The following comes from a June 19 story in the Napa Valley Register.

Local gay rights advocates planning to participate in Napa’s annual Fourth of July festivities were dismayed to learn that this year’s parade grand marshal is none other than Meritage Resort and Spa founder Tim Busch, an Orange County businessman and conservative Catholic who has actively campaigned against gay marriage.

“I have no issues with (Busch) being in the parade,” Deb Stallings, a Napa resident and leader in the local gay community, said Wednesday. “It’s absolutely true that the parade should reflect all walks of life. But being the grand marshal is a different honor. You award that to someone who brings people together, not someone who is so incredibly divisive.”

The Napa Sunrise Rotary’s grand marshal choice has so outraged the local gay community that Stallings started a petition asking the club to change its decision. As of Thursday afternoon, the two-day-old online petition had more than 170 signatures.

Calls to Busch and Sunrise Rotary President John Cordeiro seeking comment were not returned Thursday.

Since 2009, when the Napa Sunrise Rotary Club began sponsoring the parade, the club has honored a citizen by making them grand marshal. According to parade organizer Doris Gentry, Sunrise Rotary chooses a grand marshal who has made significant contributions to Napa.

“We choose people who are the backbone of Napa,” Gentry said Wednesday. “It’s the people who have invested their time and money and love and passion in this community – people who have a belief in the future of Napa. That’s what Tim Busch has done.”

Gentry said that the club made the decision to honor Busch because of his extensive investment in the Meritage Hotel & Spa in south Napa.

“People were laughing at him when he bought that land in the industrial part of town – in an area everyone said was the ugliest part of Napa,” she said. “And yet, here’s a guy who had vision and gumption and belief in our community. A guy who thought ‘I can take this ugly piece of land and make it a world-class resort that people will come to from all over the planet’. How can that guy not be the person you want to celebrate and trumpet in this community?”

Though heavily involved in dealings with the Meritage, Busch and his wife, Steph – who is co-grand marshal of this year’s parade – do not reside in Napa County. The couple lives in Southern California. But, according to Gentry, Busch’s son lives locally, and the family’s investment in Napa is well-documented.

Busch’s stances on issues like gay marriage and women’s reproductive rights are highly publicized. In 2008, Busch reportedly donated $10,000 to a campaign aimed at upholding Proposition 8, the California law banning same-sex marriage that was struck down by a federal court in June 2013. Busch also refused to allow a National Abortion Rights Activism conference to be held at the Meritage hotel in January 2008.

In another twist, the local advocacy group Napa Valley LGBTQ Pride had previously booked an LGBTQ event at the Meritage for later in July. Gentry called the group’s efforts hypocritical, in light of its own actions.

But Stallings said Wednesday that the group had not realized the hotel’s connection to Busch until recently and had changed the location of its event….

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