The committee overseeing a parade in Twin Falls, Ida. has told the Southern Idaho Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Community Center that they may enter a float this year – with some restrictions.
According to a statement released by SIGLBTCC officials, the Western Days Parade Committee previously told The Center that it could enter a float in this year’s parade as long as they made no reference to sexual orientation, gender identity, or even HIV/AIDS. Further, the committee also forbade the group from using imagery or symbols pertaining to the gay community – including rainbow colors. Fliers discussing what the Center does or its efforts in combating HIV/AIDS and crystal meth use are also out.
“No rainbows, no gay pride, not anything like that,” Western Days board chairperson Lisa Cuellar told the Magic Valley Times-News on May 29.
Cuellar and parade chair MaryAnn Taylor also said that the group’s float had to match the description they included with their parade application. However, neither woman was able to provide the description of the float to reporters.
Cuellar did say that the Center’s application did not mention words such as gay or transgender.
“They entered the name Southern Idaho Community Center, so that's how they have to be in the parade,"” she said. “They just have not been up front with us … Maybe it's the lack of communication of both ends.”
On the day of the parade center spokesperson Mitch Silvester said the shortened name was a typo the group made on its application.
After discussing the situation the Center’s board decided to join the parade, anyway. But in a media release, they said they would use their float to “make a statement about the censorship.” Instead of the typical rainbows, the Center’s float reportedly featured cowboys and Indians and a giant question mark at its center. The question mark was included, said Center president Brandi Jones, in hopes that people can get information about the Center by asking float participants what the marks mean.
“Gay and Lesbian people live in Twin Falls, Idaho; we work here, we have families and participate in our communities,” she said. “We are part of our community every other day of the year, and we shouldn’t be excluded from being part of our community on this one day.”
She also said that the committee’s prohibitions on any literature related to HIV or drug abuse-related was worrisome.
“When Idaho faces rising rates of HIV/AIDS infections and epidemic increases in drug use, specifically crystal methamphetamine, we are proactively trying to educate the community to help people remain healthy and strong.
“Silencing conversation about these issues weakens our community because it leaves people uninformed and vulnerable.”
Perhaps because of its ambiguity, the float drew little reaction from parade-goers on May 31, even when the organization’s name was announced as their entry rolled past.
“They can do whatever they want, long as they keep it away from me,” Twin Falls resident Stacy Randell told the Magic Valley Times-News.
A group of high school students also held a protest against the float’s censorship a few blocks away without incident. When parade organizers rejected the Center’s float in 2007, members of the Center staged a demonstration nearby.
Organizers rejected the float last year on grounds that it conflicted with the area’s conservative values and the parade’s “family-oriented” atmosphere.
“This is a very conservative region with strong religious values,” Cuellar said at the time. “It's nothing against the group itself, but we felt that it was in everybody's best interest not to allow their float in the parade.” She also said that the float was not representative of the city despite Twin Falls’ gay and lesbian population.
After the 2007 parade, city council members said that allowing the float – which reportedly consisted of a cutout of the state of Idaho and such Western regalia as cowboy boots all in rainbow colors – might not have been controversial.
Silvester said the Center will submit a float for next year’s parade. Cuellar said they are welcome to do so, as long as the float contains no rainbows or mentions of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Western Days Web site describes the two-day event as a “family-oriented” celebration, including a carnival, arts and crafts, musical performances and the parade held at the Twin Falls City Park May 31-June 1.