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Friday, August 14, 2009

LGBT community stages massive kiss at Piedmont Park Saturday

The location is set, permits have been secured and lips are being puckered as upwards of 1000 participants are expected to gather Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in front of the visitor’s center at Piedmont Park to take part in The Great Nationwide Kiss-In.  Atlanta is one of over 50 cities across the country that will take part simultaneously Saturday to lock lips in a grassroots-led response to incidents in Salt Lake City and El Paso where gay couples were arrested or kicked out of restaurants for sharing a brief kiss.


Surveillance video of the Salt Lake City incident:

While the sheer size of the crowd expected in the park for the event tomorrow is striking enough, it is even more surprising that it was all organized by a 17-year-old.  Alex Oxford, a senior at Marietta’s Wheeler High School, was inspired by the actions of gay rights bloggers David Badash and David Mailloux, who organized the national event.  He was also inspired by the inaction taking place here once other cities started signing on to take part.


“After two or three weeks it spread across the country to people who were willing to devote some time, effort and a bit of money to the cause, so I just saw it and said, ‘Well, why don't we have one in Atlanta?  I can do this,’” Oxford says.  “So I started the website and started making some flyers and telling friends and it all took off from there.”


Reaction to the event has been swift over the last few weeks, but not all of it positive.


“At school, the reaction has been, well just because I'm doing the protest I'm just the regular faggot kid but they can say whatever they want, I've still got my friends.  All of my friends are attending and they totally support everything.”


Oxford doesn’t come off as angry or bitter though.  He speaks in calm, thoughtful tones about what he hopes is accomplished with the Kiss-In: “Hopefully people see it for what it is and do talk about it among themselves and hopefully reach more accepting conclusions about the LGBT community.  But the best reaction would be no reaction from the straight community.” 


Oxford also wanted to make clear that straight couples are invited to take part in the Kiss-In as well to show their support.  “We’re not looking for people speaking out and protesting the Mormon Church.  We don’t want this to be a bashing event at all, we just want it to be a display of affection.”


Moving forward, the goal is to inspire others to take action and organize.


“I definitely want to see members of the community, particularly younger ones, stepping up to the plate and organizing events whether it be at their school or college or even just talking with their friends about gay issues and being the impetus for that,” says Oxford.


“You just have to find the courage within to do what you want to do.”

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