Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is attributing her absence from this weekend’s Capital Pride parade to the lack of an invitation to the event and a requirement that she pay to take part, although organizers dispute her account and say the fee is customary.
Benjamin Fritsch, a Norton spokesperson, said in a statement shared with the Washington Blade and other media outlets the delegate “assumed she would go to the Capital Pride Parade” — which he said she has done each year even before her nearly 26 years in Congress — but this year never received an invite.
“She has always received a letter of invitation from the parade organizers, but this year did not receive one, so her staff reached out to them well in time for her to participate,” Fritsch said. “The organizers said they would put her on a waitlist. They also said that the congresswoman would have to pay more than $600, and an additional smaller fee to be put on the waitlist. Therefore, she decided not to participate.”
Although Norton was absent from the parade, other officials who took part included D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), D.C. Council member and former D.C. Mayor Vince Gray (D-Ward 7).
Bernie Delia, president of Capital Pride Alliance, responded to Norton by saying organizers have never extended invitations to elected officials to participate in the event at least the past nine years.
“Months in advance of the parade we inform prior parade entrants that the registration is open,” Delia said. “In this case we did what we have always done – hold a spot in the line-up for D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton for when she showed up, as she has done for every previous Capital Pride Parade.”
Delia said a Norton staffer called late last week seeking to register. Although the staffer was told that would result in an automated system generating an email indicating Norton was on a wait list, Capital Pride organizers explained they would manually override that and place the delegate’s contingent in the parade, Delia said.
The $600 fee, Delia said, is standard for participation in the parade and the same amount charged to all political contingents in the past. Delia acknowledged Capital Pride charges a $10 fee for being on the wait list, but said Norton was never really on it and that $10 “is credited to the account balance for the entry fee.”
“We regret the confusion and look forward to Del. Norton’s participation in future Capital Pride Parades,” Delia concluded.
Delia’s assertion that all political entrants must pay a $600 fee is consistent with Capital Pride’s website, which says “all politicians/individuals with a legislative agenda that are or will be running for political office” are considered “Tier 2” non-profits and must pay a $600 fee for participation in the parade.
The kerfuffle between Norton and Capital Pride organizers came as No Justice No Pride protesters disrupted the parade and forced it to be rerouted over objections to involvement of police and corporate sponsors in the event as well as insufficient diversity on the Capital Pride board.