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Mayor taken to task for pageant comments

November 26, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

In response to comments about a gay pageant made last week by Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner, a city employee and some council members on Tuesday encouraged citizens to celebrate diversity.

"There is no room for hate in Hagerstown," John Lestitian, the city's chief code enforcement officer, said during the citizens' comments portion of Tuesday's council meeting.

Lestitian said he was speaking as a citizen, not as a public official.

"There has been a lot of chatter about some comments made last week about the gay pageant that was coming to town," Lestitian said. "I am asking the city to continue to celebrate its diversity."

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On Thursday, Breichner compared a gay pageant to a hobo convention and a Ku Klux Klan rally. On Friday he softened his stance, saying he was worried about protesters, not those who would take part in the pageant.

Organizers of the Miss Gay American National 2004 Pageant planned to hold a pageant at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center Antietam Creek in Hagerstown on Jan. 10. Because pageant organizers did not reach an agreement with the hotel, plans are on hold.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner praised the Hagerstown community for not responding to the mayor's remarks with hate.

The city avoided what he termed a potential "mini-Middle East."

"I don't commend you for your words, but I do commend you for your apology," Metzner said to Breichner.

Councilwoman Penny May Nigh said she, not the mayor, usually is known for making controversial remarks. She praised the way he handled the situation.

"You skated across the whole page, slick. You did very well," she said.

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