The Gay and Lesbian Veterans of Maryland won't be the only people noticeably absent from the Catonsville July Fourth parade.
Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a 7th District Democrat, has decided not to march in the parade as a result of the Catonsville Celebration Committee's decision to exclude the gay and lesbian group from the festivities.
"It would be very difficult for me to be a part of a parade that discriminates against people," he said. "These men and women have every right . . . to want to be able to say, 'I'm an American and proud of it.' We should not try to find ways to discourage that. That's not the sort of message we should be sending out on the day of independence."
Alan Stephens, co-president of the gay and lesbian group's Maryland chapter, called Mr. Mfume's decision "courageous.
"It shows he's taken a little bit of the leadership on basic human rights for all . . . and is not supporting bigotry and hatred in this country and in his district."
Gene Fedeli, general chairman for the Catonsville July Fourth parade and fireworks, said the committee's decision was finalized last week to protect the safety of the veterans' group and parade-goers.
"I am sorry that [Mr. Mfume] feels that way, but I don't want -- the committee doesn't want -- any trouble with people being belligerent," Mr. Fedeli said.
Lisa Evans, a member of the Baltimore Justice Campaign, an organization that works to promote sexual awareness and tolerance, said she was pleased with Mr. Mfume's decision, adding that she doesn't think the committee represents the feelings of the Catonsville community.
The veterans' group has still received no official word from the committee.