LONG BEACH — The annual Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade is slated for May 17, but the City Council made it clear this week that it does not want to co-sponsor the event, help advertise it or waive charges for police and other city services.
And although the parade sponsors did not ask, the City Council majority let it be known that it also is not inclined to drop its $1-million liability insurance requirement if alcoholic beverages are sold at a gay pride festival that same weekend.
Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Inc. said the parade--which in previous years has stirred the wrath of fundamentalist Christian groups--would gain credibility if it were co-sponsored by the city. City sponsorship would also save organizers about $19,500, the sum the city charged last year for police and other city services.
The council unanimously opposed the idea. "If this were a heterosexual organization, I would not support it either," Mayor Ernie Kell said.
"We didn't even ask them yet about the insurance," Alfred F. Bell, president of Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Inc., said after Tuesday's council meeting.
Insurance Issue Brought up
But council members brought up the insurance issue without prompting. And although Kell said the group could later request a change in the insurance requirement if it were unable to obtain the coverage, he and other council members made it clear they would oppose a reduction.
Councilman Wallace Edgerton was an exception. Noting that the council last week sliced in half a $20-million liability insurance requirement for the promoters of this weekend's Grand Prix, Edgerton said: "I think we should be consistent . . . and give these people a break on the insurance."
Rocco Basso, vice president of the gay group, also pointed to the council's decision on the Grand Prix and told the council: "We, too, need help. I don't understand the pick-and-choose situation."
Other council members called the $1-million coverage for the sale and consumption of alcohol at the gay pride festival reasonable. They also noted that the Long Beach Grand Prix Assn. requires all its vendors to carry $1-million liability insurance and the gay pride festival does not.
Action Not Surprising
Bell said he was disappointed, but not surprised by the council's action.
Judith Doyle, the parade's founder, defended the request in a telephone interview. "Any time the City of Long Beach endorses anything . . . it's always a statement not so much of credibility, but of community. That's what we're seeking. We're a viable part of the Long Beach community.
"We don't think we're asking for anything unique and out of the ordinary," said Doyle, adding that by helping the parade, the council would be helping combat AIDS.
Last year, it cost about $110,000 to put on the weekend celebration, with $20,000 left over, Doyle said. Of that amount, $10,000 was donated to an organization helping patients suffering acquired immune deficiency syndrome and the remaining $10,000 was left as seed money for this year's festivities, she said.
In a letter to the council, Bell urged the officials to co-sponsor the parade and use money from its special advertising and promotion fund as it did with the Hands Across America event.
But council members said Hands Across America, last year's cross-country human chain that ended in Long Beach, promoted the city nationally. The fourth annual lesbian and gay parade would not serve that same purpose, council members said. The costs also would make it prohibitive because the city is facing a financial crunch, and it cannot afford to give its services for free, they said.
Last year, about 5,000 people attended the festival at Shoreline Aquatic Park and about 7,000 spectators lined Ocean Boulevard to watch the parade. The festival will be held May 16 and 17 this year.
Visitors had to do without alcohol last year because the promoters were unable to get $1 million in insurance coverage. A Superior Court judge ruled in May of last year that the city could not require the group to buy liability insurance for the parade, but it upheld the city's requirement for insurance pertaining to the sale and consumption of alcohol during the festival. That lawsuit is pending.
On Tuesday, Councilman Warren Harwood said, "We've been more than fair here."
Harwood moved that the council accept the March 12 letter requesting, among other things, the city's co-sponsorship, that the city "file this," and finally, that the council "wish everyone well on this year's event." They agreed unanimously.