An Open Letter to the Board of Pride St. Louis

Photo: Photo by Toni Reed on Unsplash

This letter was emailed to the entire Board of Directors of Pride St. Louis, Inc. on 3 July 2019. Neither the organization nor individual board members have responded to the questions or allegations below.

For much of June and early July, numerous serious allegations have been made about the agreement between Pride St. Louis and St. Louis Metropolitan Police that armed and uniformed officers would not walk in the 2019 St. Louis Grand Pride Parade (and subsequent reversal of that agreement). Some background:

If true, these allegations speak to a culture of dishonesty, coercion, and fundamental lack of integrity in the operations, governance, and internal communications of Pride St. Louis. Also, if true, they should result in the immediate resignation of several Board members.

The overwhelmingly negative local media coverage of the decision about police in the parade has significantly damaged public perception of the St. Louis LGBTQIA+ community. And it’s happened at a time when we’re facing threats to reverse our civil rights gains, a rise in hates crimes, and decline in public support for our issues. As such, community confidence in Pride St. Louis and its Board has plummeted. Numerous calls for explanations, transparency, and Board minutes have gone unanswered…

To restore confidence in Pride St. Louis, the organization’s Board must immediately address the following questions:

Q1. Did the entire Board of Directors vote on the decision to request that armed/uniformed St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers refrain from walking in the 2019 Grand Pride Parade? What was the date of this vote? Was there discussion of potential blow-back, especially in light of STL-area police resistance to calls for reform? Why was the announcement that agreement had been reached with SLPD delayed until June 8th — during Pride Month, when area LGBTQIA+ organizations would have less time to respond and defend that agreement?

Q2. Jolene Gosha, a former member of the Pride Board, has alleged that Pride Board members were told on June 17th that someone from the St. Louis Mayor’s office (perhaps Mayor Lyda Krewson herself) had threatened to withdraw permits for the Pride parade and/or Pridefest if Pride St. Louis did not reverse its decision and allow armed/uniformed police in the parade. Mayor Krewson has since publicly contradicted that assertion. At any time did any member of the Pride St. Louis Board receive such a threat — verbally or in writing — from Mayor Krewson or anyone else in the Mayor’s Office or St. Louis City administration? Did any members of Board convey — verbally or in writing — to other Board members that such a threat had been made? If so, which Board members?

Q3. At the June 17th meeting where the Pride Board voted on the police decision (and then immediately reversed that decision), were any members of the Board threatened, coerced, or explicitly told how they should vote on the two questions before the Board? Were Board minutes and votes recorded at that meeting? If so, why have they not been made public, despite numerous calls for their release?

Q4. Terry Willits, a member of the Parade Committee for Pride St. Louis, has publicly alleged that President of the Board, Matt Harper, and Director of Compliance, Dennis Gorg, intentionally spread a false rumor that the FBI and/or Homeland Security were handling security at the Pride parade in order to deter activists from disrupting the parade. Is this true?

Q5. In light of its decision to allow armed/uniformed police in the 2019 Pride Parade, what plans does Pride St. Louis have to repair its fractured relationship with the area’s transgender/gender non-binary community?

Q6. Does Pride St. Louis, Inc. have any plans to hold a public town hall to hear community concerns and answer questions about these issues? What is the date of this town hall and where will it be held?

Pride St. Louis, Inc. is seen as the public face of the St. Louis region’s LGBTQIA+ community. But members of its Board cannot pose for photographs with area politicians or solicit large corporate donations on behalf of that community without being transparent in their actions and accountable to those it claims to serve and represent.

Pride St. Louis, Inc. stands at crossroads. Its survival depends on the Board taking immediate action to answer community questions and address our concerns.

The follow up to this open letter with suggestions for moving forward can be read here:

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A longtime resident of St. Louis, Michael J. Murphy, MA, PhD, is Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Illinois. He is the author of many book chapters, and encyclopedia and journal articles. Most recently he edited Living Out Loud: An Introduction to LGBTQ History, Society, and Culture (Routledge, 2019).

Professional homosexual. Professor. Writer. Scholar. Activist. Husband.

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