The Wausau City Council chamber didn’t have many people left in the audience by the end of last night’s meeting, but I was watching it live on public access as the mayor asked if anyone had anything for the public comment period before adjournment. Alderman David Nutting used the opportunity to launch into a tirade against a gay pride parade scheduled for June 22, for which the city has already approved a permit.
“I represent an overwhelming majority of district 3 residents who oppose allowing a parade of deviant-behaving individuals to be escorted by public law enforcement members through the very heart of our family-oriented city to a beautiful family-oriented public park where no doubt their choice of indecent behavior will be on full display for influential [sic] children and the media to proclaim it worldwide. This isn’t speech. This is behavior. I ask that all residents stay away from the parade or if you do go, stand with your back to the parade of deviant-behaving individuals. I respectfully ask for our various media outlets to pay little or no attention to the parade just as you do to any other parade in this city.”
You can hear audio of his remarks here, in a report from WSAU Radio 55. And if you want to, you can also read through 113 reader comments and counting:
As I listened to Nutting speak, I have to say that coming from a public official, I found his remarks to be incredibly unhelpful, at best. This was not a gaffe. Rather, it was an assault on free speech and an attempt to dictate public policy on the basis of religious beliefs. I was happy to have the opportunity to present an opposing viewpoint in a report on WAOW-TV, which you can see here:
Having a city leader making a bible-thumping speech and encouraging demonstrations of intolerance is damaging to our community. It could well make some people see us as a bunch of narrow-minded rubes.
I have to tell you that I know nothing about the parade sponsor or who will be participating. But this comment was left on the Blue Cheddar blog, indicating that even if the original gay pride event might be lacking in local roots, the discussion it has generated is striking a nerve that may well bring a local show of support, in spite of itself, Alderman Nutting or any homophobe trolls working the web:
“A March for Equality will be on Saturday, June 22nd at 3:00 P.M. This march is not affiliated with the “Pride Parade” on that date. It will commence at Marathon Park, continuing along Stewart Avenue to the 400 block.
The organizer of the Pride Parade, Daxx Bouvier, is not a resident of Central Wisconsin. He has been repeatedly approached by members of the LBGTQ committee and has declined to speak with them. It is in no way a representation of Wausau and our citizens. It may be a display of the more “colorful” aspects of a Pride festival with no real message as to the importance of Equality.
To make sure that the message of equality is prominent, A March for Equality has been established. All those that support the equal treatment of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Community are invited to walk with us during this peaceful protest.
For more information, please join the March for Equality on Facebook or contact Shannon Thomas, organizer of the march, at 715-574-2240, online at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
So while I was sorry to hear the remarks, the pushback may be gratifying enough to make the genesis of the discussion irrelevant, by the time all is said and done. And if all of this should cause some worthy candidate in the light-voting 3rd District to want to offer an alternative vision in next spring’s elections, then perhaps we would find out how the majority really feels about such things, instead of just taking one council member’s word for it.
UPDATE: Gay community organizes equality march amid doubts about gay pride parade (and Nutting walks back his comments a bit):
UPDATE: Is this guy for real? Things seem to be getting curiouser and curiouser with the original gay pride parade organizer:
UPDATE: “The peaceful march had a festive atmosphere, with the diverse group laughing and joking, carrying flags, balloons and signs..”