The mayor of
Knoxville, Tenn., declined a request to issue a city
proclamation and speak at a gay rally and festival scheduled
for October 15, but he will be sending a
representative, event organizers said Friday. Mayor
Bill Haslam was invited by the Rainbow Community Awareness
Project, which is organizing the event. The group hopes
the LGBT gathering, to be held at Market Square in
downtown Knoxville, will be one of the largest in East Tennessee.
While organizers said they were disappointed
with the mayor's decision, they were thankful for the
promised attendance of city representative Bill
Lyons, Knoxville's senior director of policy
development. Democratic state representative Harry Tindell
is also scheduled to attend. "We cannot say the city
is supporting us," said Gary Elgin, RCAP's director.
"Support and recognition are two different things....
But I'm not going to make a big stink about it,
because we are making progress."
The city has received some criticism from local
residents for showing any recognition of the event,
which Lyons said was expected. "We've had some
correspondence...from people who are not pleased with the
event or any participation in it," he said. "I would
not use the word threats. They only voiced
concern. We've gotten e-mails and phone calls that
were appreciative as well."
Elgin and Beth
Maples-Bays, board member of the Tennessee Equality
Project, said the parade and rally would celebrate members
of the community, not stereotypes. "I think what
you're going to see is a lot of moms and dads, a lot
of elders, a lot of ordinary people who you see
everyday, who don't wear a big sign that says 'I'm gay,' "
Maples-Bays said. "I hope [critics] might withhold judgment
until they see the parade." (AP)