Pastor Stan Mitchell of GracePointe Church married Al Gregory and Toby Sturgill today in front of the Pride crowd. The pastor said, “This is a momentous era, a momentous day in our history. But even more than that it’s a sacred moment for the two of you.”
A SUPREME CELEBRATION |Darrin & Sharon Henry
Front and centre photographing Al and Toby’s first kiss at one of the first same-sex weddings in Tennessee was not on the script for our pilgrimage to Nashville, but this is the annual Pride Festival and today when the sun came up it did so over a brand new America.
Just yesterday the US Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage is now a right throughout the United States of America, adding a special zing and a wider smile to this 27th Nashville Pride celebration.
Pastor Stan Mitchell: “The church is now recognising, the government is finally coming into accord, God has always known.”
Pastor Stan Mitchell: “It is my joy, the privilege as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and finally on behalf of the state of Tennessee (cheers from the crowd) to declare before God and man that you are husband and husband. What God joined together no one will ever put asunder. Now you can kiss your husband!”
Tennessee was one of the 13 states that had continued to ban same-sex marriage, but the historic ruling has meant ceremonies like today’s can now take place throughout the country.
Check out the ABC news video here of Al and Toby’s wedding – you can spot Sharon at 0:36 in!
Marisa Richmond PH.D., gave the opening speech: “Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States said that all LGBT families are legitimate and recognised by the constitution of the United States. (cheering). But the work has only just begun. We still have to stand up against job discrimination against LGBT, we continue to fight against hate crimes especially those of us who are trans women of colour. We must put a stop to all bullying and harassment of all LGBT. We need you to continue to make that commitment.
“So today, regardless of the weather we’re going to celebrate and party because nobody can party like us! But when the party is over we have to get back to work. We only had one victory this week, there’s so many more to go.”
Lisa Howe, member of the Nashville Pride Board and Executive Director of Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “I got married yesterday when the decision was handed down! I went to the court house and married my partner of 13 years, we have a four year old daughter and we’re just thrilled.
“National Pride is an annual event, this is the 27th year. Today has extra significance because today all LGBT families are recognised by the law. We have equality, stability just like the neighbours next door, it’s great. We’re expecting tens of thousands of people to celebrate Pride with us today. There are about 2000 people in the Equality Walk.”
Taking To The Streets
Nuptials and congratulatory hugs complete the parade sets off on a loop around a small part of the city.
Gay Pride or LGBT Pride (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Parades have been taking place on the last Saturday in June for 46 years, since the first one in 1970. Today the event is referred to simply as ‘Pride’ and the participants come from all walks of life, not just the LGBT community.
The Pride parade is off through the streets of Nashville.
Cathy (left) a skater in a roller derby team, has lived in Nashville for 5 years, originally from Louisiana. “I absolutely believe in equality. I know a lot of people who have been affected by discrimination of this type and I really am glad about the ruling in Supreme Court yesterday and I just want to celebrate with all my friends. I cried a little when I read some of the ruling, it was beautifully written.”
Reid Owens in the Equality Walk. “I’m a big supporter of the whole human rights campaign and today is a good day to celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling. It was way overdue and we finally have justice. Personally I’m straight but I have a lot of gay and lesbian friends so it’s going to be exciting to see them get the same rights that everybody else has. Gonna be exciting to see their weddings and them develop relationships they’ve already been working on.”
April LeFever (left): “I’m here celebrating of course because of yesterday. I’m also the co-leader of Navigators which is an inclusive nationwide scouting group. The big reason we’re rocking is to make people aware that there is alternative scouting that includes everyone, boys and girls.
“Oh my gosh! Yesterday me and my children were screaming out on the porch came the ruling came in. I expected it to be Monday so I was a little surprised. We were cleaning the house and I had an alert set on my phone.
“I think everyone has the right to be able to be married with the person they love and for it to be recognised. I’m bisexual and have lots of friends that are gay and straight.”
A moment of sunshine during the parade (just before the rain)
Vince: “For me I’m getting to know a new community. I just moved from San Francisco.
I’ve heard Pride has grown incredibly over the last couple of years, it’s an honour to be here and see where Nashville is.
“It’s very different to San Francisco but it’s incredible. It is an awesome, creative community that still has its heart whereas San Francisco is unfortunately kind of losing its heart. So it’s just kind of fun so see it grow and developing and becoming more progressive and being very true to themselves.
“Part of my look today is in support of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence which is a group of drag queen nuns; it’s an international order, non-profit. They’ll be showing up around noon and some are crazier than I am. This is the part that I’m used to, the loud statement screaming that you are proud of exactly who you are. By being comfortable in this, if I can just make somebody else be comfortable being themselves then it’s worth it.”
There were plenty of happy smiles in the Nashville Pride parade.
Paulette Simmonds. “I’m celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling. To me it means that in the future I can get married to my fiancée. I felt super excited yesterday, blessed and equal. I would have liked to be one of the first to get married here in Nashville (giggles) but that couldn’t happen.”
There were many moving messages on display in the parade.
Go Nashville Pride!
Together we march in Nashville Pride 2015.
Frederica Maxwell, President of Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. “I am here to say, okay it’s good that marriage equality has finally come. But I must also say and remind people that yes, there is a lot of work yet to be done. People need to remember too that yes a lot of our issues and the GLB issues often intercept.
I am hoping that they will see more people working together on issues that include things like military service of trans people so they can be…have our own version of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’
“I would also like to see that the GLB community recognise that yes, we are in fact allies and hopefully because we work with them and march with them for their marriage equality cause, that they will remember and march with us. Yes, there has been a lot of situations. If you did your research and talk to somebody about HRC (human rights campaign?) they will tell you, with friends like that, who needs enemies.”
Believe it or not, this was actually in the rain.
The dark skies unsurprisingly turn to drizzle for a short period, but there are enough rainbows around to ensure the rain is soon banished as the party moves into the Public Square Park.
Party In The Park
As festive atmospheres go there is a real buzz in the air. We are greeted with warm smiles and friendly conversations throughout the park. It’s a superb event. Tickets at the gate were $5 but there is so much to see and do and enjoy.
There was such a friendly, happy vibe in the park. Just brilliant.
This organisation, Postmates, were giving out free energy bars and drinks.
Brent Kimbro, Judy Kibler and Ginger Burden of Nashville In Harmony, Tennessee’s first and only LGBT and straight allies chorus with 122 voices. Brent said: “Our mission is to use music to build community and create social change. We do two to three main stage shows in Nashville; we’ve played the Ryman Auditorium.
“Personally after the ruling I feel like a completely different person. It’s amazing, 53 years of oppression. It doesn’t define your life but when it’s not as severe it’s like, ‘oh wow’ it’s a completely different thing.”
An estimated 18,000 people were reported to have attended the Nashville Pride celebrations.
We end up sitting on the grass at the main stage as Ms Nashville Pride, Venus Knight, pouts and struts her way through a string of riveting Beyoncé performances, miming some of the singer’s biggest hits. By the time she’s doing the ‘uh-oh’ booty shake to ‘Crazy Right Now’ the growing crowd are screaming their approval.
This is followed by country music styled performances by Mr Nashville Pride, Skylar Wlyde, who entertains the crowd with an energetic and humorous boot stomping display. By the time Mr Nashville urges the crowd to ‘Save a horse, ride a cowboy,’ everyone has already joined in with raucous enthusiasm.
Ms. Nashville Pride, Venus Knight, giving an electric, Beyoncé performance.
Mr Nashville Pride, Skylar Wlyde, urging us to ‘Save a horse, ride a cowboy.’
It’s loud and unashamedly full on and fun, just what you would expect at a Pride Festival.
Plenty of dancing going on today.
These guys kindly gave us a free cupcake to sample. Delicious!
Sharon (left) with Rel Freeman, transgender and married to wife Dawn. “Yesterday was a victory, we still have a long way to go, we’re working on transgender rights. But it was amazing and I think that’s why it brought so many people out today in support.
“TNTJ is wonderful, LaSaia Wade started this group and because of her as a black trans woman she talked to me and brought me out cause I just identified as a male, no one knew I was trans. I became part of the board because a lot of people now know me and now understand we’re just like anyone else, we’re just people. You know we’re judged on the basis of what we look like, and not who we are. It’s amazing to have this organisation to talk to people so they can see into our lives. I’m not asking people to understand but just to respect out of love.
“Before TNTJ I was just reaching out on Facebook and other media to guide people and youth to the resources they needed for transition and help. But now having TNTJ we’re starting a centre so we can help the youth and other adults who are looking to find themselves and somewhere to be comfortable in being themselves.
“Before I transitioned I identified along the lines of lesbian. I came out at a very young age. People think it’s something you choose, I didn’t choose to be in oppression, I didn’t choose to get harassed in school. No, it’s who I am. But I’m proud of who I am and I want to help other people be proud of who they are and that’s what TNTJ is for.
“The court ruling is amazing. Luckily for us before Tennessee recognised it my job recognised it. It is a wonderful thing that it is recognised everywhere. We went and got married in New York because it was recognised there. We’ve been together seven years and married three years.”
Sadie. “I’m from California, this is my first time at this event as I’m usually at San Diego Pride. But I’m here with my organisation TNTJ we’re a non-profit group for survival for the transgender community. We can provide resources and survival needs for them. I’m here today to raise money for my non-profit organisation.
“I’ve been here for about a year. How does it compare? It’s not what I expected, it’s better. The community here is really great and I’m really enjoying it. The best thing? I like the southern food, I like the country, I like the peace and serenity.
“Personally for me the court decision is great; it’s been a long time coming. Marriage equality should be equal across the board. Hopefully one day I’ll find my husband (giggles).”
Then came the highlight of the day for us. While the stage was being reconfigured to host a live band performance, DJ ‘Remedy’ took over. A single young girl, draped in rainbow colours, got up and started dancing in front of the stage. Completely lost in the moment her energy triggered a couple more people to join her. Then a few more, and a few more until suddenly the whole place was full of trance like dancers, smiling and laughing and having fun. It was the ultimate, spontaneous flash mob with no agenda but to have a good time.
The spontaneous flash mob can’t resist the music.
The dancer on the left got everyone else up and joining in.
Hank and Cupcakes were next!
Don’t let the name fool you. Hank and Cupcakes are a hardcore electro pop-rock duo. Drums, guitar and vocals, but such an irresistible performance that kept the high tempo going. These guys are based in Brooklyn but are originally from Tel Aviv, Israel.
To use a popular American expression, it was simply, “Awesome.”
And so the day unfolded. Fantastic entertainment and great company set against the vibrant Pride colours.
For photographers this was a good day – everyone was happy to pose for pictures!
Yesterday after the Supreme Court ruling, President Barack Obama said, “Today, we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we have made our union a little more perfect.”
I think the Nashville Pride organisers and the estimated 18,000 people attending this year’s event, may well agree.
A young supporter enjoying the day to the full.