Mayoral candidate Merritt to march in Indy Pride Parade, but organizers say he’s ‘not welcome’

Republican State Sen. Jim Merritt

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Republican State Sen. Jim Merritt, who’s running for Mayor of Indianapolis, plans on marching in Saturday’s Indy Pride Parade and not everyone is happy about it.

IN Focus panelist and IMPORTANTVILLE writer Adam Wren first reported on Monday that Merritt would participate in the parade. Merritt confirmed his participation in a statement Tuesday that said he’s spoken with Indy Pride and they’ve agreed that he can walk as a private citizen, but not as a mayoral candidate. However, Indy Pride also released a statement saying that Merritt may be “permitted” to march in the parade, but he is “not welcome at the Indy Pride Parade and Festival.”

Cadillac Barbie Indy Pride Parade 2018

“Those who have registered for the Pride Parade are permitted to choose their participants,” wrote Indy Pride in a statement. “If a group chooses to invite Jim Merritt to walk with them, as a private citizen, that is their choice. It was expressed that, based on his anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and voting record, he would not be welcome by Indy Pride or the majority of the community.”

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) claimed in a statement that Merritt is only looking to politically benefit from the event as he runs for Mayor.

GLAAD says it also doesn’t believe Merritt should march in the parade because of his voting history regarding LGBTQ+ issues in the Hoosier State. In the past, the state senator voted to define marriage as one man and one woman. He also voted for the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which many in the LGBTQ+ community feared would allow businesses to deny services to them.

In his statement, Merritt said he has been planning on walking in the pride parade with friends for several months. He says his intention for walking in the parade is to show others that his opinions have progressed over time and theirs can as well.

As for his voting history, Merritt says he owns every vote that he’s ever made in the legislature, but he wouldn’t necessarily make the same votes today. As an example, Merritt points to his vote on the recent hate crime legislation that was signed into law this year. However, some have said the bill doesn’t go far enough after LGBTQ+ rights protections were stripped from the language.

If Merritt walks as planned, Indy Pride organizers say they hope he expresses his change in beliefs publicly, specifically as it pertains to the support for marriage equality, equal housing rights, hate crimes legislation which includes transgender and nonbinary individuals, and that being part of the LGBTQ+ community is not a sin, a crime, or cause of shame.

Here’s Indy Pride’s full statement:

Indy Pride spoke with Jim Merritt’s campaign earlier today and re-iterated that he was not welcome at the Indy Pride Parade and Festival. A distinction was made between being “welcome” and “permitted”. Those who have registered for the Pride Parade are permitted to choose their participants. If a group chooses to invite Jim Merritt to walk with them, as a private citizen, that is their choice. It was expressed that, based on his anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and voting record, he would not be welcome by Indy Pride or the majority of the community.

Indy Pride asked Merritt to release a statement detailing his support for the LGBTQ+ Community. He has consistently voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman; voted for RFRA, and the watered down “hate crimes” bill which Pride does not support because it intentionally excludes Trans and Non-Binary members of our community. Claiming to support the community with this bill is an inaccurate half-measure.

Allies marching in the Pride parade implicitly express support for marriage equality, equal housing rights, hate crimes legislation which includes transgender and nonbinary individuals, and that being part of the LGBTQ+ community is not a sin, a crime, or cause of shame. If Jim Merritt walks as planned, it is our hope that he expresses his change in beliefs publicly and specifically.

Here’s Merritt’s full statement:

Indy welcomes all. It’s an important mantra we have been proudly proclaiming in our community for several years. This is the message I personally want to spread as well. That is why I have been planning for several months to walk in the Indy Pride Parade with friends.

My intention for walking in the Pride Parade is to show others that, over time, my opinions have progressed and theirs can as well.

I own every vote that I have made in the legislature but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t learned along the way and that I would make the same votes today. As Mayor of Indianapolis my constituency would be different than it has been in my senate district. I will represent all citizens of Indianapolis.

My campaign has spoken with Indy Pride, Inc. today and Indy Pride, Inc. clarified that my original plans of walking as a private citizen, not as a candidate for mayor, in the parade on Saturday is acceptable.

I support LGBTQ+ rights. I voted for the hate crimes legislation this year. At that time, I said on the Senate floor, we must not leave doubt that Indiana welcomes all. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a human rights issue. We must condemn hate by demonstrating how we love one another. I look forward to an ongoing conversation with Indy Pride, Inc. and other LGBTQ+ groups.

Here’s GLAAD’s full statement:

One of @VP Mike Pence’s friends and known anti-LGBTQ politician @Jim_Merritt is scheduled to march in @indypride this weekend. How would this make LGBTQ Hoosiers feel that an anti-LGBTQ activist is marching in their parade?

Merritt has voted for Pence’s #RFRA and even voted to add a ban on marriage equality to Indiana’s Constitution. Worst part – Merritt won’t apologize for his past anti-LGBTQ votes.

The fight for LGBTQ acceptance is won when people genuinely embrace and accept LGBTQ people. Merritt is only looking to politically benefit from a public event. He should not march this weekend because he damages the hard work LGBTQ people have fought to achieve.

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