When a group of gay organizers asked North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey if he wanted to be the grand marshal of a gay-pride parade, his answer was simple.
In a clear indication of North Charleston's evolving diversity, the city will host the first Charleston Gay Pride Parade and Celebration on May 15.
The route will run through the Olde Village district, near Park Circle. It's the same path as North Charleston's St. Patrick's Day parade.
Summey said he accepted the honor as part of his role as mayor and in recognizing that the city is growing, drawing in new populations.
"This is not in any way saying that I am supportive of their lifestyle," he said, adding that the differences don't make gays "any less a citizen" in North Charleston.
Organizer Lynn Dugan said North Charleston officials were extremely accommodating after the group's unsuccessful attempts to hold a parade-festival in Charleston.
Though there have been gay recognitions in the area in the past, Dugan is calling the event the first gay pride festival weekend on record in the Charleston area. Interest is coming from across the country, she said, because it is the "first" large festival in this widely recognized travel destination. "That's a big deal," she said. "No one can believe there has never been a parade before."
By various accounts, some areas around Park Circle are experiencing an increase in gay homeownership. "It's more affordable than downtown (Charleston)," Dugan said.
The parade will be followed by a pride festival at North Charleston's Riverfront Park, and other events will be held throughout the weekend. Dugan said she expects from several hundred to more than 1,000 people to take part, but that actual numbers are difficult to gauge this far out.
Summey said the parade was an easy decision for the city to endorse. "I believe that we have to be fair to everyone," he said.
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