Washington National Cathedral will continue an annual tradition by participating in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday June 9. The parade is part of a weekend organized by the Capital Pride Alliance “dedicated to serving the needs of the LGBTQ+ community and its partners through educational events, entertainment, community outreach, and celebrations of diversity throughout the year.” It is a broad celebration of the gay community through a series of parties, rallies, concerts, and events across Washington, D.C. The parade, the highlight of the weekend, features over 200 contingents of floats, vehicles, marchers, and entertainment.
The National Cathedral has offered vocal support for numerous radical leftist policies for years and has long supported LGBT causes. The church made headlines in 2013 by announcing that they would host same-sex marriages, and brought in their first transgender preacher in 2014. Plastered at the top of the “Advocacy” page of their website they state “The Cathedral considers LGBT equality the great civil rights issue of church in the 21st century.”
Much of the initiative for the Episcopal cathedral’s shift came under the leadership of Dean Gary Hall who was brought on in 2012 amidst years of financial challenges. While cathedral officials have embraced LGBT causes since at least the early 1980s, Hall attempted to invigorate the congregation by bringing it national attention. He proclaimed from the pulpit that “It is not only just OK to be gay, straight, bisexual, or transgendered. It is good to be that way, because that is the way God has made you.” Hall lead the church in celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, and also launched other progressive initiatives including Muslim prayer services and an LGBT ministry group. In 2013, he led a contingent from the National Cathedral to participate in the Pride Parade formally for the first time.
Hall stepped down and was succeeded by Dean Randy Hollerith in 2016 who was chosen in part because of his skills as a fundraiser. Hollerith subsequently continued to use his religious authority to push for leftist politics. Most recently, in March the National Cathedral hosted an interfaith gathering for the March for our Lives activists, part of continued Cathedral advocacy for firearms restrictions.
Participation of D.C.-area Mainline Protestant churches in the Pride Parade is nothing new and the event boasts at least 15 churches planning to participate this year. The parade has rapidly grown in popularity and expanded in size since its founding during the 1970s. This weekend it will be supported by numerous corporate sponsors including Marriott International, McDonald’s, Visa, Heineken, Chipotle, Facebook, Fannie Mae, Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s, Capital One, State Farm, and many others.
This overwhelming support has led to conflicts within the gay community. Some LGBT activists assert that the parade is not nearly progressive enough. The group No Justice no Pride claims that the event has a “legacy of neglecting marginalized communities.”
Last year protesters from the group disrupted the parade with signs saying “rainbows don’t cover death merchants” and chants about police brutality. They later issued a press release stating “Corporations that desecrate Native land, manufacture weapons and support private prisons ― and law enforcement agencies that proportionately harass, kill, and arrest queer and trans people of color ― cannot be considered LGBT allies” As a result, Washington’s Metropolitan Police formed a line protecting the agitators and rerouted the parade to allow them to continue protesting the involvement of the police in the parade.
In April, No Justice No Pride issued a list of demands for this year’s event. For as far left as Pride weekend already is, it is clear that radical leftists are not satisfied. The participation of churches such as the National Cathedral in these types of events will only include them in the rapid movement farther to the left. These ideological changes are happening even as the Mainline Protestant denominations that many of these churches are a part of are shrinking and facing increasing budget concerns.
The National Cathedral has chosen to participate in a weekend that commemorates gay culture with the “Earth, Wind, Glitter, and Fire” party, the “Crack of Noon” brunch that promises to “knock your rainbow-glitter socks off”, a Gay and Bisexual Speed Dating night, and many other concerts and parties. There is no word yet on whether Dean Hollerith’s involvement will extend to participation in events like the “Official Saturday Night Men’s Party” hosted at the “gay, leather bar” the DC Eagle, an event that promises to be themed “leather, fetish, sports, gear and progressive/tribal.”
David Jensen is a Summer intern for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is from Newport Beach, California and is a rising senior at the College of William and Mary where he is majoring in History and Government.