LGBT groups question uptown St. Patrick’s parade

Charlotte’s 18th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade Saturday is being criticized by some members of the gay and lesbian community for not being supportive, while organizers say their event is being “smeared” and that the parade is inclusive.

Matt Comer, editor of QNotes, a publication that covers the LBGT community, said the parade has allowed gay, lesbian and transgender groups to march.

But he said they haven’t been able to wave rainbow flags or announce who they are.

Organizer Frank Hart said that’s not true. The parade organizers have said they have not allowed political or advocacy banners, but said anyone can wave a flag. He said one gay pride band plans to wave a rainbow flag Saturday.

“If there is anything more diverse in Charlotte, I’m not aware of it,” Hart said. “We have included everyone. This year we have the Pride Band marching with us.”

Comer said Friday he is pleased that the parade will allow flags, which he called “wonderful progress.”

But he also criticized the parade’s relationship with the Catholic fraternal organization, Knights of Columbus, whose national organization has donated money to oppose gay marriage.

Hart said some Knights of Columbus members help him stage the parade and are paid a nominal fee for their expenses.

“The Knights supply a lot of volunteers,” he said. “That’s nothing different from any festival.”

Comer said he and other LGBT leaders opposed the parade’s “connection” with the Knights of Columbus.

Chuck Elgin of the local Knights of Columbus said his group will be collecting money for the mentally disabled Saturday. He said his group believes in the teachings of the Catholic Church and is opposed to same-sex marriage.

Comer sent out a news release about the issue Friday morning. The release asked that the parade’s grand marshal, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority chief executive Tom Murray, to withdraw from the event.

The CRVA said Friday it will participate in the parade. It said it hears “the concerns of members of the LGBT community and value their input. We also want to stay focused on our core mission in drawing visitors to experience the region.”

This is the city’s 18th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.