About 250 people gathered Friday evening in Modesto to stand against Saturday’s planned straight pride event, including the estranged gay son of an organizer.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church hosted an interfaith vigil that also was racially and sexually diverse. Audience members spoke and sang as one against the event planned by the National Straight Pride Coalition.
“I am very happy to be here with all of you to stand against hate and stand for love,” said Matthew Mason, the adopted son of straight pride co-leader Mylinda Mason of Modesto. He has spoken out several times this summer against her cause.
Next to Matthew Mason throughout the service was his birth mother, Modesto City Councilwoman Kristi Ah You. She, too, has been outspoken on the issue.
“Thank you all for being here,” she told the audience. “This is community right here.”
The organizers at first sought a city permit for Graceada Park, but officials said Modesto Centre Plaza would be a better fit. A lack of insurance kept that from happening,.
The coalition vowed to hold some kind of event anyway, the time and location to be announced Saturday morning on its website and Facebook page. There was no clue as of 9 p.m. on straight pride eve.
The coalition promotes traditional gender roles, Christianity and the importance of white people in Western civilization.
The Christians gathered at St. Paul’s weren’t talking like that. Nor were the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists or other attendees.
“Within a God-centered community, there is no room for hatred,” said Catholic Bishop Myron Cotta of the Diocese of Stockton, which takes in Stanislaus County. “There is no room for discrimination, no room for prejudice, no room for condemnation.”
The audience heard the words of Toni Morrison, the recently deceased novelist, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., another African-American icon.
The celebrants held tiny electric light bulbs rather than candles for this vigil. They sang “America the Beautiful” near the start and “Reach Out and Touch” at the end.
“It has been said, ‘Do your little bit of good where you are,” said Imam Ahmed Kayello of the Islamic Center of Modesto. “It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”