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[Slideshow] Rural West Kentucky Community Holds Inaugural LGBTQ+ Pride Day

Local organizers said they were “astounded” by the turnout and community support for the inaugural Rural KY Flash Pride March on Saturday in Murray. 

The peaceful and spirited march departed from the campus of Murray State University, continued along the main thoroughfare and ended in a local park with music and other activities. The Pride Day coincides with Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall - a landmark event in the modern LGBTQ movement.

Co-organizer Kora Carlson said of the turnout, "So many smiles today. So many different types of people. I love to see that. It just warms my heart with love."

"I want people to know that this is a safe spot and we're here to celebrate that we can have this identity here today, that there's still so many legal changes that could be made,” said Carlson. “But, today's a day for celebration... small towns can have pride, too." When asked about those legal changes, Carlson wants to change how harassment is defined in the legal system.

More about the Pride March with organizers Carlson and Nicole Schmittou

Kasey Castillo and Lou Burnine drove down from Hardin and noted the turnout was “great for being such a small town.” Castillo said, "It's time we got recognized as part of the community."

High school students from the Commonwealth Honors Academy participated in the march and activities. They expressed surprise by the turnout, the solidarity, being comfortable and appreciation for LGBTQ allies joining in support. CHA student life dean and Murray State social work faculty member Jeff Wylie said, “We’re here to be supportive of our students as well as people in general.”

Murray State professor Rusty Jones wants people to know that the town "supports equal rights for everyone and respect for all groups no matter what they're race or gender or sexual orientation is. And that we support everybody and we want everyone to feel accepted and loved and equal in this community."

Tova Shinall of Murray had three names on a sign: Michael, David and Brian. Shinall said one was a cousin and the others were dear friends and they all died of AIDS. Shinall hopes the message will be "live and let live." (Shinall's husband Dave works part-time at WKMS).

MC Lampe is the LGBT coordinator at Murray State. Lampe moved from Louisville two years ago. "When I took the job here two years ago, I honestly didn't know what I was going to get myself into." Lampe said there were no state or local protections for LGBTQ people in Murray.

"I've been so impressed with the work being done on a rural level, more, honestly, than I ever did in a city. The work being done here is the most important work." Lampe explained that it’s important for people to see that “there are people here that are LGBTQ identifying and are supportive. Because, it can feel very lonely in a small town. And the fact that we have such a great turnout today already, no matter what happens, shows that we’re not alone.”

Lampe’s partner Steph Parks said, “I was really scared to move to a small town. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of is it going to be homophobic? Is it going to be accepting? And, generally, it has been on the more accepting side.” Parks said events like the pride march shows that Murray is an inclusive environment. There were a few protesters.

Unlike nearby Paducah, and potentially soon-to-be Henderson, Murray does not have a local ‘fairness ordinance’ prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Some at Saturday’s event expressed optimism that, given the turnout and support, such an ordinance could be in Murray’s future.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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