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Pride Event Draws Vicious Opposition in Tennessee City

Pride Event Draws Vicious Opposition in Tennessee City

A Tennessee Pride celebration

A Pride festival has been held in Franklin for the past two years, but this year anti-LGBTQ+ residents are accusing organizers of "grooming" children and seeking to destroy the nation.

In Franklin, Tenn., a historic town about half an hour from Nashville, a Pride festival has been held without incident for the past two years. But this year, which has seen a ramping up of anti-LGBTQ+ activism in Tennessee and elsewhere, the festival has become a point of contention.

The city’s governing board is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on whether to approve a permit for the festival. Board members will also consider a “community decency” resolution that would define indecent behavior.

The vote comes after a public forum saw outraged citizens vehemently denounce the Pride event and LGBTQ+ people in general, NBC News reports. The forum was held March 28, the day after a mass shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville, which some said was reason enough to cancel the Pride fest. The shooter, who died along with six students and staff, was said to be transgender.

Thirty people who attended the forum wore “Choose Decency” stickers, and many of them used anti-LGBTQ+ myths in their testimony, such as saying LGBTQ+ people are pedophiles who are grooming children for abuse. Some cited the Bible and religion as well.

“You think you are doing things based on laws, but … you are letting Satan in,” one tearful woman said, according to NBC. “He will not take an inch. I promise you. He will take everything, and it will not stop.”

Another speaker, Robin Steenman, said the Pride event “is part of a social change agenda that wants to come to Franklin, and we are seeing it play out all over the country. That agenda is not pro-religion, pro-community, pro-Christianity, pro-family, or pro-America. Rather, it seeks the destruction of all of those elements.” Steenman heads the area’s chapter of Moms for Liberty, a right-wing group.

Six people, mostly Pride organizers, spoke in favor of granting the festival’s permit.

LGBTQ+ Franklin residents interviewed by NBC expressed dismay that the Pride fest has become so controversial.

“The idea that we wouldn’t allow a Pride event in the year 2023 is a little bit hard to fathom,” said Clayton Klutts, president of Franklin Pride. “It feels like we’re going backwards.”

“I feel like the concern is they don’t want to see gay people in their community, and they’re looking for ways for us to be suppressed and not have the same rights that everyone else does,” he added.

He also said he was worried about the “community decency” measure, which would define certain public displays of affection as indecent. “If I meet my boyfriend out in public after work and we meet for happy hour in a local restaurant, what if we kiss each other for like one second?” Klutts said. “People may not like that, but it’s not obscene or indecent. Under this policy, who gets to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not?”

Tom Rice, a retired teacher, said some of those who testified against the Pride permit were “vicious.” “Basically, they think homosexuals are sexual perverts and we’re out to get their kids, and we’re doomed to hell,” he told NBC. “They wish we didn’t exist.”

Tennessee has been in the forefront of passing anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including a ban on gender-affirming health care for trans youth and restrictions on drag shows. The drag show law, the first in the nation, is temporarily blocked by a court, but Franklin Pride organizers agreed not to include a drag performance in this year’s festival, which is scheduled for June 3.

Spencer Lyst, a gay high school student, had testified in favor of the Pride fest and assured opponents that he is not motivated by Satan. He told NBC he would attend Tuesday’s meeting to see how the vote comes out. “I don’t need their acceptance,” he said of the city board. “I just want to be free to be myself.”

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