Far-right groups looking to put a friendlier face on their politics are increasingly organizing so-called “Straight Pride Parades” in an attempt to both garner media attention and new recruits.
The “Straight Pride” trend kicked off in Boston last month, when a group calling itself Super Happy Fun America announced plans for a Straight Pride Parade at the end of August.
News reports and Twitter chatter focused on the novelty and strangeness of a parade celebrating “straight pride,” imagining a group of particularly aggrieved heterosexual men in cargo shorts.
Much of that coverage missed the fact that Super Happy Fun America’s goals aren’t so innocent—its lead organizer has been involved in far-right group Resist Marxism, and praised a Chilean dictator for executing liberals.
Rather than representing any sort of “straight pride,” the Boston Straight Pride parade turned out to be just another attempt at right-wing trolling.
Now another set of far-right activists thousands of miles away are trying the same tactic. An explicitly anti-gay group calling itself the “National Straight Pride Coalition” announced plans this week for a Straight Pride Parade in Modesto, CA on August 24 to defend “Western Civilization.”
While the Boston Straight Pride Parade at least pretended not to be an attack on gay rights, with openly gay anti-Muslim activist Milo Yiannopoulos as its grand marshal, the Modesto event is clearly a vehicle for racial and homophobic hate. On its website, the group describes homosexuality as “evil,” and adds that it was created in part to defend “whiteness.”
Still, participants in the Modesto parade were quick to paint criticism of the event as an attack on straight people. The event permit request describes it as merely a “cultural celebration event.”
“The moment you have a straight pride parade, everyone goes crazy,” said Ryan Schambers, who describes himself as a member of the National Straight Pride Coalition.
Mark Ricci, the head of Modesto Progressive Democrats, said the Straight Pride Parade is just a cover for organizers’ extremist politics.
“It’s like a front for what their real intentions are,” said Ricci, whose group plans to participate in a counterprotest to the Modesto event.
The Modesto Straight Pride event hasn’t received a permit yet. Thomas Reeves, a spokesman for the city of Modesto, said the permitting process should be settled by the end of the week.
“The city of Modesto cannot deny a permit based on an organization’s values, the content of speeches, or the views of speakers,” Reeves said in a statement. “The approval of the permit would not be an endorsement or sponsorship of any particular message by the city, but a recognition of the free speech rights enshrined in the First Amendment.”
The National Straight Pride Coalition is the creation of Don J. Grundmann, a longtime anti-gay activist and perennial failed Senate candidate in California. Grundmann said presenting his event as a “Straight Pride Parade” has earned it more attention that it would have received if he had billed it as another right-wing rally.
“It can be publicity, naturally,” Grundmann said. “Straight pride—it shouldn’t be a term which is controversial.”
Super Happy Fun America did not respond to a request for comment on the Modesto event. But Grundmann said his group doesn’t have anything to do with the Boston Straight Pride march, and criticized their comparative openness to gay rights, which he described as “completely opposite from what we would do.”
Grundmann then proceeded to go on an anti-Semitic rant about a secretive, wealthy cabal controlling world events, down to the counterprotest to his own event. Asked if he was attacking Jewish people, Grundmann said, “you can figure it out.”
The Straight Pride Parade in Modesto has already attracted support from at least one local Republican official. Schambers is listed as a member of the local Stanislaus County GOP’s central committee leadership on its website, although he insists he’s no longer a county Republican official. The Stanislaus County GOP didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Schambers’ involvement in the parade was first noted by a left-wing “digital community center” called It’s Going Down. In an interview with The Daily Beast, he vaguely criticized the anti-gay language on the National Straight Pride Coalition, but then said he’s participating in the event in part because he thinks it’d “probably be better” if gay people were instead straight.
Ricci said Modestans aren’t fooled by Grundmann posing as a support of “straight rights” and pointed out that Grundmann is a resident of the Bay Area—nearly 100 miles away from the planned site of the Straight Pride Parade.
“We’re just deeply disappointed that there are people out there who continue to use this thinly veiled hate speech under the guise of equality,” Ricci said.