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Reason to celebrate at this year’s Pride Parade

2012 Gay Pride Parade  |  Sun-Times Library

2012 Gay Pride Parade | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: August 2, 2013 7:09AM



When Chicago’s gay community converges Sunday for the 44th Annual Pride Parade, the celebration will be over more than unity and loving who you are.

A recent landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling — striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and giving married gay couples equal federal footing with other married Americans — makes this year’s parade a historic celebration, leaders of that community say.

“This parade will be a huge celebration of this historic and landmark Supreme Court ruling that same sex couples have to have the same exact rights and responsibilities as their heterosexual counterparts,” said Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project of Civil Rights Agenda, the state’s largest LGBT organization.

But he and other leaders in that community say the celebration will be tempered by anger over the Illinois Legislature’s failure to legalize same-sex marriage here.

“It’s going to be a great celebration, but in Illinois, same sex marriages are not recognized, and this is an opportunity for this community to stand up and say to our Legislature, ‘Get the lead out and do it,’” Garcia said.

In a separate ruling last week, the Court also left in place a trial court’s declaration that California’s Proposition 8 ban was unconstitutional, clearing the way for same-sex marriages to resume there.

But the DOMA ruling did little for gay and lesbian couples in Illinois, where the Illinois House failed in its spring session to call to vote the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act passed by the Illinois Senate.

Consequently, some Illinois politicians who will be among the usual cadre of elected officials coming to show their support of that community Sunday may not find welcome.

“I think the fact that we won these great gains highlights the fact that Illinois is still laggard when it comes to equal rights, and many people are very angry at our Illinois politicians, particularly Speaker Madigan for failing to go forward with our equal marriage rights bill, even though Illinoisans according to polls favor this by a nearly 2 to 1 margin,” said Andy Thayer, of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network.

“The parade will be an opportunity for people to express either their approval or disgust for the politicians who typically participate in it, and I think a lot of people will be given a cold shoulder,” Thayer said. “I expect a somewhat charged atmosphere.”

The parade, which last year drew over 850,000 people to BoysTown, the heart of the city’s LGBT community, kicks off at noon Sunday, stepping off from Broadway and Montrose. The parade will then travel south on Broadway; south on Halsted; east on Belmont; south on Broadway; then east on Diversey to Cannon Drive.

The Grand Marshal for this year’s parade is openly gay former NFL football player Wade Davis, who played for the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks.

Organized by PRIDEChicago, the parade will feature over 200 entries of colorful floats, vehicles, marching bands and marchers. Many entries will have political themes, including the push for marriage equality and equal rights, organizers said.

“The parade serves as a platform for the community to both highlight our accomplishments as well as show the support from the various participants,” said Sean Kotwa, co-chair of the Northalsted Business Alliance organizing committee. “It serves as a reminder for the accomplishments of those generations before us — it’s important for that aspect to not be forgotten. And we continue using the parade as a vehicle for change and equality.”



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