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When it comes to NC Pride, 2008 was a very good year for the 24th annual celebration. An outstanding turnout estimated at 10,000 gathered at Duke University’s East Campus in Durham Sept. 20 to march in the parade (which featured a record number of floats), browse the expansive vendor fair, listen to the slate of speakers and performers and soak in the unexpected sunshine.

Weather forecasts had predicted rain, but the overcast morning gave way to clear skies by the afternoon. This was no doubt a source of consternation for the small band of anti-gay Christian protesters who were on hand. Rain is seen as divine validation of their hateful theology, so the ideal conditions put an ironic damper on their rabble-rousing.

One Christian leader who was thrilled with the day, however, was NC Pride guest speaker Jay Bakker — the founder of welcoming Revolution Church, with congregations in NYC, Charlotte and Atlanta. The son of PTL founders Jim Bakker and the late Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner, Bakker was greeted with cheers from the crowd lining the march route as he was driven along in an open-air convertible.

Also receiving an enthusiastic and appreciative response from the crowd was Parade Grand Marshall Sharon Thompson. She was selected for the honor by NC Pride organizers in recognition of her many years of LGBT advocacy. Thompson’s work has been particularly important in the legal arena where she has blazed trails as an openly lesbian attorney. Her practice is based in Durham.

Openly gay Chapel Hill businessman Jim Neal was the day’s keynote speaker. He made history this year by mounting a challenge to become the state’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, his bid fell short to party insider Kay Hagan.

The theme for NC Pride 2008 was “Live-Love-Be” — the year’s official international Pride theme.

David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at