First gay unit marches in Cleveland St. Patrick's parade

CLEVELAND -- Is Cleveland more accepting than supposedly more progressive, accepting and cosmopolitan New York City and Boston?

It was, at least in the category of St. Patrick's Day parades Monday.

The first openly LGBT unit to march in the iconic Cleveland event got its chance.

About a dozen marchers promoting the Gay Games marched with a banner and placards mentioning the sports events that will be involved.

In New York City and Boston, gay groups are banned from the parades. That led to three breweries -- Guinness, Heineken and Sam Adams -- pulling their sponsorships.

Jim Kilbane, the executive director of Cleveland's parade committee, said there was never any reservation about admitting the group to an event that includes many devout religious groups and has thousands of children lining the parade route.

In fact, the group was admitted despite submitting its paperwork after the deadline.

"We're all Clevelanders. The Games are going to be very, very important to Cleveland. ... When things are important, sometimes you have to bend the rules a little," Kilbane said.

The Gay Games groups had to follow the same parade do's and don'ts all units abide by.

Gay Games board member Kevin Schmotzer didn't even know his was the very first gay unit to march.

"I think that's awesome. It says a lot about Cleveland and Akron. ... It tells you that the welcome mat is open for every one to come here," he said.

There were no reported incidents or insults from parade watchers.

Schmotzer said the Games might approach brewers who withdrew sponsorships from New York City and Boston parades to be sponsors of the Cleveland games.


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