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|Rest in peace: Atlanta gay cemetery plans are dead|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|April 11, 2011 17:39|
Plans for a gay section in an Atlanta cemetery are dead.
A spokesperson for Service Corporation International based in Houston, which owns Crest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Atlanta, said today there were never plans to partition off a section of the cemetery for gay people and families. SEI is “North America’s largest single provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery services,” according to its website.
“The information was pretty much incorrect,” said Jessica McDunn, corporate spokesperson for SEI. “We are not planning a segregated section.”
The news contradicts what John Suggs of H.M. Patterson & Son - Oglethorpe Hill told GA Voice on April 4. SEI owns H.M. Patterson and Son-Oglethorpe Hill.
Suggs, who is gay, said April 4 he was speaking as a spokesperson for the planned project of sectioning off part of Crest Lawn for gay people. Suggs provided detailed information, including that an architect was currently working on plans for the section. He also emailed photos of the cemetery to go with the story.
Being buried together as families is a tradition within heterosexual families and having a gay section in the cemetery is another way for LGBT people to remain together as a community, Suggs said.
"With so many people having children, adopting children, this seemed like a natural progression," he said. "Being surrounded by family is important to many."
Suggs said the only other known gay cemetery is in Denmark and was opened in 2008. Denmark was also the first country to legally recognize gay civil unions in 1989.
McDunn said she does not know how Suggs got information there were plans for a gay section.
“I think there was a miscommunication. I’m not sure how he got detailed information,” she said. “Our policy is to go through corporate when speaking to media.”
Suggs said today he could no longer speak to the media and that corporate communications was now handling the story.
McDunn said SEI has owned Crest Lawn for more than 20 years. She did say that there have been talks within the company to target different communities through marketing, including the LGBT community.
After the GA Voice article was posted at www.thegavoice.com and to Facebook and Twitter, several other media outlets picked up the story. In Atlanta, many people spoke out on the GA Voice Facebook page against the idea of a gay cemetery.
“To segregate GLBTs into a ‘special section’ although on the front end sounds like a good idea, it is NOT = I believe this will only lead to MORE labeling. Is this what we are fighting against? Would they be placing a 24x7 guard to keep the place from being vandalized?” wrote one reader.
“Why exactly would there be a gay ‘section.’ Separate but equal? It makes no sense. That's segregation.....why couldn't they just be buried in the cemetery among the other graves of straight couples? I don’t get it,” another reader wrote.
Did SEI back out after the apparent backlash for an idea of a gay section?
“No, I don’t believe it ever was in the plans,” McDunn said.
McDunn also said that the miscommunication with Suggs has been cleared up. He remains employed by the company.
Top photo: Crest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery now says there were never plans for an LGBT section (courtesy photo)
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