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Seeking better treatment for PFLAG in parade

This letter was sent to all members of Salisbury City Council on Feb. 28, 2018:

Many members of our group have wonderful memories of the Holiday Caravan Parade. We’ve been parents of children who marched or rode floats. We’ve been spectators, cheering along the sidewalk as all the best facets of our city and county proudly march past. However, for us and a large number of other citizens, a dark cloud covered the parade in November 2017.

Salisbury-Rowan PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) was invited by AVITA Pharmacy to accompany them on their float. AVITA emailed the parade organization, Holiday Caravan Parade Inc., to inform them in advance of the event.

On the day of the parade, as the floats were lining up to begin, these parents, friends and children were pulled from their float. This occurred in full view of the other floats, using police officers. The reason for this humiliation was their dress. They were told the rainbow design of their attire (hats, flags, leis, Salisbury Rowan PFLAG t-shirts) was in violation of the parade agreement and that they could ride if these were removed. The riders complied; however, the offer was rescinded, and they were asked to leave.

We are fully aware that the Holiday Caravan Parade is a non-profit, private organization, and are within their rights to discriminate against participants they feel do not represent their personal values. Wesley Perry, parade organizer, said as much in his email to the Salisbury Post: “We also have the same ‘rights’ to decline participation at our events from any group or organization which does not reflect the mission, vision and values of our organization.” We can only assume this is the reason Salisbury Pride and Salisbury Rowan PFLAG have had their applications declined in 2014 and 2015, with no explanation.

We are also fully aware that the parade is assisted by Salisbury’s taxpayers, who include the people publicly demeaned in November. Public records show that the city spent close to $9,000 providing various staff and equipment for the event. The $200 permit fee was waived. This is in addition to the $200-$650 entry fees the organization receives from the 120 floats that participated.

The citizens of Salisbury have elected a compassionate, progressive council to serve our interests. This council has shown its desire to advocate for all constituents, so we ask that you now step up for those in the LGBTQI community.

We ask the City Council to publicly denounce the humiliating treatment of the members of Salisbury Rowan PFLAG during last year’s parade, and to request that Holiday Caravan Parade Inc. change this discriminatory practice on or before April 1, 2018, and allow Salisbury Rowan PFLAG and Salisbury Pride to participate. If they refuse, we ask the City Council to deny the permit for future parades until they agree to abide by the city’s inclusive policies.

Groups such as Salisbury Rowan PFLAG and Salisbury Pride are an asset to our community, and including them in the long tradition of the Holiday Caravan Parade will show our citizens that Salisbury truly values all people who make up the rainbow of our community.

The letter is signed by PFLAG members Mike Clawson and Donna Odrosky, and Salisbury Indivisible members Karen Frazer, Jenni Pfaff and Renee Wimbish MacNutt.

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