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NC Pride and meeting the Log Cabin folks


Above is the Mad Hatter Bakery, dressed up for the occasion.

It was a great day out at the state-wide NC Pride Saturday. Kate and I had a great time; I actually had a chat with some Log Cabin Republicans, too! I marched with my old neighborhood association (Old West Durham, which is the host neighborhood of the annual parade – below). From the N&O;:

In Saturday’s parade, participants marched from Duke University’s East Campus to the Ninth Street retail strip and back, forming a rainbow-colored stream of floats, church groups, high school students, drag queens and local leaders including Stormy Ellis, an assistant district attorney in Durham, and Carrboro city councilman Mark Kleinschmidt, who gave a speech earlier in the day.

Buzzing kazoos and barking dogs wearing rainbow flower leis added to the din of hooting and clapping.

“Most of us are the only gay person at work, or the only gay person in the family,” said Keith Hayes, spokesman for the NC Pride Committee that organized the event. “It’s an unusual and uplifting experience to be in a place where you’re not the only one.”

The crowd was a mix of singletons and parents pushing their children in strollers. They clustered around vendors peddling gay pride symbols and entertainment, as well as information about gay-friendly churches and gay marriage.

The Durham community has been welcoming of PrideFest, Hayes said. Though anti-gay groups have visited Durham in the past, there haven’t been any protests to PrideFest that Hayes can recall. In most larger cities, anti-gay protesters frequently appear at such events, he said.

Several local organizations wanted to make sure participants in the parade knew they were welcome in the Bull City, including the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association, a group whose residents live in areas bordering Duke’s East Campus. “What this parade is about is what our neighborhood is about,” said Phillip Barron, an Old West Durham resident. “It’s about being inclusive and neighborly.”


The NC Pride Marching Band.

Coverage in the Durham Herald-Sun:

It can be hard to stand out when you’re marching in a parade behind floats with dancing drag queens, shirtless bikers donning leather vests and adorable dogs sporting rainbow-colored bandanas.

But one group of gay marriage supporters carrying poles with hundreds of dangling hearts had no trouble eliciting cheers from the scores of people who lined up along Duke University’s East Campus wall Saturday to watch the 21st annual N.C. Pride Parade.

Hundreds of people hollered and applauded when the group from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh walked down West Main Street raising poles covered with foam hearts decorated with messages like “love should not be legislated” and “love is for all.”

“We’re showing that there is a significant amount of support for marriage equality within faith communities,” said Tracy Hollister, the project leader for the Equal Hearts campaign.

Durham has been the backdrop for the parade and festival for the last six years. The event offers a “a real sense of solidarity” to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, said event spokesman Keith Hayes.

Raleigh resident Josh Runyon, 23, and his boyfriend snagged a spot on the rock wall facing West Main Street to watch the parade. Runyon’s 21-year-old partner has yet to tell his family he’s gay, but he welcomed the opportunity to kiss Runyon and hold his hand in public without being stared at.

“I don’t have to worry about homophobic people, gay bashers, stuff like that,” Runyon’s boyfriend said.

Fourteen-year-old Ashley Felts told her parents earlier this year that she is a lesbian. The Jamestown resident said her dad was supportive and drove her to Saturday’s festival so she could carry a flag in the parade.

“It’s a right-of-passage coming out somewhere where there’s a lot of people like you,” Felts said.

You can see Kate’s other pictures from Pride here.

***

Meeting the NC Log Cabin folks

So look at who else was in the parade — the NC Log Cabin Republicans.

We were perplexed at the group’s appearance here, given they probably wouldn’t get a wildly popular reception. I was marching in the parade so I didn’t see firsthand the reaction to the LCR, but I was told that they were booed.

That’s really too bad. I kind of feel sorry for them, especially the NC chapter. They have zero traction in trying to return the state party to the center, given the fringe wingnuts in the North Carolina General Assembly (the Dems are in control of the legislature). If I were in the LCR, I’d be pretty pessimistic.

The LCRs had a tent up in the vendor area, and there was little traffic at the booth. It was sad. I thought I’d go over and chat them up. Kate snapped a pic of the encounter.

I went up to Jami Taylor, secretary of the LCR chapter. She’s on Equality NC’s board of directors, and a PhD student at North Carolina State University, her research focused on transgender related public policy. I asked her what kind of progress they are making, given the hostility with which the party hierarchy despises homos. We’re talking about a party that wouldn’t even allow the LCR to set up a table at the state convention last year or this year. N.C. GOP Chairman Ferrell Blount was famously quoted as saying:

“I reviewed what the Log Cabin national Web site was advocating and promoting and in my opinion, it is diametrically opposed to the values of the North Carolina Republican Party… As state party chairman, I support the definition of marriage as being a union sanctioned by God between a man and a woman. That is what the Republican Party talks about in its platform and will talk about this weekend.”

Jami did manage to find a positive note on the slight by saying that the LCR aired a 30-second response commercial in Asheville where the convention was held this year to spur discussion by challenging the party not to “follow Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan and Rick Santorum’s lead by dividing the GOP with an intolerant social agenda based on fear and exclusion.”

Jami also pointed out that the LCRs did have a hospitality suite at the hotel where the convention was held, and that they had quite a bit of traffic and interest because of the controversy. I asked whether if any legislators came to the room, and she said that some did. I then asked whether any were willing to go on the record and comment one way or another about it. She said no.

I told her that the LCRs have a LOT of work to do in NC, since there are zero
prospective GOP candidates worth backing in 2006 that aren’t good-old-boy homophobes. Her last attempt to convince me of any meager progress to bring the party from the twilight zone of wingnuttery is that Republican Senator Stan Bingham of Denton signed on to a bill in March which would add sexual orientation to the protection from discrimination employees of the North Carolina General Assembly would receive. The LCR site notes that two other Republican senators signed on that day, but later withdrew their support.

Sad, sad, sad, but as much as the LCRs drew catcalls from the progressive crowd in Durham, they deserve credit for trying in the Reddest of state GOPs. Someone’s got to confront the bigots from within.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding