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The State

Gay Pride Group's Leader Seeks to Mend Rifts

October 09, 2002|SCOTT GOLD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An ideological gap emerged this summer in the organization that stages San Francisco's annual gay pride parade. Some activists thought the organization had sold out its left-wing political roots for the sake of a few corporate backers. Others disagreed, saying the gay community must define itself more broadly and welcome all comers.

Now San Francisco Pride, the organization behind the 32-year-old celebration, has named a new president who has pledged to bridge the ideological gap in the city's large and politically powerful gay community.

Joey Cain, 47, a self-declared "radical fairy" who works as an administrative assistant at the city's Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, is the new president of San Francisco Pride.

Cain now becomes a key figure in a parade that has become one of the nation's largest displays of gay political and economic clout. The new president said in an interview Tuesday that he may be a radical and an anarchist and even agree with some criticism of changes in the parade. But he said he's pragmatic enough to realize that corporate sponsorship is crucial for a parade and other events that draw hundreds of thousands of people.

"To just say, 'We don't want any corporate sponsorship,' I don't think that is going to be very effective," Cain said. "The event essentially won't exist. A more useful way to look at it is, 'What sort of demands can we make on the corporations that are coming in?' "

A new policy requiring all corporate sponsors to offer domestic partner benefits to their employees is a good start, Cain said.

San Francisco Pride may begin investigating corporate partners' human rights records as well, Cain said. The new president said he will search for more ways to help the event connect with its roots as a civil rights movement.

The comments come months after the gay community was divided over how the parade was being run.

A growing number of old-school, left-leaning gay activists complained that corporate participants and other developments had tarnished the celebration's radical roots. Others said the gay community has been strengthened by broader participation from political conservatives and corporations.

The gay community in San Francisco, Cain said in a prepared statement, "is recognized throughout the world for its leadership on issues of diversity, freedom and social justice."

"The Pride celebration should be, and is, a reflection of those values," Cain's statement continued. "We've changed the world. Now let's close those parade gaps and make it an even more fabulous event."

Teddy Witherington, the paid executive director of San Francisco Pride, said the debate is merely a reflection of the gay community's diversity. "Pride is so many different things to so many different people."

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