A permit is pending for a gay pride event next month in the town that recently drew a firestorm of criticism for a county effort to outlaw homosexuality. The event, originally scheduled to be held on the Rhea County Courthouse lawn--with a parade through town--is expected to be moved to city-owned Point Park. The parade has been canceled because of space and security concerns. "Everyone is welcome to come," said Kristie Bacon, 26, organizer of the event. "It's just a gathering to show Rhea County that we're not bad people."
In March the Rhea County commission voted to begin researching how to make homosexuality a "crime against nature" in the county. The action received national attention, and the commission rescinded the vote two days later. Rhea County, about 30 miles north of Chattanooga, annually commemorates the 1925 trial at which John Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution at the public high school, a courtroom spectacle that later came to be known as the "monkey trial." The verdict was reversed on a technicality, and the trial became the subject of the play and movie Inherit the Wind. Bacon said she expected to have no trouble getting a permit for the gay pride event. "They've been pretty cool about the whole thing," she said. Rhea County Gay Day is expected to include contests, music, comedians, speakers, various booths, and a volleyball tournament.