LGBTQ Pride declarations, celebrations spreading to smaller towns in NC

This week Gov. Roy Cooper officially declared June Pride Month — an important acknowledgement for LGBTQ North Carolinians.

But LGBTQ advocates are also celebrating declarations in smaller communities in North Carolina — a sign of support for marginalized communities outside of the state’s largest cities.

On Thursday night the Hendersonville City Council proclaimed that June 15 will officially be Hendersonville Pride Day — a first for the community of about 14,000 just South of Asheville. The celebration is being organized and supported by a local groups like Stonewall 50 and Hendersonville PFLAG.

“We applaud everyone who worked to organize Hendersonville Pride Day and pass this proclamation in support of LGBTQ equality,” said Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC. “This celebration of LGBTQ people sends a powerful message to all people in the city, county, and state: that Hendersonville is a welcoming and affirming community where all people, including LGBTQ people, should be treated with dignity and respect. LGBTQ young people in the area will read this news and know that they are accepted, supported, and loved.”

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of the Campaign for Southern Equality said the move by Hendersonville was a powerful one — and signals an important shift in the state’s smaller communities.

“The decision to recognize Hendersonville Pride Day is consistent with the increasingly vocal support we’re seeing for LGBTQ equality across North Carolina and throughout the South, including in smaller cities and towns,” Beach-Ferrara said.  “Local advocates are doing the heroic work of calling for their hometowns to affirm and support their LGBTQ neighbors, and local elected officials are listening and taking action. We’re glad to see Hendersonville set this positive example for how we can build communities where all people are free to be who they are, and we’re hopeful that other cities across the region will follow suit.”

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, in which New York police violently raided a Greenwich Village gay bar. When patrons and the community fought back and protested, it helped launch the modern movement for LGBTQ rights.

On Thursday New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill officially apologized for the raid.

O’Neill, who was one of many police officials who have for years called a formal apology unnecessary, said the actions of the NYPD were “wrong, plain and simple.”

“The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize,” he said.

O’Neill said he now sees an apology as an issue of responsibility.

“I think it would be irresponsible to go through World Pride month, not to speak of the events at the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969,” O’Neill said. “I do know what happened should not have happened.”

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