“Georgia Aquarium is once again thrilled to host the Kick Off Party for Atlanta Pride. The Aquarium has always promoted inclusiveness and embraced diversity in all its forms, and we are glad to continue our excellent relationship with Atlanta Pride. With the party now in its fifth year, it is a proven hit with Pride attendees,” said Scott Higley, Aquarium vice president for marketing and communications, in the press release.
The event has been the subject of controversy led by animal rights activists from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Neither Cooke nor the Georgia Aquarium referenced the controversy in today’s announcement.
“This event is a perfect kick-off to the weekend because it gives our entire LGBTQ and ally community an opportunity to come together and enjoy a beautiful venue, magnificent animals, festive music, and a joyful (prideful, even!) atmosphere,” Cooke said.
TV personality and fashionista Tim Gunn recently wrote a letter to Cooke, urging Cooke and the APC to find a new venue for the annual event based on safety concerns for the animals. A similar letter written by “Glee” actress and comedian Jane Lynch came in 2012.
Gunn, writing on behalf of PETA, called the event “disturbing” for the animals housed at the aquarium and called on the APC to find another venue.
“The loud music and normal party raucousness that are part of the Pride event are deeply disturbing and unnerving to the sound-sensitive beluga whales at the aquarium,” Gunn said in the letter.
Gunn has advocated on PETA’s behalf before, notably concerning the use of animal skins and fur in fashion.
“As a leader of Pride, you champion human rights of the individuals in the LGBT community. How is it possible to be simultaneously dismissive of the pain and anguish suffered by another species of mammal?”
“With close to six months of lead time, you can surely make it work,” Gunn continued. “I believe that Atlanta’s LGBT community would agree that the kick-off celebration would be more in keeping with Pride’s spirit and these compassionate changing times if the party were cruelty-free.”
Cooke said the party will not be moved and responded with his own letter to Gunn, suggesting the gay celebrity is being used by PETA to protest a gay event, when the animal rights group has not targeted other events at the Aquarium.
Cooke said at the time that the event would not be moved, despite Gunn’s letter or any future complaints from PETA.
“Our agreements with Georgia Aquarium are signed and we are excited about the fifth Official Kick-off Party being in their facility,” Cooke told GA Voice when the PETA letter was received. “Furthermore, we view this letter and others like it for what they are: an orchestrated publicity stunt by an extremist animal rights organization known for creating these kinds of protests. I was dismayed to discover that out of the literally hundreds of events like our Official Kick-off Party that occur in Georgia Aquarium, only ours is protested by PETA.”