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Breichner likens gay pageant to Klan rally

November 21, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner on Thursday compared a gay pageant that had been slated for a hotel in the city to a hobo convention and a Ku Klux Klan rally.

The Miss Gay American National Pageant, an event open to males who impersonate females, had been scheduled for Jan. 10, 2004, at the Clarion Hotel on the Dual Highway, but it has since been postponed.

Pageant organizers said they were searching for another venue in Washington County and surrounding areas.

Breichner made the comments during a phone interview Thursday in which he was asked if he knew whether pageant organizers had selected another location in the area.

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He said he hadn't heard any updates, and then said the pageant would be similar to a hobo convention that is held in the Western United States.

"It's like hobo city," Breichner said. "I don't know if that's really what we need here."

"I know it's freedom of speech and everything else," he said. "There's really nothing we can do."

The mayor also likened the pageant to a gathering of the Ku Klux Klan.

"It's like having the Ku Klux Klan hold a rally downtown," Breichner said.

Daniel Rotkiske, owner and promoter of Miss Gay American National Pageants based in West York, Pa., said he expected the mayor to be more respectful of gay men and women, because there are two gay bars in the Hagerstown area that contribute money to the local economy.

Rotkiske said gay people contribute a large amount of money every year to the national economy.

"We work. We live just like everybody else does," Rotkiske said.

He said the mayor expressed "ignorance" through his comments.

"As for the mayor likening us to hobos, I'd like to see a hobo spend $3,000 on a gown," he said. "I'd like to see the mayor spend $3,000 on a gown."

Rotkiske said the pageant has attracted contestants from all over the country, including Atlanta, Chicago, Michigan, Oklahoma, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Pennsylvania.

He said the organization chose the Hagerstown area for the pageant because of its proximity to the D.C. area.

Pageant Administrator A.J. Makibbin said the event would not be held as planned at the Clarion Hotel because of problems that arose during negotiations with the hotel.

He said pageant officials intend to meet with members of a local organization about the possibility of that organization holding a casino event at the pageant, if it's held in this area.

All the proceeds from the casino event, in which games and entertainment would be featured, would go toward child abuse prevention.

"That's something that we definitely find to be a very worthwhile cause," Rotkiske said. "To see children mistreated and abused is a horrible, horrible thing."

Makibbin said pageant organizers plan to speak with officials from the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York, Pa., about possibly holding the pageant there.

Pageant organizers plan to keep Jan. 10, 2004, as the day of the event, because many participants and spectators have made arrangements to attend on that date, Makibbin said.

He said 1,800 tickets have been printed for the pageant.

Betsy DeVore, director of convention sales for the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, on Thursday offered to work with pageant organizers to find a venue in Washington County.

"I'd love to help them," she said.

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