Couples strolling in Krutch Park holding hands as a couple around noon is commonplace. Twelve same gender couples holding hands is a different sight for for the downtown park. On Tuesday, July 25, more than 200 people gathered to show their support for GLBT teens’ right to hold hands in public.
The rally, sponsored by Spectrum Café, a youth ministry of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC,) hope to bring attention to an incident in which teens were harassed in Tyson Park for holding hands.
"We want to stand up for ourselves and others. We want to challenge society to treat everyone with tolerance and respect – hopefully with acceptance, affirmation and love," a Spectrum flyer proclaimed.
The rally started with six speakers: Rev. Chris Buice of TVUUC, PFLAG Southeast Regional Director Jerry Miller, Rev. Bob Galloway of Metropolitan Community Church – Knoxville (MCC-K), Jardyn Lake of Jasmyn, Inc., Church of the Savior United Church of Christ’s Rev. John Gill, Brian Griffin of TVUUC, and Sara Williford of Spectrum Café.
After opening speeches, twelve same-gender couples held hands encircled by 100s of supporters. Many in the outer circle held another like-gender person’s hand. For fifteen minutes the silent presence was witnessed by hundreds in Market Square.
A passerby inquired as to the nature of the event and chose to delay going to the free Mayfield Dairy Ice Cream Event to support the teenagers. Another group of eight businesspersons commented they did not support the GLBT “lifestyle,” but agreed that “all people deserve civil rights and safety.”
WVLT ran a ‘live feed’ during their afternoon broadcast.
The twelve couples were led by Jacob Green and Conrad Honicker, the couple who were originally harassed in Tyson Park, providing the impetus for the event.
The silent procession peacefully ambled on Gay Street, representing GLBT and straight allied groups from several surrounding counties. Groups represented included PFLAG, Highlander Center, MCC-K, TVUUC, Church of the Savior, Westside UU Church, Oak Ridge Peace Alliance, Women In Black, Smoky Mountain Rollers, Out and About Newspaper , Green Party, HRC, Gay and Lesbian Helpline, Coven of the Serpentsphere, RCAP, UT Lamdba Student Union, MPower, Pagan Alliance, Oak Ridge UU, Greater Knoxville LGBTQ Leadership Council, Monday Gay Men’s Group, Knoxville Cares, and two groups from Newport – Community House Cooperative and the Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention of Cocke County.
Kate Green, mother of Jacob Green, observed, "A mom just worries that her child will be safe. Seeing this community support and positive reaction is hopeful. I just want him [Jacob] to be safe out there. Any mom does."