Coming Out Day draws crowd in Park Blocks

Yesterday in the Park Blocks the student group Queers & Allies held their National Coming Out Day celebration.

Over one hundred people gathered in the early afternoon to learn about the importance of voting and to listen to music and guest speakers.

Morgan Stimson and Mary Fletcher, who helped organized the event, were very happy with the turnout. “This is the best event Q&A and ASPSU has thrown in awhile. I’m very pleased,” Stimson said.

“I’m thrilled,” Fletcher added. “I can feel the community really coming together.”

Speakers included Ryan Klute, vice president of student government, city council hopeful Sam Adams and the Rev. Shawn Thomas Berthel, the ordained minister of the Universal Life Church who wedded 63 of the 3,000 gay couples that married after last March.

The first musical guests were Oregon natives Ross and the Hellpets, who wooed the crowd with political songs such as “We Vanquish Terror.”

“It’s about the Bush administration,” the lead singer quipped to a laughing crowd.

The event attracted just one naysayer, a man who came with his Bible to preach. A member of student government politely directed him to the campus ministry. He screamed for a few more minutes and then left.

The crowd was most excited by Sneakin’ Out, an instrumental band that covered classic songs using a mandolin, bass guitar and a series of percussion instruments including xylophone, bongos and conga. Most memorable was their rendition of “YMCA,” which featured a typewriter solo.

Other speakers included civil rights lawyer and city council candidate Nick Fish, who spoke against Measure 36, saying those who support it “enshrine discrimination in our constitution.”

He also stressed how important the next presidential election is, pointing out that the next president will appoint two Supreme Court justices.

Fish, a self-described lifelong democrat, is the husband of Patricia Schechter, a professor in the History department. Fish would like to be a champion for PSU on city council. He would like to see PSU and OHSU merge and share resources.

Mayoral candidate Jim Francesoni was scheduled to speak but did not appear.

Reverend Berthel closed the gathering with a short speech about the “need to come together as one people,” even though the attendees’ backgrounds and political views may differ.