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'Gay Day' Crowd Meets to Enjoy Disneyland

Celebration: Despite criticism of such events from some quarters, only Buena Park pastor shows up to protest.

October 11, 1998|STEVE BALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gays and lesbians from across Southern California converged on Disneyland on Saturday for an unofficial celebration that has raised the ire of conservative groups.

But the event drew only one protester--the Rev. Wiley Drake--and many of the other families who attended the park didn't even know the "Gay Day" celebration was going on.

"It makes no difference, not in the least," said Aliso Viejo resident Kyal Moody, after being told that he and his 2-year-old daughter Nicole had chosen "Gay Day" to attend the Magic Kingdom.

"None of us have any right to cast stones," said Moody, as he and his daughter boarded a tram.

"Gay Day" was organized in conjunction with several gay social organizations and is similar to a much larger celebration that takes place annually at Walt Disney World in Florida. Disney does not sponsor either celebration.

The Florida event has generated heated criticism from some churches and conservative organizations. Earlier this year, the head of Operation Rescue announced that the anti-abortion group would hold protests during the next "Gay Day" at Walt Disney World.

In 1996, two churches--the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptists--decided to boycott Walt Disney Co., citing Florida's "Gay Day" as well as other actions it considers objectionable, including the release of homosexual-themed films.

But the first of what is planned as an annual Disneyland event generated little rancor. Drake, a Southern Baptist minister and longtime Disney critic, stood outside the theme park holding a boycott sign and handing out literature.

Inside the Magic Kingdom, however, the celebration appeared to generate little conflict.

West Hollywood resident Pat McFadden, a "Gay Day" participant, said he simply wanted to have a fun day and didn't care about the protesters outside.

"I hope they do show up and protest, that means more media coverage and that ensures a bigger turnout next year," he said.

Event organizers asked that participants wear red shirts in order to show their numbers. In past years, gays held private evening parties at Disneyland. But this year's party was canceled when the park changed its operating hours. So organizers decided to hold a "Gay Day."

Disney officials could not be reached to comment on the event or estimate how many people attended.

Mike and Debbie Spitale of Sacramento, who were at Disneyland with their son, said they didn't mind sharing the park with Gay Day celebrants.

"We're just here to enjoy Disneyland and our kid," Mike Spitale said.

But Wyndie Fox from Chino Hills, at the park with her two small daughters, took a different view. "I don't think I would have come if I had known about" the event, Fox said. "I don't like to offend, but I don't believe in it."

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