acknowledged. He declined to comment Wednesday.
“We want to be recognized as a worthwhile, contributing part of the community,” Duax said.
She said city councils frequently approve proclamations honoring individual groups, such as the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
She said she believes the mayor changed the measure because he is “homophobic.”
Freemire, who opposed an ordinance four years ago to add gays and lesbians to an anti-discrimination ordinance, said in an interview that changing the wording on proclamations is not unusual.
He said this one puts gays and lesbians above other groups.
“To say I’m going to elevate any one group regardless of who they are above any other group, I will not do,” Freemire said.
He also objected to the claim he’s homophobic.
“I don’t find that to be tolerant,” he said.
Davenport aldermen Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward, and Shawn Hamerlinck, 2nd Ward voted against the proclamation. The pair also voted against a measure allowing pride festival organizers to transfer their beer sale permit from LeClaire Park to the fairgrounds, a move made necessary by recent flooding.
Hamerlinck said he objected to the proclamation because the city is not allowed to inquire about sexual orientation when conducting job interviews.
“I’m not for or against it, but I don’t believe it is government’s business to even be asking (about sexual orientation),” he said. In addition, Hamerlinck said he supported the pride festival’s plans on the riverfront, but voted against the move to the fairgrounds because the recently relocated Sturgis on the River event — also held there due to flooding — disrupted the residential neighborhood and generated complaints.
Ambrose opposed the gay pride festival being held anywhere on city property. At the June 12 City Council meeting, he said he didn’t understand why “that group” wouldn’t hold its event in “their own district” rather than on public property.
In East Moline, Mayor John Thodos refused to consider the proclamation, Hendricks said. He said the mayor told him it was because of differences with one of the sponsors of the festival, Progressive Action for the Common Good of the Quad-Cities, over its opposition to the Triumph hog processing plant to be built in the city.
He said he had no reason to believe otherwise.
Thodos could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Ed Tibbetts can be contacted at (563) 383-2327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.