The Los Angeles Dodgers are facing criticism ahead of their upcoming LGBTQ+ Pride Night for the team’s decision to disinvite a group from what is scheduled to be their 10th annual celebration of diversity and inclusion on June 16 at Dodger Stadium.
The club announced Wednesday that it would no longer honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with its Community Hero Award in a pregame ceremony that evening, effectively disinviting the charity, protest and street performance organization that employs humor and religious imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance.
The decision came about after heavy pressure from conservative Catholic organizations, including the Catholic League and CatholicVote, and after Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred questioning whether the inclusion of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence would be “inclusive and welcoming to Christians.”
In announcing their decision, the Dodgers noted that LGBTQ+ Pride Night had “become a meaningful tradition, not only highlighting the diversity and resilience within our fan base, but also the impactful work of extraordinary community groups.” However, the team also said: “Given the strong feelings of those who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night, we are deciding to remove them from this year’s group of honorees.”
By Thursday, what was supposed to be an upcoming celebration at Dodger Stadium had become a lightning rod of controversy.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center condemned the Dodgers’ decision on Thursday, demanding that the team reverse its stance on the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence or cancel Pride Night altogether.
In part, the center’s statement read: “Buckling to pressure from out-of-state, right-wing fundamentalists, the Dodgers caved to a religious minority that is perpetuating a false narrative about L.G.B.T.Q.+ people. They have been fed lies about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and have therefore contributed to the ongoing, anti-L.G.B.T.Q. smear campaign happening in this country. In a year where over 400 pieces of anti-L.G.B.T.Q.+ legislation are on the books — many of them targeting freedom of speech, expression and the bodily autonomy of our community — the fight for L.G.B.T.Q.+ rights is as critical as ever, and unfortunately the Dodgers chose to bow to the religious right rather than stand with our L.G.B.T.Q. community.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California also announced on Twitter that, in unity with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, “we will not participate in Pride Night.” The organization pointed out in the post that the Dodgers, who broke baseball’s color line with Jackie Robinson in 1947, had previously been “champions of inclusion.”
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was founded in 1979 in San Francisco. According to the group’s website, its members have devoted themselves to “community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment.” The organization uses “humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.”
Group members, who describe themselves as a “a leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns,” are typically dressed in outfits with religious imagery, like nuns’ habits.
The Los Angeles branch of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who have been actively serving that community’s L.G.B.T.Q. community for 27 years, were going to receive the award from the Dodgers.
In a statement expressing disappointment that the Dodgers were “succumbing to pressure from persons outside of the state of California and outside of our community” and noting that the Dodgers had chosen to “un-ally themselves with us in our ongoing service to the public,” the group went on to say:
“We are both silly and serious. We use our flamboyance in service to our charity work and our message, which is ‘There is room in our world for each person to be who they are, as they are, free from shame or guilt, and alive in love and joy for their own self.
“We wish to point out that though our L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community is currently being assailed by a small group of extremists attempting to roll back society’s progress, they are a tiny minority and do not represent the majority of Americans’ commitment to a country that lives side by side in our great melting pot.”