Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In our own back yard!!!!

No trouble at gay rights march, despite protests
City's first gay rights march draws crowd along with protesters

Tim Kimzey/
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A few hundred people participated in the Gay Pride March held in downtown Spartanburg, Saturday morning. Eight area churches and other individuals protested the event, the first of its kind held in the city.
By Craig
Published: Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 3:15 a.m. Last Modified: Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 12:06 a.m.
Signs, songs and shouts from the streets and sidewalks of downtown Spartanburg Saturday offered opposing perspectives, but organizers and police said the city's first gay pride march went smoothly.
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Gay Pride March
The Upstate Pride March and Festival featured a 1-mile route that started and ended at Unitarian Universalist Church on Henry Place and included guest speakers and musicians. Marchers included gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning persons, as well as heterosexuals that are referred to as straight allies.
PK Weiss, a member of the church, helped organize the event and participated with her husband, mother-in-law and children.
"Some said we couldn't do it. Some said we shouldn't do it. But we at Upstate Pride said it must be done and did it," Weiss told the crowd after the march.
Weiss said she originally hoped for 50 participants. Spartanburg Public Safety Director Tony Fisher estimated that 400 marched and another 300 people lined the sidewalks, mostly to protest.
"It was an amazing turnout," Weiss said. "It was beyond our wildest expectation. Our marchers handled it the way we instructed them to, with very little engagement (of protesters). Our crowd was fun and upbeat."
Fisher said he was "very proud" of the behavior of marchers and protesters alike.
"At some point in life you have to have respect for other folks' opinions, understand the passion behind those opinions and stay within reasonable boundaries," Fisher said. "That's what happened here today. People on both sides expressed themselves, for the most part, in a very respectful tone."
Marchers held signs that read "equal rights not special rights" and "value all families," sang "This Little Light of Mine" and chanted "two, four, six, eight, God does not discriminate."
Protesters held signs that read "God hates sins but loves the sinner" and "sodomy is not a family value." Some shouted as the marchers walked by, but many simply remained silent. One group of protesters from Polk County, N.C., sang "Room at the Cross for You."
One marcher said to a friend, "I wonder if the protesters actually think they're going to change someone's mind?" The friend replied, "Yeah, but they could say the same of us."
Roberta Dunn, a pre-operative transgendered man who is a self-described devout Christian who reads the Bible daily and claims to be "politically right of Rush Limbaugh" came from Mooresville, N.C., to march. Ten years into his heterosexual marriage, Dunn told his wife he always felt more like a woman. Dunn's wife, the mother of his children, bought him wigs and female clothing and they have been married 15 more years.
Larry Candler of Greenville and his wife participated in the march to show support for their two gay sons and one lesbian daughter. Candler said one of their sons hid three notes at age 11 that said he was gay, and one note was found when the son was 15. Candler said he and his wife did not have an immediate positive response, but now support their children's sexuality. Candler said he hopes homosexual couples attain rights and benefits that heterosexual married couples enjoy.
Joseph Vita sat on his horse, Leviticus, near the start of the parade. Vita, who came to the Fountain Inn/Laurens areas from Connecticut about two months ago, quietly passed out copies of John and Romans and a passage from Leviticus.
Greg Owens of Rutherfordton, N.C., and a member of Landrum Independent Baptist Church was loudly protesting on Henry Street. One marcher brought him a flower and offered to trade him for a an index card that referenced scriptures. Owens discarded the flower a few steps later and said he doesn't believe gays should use flowers or rainbows for symbols.
Minor dispute
One minor dispute occurred near the beginning of the march when protesters from Mountain View Baptist Church in Cowpens attempted to leave the spot for which they were permitted and walk along the sidewalk with the marchers.
Fisher allowed the protesters to move along the route to another location because he said they were not being disruptive.
Mountain View pastor Steve Griffith said the protesters "agreed to get a permit, but didn't agree not to use the public sidewalk."
Others lined the sidewalk in support of the marchers. Diane Maybin and Sylvia Johnson said sexuality is an individual choice and they support equal rights. Construction workers like Shane Nations of Chesnee who are remodeling the Hot Spot stopped and watched the march near its end. Nations said he believes "everyone's got a right to be happy, as long as they don't encroach on anyone else."
Spartanburg-based Truth Ministry hosted an event at First Baptist North Spartanburg an hour before the march and issued a news release opposing a "society that not only accepts homosexuality, but openly and proudly promotes it."
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  1. Sounds like quite a day; I'm sad to have missed it, but I've never been good at holding my tongue and may have ended up arguing with a protester. I wonder if there will ever be a pride march in my hometown... I'd wager not for a long while.

  2. That's very encouraging. I'm pleased that there was a Pride event in Spartanburg, and that it went so well.