A high school band dropped plans to perform at Walt Disney World after months of wrangling with school officials over whether the amusement park’s corporate parent promotes homosexuality.
The dispute, which had divided and embarrassed this small fishing resort on Lake Stockton, was resolved when Stockton High School band leader Marvin Manring canceled the trip, saying it was time to put the issue to rest.
“It’s no secret what a black spot this has been on our community,” Manring told Wednesday’s school board meeting, which was picketed by religious protesters from neighboring Kansas.
Board vice president Tom Landers said he disapproved of Disney’s policy of providing benefits to same-sex partners of employees and to Disney-owned ABC’s “Ellen,” whose star and title character are openly lesbian.
Since the Disney World trip was proposed in November, the board had repeatedly delayed approval, asking for more justification. When board members declined to take a vote Wednesday after Manring presented a 10-page report, he withdrew the request.
Anti-gay members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., gathered outside the meeting. Several held signs condemning gays, including one with a drawing of Mickey Mouse and the words “Rat Fag.”
Manring said the Disney World trip would have given students a chance to study animation and science and work with professional musicians. Band members would also have been able to perform in front of as many as 50,000 people at a Main Street USA parade or concert.
More than 100 people attended the meeting, and most filed out angrily after Manring withdrew the request.
“I thought it was a bunch of bull,” said freshman flutist Danielle Dotson, who was near tears. “We have gays in Stockton. Wherever you go, there are going to be gay people there.”
Manring has asked the board to consider sending the band instead to San Antonio, where he said the students would study U.S. history, visit the Alamo and other tourist attractions and go to the beach.
Raymond Winsett, whose daughter plays in the band, said Disney’s policy toward gays should not have been an excuse to cancel the trip.
“That ain’t got nothing to do with letting these kids go to Disney World,” Winsett said. “Most of the business people in Stockton would sell merchandise to those people,” he said of gays.