Organizers OK Relocation of Gay Festival to City's Plaza

Times Staff Writer

Organizers of Orange County's first gay-pride festival, once planned for a regional park in Santa Ana, said Monday that the event instead will be held in the city's Civic Center Plaza, averting a possible clash between fundamentalist Christians and gays.

However, a parade planned as part of the two-day event on Sept. 9 and 10 raised new concerns for conservative Christians, who threatened to protest if the route was outside the confines of the downtown Civic Center. The exact route for the parade was not immediately known.

"We feel that Civic Center Plaza will afford us the facilities necessary to produce the type of event which we have been developing," Janet Avery, president of Orange County Cultural Pride, said Monday of the compromise to relocate the planned festival. Avery's organization is staging the festival and parade.

Avery said the organization did not "bow to the pressures" of conservative religious leaders by moving the event. "We have not been put out of public view," she said. "We find this an acceptable compromise. We are in downtown Santa Ana and at the legal and government hub of Orange County."

The gay-pride event will include a film festival, historic displays, live entertainment, food and merchandise booths and a dance pavilion. The parade, expected to feature floats, marching units, motorcycles and cars, is schedule to start at noon, Sunday, Sept. 10.

Avery said Santa Ana City Manager David N. Ream contacted the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, head of the Anaheim-based California Coalition for Traditional Values, about the civic center location for the festival. She said that Sheldon, who headed up the opposition to the event earlier slated for Centennial Park, has "indicated that, based on the compromise, he will cease organized political pressure against the city regarding the event."

But Sheldon, contacted late Monday by The Times, said he was unaware a parade had been planned as part of the gay-pride festival and said he would be "vehemently opposed" to the parade if it were to be held outside the confines of the Civic Center Plaza.

"I want to tell you this, if they parade on the public streets around the plaza, there will be thousands of people there protesting," Sheldon said.

Sheldon said Monday that the Civic Center is an appropriate place for the festival because it was out of residential areas where children might be able to view the activities. But he added that he has never agreed to a parade in the streets outside the plaza.

Meanwhile, Avery said they will have fully trained security monitors plus Santa Ana Police Department officers patrolling the festival and the parade route. But she added that she never expected any "riots" or trouble at the event.

Earlier this year, Orange County Culture Pride received approval from the city's recreation department to hold the event, which organizers have said is the county's first gay-pride festival.

The announcement was followed by complaints from conservative Christian leaders and neighborhood residents, who said gays and lesbians should not be allowed to hold the event in the public park, a place they contended was designed for more traditional family activities.

Letters and telephone calls from residents opposing the event at the park in May prompted Santa Ana Mayor Daniel H. Young to question whether the city should allow the festival to be held. Young had expressed concern that there would not be sufficient police and firefighters to control a confrontation between event participants and potential protesters.

"I'm real unhappy about the parks that are there for quiet time and recreation becoming a focal point for controversial issues," Young told The Times last month. "From the publicity I'm seeing, there might be hundreds and hundreds of people protesting on both sides. If that kind of activity is taking place, it shouldn't be taking place in a community park."

At the news conference called Monday by Avery, two other groups--Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, organizers of the annual Los Angeles gay-pride celebration, and Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Inc., who stage the annual gay-pride event in Long Beach--presented the Orange County group with two checks totaling $15,000 for license fees and deposits that the city requires to hold such an event.

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