pride flag police

In the stiff competition for The Dumbest Thing I’ve Heard Lately, we now have a clear winner.

Phoenix Pride—the LGBTQ+ group whose vision is to build “a unified community where diverse individuals are celebrated and able to thrive as their authentic selves”—has banned uniformed police officers from participating in this year’s 40th annual Phoenix Pride Festival and Parade.

The ban, enacted “in solidarity with LGBTQ Black and Indigenous People of Color,” includes two requests made of the Phoenix Police Department.

One is that PPD “use only unarmed, non-uniformed officers to manage required street closures and traffic restrictions” around the event, which draws tens of thousands of people to the area around Steele Indian School Park in midtown. 

Additionally, Phoenix Pride has committed to hiring “only the minimum mandated number of hand-selected off-duty officers” to provide security at the Festival Nov. 7-8.

Law enforcement members who still want to participate in or attend Pride have been asked to do so “without badges, firearms, non-lethal weapons, or any other identifying gear or equipment present.”

Well, I guess that rules out the cop in the Village People showing up this year, huh?

The ironies here are multiple

and absurd. 

After 40 years of battling against discrimination and for diversity in the Valley, an organization whose P.R.O.U.D. values statement literally includes the phrase “We celebrate and respect the fundamental values and differences in all individuals” has itself discriminated against an entire profession—a profession which itself has gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer persons among its ranks.

We’ve all heard the phrase “in the closet.” It’s a phrase that has become politically incorrect over the years, in part due to the hard work of groups like Phoenix Pride, whose messages of inclusiveness and openness have resonated far beyond the communities they serve—even as far as straight old white guys like me. 

That’s one more reason why this decision sticks in my craw: Doesn’t it effectively stuff police officers in the closet, telling them not only are their services not wanted but that they can only be seen and heard if they agree to dress a certain way and, oh, by the way, leave the police vehicles at home?

You have to wonder what sponsors like Budweiser, Bank of America, Circle K, Target and Walmart will think about this decision, given that they sell to police officers en masse.

And I also have to wonder how the taxpayers of Phoenix will feel, given that the city of Phoenix is a sponsor, too, and the event takes place on city streets and in a city park.

Most importantly, I wonder at the phrase that Phoenix Pride used to close their press release: that this decision has been made to “continue to proclaim that Black lives matter.”

Black lives absolutely do matter.

As a community, we must do everything we can to end systemic racism and to end violence against Black men and women, boys and girls committed by rogue police officers and anyone who intends to oppress.

But personally, I draw the line at discrimination intended to end discrimination. 

For 40 years now, Phoenix Pride and their allies have rallied beneath the rainbow flag for a reason: The rainbow embraces all colors and, thus, all people. That’s the beauty of the metaphor.

 No matter who you are, no matter your gender, religion, creed or race, your career or your uniform, no matter who you love and who loves you, everyone has a place beneath that gorgeous arch of every color. Until this year, until this parade and festival.

My take? A rainbow without police blue is no rainbow at all.