An Irish American high-schooler has organized the first ever gay pride festival for Columbus, Ind., the hometown of U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence.
The festival, which will be held on April 14, is meant to send a message of inclusiveness. Organizers of the event want people to know that not everyone in Columbus shares the views of Pence, who has been criticized for his stance on LGBT issues.
“Most people would think that all of us here are also anti-LGBT,” said Erin Bailey, the high school senior organizing the pride festival. “But there are plenty of us who very much support the LGBT community and are members of the community.”
As governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The national backlash and business boycotts forced Pence to accept changes to the law so that it could not be used to deny services to gays and lesbians for religious reasons.
While in Congress, Pence advocated for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, opposed banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the workplace, and was against expanding the definition of hate crimes to cover offenses based on a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Bailey, who is bisexual, said she had the idea of organizing the festival as her senior class project, Indystar.com reports.
“I wanted to do something that would really benefit the community,” she said.
Despite his stance on LGBT issues, the vice president has actually applauded Bailey’s initiative on the festival.
“Vice President Pence commends Erin Bailey for her activism and engagement in the civic process,” spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a statement. “As a proud Hoosier and Columbus native, he’s heartened to see young people from his hometown getting involved in the political process.”
Bailey, who said that most of the reaction she has received about the event has been positive, added that she would be organizing the festival even if Pence weren’t from Columbus.
“But it’s kind of a plus that it’s his hometown,” she said.