LGBT Festival Held Despite Valdosta Mayor's Disapproval

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[Update] - Valdosta, Ga. - Sept. 17, 2012 -

According to Raynae Williams, who is one of the top members of South Georgia Pride, the attendance at Saturday's South Georgia Pride Festival doubled that of the previous year. They counted 1,200 people and some attribute it to the refusal by City Hall to sign their proclamation.

However, Valdosta Mayor John Gayle says his supporters out number the others by a 10-1 margin.

- Valdosta, Ga. - Sept. 15, 2012 -

More than 1,000 members of the Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender community celebrated their way of life at a festival in Valdosta. But one official who didn't sign off on the event was the Mayor.

In July, Mayor John Gayle refused to sign a proclamation for the event, because he says it is against his religion.

"It just shows that in this day and age there is still a group of people that it is okay to discriminate against," said Raynae Williams, one of the top members of South Georgia Pride. "All that we're asking is that they just say we're a part of this community."

Williams asked the Mayor for a proclamation in July to commemorate it as a proud Valdosta event. But Mayor John Gayle stands against homosexuality.

"I just don't approve of that life style," said Valdosta Mayor John Gayle. "It goes against what I believe in and if I sign that proclamation then I'm endorsing that. And I cannot do that."

Mayor Gayle says he is holding true to his roots as a traditional Southern Baptist, and his constituents knew his view points when he was elected.

"But it didn't really hurt the festival," said Williams. "It actually got us a lot of support."

"This is really awesome," said Julie Schurr, an entertainer from St. Louis, Missouri who performed at the festival. "I've seen so many types of people here. Gay, straight and they are all having fun."

This is the 3rd year for the festival and organizers are planning many more, even despite some hard feelings.

Last year the South Georgia Pride Festival did get a proclaimation from City Hall. But that was with Mayor John Fretti, shortly before he was ousted from office for unrelated reasons.