Vice President Mike Pence’s hometown had its first ever gay pride event, and its all thanks to an 18-year-old high schooler.
Erin Bailey, the 18-year-old in question, came up with Columbus Pride as a school project. Her school, the Columbus Signature Academy, has a mandatory policy where students have to "explore endeavors that fuel their passions and to act as a bridge between a student's high school experience and his or her future goals" before they can graduate.
Bailey, who identifies as bisexual, decided that she wanted to create a project that could better her community, but in order to pull it off she needed the community’s help. Bailey created a GoFundMe campaign and soon raised $6,000. Then before she knew it, April 14th came and the event was underway.
The event was RSVP’d by over 1,000 people on Facebook and double that amount showed up on the day of the event.
In order to entertain all those people, Bailey had to organize some events such as the appearance of Drag Queen Oriana Peron or the giving away of a Marlon Bundo book, the story of a gay rabbit that parodies the children’s book written by Mike Pence’s daughter.
All of the excitement and fun was welcomed and appreciated by most, if not all, of the guests as they told WCPO Cincinnati.
Even conservative and religious townsfolk like Ann Jones, who was there to represent the First Presbyterian Church of Columbus, could feel the love in the air.
"I believe so much in unity and the divine presence of God in everybody," Ann Jones said.
In addition, LGBTQ citizens, like 18-year-old Job Willman who grew up in a religious household, were especially touched by the Pride event.
"Growing up queer is — it's been a little rough," attendee Job Willman told WCPO. "But I think with events like this and continued support and trying to educate people, people like me can grow up better."
Unfortunately though, the three hour Pride event soon came to a close and the weather took a turn as it began to pour. That said, as the townsfolk walked away with rainbow flags high (mostly to protect from the rain), most left feeling better than when they arrived.
As for Erin Bailey, she was beyond thrilled by how her high school project turned out. She was so happy that she was unbothered when she heard news of a message from the Vice President.
"Vice President Pence commends Erin Bailey for her activism and engagement in the civic process," press secretary Alyssa Farah told CNN. "As a proud Hoosier and Columbus native, he's heartened to see young people from his hometown getting involved in the political process."
In fact, she was very unbothered as she told Bustle.
"We're here, we're queer, and we're not going to listen to his agenda," she said. "He does not define our town. Columbus is Columbus."
h/t: WCPO Cincinnati