Members of Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network are being excluded from marching Saturday in Cincinnati's St. Patrick's Day parade, but an out elected official — City Councilman Chris Seelbach — has their back.
GLSEN had informed the councilman that their request to participate in the parade was declined by one of the parade's organizers, Chris Schulte, specifically because "it's their parade, it's an Irish Catholic parade and we don't want any members of the gay and lesbian community to be affiliated."
Josh Wagoner, GLSEN's Greater Cincinnati co-chair, said in a statement Friday, "We are horrified by the message this sends to LGBT youth, who suffer constant bullying and discrimination, that they are not welcome in Cincinnati."
Seelbach spoke with BuzzFeed Friday afternoon about the situation.
"I'm the first openly gay elected person in Cincinnati. The city helps fund the parade and we have a clear non-discrimination policy. And so, to hear that an organization was going to exclude a group, merely because they are affiliated with a lesbian and gay organization and the prevention of bullying? I was very disappointed," he said.
"I spoke with the leaders of the group this morning, I tried to find a common ground and prevent any controversy. They made it clear they would not allow any lesbian and gay-affiliated groups to walk in the parade. As a result I cannot participate in the parade willingly."
At that point, he took to Twitter — and soon had other council members joining him in withdrawing from the parade:
GLSEN's Wagoner said, "Our goal is to participate in this year's parade and to have our students feel like part of their community. GLSEN Greater Cincinnati partakes in local events of all kinds to ensure that students, parents and educators are aware of the GLSEN programming available to them and to gain insight on how we can best serve the needs of our community. Everywhere we go, we encounter parents and youth who need our support. Our visible participation makes a difference."
According to The Catholic Beat, the 2013 sponsors of the parade are Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions; The Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick Foundation; Guinness; Killians; Greater Cincinnati AOH and LAOH.