The 2019 Pasadena Rose Queen, Louise Siskel
The anti-LGBTI hate group, Westboro Baptist Church, is planning to protest the Southern California high school attended by the 2019 Rose Queen, Louise Deser Siskel. Their protest is expected to take place on Monday, 25 February.
The Rose Queen
The Pasadena Tournament of Roses is an annual event occurring each September. Every year, young women between the ages of 17 and 21 audition to be a Rose Queen. 2019 Queen Louise Siskel, a Jewish woman who came out as bisexual on New Years Eve, attends Pasadena’s Sequoyah High School. She is the first Jewish and openly LGBTI woman to hold this title.
‘Part of the tradition feels antiquated — the titles, the etiquette lessons, the matching outfits,’ Siskel wrote in a Los Angeles Times column. ‘But, I have come to understand, these conventions are pieces of a tradition that also gives young women a powerful platform and asks only that we represent ourselves honestly.’
‘The 2019 Royal Court is one of the most diverse in the tournament’s history. We are of many different religious, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Personally, I am happy to be the first Rose Queen to wear glasses on the float (even though they clash with the crown), and the first Rose Queen to talk about being Jewish. I feel an additional responsibility, to myself and to this tradition, to share that I am bisexual.’
‘I never considered that my sexual orientation might be of interest to anyone but my family and my closest friends. But in this new, very public position, I feel it’s important to present myself authentically, especially to those who look to the Royal Court as a representation of our community. While I am almost certainly not the first member of the LGBTQ community on the court, I hope that by saying so publicly, I might encourage others to be proud of who they are.’
The Westboro Baptist Church
The Westboro Baptist Church has a long history of protesting funerals of gay people and victims of national tragedies. According to their website, godhatesfags.com, they have protested in 63,534 times in 1,033 cities across the United States.
The Church was founded in 1955 by Fred Phelps, who died in 2014. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the group as ‘arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.’
Rev. Lissa Anne Gundlach, a senior minister at Pasadena’s Neighborhood Church, took to Facebook express her frustrations at this protest. She called on the Pasadena community to ‘come together to rise above this hate group.’
‘Maintaining a safe, healthy environment for the students is our top priority. Therefore, we ask that you refrain from demonstrating on Monday,’ Gundlach wrote in a press release. ‘If you would like to participate as a peacekeeper in our nonviolent response, please join us on Sunday for a training and poster-making workshop conducted by the Neighborhood Church Social Justice and Inclusion staff and LGBTQ+ Community Organizers. The workshop will be a safe space for Neighborhood Church members, Sequoyah faculty and students, and the San Gabriel Valley community at large.’
According to Pasadena Weekly, Pasadena Police Chief John Perez described the Westboro Baptist Church as ‘peaceful and cooperative’ in an email exchange with a concerned resident. This was based on past interactions Perez had with the group. He wrote that they expect ‘a very loud group of 15 people or so — likely not much more.’
Additionally, Perez noted that they ‘plan for contingencies and keep the view of the police to a minimum to avoid any issues.’ He said their strategy is ‘to get groups in and out and have PPD resources organized to quickly respond as needed.’
Pasadena Police Lt. Jason Clawson told Pasadena Weekly that the Westboro Baptist Church does not need a permit to hold their protest. This is due to their First Amendment rights.
‘The city is aware of the protest as Westboro reached out to the PPD,’ Clawson stated. He added that the PPD are aware of some counter-protests that might be happening.