Thousands flocked to uptown Charlotte on Saturday and Sunday to celebrate Charlotte Pride Festival 2014, a two-day festival highlighting the “social, cultural, ethnic, artistic and political diversity of the metro Charlotte area’s LGBTQ community.”
“It’s a wonderful and diverse cross-section of people marching,” Charlotte Pride media relations official and Qnotes editor Matt Comer said. “We have businesses marching, we have LGBT bars and night clubs marching, we have churches marching, Bank of America, Wells Fargo — they’re all marching.”
On Sunday, the festival concluded with the second annual Bank of America Charlotte Pride Parade. This year, Vale couple Bruce and Doris Ennis marched in the parade in support of their son, Andrew, and his partner, Christian Cano.
“We were blessed, and we felt honored to be there,” Doris Ennis said. “We saw some beautiful people, both gay and non-gay. It doesn’t matter, really, because we’re all God’s children.”
This was the Ennises first year attending Charlotte Pride. Ennis explained that the year prior, she and her husband had already made travel plans, which overlapped the weekend festival.
Ennis family roots in Lincoln County can be traced back to the mid-1800s. To this day, she and her husband still reside on her family’s land, attending church at Trinity Lutheran Church in Vale. For the parade, however, the Ennis couple teamed up with her son and Cano’s church, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, located in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood.
“You just feel like you’re loved no matter who you are or where you’ve been, how many bad things you’ve done and wish you hadn’t,” she said, in reference to the church’s congregation. “You’re accepted, because we’re all God’s children.”
Ennis takes this message of acceptance and understanding to heart.
“Over the years, I’ve read and heard…and having raised a gay son, I saw what a lot of parents go through, and I always kind of felt like Andy, my son, was a godsend,” Ennis said. “God sent him to teach me, and I have learned more about love and acceptance and tolerance, and actually he’s like an angel. They love each other and they have a lot of respect for one another and have a beautiful relationship.”
While Ennis has supported her son’s sexuality, she struggles with seeing the discrimination her son and others in the LGBTQ community often face.
“You see how they’re treated and looked down upon, and so you sort of hope you don’t have a child that has to go through that,” she said. “God gave me the good grace to handle it in a way that I don’t think (Andrew has) ever felt we didn’t love him just the way he is.”
While Charlotte has seen continued growth in its LGBT supporters, Ennis feels Lincoln County is not as accepting.
“I think we’ve got a long ways to go,” she said.
She said her opinion was limited more toward the western end of the county.
“This is just what I’ve observed…and I don’t know because I’m not participating in other churches and organizations, so all we know is just our immediate neighbors,” she said. “And I know even with my own family how they feel as well as some of my neighbors, but then there are some who are very gracious about it. And at our church, there were even some people who left the church because there were people who were accepting of gays, and they didn’t want any part of it. They quoted Leviticus and some other parts of the Bible. But if you take everything (in the Bible) literally, we’re all sinners and we can’t judge each other because none of us are without sin.
“They would like to (get married) here in North Carolina, so they could have the family come,” she added. “And maybe that will happen before we pass on to a better life.”
Comer, however, feels that acceptance toward the LGBTQ community will continue to be an upward trend, visible not only in Western North Carolina but across the nation.
“We’ve seen growth with the event all across the state and region,” he said. “It’s truly becoming a destination experience for the region and across the nation. And we know there’s LGBT community in Lincoln County, just like there’s an LGBT community in Cleveland County and Hickory.”