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11th Pride Parade takes place amid statewide issues

Posted: June 1, 2014 - 9:05pm
The 11th annual Pride Parade took place in Downtown Conway Sunday afternoon.
The 11th annual Pride Parade took place in Downtown Conway Sunday afternoon.

With the recent but brief lift of the state's constitutional and legislative ban on same-sex marriage, the eleventh annual Conway Pride Parade and Festival had a focus on marriage equality.   

Historically, the Conway Pride Parade and Festival has been a time for members of the gay community to come together with straight allies to "teach tolerance and acceptance."

In past years, the parade has been protested, but this year, the event was well attended with participants, supporters and a few spectators. 

John Schenck and Robert Loyd, who live in "the Pink House" on Robinson Avenue, sponsor the event each year.    

One of Loyd's favorite aspects of the parade is how each year a higher and higher percentage of parade participants consists of straight allies, he said. 

"I'm really proud of how the attitude of Faulkner County has changed in the last ten years," Schenck said. 

The couple has been married since 2004, traveling to Canada to receive a marriage license, but still wish to get married in the county in which they live. 

Schenck and Loyd were one of 22 couples who filed suit to overturn the 2004 law, which added a gay marriage ban to the state's constitution.   

Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza's ruling lifted the constitutional ban May 9, but the Arkansas Supreme Court suspended Piazza's ruling May 16, and enforced a stay during the appeals process. 

During the brief period same-sex marriage was legal in the state, Faulkner County made the decision not to issue marriage licenses until the matter is resolved in the Arkansas Supreme Court.   

"We're not going to stop the fight until we can get married on the stage in Simon Park," Schenck said. 

Schenck said the marriage would be a grand event with lots of guests.  

"We're already married, but since we live in the most bigoted county in the state, we want to make a statement," Loyd said. 

The couple will celebrate 40 years of working and living together this January. 

"I have faith that Faulkner [County] will quit screwing up before too much longer," Loyd said. "I don't want Arkansas to be number 50 when it comes to doing the right thing."

Loyd said he's never been too fond of the idea of marriage. "They call it an institution for a reason," he said, but he knows how important it is for the next generation to have the same rights as anyone else. 

"The kids need the same rights [John] fought for 45 years ago at the Stonewall riots, and coincidentally, 45 years ago this month, I was at Vietnam fighting for rights I don't have, but by God, my kids will have those rights," Loyd said.  

Schenck and Loyd are registered clergy who hope to soon be able to marry gay couples on the steps of the Pink House or on the stage in Simon Park.

"They're showing their love and showing the county, 'we're here, accept us or don't,'" Loyd said.

 

 

     

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