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Outrage around proposed Modesto ‘straight pride parade’

Hannah Knowles, The Washington Post Thursday, July 25, 2019

An application to hold the event later this summer has thrust Modesto into a national debate over "straight pride," as a similar event that started out as a joking skewer of liberal "identity politics" heads toward reality in Boston.  Photo: DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The event is billed as a “straight pride parade,” but it’s not just about heterosexuality.

A flier for the celebration posted online describes an amalgamation of conservative rallying cries: Christianity, Western civilization, “babies — born and unborn” and more.

An application to hold the event later this summer has thrust a California city into a national debate over “straight pride,” as a similar event that started out as a joking skewer of liberal “identity politics” heads toward reality in Boston. Last month, Boston approved the permit application and route of an August straight-pride parade that many called a mockery of gay activism. Organizers insisted they “don’t hate anyone” and are trying to draw attention to “heterophobia.”

The city of Modesto, California, says its decision on whether the parade can be held Aug. 24 in Graceada Park hinges on logistics and not the organizers’ views, spokesman Thomas Reeves told the Los Angeles Times.

“So although the city does not share in the beliefs of some groups that choose to hold their events here, we may not be able to deny a permit based on an organization’s values,” Reeves said. The Central Valley city is looking at “operational feasibility.”

But the values behind the parade are precisely what Modesto community members are fighting over.

Behind the event is San Leandro chiropractor and herbalist Don Grundmann, who chairs the non-ballot-qualified Constitution Party of California, the Los Angeles Times reports. The organization, which says on its website that it believes in “individual liberty and limited government,” works against such policies as mandatory vaccination and a halt in state executions.

Grundmann also directs a National Straight Pride Coalition that supports the Modesto parade, though the group now has a presence only in California, he told the Times. Grundmann said the event’s mix of causes is meant to celebrate “everything that made our country great.”

“Essentially it boils down to two religious views of the world,” Grundmann told a local CBS station. “One is Christianity, which is represented by heterosexuality, a culture of life, and its opponent is the LGBT movement, which is represented by an opposing religion and an opposing view of life.”

The group Modesto Progressive Democrats derided “straight pride” as responding to discrimination that does not exist.

“Have you ever been fired from a job for being straight?” the group said on its Facebook page. “Have you been banned from the USA for being Christian? No? That’s because it’s Straight pride day EVERY DAY.”

Critics of the Modesto event say “straight pride” is an excuse to promote homophobic views.

While Grundmann has framed the planned parade as an affirmation of traditional values, he also has attacked the gay community, claiming on what appears to be his Facebook page that members of the “Homosexual/Sodomy Movement” are likely “lying about any death threats to them” despite documented cases of intimidation and violence against gay people. This week, a Russian LGBTQ rights activist was found dead after her name appeared on a Web game in which players simulate hunting down and torturing gay people.

The Washington Post has contacted Grundmann and the city of Modesto.

Modesto community members reportedly have deluged City Hall with opinions on the event. Dismayed opponents of Grundmann’s parade are organizing a counterprotest in nearby Enslen Park should the straight pride celebration move forward.

“People are shocked and blown away that this kind of event could happen in our community,” the Modesto Progressive Democrats’ president, Chris Ricci, told the Times.

City Council member Kristi Ah You told CBS Sacramento that she would not allow the event if it were her decision.

“I don’t think we need to give a permit for anything that when you go to the page it talks about whiteness, it talks about western civilization, it talks about being Caucasian,” she said. “That’s all hate crime stuff to me; that’s not OK.”

Ah You said she hopes the event stays low-profile, adding that she thinks it might attract only a handful of people. Grundmann says he has core supporters lined up to attend. But the parade application has already drawn a torrent of attention.

“We’ve been getting letters, emails, comments, and phone calls all day about it,” the Council member said.

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