State employee quits amid controversy; group says issue ‘a political football’
A South Carolina tourism employee has resigned in the wake of outrage over an advertising effort to attract gay tourists to the state.
Last week, the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism dropped out of an ad campaign linked to gay pride week that proclaimed, “South Carolina is so gay.”
PRT managers didn’t know about the promotion until reading a release from an advertising firm, PRT spokesman Marion Edmonds said.
Edmonds would not say why the unidentified PRT employee resigned. But the resignation was submitted before a meeting with upper management, Edmonds said.
PRT director Chad Prosser said last week the agency would not pay a $4,942 fee to participate in the campaign, which had been proposed by the state’s London advertising coordinator.
Greenville Sen. David Thomas, a Republican, has called for an audit of the agency in the wake of public outcry.
But leaders of the South Carolina gay and lesbian community and others are decrying the decision to pull the ad.
“I think it’s absurd that all of this energy is being expended over a $4,900 ad,” said Ray Drew of the Columbia-based S.C. Equality Coalition, a group that advocates for gay rights.
Drew charged that the state tourism agency forced the employee’s resignation.
“The director of PRT is making this into a political issue, which I also find absurd,” Drew said. “I’m not surprised they have forced this employee out of his job because they’ve made it a political football.”
Columbia Mayor Bob Coble, a Democrat, said he has not seen the ad. But he said reaching out to gay and lesbian travelers is good business.
“How you do an advertising campaign in good taste, you can debate. I would leave that to others,” he said. “But we are in a global economy, and you should treat diversity as a strength. Diversity is a good thing.”
The city recently approved $10,000 in hospitality taxes for the Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement and $15,000 in community promotions money for the Gay & Lesbian Advocacy Movement.
Earlier this year, City Council unanimously passed an anti-discrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation.
Staff writer Jeff Wilkinson and The Associated Press contributed.