Inaugural Clovis pride parade set

Kevin Wilson

Members, and supporters, of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community of eastern New Mexico are taking to the street Saturday afternoon.

The Eastern New Mexico Pride Parade is set for 12:45 p.m. Saturday, with the route running along Main Street from 14th Street to Grand Avenue. It will be followed with a picnic at Hillcrest Park.

Caden Malone, founder of Eastern New Mexico Pride, requested the street closure in a May 26 Clovis City Commission meeting. It passed on a unanimous vote.

Malone figures more than 100 people will come to the parade.

“I get a lot of numbers run by me each day,” Malone said. “I know there are people coming from all over the state and Texas.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the Facebook page for the event had more than 220 planning to attend. Jesse Lopez, president emeritus of Albuquerque Pride, will serve as grand marshal.

Scott Blazek and Curtis Brewer, members of the Clovis Ministerial Alliance, brought a letter to the commission at its meeting Thursday evening.

The letter noted that the parade was being supported heavily by groups that weren’t based in Clovis, and the city commission’s vote could be read as the city’s promotion of gay pride — which, the letter argues, goes against the Bible.

Commissioners responded that city streets are public forums, and the commission can’t deny use of those facilities based on viewpoints.

“I had to vote to stop all parades, or I had to vote to allow anyone who meets the criteria to have a parade,” Commissioner Randy Crowder said. “I’m not promoting it.”

Mayor Gayla Brumfield noted that the commission has approved street closures for numerous events where the commission doesn’t unanimously share the group’s viewpoints, including religious events and Tea Party protests.

Lopez said he hoped the parade wouldn’t be pre-judged.

“This is a landmark event for Clovis, New Mexico,” Lopez said. “For this to be happening, the community should be embracing it and be proud to know they’re creating history.”

Lopez visited Clovis in April, when Clovis High School students wanted to start a Gay Straight Alliance at the school. Before he arrived, he talked to some people in the area who were afraid to show up to a rally in support of the GSA or be open about their sexuality.

But he came to the rally, and nothing out of the ordinary happened.

“You can’t go into a small community judging and saying this is the way it’s going to be,” said Lopez, a graduate of New Mexico Highlands University. “When I left Clovis, I had an open mind. When I came to Clovis, I had an open mind with a little fear (of the unknown).”

Malone said he is more concerned about hateful language that may be shouted than any chance of violence.

“The only concerns for me are that there are a lot of close-minded churches in this region,” Malone said. “I hope we can (co-exist) and not have any issues.”

John Rollinson, who chairs the Clovis Ministerial Alliance, said he didn’t get that impression from its most recent meeting, which had about 25 minutes of discussion on the parade.

“I think one of the points we kept emphasizing is we as Christians love our gay brothers and sisters,” Rollinson said. “We know Jesus died for them, just as much as Jesus died for us. Even though we have reservations on the lifestyle based on biblical material, which we have regard for … we love them and we care for them.

“I didn’t have a sense of any close-mindedness, but at the same time we proposed concern for traditional family values, which are at odds with the gay lifestyle, as we understand it.

“Having said that, I can’t speak for every Christian in town. There may well be one or two people who could fairly be characterized as close-minded.”