Monday, June 9, 2008

IDAHO: EVEN GAY PARADE FLOATS ARE A PROBLEM

NATE POPPINO TIMES-NEWS, IDAHO Controversial float provokes limited reaction in Western Days parade The float was approved. The parade was held. And the Southern Idaho Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Community Center's entry into the 27th annual Western Days parade caused barely a ripple in the crowds who gathered to watch the event.

That, center spokesman Mitch Silvester said, was because no one knew who the controversial float belonged to. Rejected last year, it was allowed this year under what center representatives called "fairly ridiculous" restrictions, including no rainbows and no promotions or references to homosexuality, including T-shirts or fliers.

Silvester said that another reported requirement - shortening the group's name to the Southern Idaho Community Center - was actually a typo the group made when it applied. But speaking to several media representatives after the parade, with another center member waving an American flag in the background, he blamed the name change as one reason no one recognized the group.

Another, he said, was the restrictions, which resulted in a float bearing a cowboy-and-Indian diorama, signs such as "Who pays for school supplies?" and a giant question mark in the middle of it. Asked whether people understood the question mark, he said he wasn't sure.

"That's the question," he said.

The float seemed to produce little response from parade-goers, even when the group's name was announced as it passed City Park. At one point, attendees seemed to pay more attention to Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Larry LaRocco, who had fallen behind his own red convertible in the course of courting voters on foot.

The most vocal group may have been a handful of high-school students set up a few blocks earlier with signs and T-shirts in support of the group. As the parade wrapped up around noon, the students said they received a few "death glares" but overall felt their morning had been a success, highlighting how unfairly they thought the center had been treated.

"It was good for our first protest, I think," Alisha Neal said.

Nearby parade-goers willing to give their names seemed to support the float, or at least have no strong feelings against it.

"They can do whatever they want, long as they keep it away from me," said Twin Falls resident Stacy Randell.

Silvester said the center plans to submit for a float again next year, and that he hopes to sit down with someone from the event's board well in advance to work out any problems before they occur. Lisa Cuellar, chairwoman of the Western Days board, said she was happy with the outcome and wouldn't have a problem with the group next year as long as they followed the same requirements - no rainbows, and nothing making it obvious who they are.

"That's all we would ask of them next year," she said.

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