When the Fayetteville, Ark., Gay Pride Parade steps off on East Street Saturday on its way to the Wal-Mart parking lot, it will be led by a young man who has made a career out of fighting for gay rights.
Make that a young boy. Will Phillips, the grand marshal, is 10 years old, and his presence has thrust Fayetteville’s Gay Pride Parade into the national spotlight.
Ordinarily, the annual parade is pretty low-key, residents say. The mayor issues a proclamation, the police close a few streets and a few hundred people show up, something that Skip Descant, who covers the city for the Northwest Arkansas Times, says is a lot for a Saturday morning in the summer.
Booths are set up in the Wal-Mart parking lot; people linger to hear a few speeches in the hot sun; sometimes there are a few jeers; and then everyone goes home early. It is a pretty low-key affair.
But the selection of young Will, who last November refused to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school to show his support for gay rights, has changed all that.
This year the parade has drawn national attention, and it’s promising to tread the line between farce and confrontation.
The American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., has called Will’s selection to be grand marshal “a form of child abuse,” and it has called on the city’s mayor to “cancel his plans to issue a proclamation celebrating homosexual behavior and gay pride.”
“We believe that it goes beyond the pale for adults to exploit a 10-year-old child for dark political purposes,” said Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis at AFA. “He is too young to understand. There is nothing about homosexual conduct to be proud of and much to be ashamed of.”
Click to view image: '15b6e7630136-liberal_boy.gif'
|Liveleak on Facebook|