Group hopes to counter anti-gay protesters at annual Pride weekend Gay Day at Arlington theme park
ARLINGTON — Since Gay Day at Six Flags began in the mid-1990s, anti-gay protesters have gathered in varying numbers near the park’s entrance on the morning of the event held annually on the Saturday before Dallas Pride.
This year, however, a newly formed LGBT direct action group hopes to arrive in advance of the anti-gay protesters and seize their coveted spot for a pro-gay demonstration, called the "Big Gay Welcome Wagon."
Daniel Cates, co-founder of Equality March Texas, said members of his group will gather beginning at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 899 Six Flags Drive, the nearest, most visible location that isn’t on park property.
"This year, we’re not going to have that," Cates said of the anti-gay protesters.
"We’re just going to have happy, smiling homosexuals. Their intention every year is to turn people away from Six Flags, and warn them about the big scary, bloodsucking homosexuals inside. Our idea is, we’re going to be welcoming people, waving at them and encouraging them to come in."
Cates added that he was a little concerned that when they get wind of the pro-gay demonstration, the anti-gay protesters will try to arrive even earlier.
"Some of us are actually considering camping out to make sure that we are there before them," Cates said. "It’s a complete waste if they get there before us."
Cates said while he’ll be outside Six Flags at the demonstration for a good part of the day, many people likely will simply stop by on their way into the park.
"We’re asking people to devote whatever amount of time they can," Cates said.
"We’ll probably be working in shifts and just making sure we have people out there."
Equality March Texas will also be running a carpool to Six Flags from behind the Round-Up Saloon, at 3912 Cedar Springs Road in Dallas. For more info on the carpool, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also running a carpool to Six Flags this year for Gay Day will be Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats. For more info, contact DSYD Vice President Matt Burckhalter at (405) 249-9492.
Robert Moore, publisher of Dallas Voice, which sponsors Gay Day, said anti-gay protests at the event over the years have been "erratic, ineffective and uneventful." He said the only time anti-gay protesters received significant notice was when they hired an airplane to tow a banner over the park.
Moore said he supports the Equality March Texas demonstration.
"They should be able to express their sentiment that it’s great for gay people to be out and about and participate in the joy of life just like any other group does," Moore said.
"We’ve had groups in the past protest our presence at the park. To have a group say we think it’s great is no different. I hope they hire an airplane," Moore said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2009.