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September 27, 2012

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From interfaith services to line dancing and Jell-O shots, the 2012 Chattanooga PRIDE Festival lineup boasts a colorful juxtaposition of events when it debuts this year from Oct. 1 to 7.  Tennessee Valley Pride will host the festival under the theme “Celebrating All Shades of the Rainbow” in conjunction with National LGBT Diversity Month.

While most nightly events are 21 and up, PRIDE will conclude with the free, family-friendly Chattanooga PRIDE Festival from 1 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7, in Miller Plaza. The festival will include performances by The DC Cowboys, Summer Osborne, The Ashley Jo Farmer Band, Charlie Brown of “Charlie Brown’s Cabaret” and Stone Parquet-Mr. Bear Unlimited.

Despite the fact that Chattanooga sits cozily in the buckle of “The Bible Belt,” and may not yet be a friendly haven for the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender population, the city’s LGBT population is growing. As if recognizing this sector, six local affirming churches will be represented during the week. Affirming churches accept people of all sexual orientations without attempting to change them.

“We do hear that people who are gay who have been rejected by their church feel a sense of rejection from religion in general, so having affirming churches is a plus for people who do have faith and happen to be gay,” Mario Forte, TVP’s president and a current committee member, said.

TVP is a nonprofit organization designed to celebrate diversity in the Chattanooga area by combining resources from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population to educate and strengthen the community, ultimately creating a safe environment to improve the human condition.

For Chattanooga residents unfamiliar with the LGBT community, Forte recommends attending the screening and panel discussion of “For the Bible Tells Me So” at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Grace Episcopal Church.  

“I think it’s a very important message that you can have your faith and still understand, respect and love your fellow human beings,” Forte said. “We want to make sure that we are inclusive of everybody. It’s an alliance of our understanding that we are all people.”

Not only will this year’s festival play host to more events, vendors, entertainment and sponsors than past PRIDE festivals, but  also will feature perhaps the most exciting installment—commitment ceremonies will be held in Miller Park on Oct. 7 to give couples the opportunity to pledge commitment to one another in front of friends and family.

“Plans for a public commitment ceremony have been discussed for the past several years. This year with the announcement of the president of the United States supporting the rights of LGBT people to marry, the timing seemed right,” TVP said in a news release.  

Clergy members from the area’s affirming churches will perform the ceremonies and will be available for couples counseling prior to the ceremony.

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit tennesseevalleypride.com.

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September 27, 2012

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