The 16th annual SC Pride March and Celebration was held Sept. 22 in Finlay Park in downtown Columbia. Despite the threat of anti-gay protesters, SC Pride 2007 was the biggest and best one yet, according to organizers.
It was feared that events would be disrupted by planned anti-gay protests, but only a handful of protesters with signs showed up. Parade marchers drowned out their rhetoric by singing loudly “Jesus Loves Me.”
This year’s parade was the largest in SC Pride history, with 45 contingents from across the state, including student organizations from Clemson, Winthrop, Columbia College, the University of South Carolina, and Francis Marion. Students from USC’s LGBT alliance created a six-foot-tall papier-mâché Gamecock mascot with rainbow-colored tail feathers that rode on a garnet and black float.
Susan Buckenmeyer, a straight ally who was invited to the park by a gay classmate, said, “It was awesome to be a part of this, seeing the gay community enjoying themselves in public without fear.”
Jonathan Jackson, an Iraqi War veteran, spoke from the stage about what it meant to be afraid for his life on the streets of Baghdad. If he could risk his life for his country, he said, his country should give him the rights he deserves.
Jackson and other speakers, including Betsy Pursell, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, urged the audience gathered in the shaded amphitheater to call their lawmakers and push for inclusive legislation.
“The Matthew Shepard Act needs your help to pass through the Senate so call your Senators and urge their support,” Pursell said. (Ed. note: The Senate approved the hate crimes bill on Sept. 27. See story on page one.)
Elke Kennedy brought everyone to tears when she told of her son Sean’s tragic murder outside a bar in Greenville this past May. In the wake of this tragedy, Kennedy now leads the movement in South Carolina calling for local hate crimes legislation. She and other volunteers from Sean’s Last Wish Foundation traveled the Pride parade route on a float with a 12-foot rainbow that read, “Hate is Easy, Love takes Courage!”
Jacob and Joshua Miller, the openly gay stars of LOGO TV Network’s “Nemesis Rising,” sang multiple songs from their new album and spent the afternoon autographing CDs, Pride posters and even one woman’s bosom. The crowd was enthusiastic throughout their show, but fans broke into screams when the twin brothers took off their shirts between songs.
Before the day was over, a number of awards were given to local leaders and volunteers.
The Honorable Mayor Bob Coble of Columbia was awarded the Community Partner of the Year. Fundraiser of the Year was given to PT’s Cabaret for their continued support of LGBT non-profit organizations. The Tony Snell Leadership Award was presented to Michael Van Diver. Brian Oxendine was recognized as Pride Volunteer Entertainer of the Year while Alvin McEwen and Shara Styles both received Volunteer of the Year awards.
The editor of Columbia's Free Times, Dan Cook, was awarded the Ed Madden Media Advocacy Award for his coverage of the state anti-gay marriage amendment. An inaugural Equality Award was given to Ryan Wilson, vice president of South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement, recognizing his summer internship at the Human Rights Campaign to support the cause of equality in S.C.
At a later event, Pat Patterson was awarded the first-ever Rainbow Spirit Award for his dedication to the LGBT community both in and out of drag as his alter ego, Ms. Patti O’Furniture.
SC Pride 2007 was sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, Food Lion, Columbia City Paper, Carolina Purple Pages, ID Lubricants, PT’s Cabaret and Q-Notes.