‘Straight Pride’ event planned for Modesto draws protests before permit even issued

The National Straight Pride Coalition expects to hold its first “Stanislaus County Straight Pride” event in Modesto’s Graceada Park next month.

Organizers say it will be a “celebration of life” that includes promoting heterosexuality, traditional gender roles and the group’s ideals of Western civilization, Christianity and patriotism.

Word of the event spread quickly on social media, sparking reactions from people who condemned it as anti-LGBTQ. Opponents are planning a protest on the same day.

The main organizers for the event, the coalition’s Don Grundmann of Santa Clara and Mylinda Mason of Modesto, say they just want to exercise their First Amendment rights.

“(The LGBTQ community) have had their free speech ... they had all of June,” Mason said. “They’re welcome to come there and have their speech, of course. That has nothing to do with us. But our speech is the one that is being impeded upon.”

Grundmann added that they aim to exhibit a “cultural contrast” to what the LGBTQ community presents during Pride Month.

“We have a culture of life, and we’re presenting that, actually, heterosexuality is a basis for our continued existence,” Grundmann said.

He and Mason applied for an event permit through the City of Modesto, which has not yet been approved. Thomas Reeves, a spokesman for the city, said they should have a decision by the end of the week.

“So far, no,” he said about whether the city would have legal grounds to deny the permit. “We are certainly doing a meticulous review of the permit just like any other we receive. But because of the national sensitivity of the issue being discussed, we are taking every precaution necessary.”

The straight pride event is scheduled for Aug. 24 from noon to 4 p.m. in the park.

The permit says organizers expect 500 people to show up to hear speakers from across the nation present the coalition’s ideals in the park’s Mancini Bowl. Grundmann and Mason also said they hope the Proud Boys will show up, an organization self-described as “western chauvinists” and designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Antifa, a group characterized by its militant opposition to extreme right-wing ideology, is also expected to show up, Grundmann and Mason said.

Reeves said that if the permit is approved, the Modesto Police Department will begin to plan for any safety precautions necessary.

Adverse reactions have already flooded social media, with a Facebook group planning to protest the event.

One individual from the protest being organized said they have received chastising, threatening calls from those who support the Straight Pride event, and chose to remain anonymous for fear of receiving more calls.

“We have no intentions of using any disruptive or violent behavior,” the person said. “We just want this hate group to see that we are here and hopefully they will take their hate group elsewhere away from our community.”

An organizer of the protest, Chris Holland, said the Straight Pride event is a mockery of what LGBTQ Pride actually is.

“(LGBTQ) Pride is not just a party, it’s a celebration of the trials and tribulations those in the past have gone through to give us the freedoms we have now,” he said. “How hard was it to come out to your parents that you’re straight? Did they disown you? We are living under an administration that legitimizes hate, and we want to show that is not what America stands for.”

Mason’s adopted son who is gay, Matthew Mason, said he disagrees with the event’s motto of a “celebration of life.”

“It seems like they’re only celebrating one part of life,” he said. “They’re excluding the diversity of life that is really out there. And this is certainly not the Christianity I know.”