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Editorial: Pride parade can celebrate big gains for gay rights

Onlookers celebrate 2012 Pride Parade Chicago.  |  Sun-Times Files

Onlookers celebrate at the 2012 Pride Parade in Chicago. | Sun-Times Files

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Updated: July 25, 2012 6:36AM

This is no ordinary year for Chicago’s Pride Parade.

Sunday’s 43rd annual parade kicks off on the North Side during a year marked by remarkable advances for gay rights in America.

The biggest moment came in May with President Barack Obama’s unequivocal endorsement of gay marriage.

The president of the United States stood up for what’s right, risking whatever political fallout may come. He stood up for the most basic of American concepts: that all citizens deserve equal treatment.

Obama’s endorsement came in a year when three more states legalized gay marriage, though two face possible voter reversal, and gay-rights supporters scored a major victory against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies gay couples federal benefits such as Social Security survivor payments. For the first time, a federal appellate court, in June, ruled against the 1996 law.

Those victories will take center stage on Sunday, along with a newfound freedom for U.S. soldiers. After last year’s repeal of the military’s pernicious “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, they will be free to march openly without risk of discharge.

There are also advances to note locally this year. Gov. Pat Quinn came out for gay marriage, and three top officials — Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Cook County Clerk David Orr — all said they were unwilling to defend in court the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.

The notion of gay marriage, once unthinkable, is gaining traction at a pace few could have envisioned just a few years ago.

America, of course, remains far from the finish line.

Gay marriage remains illegal in the vast majority of states and the Defense of Marriage Act still stands.

But there is much to celebrate Sunday. In a year like few others, Sunday is a day to savor the victories.

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