Something to be proud of

I wrote this editorial for the Burlington Times-News on the occasion of the first Alamance Pride festival in 2015. On Saturday the group will hold its third in downtown Burlington. Happy birthday to a more inclusive day in the Burlington, North Carolina community. This area still has its bumps in the road but this event is signal that times do change. As a side note, we probably had more response to this piece — pro and con — than any editorial published in my nearly 10 years at the Times-News.

A letter to the Times-News Open Forum gave us pause the other day. It addressed the upcoming Alamance Pride celebration in downtown Burlington. The writer expressed in strident terms his belief that this event brings shame to our area because it salutes the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its friends.

We disagree.

The inaugural Alamance Pride event, set for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the depot and amphitheater on Front Street, actually says a lot of great things about our community today. Let’s list a few.

■ It’s a sign of a progressive city open to all people from every walk of life.

■ It’s sign of a city ready to do business in a modern world where corporations look for communities in which all employees feel welcome.

■ It’s sign of a city that refuses to wall itself off from reality and acknowledges that the highest court in the land has sanctioned same-sex marriage.

■ It’s a city that’s accepting of new ideas and the people who express them.

■ While we’re still very much a city steeped in Christian faith, it’s also a city that leaves the door open to a variety of beliefs and opinions, including disagreements among Christians themselves.

■ It’s a city of tolerance as opposed to city of bias and bigotry.

■ It’s a city where freedom means not just freedom for a few, but freedom for all.

All of those things bring positive attention not to only Burlington but to Alamance County. It also puts our community with others in North Carolina. Salisbury, a city very similar to Burlington in terms of size, amenities and beliefs, has a successful annual gay pride event. Pride events in more metropolitan areas, such as Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh, have drawn crowds large enough to boost the economy in those sites.

Certainly Burlington’s first Pride celebration should translate into s good day for downtown businesses, which will see steady traffic for six hours on a Saturday. It might also draw people to Burlington who might not otherwise visit and spend money here.

So far organizers say they have encountered few if any difficulties in putting on this first Alamance Pride, and we hope they have no problems on Saturday. While we understand that some in the community have opposition to same-sex marriage based on religious beliefs, we also maintain that there are times we can all simply agree to disagree and enjoy the fact that we live in a nation where freedom is paramount.

We like the words of Burlington Police Chief Jeffrey Smythe, who told the Times-News: “I think the platform of the Burlington Police Department is that we support democracy in action and equal rights for everyone, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, or choice of sexual partner. If I can take a leadership role in unifying this community, that’s where I need to be.”

So will we.

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