Philly Pride Parade steps off Sunday to celebrate LGBT communities

Listen
The Flaggots perform in the 2015 LGBT Pride Day Parade. (Bastiaan Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

The Flaggots perform in the 2015 LGBT Pride Day Parade. (Bastiaan Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

The annual Philly Pride Parade and Festival will take place Sunday to celebrate the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

However, some disagreement has been brewing within the ranks of the parade.

This year, organizers had invited a newly formed club — the Gay Officers Action League known as GOAL — to participate in the parade as grand marshals. GOAL has existed in other cities for years, including New York where it has marched in the NYC Pride parade. Only recently has a Philadelphia branch formed.

An online petition denounced that decision, saying police officers — gay or not — represent an institution that “continues to carry out racist and transphobic violence,” and that parade organizers have a “disturbing lack of awareness.” It attracted 369 signatures.

A senior adviser for Philly Pride, Chuck Volz, said that is “palpably ridiculous.”

“There was definitely argument being made that Philly Pride was somehow being insensitive to the trans community,” said Volz. “Philly Pride, of any Pride organization in the United States, has been the most open proponent of our trans community.”

In the end, the officers of GOAL decided to cool the growing hostility by declining the invitation to be grand marshals.

Last year, Philadelphia Police Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel was honored at the parade for his work as the police department’s LGBT liaison.

For the first time in many years, the Pride Parade will feature two Mummers groups — the Trilby String Band and the Murray Comics.

During the New Year’s Day parade, some Mummers carried signs insulting transgendered people and reportedly assaulted a gay man.

But the Mummers’ inclusion in the Pride Parade was accepted without opposition;

“I think most of the community looked on it as a positive development for the Mummers becoming more sensitized to the gay community,” said Volz.

The Murray Comics will march in the parade without costume and makeup. The decision to sign up for the parade was made at the last minute, too late to put together a performance routine. Instead, the troupe will simply wear rainbow-colored T-shirts printed with “Murray Pride.”

The recent complaints of homophobia and a lack of diversity at the Mummer’s Parade spurred them to join the Pride Parade.

“We never thought we had to show our support because we never disallowed anybody to be in the Mummers Parade,” said Rich Porco, president of the comics division. “Now we want to show that we do support their efforts.”

The Philly Pride parade will begin at 11:30 a.m. at 13th and Locust streets, ending at the Pride Festival on Penn’s Landing, where the headline act will be singer Deborah Cox.

About 25,000 people are expected to attend the festivities.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.