It was a vibrant scene in Circus Square Park on Saturday, as hundreds of people came together for Bowling Green’s third annual LGBTQ Pride festival. Although this was a cheerful day of celebration, it’s not without its struggles.
The Bowling Green City Commission struck down a Fairness Ordinance, which protects the LGBTQ community from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, this past May in a 3-2 vote. Fourteen cities across Kentucky currently have a Fairness Ordinance, and the latest city to adopt the ordinance was Versailles, which took place last week.
The Fairness Campaign was founded in Kentucky in 1991, and Louisville passed a Fairness Ordinance in January 1999, making it the first city in Kentucky to do so.
Mayor Bruce Wilkerson and commissioners Sue Parrigin and Joe Denning voted no to the ordinance in Bowling Green. They did not respond to multiple calls for comment.
“I’m pretty steadfast in the fact that yes, everybody needs to be treated fairly,” said nay voter Sue Parrigin to WKYU. “Although, I think that if we want to pass laws that say this has to happen in the workplace or in a legal contract for an apartment or a house or whatever you want to rent, that that needs to happen at the state level.”
In spirit with a continued fight for the ordinance, people participated in the festival in flying colors — literally and figuratively.
Beginning at noon, people of all ages walked around the park and visited various vendors. Local organizations such as the Bowling Green Freethinkers and the Fairness Campaign attended as well.
Among the vendors was Little Fox Bakery, which has participated in Bowling Green Pride every year since it started in 2017.
“We just think it’s really important that Bowling Green has events like this,” Alison Taylor, owner of the bakery, said. “To me, Pride just means supporting your community. All of these people are part of Bowling Green, and I don’t think we should ignore it.”
Local bands such as Solar Disco Force performed on a stage while people of various ages walked around the park, many adorned in rainbow-colored attire. Some had large Pride flags wrapped around their shoulders, others had small ones stuck in their hair.
Megan Meredith, a 2017 WKU alumna, has also attended the festival every year since its beginning. She said she hopes the community can band together to fight hatred and bigotry.
“I think it’s important to see the community and support one another and just show how great Bowling Green can be and should be,” Meredith said.
The event also featured local drag performers who put on bold displays, dancing to popular artists such as Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.
Drag performer Scarlett Mascarra of Shelbyville said Pride gives people in the LGBTQ community a place to be themselves and to be around people like themselves.
“The energy at Pride is always transcendent, because people are being their true, authentic selves,” Mascarra said. “That’s just so magical to me.”
Later in the day, a large group of attendees led by history professor and state Rep. Patti Minter and Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash marched to City Hall to demand the passing of the Fairness Ordinance.
“We know that until we pass a Fairness Ordinance in our beautiful city, Pride is still protest,” Minter said on the steps of City Hall.
Minter has been an advocate for the Fairness Campaign since 1999.
Nash was one of two city commissioners, including Dana Beasley-Brown, who voted in favor of the ordinance.
“It is long past time for Bowling Green to have a Fairness Ordinance,” Nash said as he addressed the crowd. “My encouragement to you today is to not give up, to not leave town and to not believe that it’s never coming, because I promise you that it is coming.”
Nash stressed the importance of voting and how it plays a role in whether or not the ordinance passes.
“It is the people who make the decision at the ballot box as to who gets elected to the city commission,” Nash said.
As night approached, the event turned into a pub crawl with participating LGBTQ-friendly restaurants downtown. More drag performances took place under the stars in the park and lasted well into the early morning hours.
People from all different walks of life came together for two reasons: love and acceptance. Pride celebrators believe you should be able to support that no matter how you identify.
Features reporter Kelley Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.