First Homer Pride March is Saturday

Two weeks after a controversial Mayoral Recognition that caused three Homer City Council members to skip the June 11 council meeting, Homer’s first Pride March will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at WKFL Park.

Mayor Bryan Zak intended to recognize Pride Month and the Pride March, but council members Shelly Erickson, Heath Smith and Thomas Stroozas declared themselves absent, causing the meeting to be canceled because of a lack of a quorum. Zak instead read the recognition at an unofficial gathering in the Homer City Hall parking lot before about 75 people.

The three council members said they excused themselves from the June 11 meeting in an attempt to avoid a controversy that came about partly after Alaska Right to Life encouraged people to protest the mayoral recognition. Using a form on the Alaska Right to Life website, 69 people sent emails protesting the recognition. All but four of them were from outside the 99603 zip code, according to a public records request by the Homer News of emails sent to the city. Fifty-nine Homer residents sent personal emails supporting the mayoral recognition while 31 Homer residents sent personal emails opposing it.

“I elected not to attend the meeting last night (June 11) because the mayor’s (recognition) stirred up a consideral amount of controversy,” Stroozas told the Homer News on June 12. “… I didn’t feel like the city should subject itself to a possible confrontation in the council chambers, and that’s what I was trying to prevent.”

So far in 2018, Zak has issued 17 mayoral proclamations noting events like Peace Officers Week, South Peninsula Hospital Healthcare Week, Congenital Heart Defect Week and Municipal Clerks Month. He also has recognized former Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Painter and sworn in new firefighters and emergency medical technicians. Two proclamations are on the agenda for the Monday, June 25, meeting, one declaring July Parks and Recreation Month and another on the Fourth of July Parade. The Pride recognition is not on the agenda, so anyone wishing to speak on it will have to wait until the end of the meeting for the “comments of the audience” item.

Sixteen people with Homer’s ad-hoc Pride group sent a letter asking Zak to recognize Pride activities in June, said Catriona Reynolds, executive director of Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic and one of the Homer Pride Month organizers. Pride is a national and international celebration in which members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community and supporters gather in “supporting visibility, dignity and equity for all people in the community,” according to Zak’s Mayoral Recognition.

The Pride March is part of a grant Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic got from the Pride Foundation to “provide support services for LGBTQ youth, adults, and families through clinic, school, and community-based programs on the lower Kenai Peninsula,” according to a family planning clinic press release from December 2017.

The first Pride marches happened in 1970 a year after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City in which LGBTQ supporters protested over six days against police raids of the Stonewall Inn, a New York gay bar. The Pride rainbow flag has become the symbol of the LGBTQ rights movement and is commonly flown during Pride celebrations. In his recognition, Zak encouraged homes and businesses to fly the Pride flag.

Reynolds said she feels Pride marches and parades have become mainstream in many American cities.

“It seems to me people use it the same way everyone is Irish for a day on St. Patrick’s Day,” she said. “It’s an excuse to ahve fun.”

Pride and LGBTQ groups have participated in Homer Fourth of July parades, but this will be the first event solely for a Pride celebration. Reynolds said Saturday’s event won’t be a parade. That implies watching, she said.

“We want people to join in,” she said. “…It’s people in the LGBTQ community and people supportive of that.”

The celebration begins at 11 a.m. at Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love Park on Pioneer Avenue with face painting, sign making and other events. The march starts at noon, proceeding to Lake Street and south on the sidewalk, across Beluga Slough on the trail, and along the south-bound side of Ocean Drive trail toward the Homer Realty parking lot next to Grace Ridge Brewery. Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic will hold a Brat Cook Out fundraiser from noon to 6 p.m., and the event in the Homer Realty lot is an all-ages, alcohol-free celebration. Beer will be available in the beer garden at Grace Ridge Brewery.

Since the march will be on city sidewalks and crosses at the pedestrian stop light at Lake Street and the Homer Bypass, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl told Pride it didn’t need a parade permit, Reynolds said. Traffic will not be disrupted. She said she didn’t know how big the march will be, though she anticipates some out-of-town Pride supporters will attend as Homer supporters did for Anchorage events.

“We were anticipating a pretty small thing that would grow for future years,” Reynolds said of the Homer event.

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