LONG BEACH — A City Council decision to ban special events serving alcohol or charging a fee at Shoreline Aquatic Park during the summer has jeopardized a June lesbian and gay pride festival planned at the facility.
Although city officials say they proposed the three-month prohibition to keep the park free for use by the general public during the peak summer months, leaders of the annual festival insisted the move had singled out their group.
"I believe this was a thinly disguised effort to keep out the lesbian and gay festival," said Judith Doyle, president of Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Inc., the group that organizes the annual festival.
Favor for Year-Round Ban
The council voted 5 to 2 on Tuesday to approve the ban. Council members Warren Harwood and Eunice Sato, both of whom wanted a year-round ban, voted against the measure. Edd Tuttle and James Wilson were absent.
In June, leaders of Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Inc. accused city officials of trying to block the festival by charging excessive fees for police supervision and other municipal services during the event and a gay pride parade along Ocean Boulevard. The city's action prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to file a discrimination lawsuit that is still pending.
Doyle said the council's decision to ban summer events serving alcohol and charging a fee would force her group to put the festival on earlier in the year, breaking the tradition of holding such events during the month of June to commemorate the New York riots of 1969 that sparked the gay pride movement.
Funds to finance the event are gleaned from the sale of beer and wine as well as by charging an admission, Doyle said. All profits go to charities in the gay community, particularly those involved with the treatment of AIDS.
Despite the setback, backers of the gay pride festival continued to express hope that the council might reconsider its decision.
Following Tuesday's meeting, Councilman Marc Wilder said he may introduce an amendment at a future council meeting that would remove the summertime prohibition on entrance fees and alcohol sales during special events at the park.
Prior to the council's decision to limit alcohol sales, Wilder had proposed an ordinance that would have allowed year-round use of the park for fund-raising events, saying he felt the use of Shoreline Aquatic Park by the general public did not increase during the summer.
The council favored Wilder's proposal 4 to 3, but could not muster the required five votes needed under city bylaws to approve an ordinance. Mayor Ernie Kell joined Sato and Harwood to oppose the move.
After an attempt by Wilder to delay the matter for two weeks failed 5 to 2, Kell proposed the summertime ban, calling it "a good compromise."
The effort to ban the sale of alcohol at events in Shoreline Aquatic Park was supported in large part by leaders of local conservative Christian groups.
Craig Garbe, a leader of the Long Beach Coalition for Traditional Values, said he was "delighted" by the council's decision, even though the ban fell short of the year-round prohibition his group sought.
Garbe said he was pleased because "we scored two victories on this one" by getting the summertime ban on alcohol sales in the park and blocking the gay pride festival in June.