JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Gay cops rail against Seattle pride ban as groups push them ‘back in closet’

May 31, 2021, 7:32 PM | Updated: Jun 1, 2021, 6:00 am
seattle police gay pride...
Seattle Police Department participating in a gay pride event in Seattle. (Photo: Seattle Police Department)
(Photo: Seattle Police Department)

The LGBTQ community demands tolerance and acceptance, yet offers little of it at June’s pride events.

Capitol Hill Pride is banning police from appearing in the pride march and rally. Seattle Pride, the more mainstream parade organizer, is considering a ban. And now, two gay officers are speaking out against this attack on their profession — and their identities.

Both positions by the pride groups should embarrass the LGBTQ community. Why let fringe activists speak out against the very officers called upon to help protect the community? Members of the community must speak out against this repulsive ban on police.

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Police bans send a disturbing message

The actual ban and potential ban are based on the same misguided, anti-police narrative that has engulfed the city for the last year. Somehow, organizers claim, rallygoers’ lives could be in danger if police were around. What nonsense.

On its website, Capitol Hill Pride invited “everyone, LGBTQ and anyone of any orientation, color, background, race, nationality and non-profit organizations to march in support of diversity and equality” to join. With one exception: “Except Police!”

Are you an officer in the LGBTQ community? Stay away. Organizers only want you if you’re helping arrest a criminal committing a crime. Otherwise, you’re of little value to the community.

“To the safety and courtesy of the LGBTQ and diversity community as well as the general public, our responsibility is to present a safe event and is dedicated to creating an atmosphere free of fear or harm for members of the community,” Capitol Hill Pride directors Charlette LeFevre and Philip Lipson LeFevre said in a rambling statement. “As such, Capitol Hill Pride is announcing a ban of police at the event and will continue to request police to stay at the perimeters.”

Capitol Hill Pride went with a full ban. But the more mainstream pride organization is considering the same.

Seattle Pride is considering its options

Seattle Pride, helmed by a far-left politician who doesn’t live in Seattle, is seeking community input before announcing whether they’ll allow LGBTQ cops to march. They’re buying time. They’re hoping enough activists to give them a reason to ban officers.

Burien Councilmember Krystal Marx runs Seattle Pride. She is Burien’s version of Councilmember Kshama Sawant, though with considerably less media savvy, vision, name recognition, and community support. With that kind of leadership, it’s no wonder they’re weighing their options on police participation for next year’s event.

“During the coming year, we’ll be taking the time necessary for a thoughtful process in which we’ll be asking to hear from folks in our community so that our plans are reflective of them,” Marx told KIRO Nights host Jack Stine. “We can balance that with the mandatory requirements of the city, which requires a police presence for events of this scale. It requires a permit, and we want to make sure that we are able to balance both the concerns and the permit requirements.”

An early proponent and apologist of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, Marx is an oft-critic of police. She refused to pass a budget, in part because of funds going to the Burien PD. She even hopes to take her fringe views to Congress. Marx announced her challenge to incumbent Democrat congressman Adam Smith. She will lose.

Pride puts gay cops ‘back in the closet’

Sergeant Doug Raguso is a 17-year veteran with the Seattle Police Department and is openly gay. He was disgusted when Capitol Hill Pride announced the ban.

“I was shocked. I was incredibly surprised because the Seattle Police Department and the LGBTQ community has enjoyed a phenomenal relationship in the almost 18 years that I’ve been with the department,” Raguso told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

“Seattle is an incredibly progressive city, and my hope was that they’d be a leader,” Raguso continued.

For Raguso, the move brought up painful memories of living in the closet. He chides Capitol Hill Pride for saying he can only go if he leaves his uniform at home, in the closet. It brought up a painful memory.

“I grew up in a time in a small city where I had to be closeted, where the main group of people said, ‘be seen, don’t be heard. We don’t need to know about it. Keep yourself in the closet, and you can get along with us.’ Well, in essence, that’s what Capitol Hill Pride is doing to us. They just put gay police officers back in the closet.”

‘It doesn’t sit well with me’

King County Sheriff’s Deputy Nic Abts-Olsen was also taken aback by the Capitol Hill Pride ban. And he was concerned with Seattle Pride’s reluctance to take a position.

“I’ve been part of this community, and I’m also part of the law enforcement community,” Abts-Olsen explained to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “Prior to working for the King County Sheriff’s Office, I was part of the Seattle Police Department. I worked on Capitol Hill, so I engaged with that community every day, and also outside of work when my uniform comes off, I’m part of that community. That’s how I identify in my personal life. So being told that I can’t participate this year and be proud of not only my job at the community that I’m part of and it just doesn’t sit well with me.”

Abts-Olsen takes pride in the work he has done in the community. While with the SPD, he worked at the East Precinct. He worked hard to be a visible part of the neighborhood, helping people out when they needed it and being a friendly face. Community policing, he knows, is important.

He’s also participated in previous pride events, marching alongside other LGBTQ officers, saying “it’s created a lot of opportunities for engagement” and positive relationships.

“I’ve seen those relationships have positive effects down the line when people are reporting crimes, or they’re victims of crimes, and then I can engage with people on a different level,” he explained. “So, excluding us from these events and reducing that visibility does nothing for community policing.”

The ban doesn’t reflect community position?

Abts-Olsen doesn’t think the ban is a reflection of what the community thinks about policing. Instead, it’s a position forwarded by one activist organization making a political point.

“I think the vast majority of the public does support law enforcement,” he said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily reflective of the whole community, but I do think it’s quite specific to this organization.”

If that’s the case, why haven’t more LGBTQ community members come forward to condemn this ban? He wonders if it’s because people want to avoid severe pushback from anti-cop community activists.

Turning their backs on gay officers

When a gay officer created SPD’s Safe Space initiative, the community united in celebration. It was the police department proudly declaring its commitment to protecting the LGBTQ community. It was lauded as “inclusive.”

“It’s really visibly queer in a way that I’ve been craving,” Sugarpill business owner Karyn Schwartz said at the time. “Seeing some sort of representation of yourself that says ‘you belong here’ — it brings calm to your soul.”

When activists declared they wanted more officers to reflect their community, the community celebrated LGBTQ police officers. VICE News profiled a pair of transgender officers serving in the SPD and KCSO.

“As far as violence towards transgender people, it absolutely will help to have transgender folks in the police department and the entire department understanding what transgender is and what it is not,” said Marsha Botzer, co-chair of the Ingersoll Gender Center. “That will help. Violence, I think, will decrease. How could it not if there’s that kind of understanding?”

The times have changed. Police showed up to protect the community only to have the community turn its back on gay police.

Where is the community speaking out?

Where’s the community to push back in one singular voice to say this is wrong? That using pride to smear gay cops is deplorable? A community that claims tolerance and acceptance should not smear its own, even if they think it serves some bigger political agenda.

When the community faces hate crimes, the victims turn to the police. And that same police department has members that should be able to turn to its community for support. But instead of being criticized, the move is being celebrated by some.

“Excluding police from Pride for the next four years is a bold statement, one reminiscent of the actions taken by Seattle CHOP activists,” Lindsey Anderson wrote in Seattle Gay News.

A bold statement? It’s a detestable statement. One that sends the message that LGBTQ activists are happy to engage in the same kind of hateful discrimination they used to condemn.

“We should be celebrating the fact that we have diversity within our law enforcement community, and our law enforcement community is reflective of the community,” Abts-Olsen said. “We don’t all come from the same walks of life, we don’t have all the same political views, we don’t have all the same personal experiences, but as part of the LGBTQ community, we should be celebrating that law enforcement is part of that and we’re representative of that, and I should be able to be proud of not only being gay but being a law enforcement officer and protecting my community and serving the public every day.”

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: Gay cops rail against Seattle pride ban as groups push them ‘back in closet’