Ben Cohen’s rugged good looks, gregarious personality and prowess on the pitch easily won him gay fans, but it is his community activism that earned him a spot as one of two honorary grand marshals of the 2012 Atlanta Pride parade.
The former rugby star from England has made Atlanta almost a second home since deciding to base his StandUp Foundation here. He is considered the first straight athlete to dedicate his philanthropic efforts to combat LGBT bullying and eliminate homophobia in sports.
Founded in 2011, the StandUp Foundation has raised some $500,000 to donate to such organizations as Atlanta Field Day, the national Campus Pride, Bully Free Zone UK, Safety Center UK, Belong to Youth Services Ireland and a number of local schools and safety programs, according to Atlanta resident Patrick Davis, foundation president.
The Atlanta Pride Committee will have a diverse group of grand marshals leading this year’s Pride parade. From a trans woman who won a groundbreaking legal battle to a camp-drag fundraising troupe that’s raised $2 million for HIV/AIDS causes in Atlanta, this year’s group of honorees has contributed to the LGBT rights movement in countless ways.
“We are so proud of our 2012 grand marshals. It is going to be really exciting having such a diverse group of individuals representing the LGBT community at the Atlanta Pride Festival this year,” said Atlanta Pride Board Chair Glen Paul Freedman when the grand marshals were named.
“If you know any of these individuals or members of one of the groups, please congratulate them on this honor... and if you don’t know them, we hope you will show your appreciation of their support for the LGBT community by giving them a wave as they are on the parade route,” he said. “It is really going to be great day for everyone.”
The Atlanta City Council voted this week to extend the bar hours from Sunday, Oct. 14 at midnight to Monday, Oct. 15 at 2:30 a.m. The measure was led by City Councilmembers Alex Wan and Carla Smith.
Wan, who is gay, says the measure is designed to give Pride attendees a few additional hours to enjoy the city's nightlife.
“We can remove [city ordinance] code every now and again for various reasons,” Wan told GA Voice. “It's far easier to get a waiver for a specific event than a permanent change.”