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[Photos] Georgia Aquarium party kicks off Atlanta Pride

Atlanta Pride aquarium party

The Atlanta Pride Committee held a VIP party at the Georgia Aquarium on Friday, Oct. 12, to honor and recognize sponsors and supporters of the annual festival. Grand marshals of the Atlanta Pride parade were honored and honorary grand marshals Stuart Milk, the gay nephew of the gay icon Harvey Milk, and Ben Cohen, founder of the anti-bullying StandUp Foundation, thanked everyone for their support. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who has been a stalwart supporter of LGBT equality, also gave a rousing speech. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was also on hand to welcome people to Atlanta.

To view more photos from the Pride VIP party, click here.

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PETA announces full protest of upcoming Atlanta Pride kickoff party

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals today announced plans to protest Friday's Atlanta Pride Kickoff Party at the Georgia Aquarium over concerns the event is harmful to the animals inside the aquarium.

Dan Matthews, a PETA senior vice president, sent a letter to acting Atlanta Pride Executive Director Buck Cooke, again urging Cooke and the Atlanta Pride Committee to move the annual event to a venue that does not hold animals captive.

Matthews, who is gay, holds no punches in the latest letter to the APC, including accusing Atlanta Pride of misogyny, after Cooke and members of the APC have failed to directly respond to PETA's communications written by women.

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Georgia Aquarium: Actress Jane Lynch given ‘inaccurate and distorted information’

Jane Lynch at the Georgia Aquarium

Officials from the Georgia Aquarium today disputed “Glee” actress Jane Lynch's claim that the annual Atlanta Pride Kickoff party held at the aquarium is harmful to animals, noting that the lesbian actress had praised the facility in the past.

“I must say that we were quite surprised, as we think of Ms. Lynch as a friend of Georgia Aquarium,” Scott Higley, vice president of marketing and communications of the Georgia Aquarium, told GA Voice.

“She visited our facility with her family in the summer of 2011 [pictured above] and subsequently gave us glowing comments about her visit, after she was able to witness first-hand the quality of care we dedicate to the animals here at Georgia Aquarium each and every day,” Higley said.

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2012 Atlanta Pride fest returns to Piedmont Park in October as part of National Coming Out Day

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Atlanta Pride again comes out to Piedmont Park this year Oct. 13-14, making it the largest event to coincide with National Coming Out Day — and hoping to top record crowds from 2011.

"The Atlanta Pride Festival is currently the largest event in the United State to coincide with National Coming Out Day, which is observed on Oct. 11. Other [local] established community events that take place around the same timeframe include The Health Initiative’s Garden Party, Out on Film and the Atlanta AIDS Walk," says a press release from the Atlanta Pride Committee.

Despite protests from PETA's leadership last year about holding Atlanta Pride's official kick-off party at the Georgia Aquarium, the party will not be moving venues, say Pride organizers. In 2011, Dan Matthews, senior vice president of PETA, wrote in a Huffington Post blog that he believed the loud music and large crowds at the aquarium tortured the animals. Georgia Aquarium officials insisted no harm came to the animals.

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Party out of bounds

Pride kickoff party at the Georgia Aquarium

"I've never seen so many excited gays before," observed a sweaty reveler on the pulsing dance floor at the Atlanta Pride party at the Georgia Aquarium. His tattooed friend looked around and deadpanned, "Or so many terrified fish."

I had never been inside an aquarium before--just outside as a demonstrator. I only learned of this gala when I arrived from Virginia to work PETA's booth at the gay pride festival in Piedmont Park. I found it ironic that my seemingly sophisticated subculture would celebrate freedom in a building that celebrates captivity. My first thought was to stand at the entrance with a protest sign, but a friend on the guest list suggested that I accompany him and have a civil word with the organizers in hopes of opening their hearts and minds to choosing a less oppressive venue next year.