‘Virginia is for ALL Lovers’
3,500 turn out for this year’s Charlottesville Pride Festival
Thousands of people of all ages, genders and orientations, flocked to Downtown Charlottesville in celebration of the LGBTQ community at last weekend’s Third Annual Charlottesville Pride Festival on Sept. 13 at Lee Park.
As a volunteer tabling for the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, I watched as young children bounced inside a dinosaur-themed moon bounce and teenage couples walked hand-in-hand through the park. Many were sporting rainbow-colored T-shirts proclaiming “Love is Love” and “Virginia is for All Lovers,” and were also carrying bright yellow tote bags with the words “Totes
Gay” proudly printed on them.
In Charlottesville, a bright, forward-thinking beacon on the traditionally conservative shore that is the state of Virginia, the pride community network is an obvious and necessary resource to have. Amy Sarah Marshall, an online content strategist in the U.Va. Health System, took the initiative to create this network, and organized the first pride festival in the summer of 2012.
Dozens of vendors lined the park’s perimeter, advertising their services and resources to the LGBTQ community in Charlottesville. Organizations such as ROSMY (Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth) , the U.Va. LGBTQ Center, and Equality of Virginia were present at the festival, offering their resources in advocacy, education and support of LGBTQ people.
Other vendors offered resources that were not exclusively for the LGBTQ community. Planned Parenthood, Relay Foods, LiveArts, and the Mental Health Association of Charlottesville – Albemarle, all had tables at the festival, promoting healthy living in Charlottesville.
With 19 states having legalized gay marriage in the last decade, we are witnessing a widespread, fast-paced social change occurring in our nation. The public opinion of homosexuality and transsexualism is transforming, with more and more Americans embracing the LGBTQ community. As of 2013, approximately 51 percent of the U.S. population supports same-sex marriage, a tremendous increase since 1996, when only an estimated 27 percent of Americans were in approval.
Despite the ruling of Bostic v. Schaefer last January, which deemed a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, same-sex marriage is currently not legal in the state of Virginia. Although most opposition to same-sex marriage in the U.S. is based in religious objections, several churches continue to recognize and perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Throughout the festival, a stage in the middle of the park served as the center of attention. Spoken word poetry, musical numbers and drag performances took place throughout the day, providing both entertainment for the audience and a creative outlet for the performers.
Don’t let the ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia mislead you.
This is certainly not representative of all Virginia citizens’ values, and especially not those of Charlottesvillians. With around 3,500 people in attendance, the tremendous turnout of the 2014 Pride Festival certainly speaks to the immensely tolerant, accepting and supportive community that is growing in our city of Charlottesville.
Hopefully, in the future, as our society continues to make progress toward equality, the attendance rate will only increase for this valuable, uplifting and fun event.