Pastor takes on Southern Decadence

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com October 12 2002 12:00 AM ET

A Louisiana pastor is gathering the support of conservative churches and political candidates in his campaign to banish an annual gay festival from New Orleans. The Reverend Grant E. Storms has circulated a videotape of men having sex in public at the Southern Decadence Festival, arguing that police and city officials ignore lewdness at the gathering. Storms bought an advertisement in The [New Orleans] Times-Picayune on Wednesday urging New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, police superintendent Eddie Compass, and others to banish the festival.

"Due to the inability of the police and festival organizers to stop such acts of lewdness, nudity, and sex from occurring on the streets of the French Quarter, we believe that the Southern Decadence Festival should be canceled and that the city should not issue any future permits for the festival," the ad read.

Storms said his campaign is not antigay, but gay leaders disagree. They say the tape distorts the nature of the event, which they describe as benign. They call Storms an extremist who wants to stamp out gay rights and culture, not just public lewdness. "It's strictly a homophobic campaign," said Rip Naquin-Delain, publisher of Ambush magazine and one of the founders of the loosely organized Labor Day festival.

Southern Decadence began about 30 years ago and now attracts 100,000 visitors, with a handful of French Quarter bars acting as informal sponsors, festival organizers said. The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. began a campaign promoting the festival two years ago. Naquin-Delain, whose magazine runs ads promoting the weekend, estimates the party brings $30 million to the city.