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Longview gives measured support to first gay pride event

By Richard Yeakley
June 4, 2014 at 11 p.m.

As organizers prepare the first gay pride festival in Longview, Mayor Jay Dean plans to send a letter of support to the event but won't issue a proclamation.

"There is no protocol ... as far as if you do a proclamation or if you don't do a proclamation," Dean said. "In the case of the ... proclamation, I didn't like some of the wording to it; so, instead I did a letter of support for their celebration that is going to be read at their actual celebration.

"I am a Catholic Christian, and in our faith, we don't recognize that particular persuasion, nor do we judge."

Before Dean announced he would write the letter, event organizers asked on Facebook that residents show up at the June 12 City Council meeting to support a proclamation.

The request for a proclamation came as a Longview organization for parents, friends and family of gays and lesbians prepares for the GLBT Pride Festival on June 21 in Heritage Plaza downtown.

Dean said he hopes the letter will allow neither side to compromise their beliefs.

"I believe it is vitally important that we acknowledge this diversity. I also believe we must mutually acknowledge our shared rights under the law. We all have the right to feel safe, to live without the fear of harassment and persecution, and to not be discriminated against. As a community, it is our responsibility to work together to create an atmosphere that provides for the well-being of all," Dean wrote in the letter that also called Longview a "diverse community."

Since the start of 2012, Dean has approved 129 proclamations.

City spokesman Shawn Hara said no record is kept of proclamation requests, only of those issued.

Wendy Zuech, a member of PFLAG, said it is about time there was such an event in Longview.

"We are very excited about hosting the event; it is has surprisingly taken us a long time," Zuech said. She is a congregational minister at Woodland Christian Church where the organization meets each month.

PFLAG - formerly known as Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays - is a national nonprofit organization.

"I believe it is going to be well received by the LGBT community, and I think there are plenty of straight allies out there, but I do not think their voices are being heard," said Zuech, who is not gay.

The event, scheduled to last from 5 to 9 p.m. with an after party at the Rainbow Members Club - a downtown Longview gay club - will include music, refreshments and vendors.

Mallory Waugh, the secretary for the organization, said she expects Longview to be supportive of the rally.

"We aren't out trying to harm anyone, we aren't out to try to invade anybody's space. I would hope that Longview would continue to be welcoming," said Waugh, a lesbian. "The gay community has been very strong in Longview, and for the most part I feel that Longview has been a pretty welcoming community. There is a gay club there and there isn't even one in Tyler."

The event, while a celebration of diversity, also will act as advertising for the relatively new-organization, Waugh said.

A PFLAG chapter was considered about 2011 and gained full steam last year, she said.

"I think the pride event is just to show people that there is a support group for people," she said, adding that many members are parents or friends of a person who came out as gay.



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