Concerns of discrimination raised after Columbia Heights mayor refuses to issue proclamation for Pride festival

Updated: July 10, 2019 12:41 PM

Columbia Heights LGBTQ residents wanted to celebrate the city's first Pride festival, set to take place this coming Saturday.

They had hoped the celebration could start at Monday's city council meeting.

Instead, the group packed the small chambers for a different reason: to protest the mayor's decision not to issue a proclamation, recognizing and celebrating the inaugural event.

Explaining her decision, Mayor Donna Schmitt said the pride festival didn't fit within the guidelines for the ceremonial documents.

However, Schmitt did confirm to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, those guidelines were developed the same week that organizers of the pride festival began asking about a proclamation.

RELATED: 50 years of LGBTQ pride showcased in protests, parades

"It is not about a group, it's about, let's follow the guidelines," Schmitt said during an interview. "They can go out and celebrate, they are more than welcome to rent our parks and have a family friendly event as they have requested."

Organizers of the event say the decision has created concerns about discrimination in the city.

Amada Marquez Simula, who has been planning the event for months, said the group feels the event fits within the guidelines for recognition.

"She didn't think that it was important enough for a proclamation," Simula said.

Residents who went to Monday's council meeting admonished the mayor, voicing their frustrations during the public comment period.

"Right now, the eye is on Columbia Heights that our city government is biased against the LGBTQ community," Simula said.

Mayor Schmitt responded to those criticisms during an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, saying her decision was not motivated by the discrimination of any group.

"I just hope they realize, they don't represent everyone in the city either," Schmitt said.

The Pride festival will happen regardless. Details for the event can be found here.

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Kirsten Swanson

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