Last edited: May 14, 2004

County that Wanted to Jail Gays Holds First Pride, May 9, 2004

By Newscenter Staff

Dayton, Tennessee—Less than two months after Rhea county officials caused a national stir when they passed a motion seeking state approval to arrest gays the county held is first Pride celebration.

More than 400 people gathered at Dayton’s City Point Park for a picnic and speeches. Gays and lesbians were joined by straight members of the county who opposed the county commission’s attempt at banning gays from the county.

The crowd was smaller than anticipated. Organizers had hoped several thousand people who show up. Still, for a first pride event, they said they considered it a success.

More than 40 police officers including the local riot squad were standing by in case of trouble after a group of conservative Christians said they would demonstrate on the weekend. Friday, only a handful of protestors picketed the event.

One, protestor, carrying a cross, refused to stay out of the park and was led away by police. Officers said several others in the group were also arrested.

In March the Rhea County Commission voted to seek the approval of the Tennessee attorney general to arrest all gays in the community on charges of crimes against nature.

Less than a week later, after the county got national attention and drew criticism from across the country the commissioners rescinded their vote.

It wasn’t the first time the rural county 30 miles north of Chattanooga made national headlines. The Dayton courthouse was the scene of the “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925 where high school teacher John T. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution and fined $100. The conviction was later overturned. But, the story later became the award winning movie “Inherit The Wind.”

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