An ad campaign promoting South Carolina to gay tourists the London underground, which was canned by that State’s governor, will be paid for by the South Carolina Pride Movement.

The Board of the South Carolina Pride Movement has decided to raise the $5,000 necessary to pay the debt owed by the state for the “South Carolina is so gay” ads created for London Gay Pride Week.

“Unfortunately, South Carolina has sent a message to the world, that a signed contract from any state agency could be nullified if someone says, ‘Oops, we made a mistake in signing this contract’,” Ray Wilson, board member and executive producer of Rainbow Radio, said on Wednesday.

The South Carolina State tourist office asked to be part of an ad campaign in London during Pride London earlier this month, joining other America gay tourist destinations.

But when South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford heard about the campaign, with ads at two London Underground stations saying the South Carolina is “So Gay”, he reportedly ordered the ads pulled – and the $4,942.50 cost not to be paid.

The brouhaha, which has led to headlines around the world, was started by conservative ‘Bible Belt’ politicians and has angered the gay communities in South Carolina.

“We feel it is our duty to keep the word that the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recs, and Tourism gave through their contract with Amro Worldwide and we intend to raise the necessary funds since they have refused to pay their bill,” said Ryan Wilson, president of South Carolina Pride.

Mr. Wilson added that SC Pride will launch their fundraising campaign on their website with a banner proclaiming: South Carolina WILL BE ‘So Gay’.

“Someone needs to rise above and do the right thing, and the GLBT community of South Carolina should be the ones to do it,” Mr. Wilson said.

“And the SC Pride Movement is going to take the lead. South Carolina may not be ‘so gay’ currently – but we are going to show the world that we can be and we WILL BE so gay, and gay friendly some day.”

He added that “once we have repaid our State’s debt to the UK company”, the remaining proceeds will go to benefit SC Pride 2008 Festival and Parade which takes place on Saturday September 20 and features RuPaul.

Speaking to UK Gay News, Ian Johnson, the chief executive of OutNow, the gay marketing company that designed the ‘So Gay’ campaign for Amro International, said he was heartened by the announcement from Columbia.

“It is so heartening in such a situation to see such a wonderful sense of community. This shows the power of the community.”

On Tuesday, the Mayor of Columbia, Bob Coble, told The State newspaper that he had not seen the ad. He added that reaching out to gay and lesbian travellers is good business, the paper reported.

“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, according to the paper, 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.

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