Philadelphia homosexual activists say they will seek a court order to prevent protesters from attending their “pride” events in the future.
But organizers from Repent America, a Philadelphia-based Christian organization, say they will attend the events, even if it means defying a court order and getting arrested.
“We do what God is calling us to do,” Michael Marcavage told the Philadelphia Gay News last week. “If it means breaking the law, we do that.”
Philly Pride Presents stages the annual OutFest street festival in October, and the annual LGBT Pride Parade and Festival in June.
Dan Anders, an attorney for the group, says he plans to seek a court order banning Marcavage and other protesters from participating in those events.
Without such an order, city officials won’t prevent Repent America members from going inside the permitted site of OutFest, scheduled for Oct. 10.
Anders said organizers are within their rights to exercise control over “expressive conduct” at pride events, even if it means banning protesters from the permitted sites.
But Marcavage says his group is determined to participate in OutFest and next year’s LGBT Pride Parade and Festival, despite the objections of organizers.
“We’re reasonable and approachable, and desire to talk to people,” Marcavage told the paper. “We want to convey our message in an orderly and loving manner.”
Fran Price, community liaison for Philly Pride Presents, said it’s necessary to ban Marcavage and other protesters, because they’re a threat to public safety.
“People are tired of seeing them at our events, and it’s becoming a safety issue,” Price said. “They [protesters] are trying to incite a riot. Young people, especially, aren’t used to them. They go there to have a great time. They don’t want that [protests].”
Marcavage also said it’s wrong to ban his group because Philly Pride Presents receives direct funding from the city.
“If they choose to be a private group, they shouldn’t be receiving public funding,” Marcavage said.
He said Repent America members pay city taxes, and deserve better treatment at pride events, even if some participants are annoyed by their presence.
Price said Philly Pride Presents receives about $22,500 annually in city grants to support its events. She said the city funding shouldn’t deter officials from banning protesters from pride events.
Anders had no comment on the funding issue.
Price also said it was wrong for Philadelphia police to allow Marcavage and other protesters to march in the June 13 pride parade for about two and a half blocks.
Donna Narducci, executive director of the Atlanta Pride Committee, which stages Atlanta’s annual LGBT Parade and Festival, expressed support for Philly Pride Presents.
“I totally sympathize with everyone up there in Philadelphia,” she said. “We’re facing those same issues down here. The very presence of the protesters is offensive, but you can’t arrest anyone simply for being offensive. So we just try [to] tolerate them. We do what we can to intervene when we get complaints. But intervention is not anything more than just asking the protesters to move along.”
Barbara Grant, a spokeswoman for Mayor John F. Street, said the rights of protesters also must be protected at gay-related events.
“The Constitution gives everybody the right to free speech,” she told the paper. “I know it’s a pain in the neck. But you would have a right to protest at one of their events. We couldn’t stop you. If they’re breaking the law – that’s one thing. But I just don’t think we have a strong legal leg to stand on – to ban them outright from a function.”