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Houston's gay pride parade policy change on distribution of condoms sparks controversy

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Controversy is swirling over the distribution of condoms at Houston's gay pride parade. And now it has the city's health department threatening to stop participating in the annual event.

Pride Houston reversed its decision in a way, calling the matter "confusion" and telling Eyewitness News it was all a matter of miscommunication about what city ordinances say. But critics say that's not true, and an email from Pride Houston seems to bear that out.

The email from Pride Houston to the Department of Health and Human Services and other entrants in the pride parade is clear:

"Recent changes in city ordinances have constituted a change in the 2013 celebration rules. They are as follows: Parade entries are not allowed to throw/distribute contraceptives from their entry (i.e., float, vehicle or walking individuals)."

That prompted a letter from the health department to Pride Houston, telling Pride Houston that city ordinance does not prohibit the distribution of condoms along the parade route, and if the health department wasn't allowed to distribute condoms, it might not participate in the future.

"Why would the health department invest a great deal of resource and treasure in an event in which we could not fulfill our mission?" said Kathy Barton with the city's Health and Human Services Department.

Pride's vice president canceled an on-camera interview, but in a press release says contraceptives can't be thrown and must come with educational material.

But Noel Freeman, president of the GLBT Political Caucus, says Pride Houston is backtracking.

"It was very clear they were trying to prohibit the distribution of condoms entirely from the parade and festival. We've gotten some progress on this, they said that you just can't throw 'em," Freeman said.

The pride parade is scheduled for June 29 along Westheimer.

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