San Francisco police, firefighters refuse to march in Pride parade over uniform battle

San Francisco police officers said Monday they won't participate in the Pride parade unless they are allowed to wear their uniforms.

Officers from the police department and city's sheriff's office said they want SF Pride to reverse their 2020 decision that requires them to wear civilian clothes instead. They added that "radical inclusivity" is a core city value, and they shouldn't be banned from dressing in uniform.

"This committee would not order the leather community to wear polyester at the parade," the San Francisco Police Officers' Pride Alliance wrote in a statement. "This committee would not order the drag community to wear flannel. But they have told us, peace officers, that if we wear our uniforms, we may not attend."

The officers said they recognize the issues of police hostility are complex, and the modern LGBTQ+ movement was born out of response to issues of the past. But they said the Pride committee has not responded to their efforts to talk through the issue.

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"We shared stories of the courage it took to serve as both a peace officer and a member of the LGBTQ+ community," the statement reads. "The board of SF Pride offered only one option: that LGBTQ+ peace officers hang up their uniforms, put them back in the closet, and march in civilian attire."

Hours later, Mayor London Breed said that she will skip the parade unless officers may participate while wearing their uniforms. 

"I love the Pride Parade, and what it means for our LGBTQ community and for our city. It’s one of my favorite events of the year. However, if the Pride Board does not reverse its decision, I will join our city public safety departments that are not participating in the Pride Parade," said Breed in a statement.

Suzanne Ford, interim executive director of San Francisco Pride, said she is not swayed. 

Ford argued that "there is no equivalence" between the leather community and police officers. 

Ford also noted that Pride’s board had welcomed law enforcement to wear some other type of outfit to represent their group, such as a T-shirt with an SFPD logo, so long as it wasn’t an official uniform with a badge.

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"We didn’t ask anyone to hide, or not to denote who they were," Ford said. "We just did not want full uniforms, out of harm reduction to marginalized members of our community."

Ford also emphasized "radical inclusion," saying she felt the request to modify officers’ garments would still accommodate them, while creating a more hospitable environment for people who feel mistreated by police. 

"This is principles, not personalities," Ford said. "The Pride Alliance, the queer police officers are our siblings. They're part of our community. We know that. But we have other members of our community that don't feel that way."

The officers in the Pride Alliance are standing firm though, hoping their refusal to participate in the parade will bring the issue to the public's attention.

"We will not hide from anyone who we are," the police officers said.

The police department released a statement supporting the choice of its officers to forgo taking part in the parade. However, the department said uniformed cops will "be on hand to ensure that everyone attending and participating in SF Pride Weekend enjoys a safe and celebratory Pride Weekend in San Francisco."

Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who is gay, previously served as the top civilian spokesman for the SFPD.

"I think it's important that we send a message that we're a city that welcomes first responders," Dorsey said. "So I think it's a moment when we can ill afford to send a message that we don't welcome diverse communities. I just want to make sure that we can be as welcoming as we can be."