The Washington Post Sunday

Backlash continues against Dodgers after they exclude group from Pride Night


Several prominent LGBTQ+ groups will not participat­e in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ annual Pride Night after the organizati­on announced Wednesday that it would no longer honor an advocacy group with a community service award.

The decision, which came after outcry from the Catholic League and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), inspired a more widespread backlash in defense of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, whose members often dress in brightly colored habits and call themselves “a leading edge Order of queer and trans nuns.”

The Dodgers declined to comment beyond their initial statement, which cited “the strong feelings of those who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion” as potentiall­y distractin­g from “the great benefits” of Pride Night, set for June 16. But their decision and the ensuing reaction threatened to eclipse any other intentions.

“The disappoint­ment is that they caved, not under immense pressure but at the first sign of pressure from a minority group of loud extremists from way far away and well outside our city and the state,” said Sister Unity, a member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. “That disappoint­ed us greatly.”

The Los Angeles LGBT Center, the ACLU of Southern California and LA Pride withdrew from Pride Night in the wake of the Dodgers’ decision.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were founded in San Francisco in 1979 as an LGBTQ+ advocacy and fundraisin­g group. It has since opened chapters across the country and includes straight, gay and nonbinary members who dress in brightly colored habits and cloaks, paint their faces and, as the Los Angeles chapter’s website puts it, “make people happy, stamp out guilt brought on by a judgmental society and help various organizati­ons and charities.”

Catholic League President Bill Donohue wrote a public letter to MLB Commission­er Rob Manfred claiming the Dodgers were “rewarding hate speech” by including the group in Pride Night.

“By rewarding anti-Catholicis­m, the Dodgers have broken bread with the most despicable elements in American society today,” he wrote.

Sister Unity said the group strongly denies that it is antiCathol­ic and is not trying to mock Catholic traditions but rather is stepping into a long-standing tradition of religious satire.

“It is true that we borrow from the look of medieval Catholic nuns and that we use religious language as part of our shtick,” she said. “We employ it both because comedy is based on surprise and you don’t expect hairychest­ed, bearded men to appear as nuns. We banked on that humor. Gay humor is often iconoclast­ic. But we’ve never said we’re against the Catholic Church. We are not.”

Sister Unity did note that the group harbors criticisms of the Catholic Church but does not advocate against it. Instead, she said, it advocates for LGBTQ+ rights and fundraises for less visible queer causes that need help. And until this past week, she added, it had done so in almost surprising anonymity.

Despite their fondness for eyecatchin­g garb, the sisters do not normally garner the same attention as bigger LGBTQ+ advocacy groups in the Los Angeles area. So when the Dodgers informed them that they would be honored with a Community Hero Award on Pride Night, they were pleasantly surprised. And while the sisters were accustomed to pushback, they also were surprised to see Rubio, a politician who represents a state across the country, mentioning them at all.

Rubio, a former presidenti­al hopeful, wrote a public letter to Manfred in which he argued that the Dodgers’ inclusion of the sisters in their Pride Night celebratio­n meant MLB was not being as inclusive to Christians as it was trying to be to other groups.

“I write to ask whether your League wants to be ‘inclusive and welcoming’ to Christians, and if so, why you are allowing an MLB team to honor a group that mocks Christians through diabolical parodies of our faith?” he wrote. Last year, Rubio sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall asking him to cancel a “Drag Queen Story Time” event for children of service members, one of several attacks on drag events in recent months staged by Rubio and his Republican colleagues.

Soon after the letters became public, a Dodgers official called Sister Bearoncé — a lifelong Dodgers fan and Los Angeles resident — to inform the group of the decision to exclude it from Pride Night, according to Sister Unity. She spread the word to the rest of the group.

Asked for comment, MLB again made clear that such calls are left to its teams. Although Manfred moved the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta because of Georgia’s restrictiv­e voting laws, MLB allows teams to make their own decisions regarding LGBTQ+ community outreach.

Los Angeles has long been considered a hub of LGBTQ+ activism. And the Dodgers have a history of being active and welcoming to gay fans, something the sisters and Los Angeles LBGT Center noted in statements about the team’s decision.

“We are deeply disappoint­ed that the Dodgers, an organizati­onal partner that has made significan­t strides towards dismantlin­g anti-LGBTQ+ bias in sports and long-standing supporter of our mission, has decided to revoke their invitation to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at their upcoming Pride Night,” the LGBT Center of Los Angeles wrote in a statement as it announced it was removing itself from the Dodgers’ Pride Night festivitie­s.

Sister Unity said the organizati­on had been “well allied” with the city’s LGBTQ+ community for at least a decade but that the team’s statement seemed written to cast them as villains.

“If the publicity is too hot, we can understand that you need to protect your organizati­on,” she said. “It may be that our activities carry a political patina that is inappropri­ate for you. But to use that language casting us in a negative light and have that negativity come from places intentiona­lly generating negative PR using inaccurate critiques, that is disappoint­ing.”

 ?? RICHARD VOGEL/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, pictured at a gay pride parade in 2016, were founded as an LGBTQ+ advocacy and fundraisin­g group.
RICHARD VOGEL/ASSOCIATED PRESS The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, pictured at a gay pride parade in 2016, were founded as an LGBTQ+ advocacy and fundraisin­g group.
 ?? J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was among the first to decry the Dodgers’ plans for Pride Night.
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/ASSOCIATED PRESS Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was among the first to decry the Dodgers’ plans for Pride Night.

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