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Pride festival draws crowd, protesters

Students ride along in the 25th annual North Carolina Pride Festival and Parade off East Campus Saturday.
Students ride along in the 25th annual North Carolina Pride Festival and Parade off East Campus Saturday.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender supporters gathered on East Campus Quadrangle Saturday to celebrate the 25th annual North Carolina Pride Festival and Parade.

From the eye-catching costumes, multi-colored parade floats, high-blasting music and constant candy showers, the scene was nothing short of eventful. The crowd included a mix of Duke affiliates as well as supporters from across the state.

Although many East Campus residents like freshman Sunhay You came out to show their support, others like freshman Curtis Beach just wanted to see what all the hustle and bustle was about.

“I’ve had a lot of friends participate [in the festival] in previous years,” You said. “It’s really interesting to see it in person as opposed to in pictures or on TV.”

You and Beach, among others, said they were most interested in the conflict between the protestors and supporters at the event. You said she was curious to observe the interaction between the conservatives and liberals, referring to the Duke-Durham community as a relatively liberal bubble in a generally conservative state.

 Of the protesters at the festival, the most visible and prominent were the picketers at the corner of West Main and Broad Streets. There, two men held signs that read “Jesus Saves From Hell.”

“We’re not just preaching against gay people,” protester Ken McRae said. “We’re here preaching against sin—just sin.”

McRae, a man who devotes his time to spreading the Gospel across the country, said that if he does indeed love lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, then it is his duty to try and save them from their sin.

Many of the supporters at the festival, however, considered themselves Christians.

“It’s interesting to see how two people who believe in the same fundamentals of religion can argue so much about the most trivial details,” Beach said.

Aside from the expected protesting and groggy weather, the event drew a substantial crowd.

Following the parade, spectators and supporters migrated to a tented area where they could shop, eat, dance and listen to several speakers.

One of the speakers, Marjore Rudinsky, Grad ’94, spoke of her dedication to end the “don’t ask don’t tell” military policy. Rudinsky is a member of Knights Out, a group of West Point graduates, staff, faculty and allies dedicated to supporting service members who want to serve in the military openly.

“I served in the closet for 14 years and voluntarily resigned my commission,” Rudinsky said.  “I know people who were kicked out of the service just for being gay because of DADT.”

Dwayne Cornelison, stage manager and master of ceremonies for the event, said the celebration is a positive for the LGBT community, noting the festival is non-alcoholic and receives 20 percent of its support from “straight allies” as well as from 15 different churches.

Cornelison also noted his appreciation for the warm welcome Duke offers each year, especially the great student involvement.

“[The festival] gets better every year,” Cornelison said. “Although it’s a long way to go, we’re making a lot of progress.”


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