Oklahoma City will become the place for hugs this weekend when more than 400 expected people attend the first national conference of the group Free Mom Hugs.
The conference will feature speeches from educator, dad, and author Chasten Buttigieg, husband of U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. It will also feature nonbinary Oklahoma state Rep. Maureen Turner.
“We empower the world to celebrate the LGBTQ+ through visibility, education, and conversation,” Free Mom Hugs Founder Sara Cunningham told Oklahoma City ABC affiliate KOCO.
She founded the organization after she stopped looking down upon the LGBTQ+ community and accepted her gay son after he came out to her. As she grew to accept her son’s sexuality, in 2015, she started giving free hugs to queer attendees of the Oklahoma City Pride Festival, knowing that some of them had been rejected from their families.
On that day, the organization was founded, and it has grown ever since.
The group hopes the weekend event will go a long way in advancing their campaign for acceptance throughout the United States.
“All in an effort to educate and empower families with gay children to be able to make sure we make Oklahoma a safe place, and the country really, for our gay kids,” Cunningham said.
As far as Parker is concerned, an event like this is vital for Oklahoma because of the message it conveys.
“We’re in this ultra-conservative place reminding people there’s people who love you everywhere,” Parker Cuningham told KOCO.
Free Mom Hugs’ work benefits the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, he said proudly.