Monday, June 8, 2009

June 5, 2009 Youngstown kicked off its first Gay Pride Festival with a reception to honor some of those in the area who have been supportive of the LGBT community. The reception and the festival held on June 6th were a huge success thanks to the wonderful people who spent many hours organizing it, Marita Emmert, Kim Aikens, Carlos Rodriquez, and Anita Davis as well as other members of the Pride Center and the generous assistance of the Black Knights Association Click here for an article in the Vindy about the event. (If I have forgotten anyone who should be named please let me know and I will include them)

Gay pride or LGBT pride, is the concept that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It is the belief that diversity is a gift, and that sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent and cannot be intentionally altered. The word pride is used in this case as an antonym for shame which has been used to control and oppress LGBT persons throughout history. Pride in this sense is an affirmation of ones self and the community as a whole.

Some time ago, a group of dedicated activists on the Human Relations Committee in Youngstown worked to get an ordinance passed to protect the LGBT community from discrimination. Included on the Commission were Glorianne Leck, Steve Beall,and James Ray. Toni Schildcrout of P-Flag also played an important role in advocating for the ordinance. The group were successful and the ordinance passed unanimously by City Council. Since that time however the ordinance has never been challenged and some have expressed concern that it does not provide adequate protection. Regardless, the ordinance has had a positive impact on the community and has helped to make the GLBT community feel safer. The ordinance may be found in the last sentence of Section 547.02(t) of the Youngstown City Ordinances. To read more about this go here. In light of the huge success of the Gay Pride Festival in Youngstown this past weekend, perhaps it is time for activists to work to get more teeth in the current ordinance. The time to do so is now.

Those honored at the reception included Robert Hagan, John Vivo, and Marita Emmert. Robert Hagan offered a moving acceptance speech:

Please note that the beautiful flowers and fountain were provided by Petitti Garden Centers.

In photo: David Betras, Carlos Rodriguez, Anita Davis

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