Saturday, July 03, 2010

Gay Pride Float Destroyed By Fire Just Two Days Before Intended Deployment In Anchorage's Fourth Of July Parade; Arson Suspected

A gay pride float that took 10 days to construct was destroyed by fire early on Friday July 2nd, 2010, just two days before its intended deployment in Anchorage's Fourth of July parade. To add insult to injury, the fire destroyed a garage and an adjacent float, and scorched the sides of two adjacent houses. Story published by the Anchorage Daily News, video report on KTVA Channel 11, and report on KTUU Channel 2.

Arson is suspected because witnesses told fire investigators they saw someone running from the driveway just moments before the garage containing the float went up in flames. Anchorage Fire Department Capt. Kevin Keene said, ""We're investigating right now. I'm putting all this together right now and I'm getting all kinds of information...Until I confirm that, right now the fire is still under investigation."

The couple responsible for constructing the float are not gay. Scott Koeller and his wife Paula Butner have built parade floats every year for the separate gay pride parade for the Imperial Court of All Alaska. This year they decided to build one for the Fourth of July parade. Gays and others say they are now working to make art out of ashes, calling their new float The Phoenix Rising, and are on track for the Sunday, 9:00 A.M. parade deadline. They're also raising money to help Koeller rebuild his garage. Gay community leaders say regardless of whether the float torching was an accident or a malicious act, they still want to send a positive message.

But if it is found to be arson and the intent was to target the gay community, it's likely to fire up the Ordinance #64 controversy all over again. Gay activists are likely to cite this as justification for a gay nondiscrimination ordinance, even though most of us Alaskans don't really care who you sleep with as long as they're over the age of consent and don't shout it from the housetops. It's only when gays demand to be a protected class that we Alaskans get our dander up; equal treatment under the law should mean NO PROTECTED CLASSES except the common protected class of "American citizen". The practice of designating multiple protected classes sows polarization, division, and even backlash.

So it's imperative that even those of us who disagree with the practice of homosexuality condemn this act if it is proven to be arson, simply because arson is a crime.

Update July 5th: A replacement float was built and deployed during the Fourth of July parade. In an obvious sympathy vote, the float, named "Phoenix Rising", won the Grand Champion trophy. You can also read more information and see more photos on this Mudflats post.

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