BOMA

Two Franklin citizens made critical comments about June's Franklin Pride celebration at the Board of Mayor and Alderman Tuesday night, with the organization that holds the event responding to their claims. 

Franklin Pride, a family friendly event held at Harlinsdale Farm, celebrates June's status as Pride month, a time set aside to shed light on the LGBTQIA plus community. Though, two Franklin residents made claims against the event's use of drag performers. 

The first citizen, Ben Crist, recited the Bible (Romans 13 to be exact) as the “basis of his comments” regarding the Board of Mayor and Alderman’s relation to the pride event.

Crist called on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to “take responsibility in terms of investigating what has gone on at the June 4 event with the perhaps impromptu drag show and the indecent acts that were performed in public views.

“I ask that you take the scrutiny of events that are going to take place on public property, particularly when children are not only permitted to come but invited to come. I ask you to place appropriate censure on the group that conducted that event, which I think is your God-given responsibility.”

Crist made no explicit allegations about "indecent acts" at the drag show in question, and no other concerns have been made public about anything controversial happening at the Franklin Pride event. 

Jo Ellen Thatcher, a Franklin resident for 27 years, echoed Crist’s concerns.

“Drag queen story hour and drag one-on-one events are targeting small towns like ours," Thatcher said. "I urge you to keep this from ever happening again in our city. I appreciate you hearing me and please know that I am still praying for you for wisdom that you would do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God to succeed.”

Thatcher's comments stem from nationwide targeting of "Drag Queen Story Hours," youth-oriented events where drag performers read storybooks to children and aim to capture "the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and [give] kids glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models," per the organization who organizes the storytimes. 

They have come under scrutiny from conservative groups, with far-right Proud Boys and other protesters stormed one of these library events in Sparks, Nevada, recently. 

The City of Franklin supports the now-annual event, with Vice Mayor Brandy Blanton and City Administrator Eric Stuckey attending the most recent Franklin Pride celebration. They read a proclamation from Mayor Ken Moore at the event, affirming its mission.

“The City of Franklin is committed to supporting visibility, dignity, and equality for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer, ala LGBTQ people in our diverse community,” the proclamation read in part. “Whereas it’s essential to acknowledge that the need for education and awareness remains vital to end discrimination and prejudice, whereas this nation was founded on the principal that every individual has infinite dignity and worth.”

Robert McNamara, president of Franklin Pride, spoke to the comments from the BOMA meeting, reinforcing the organization's purpose. 

"Our mission is to foster an environment where all citizens in Middle Tennessee can feel safe to live openly," McNamara said. "We encourage fellowship and support among participating businesses, professionals, individuals and charitable pursuits, in the LGBTQIA plus allied communities. We, Franklin Pride TN, exist to oppose prejudice in the society at large."

In response to complaints about the drag performances, McNamara spoke to the very nature of the performers and their mission.

"Drag queens' sole purpose in life is to bring joy and happiness to the people. We're not 'grooming,' we are providing a support system. That's what our purpose is," McNamara said. "Everybody that I saw had a big smile on their face. All day. Five hours of joyful celebration. It was an amazing, beautiful event.
 
"I get the situation we're in, and I understand this as just growing pains. We are happy to talk about pride at any level at any time."

As with all citizen comments, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen can make no decisions or consideration of actions in response except to refer the matter to the city administrator for administrative consideration or to schedule board consideration at a later date.