Mayor clarifies comments

November 22, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

One day after comparing a gay pageant to a hobo convention and a Ku Klux Klan rally, Mayor William M. Breichner softened his stance, saying he's worried about protesters, not people who take part.

"My concern is not regarding the gay pageant, but the individuals who may come and demonstrate against the pageant and disrupt the peace and tranquility of our citizens," Breichner said in a written statement released Friday.

Breichner said in an interview Friday that he hasn't heard of plans to protest the pageant.

Organizers of the Miss Gay American National 2004 Pageant had hoped to hold their pageant at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center Antietam Creek in Hagerstown on Jan. 10, 2004.


However, a contract dispute has halted that plan.

Men dressed as women will compete in the pageant.

Pageant administrator A.J. Makibbin of York, Pa., said the event will still be Jan. 10, but he's considering other Washington County sites.

On Thursday, Breichner said a gay pageant in Hagerstown would be like a "hobo city," adding, "I don't know if that's what we need here."

The National Hobo Convention is held each year in Britt, Iowa.

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

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

On Friday, Breichner said his message in the newspaper article was "not what I was trying to convey."

A gay pageant might draw public backlash that could damage the city's image, Breichner said.

"Anything, I think, like that would probably draw controversy, that's all," he said.

He added, "When the Ku Klux Klan is in (Public) Square, does Hagerstown become a redneck community to other communities?"

Asked if he wants the pageant in Hagerstown, Breichner said he had no comment.

Makibbin said pageant officials were offended by Breichner's initial comparisons. "Maybe he wasn't thinking clearly," he said.

Told of Breichner's follow-up clarification, Makibbin said, "It's a little too late for that."

Makibbin said pageant owner and promoter Daniel Rotkiske prepared a statement in response to Breichner's earlier comments. "As for the mayor's comments," the statement said, "everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, our pageant would bring revenue to his city. The last time I checked, neither the hobo convention or the KKK offered to do so."

Makibbin said he has been involved with gay pageants for about 10 years and never heard any communities complain.

The Miss Gay Maryland USofA pageant was held at the H2O bar on North Potomac Street in the spring with no problems, said David, a bartender there who didn't want to give his last name. About 100 people showed up.

David said he couldn't imagine a protest if the Miss Gay American National 2004 Pageant were in Hagerstown. He and Makibbin both said Hagerstown is a tolerant city.

Including competitors and entertainers from eight states, about 600 people are expected attend the Miss Gay American National 2004 Pageant, but Makibbin is printing 1,800 tickets just in case.

Washington County is the most central location, but pageant officials have received offers from other places in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia, Makibbin said.

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