Gwinnett County recognizes LGBTQ Pride Month for the first time

For the first time ever, it’s LGBTQ Pride Month in Gwinnett.

A proclamation presented Tuesday night by the county’s Board of Commissioners declared it so.

District 2 Commissioner Ben Ku — who became the board’s first openly gay member when he was sworn in in January — presented the proclamation recognizing Gwinnett’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer residents.

Such proclamations are presented at the beginning of just about every commission meeting, to honor or otherwise recognize various groups from throughout the community. They’re largely symbolic.

But that doesn’t mean they’re meaningless, Ku said.

“I think just having recognition is a huge step,” he said. “This part of our community has been so long in the shadows — or in the closet — and I think it's helpful just to have that recognition, that validation, the acceptance that this is OK and we're not going to marginalize any community in Gwinnett.”

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The proclamation declared Gwinnett’s LGBTQ community to be “a vital part of all fields and professions [that] contributes to a stronger community.” It said that it was “imperative that every member of our community ... feels valued, safe, empowered and supported."

Gwinnett’s recognition coincides with the national celebration of LGBTQ pride month, which is held in June to correspond with the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in New York.

In June 1969, police raided a Manhattan gay bar called the Stonewall Inn, sparking protests and riots that are considered watershed moments in the gay rights movement.  This month marks the 50th anniversary of the riots.

Atlanta (which actually holds its primary pride celebration in October) has long been known for having a sizable LGBTQ community, but detailed statistics are hard to come by.

LGBTQ residents have been estimated to make up around 4.5% of Georgia's overall population. Many of those people live in Atlanta, but it stands to reason that many also live in Gwinnett, the state's second most populous county.

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This weekend, the Norcross Gay Club will host what’s believed to be the first-ever pride celebration in Gwinnett.

Rolando Guzman is an organizer for the the Norcross Pride event that's scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Thrasher Park. He said the Board of Commissioners' proclamation sent a "powerful message."

“Every change begins with awareness so, even if the gesture is largely symbolic, it is a huge step forward for the LGBTQ community living in Gwinnett County,” Guzman said.

State Rep. Sam Park, a Democrat from Lawrenceville, became the first openly gay man to serve in Georgia's General Assembly when he was elected in 2016. He also works as a legal analyst for Positive Impact Health Centers, an HIV clinic with locations in Decatur and Duluth.

The practice was one of the local organizations highlighted during Tuesday night’s proclamation.

“I am proud that the Gwinnett BOC is recognizing Pride Month for the first time in its history,” Park said. “It demonstrates the progress we are making as a community to be inclusive and welcoming of everyone who calls Gwinnett home.”