By Sarah Wyatt
– The Capitol Hill Times -
The Seattle Pride Parade returned to 4th Avenue Sunday, with enthusiastic participation from thousands of Capitol Hill residents. Originally a Hill-based event, Sunday’s parade hosted an estimated turnout of a quarter-million spectators spanning 12 blocks, and more than 200 marching contingents.
Serving as Grand Marshals of the parade was the first same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license in Washington, Jane Abbot Lighty and Pete-e Petersen. Earlier in the day, the couple helped raise a giant marriage equality sign featuring a red equal sign on top of the Space Needle. Other marshals included Sarah Toce, founder of The Seattle Lesbian; Zach Silk and Lacey All, leaders of Washington United for Marriage; and Guatam Raghavan, who serves as a liaison to the LGBTQ community in his role as Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement. The Capitol Hill-based Seattle Out and Proud organization, producers of the parade, hosts several annual local events including Pride Idol and the Seattle Pride Picnic.
An ebullient women’s motorcycle group led off the parade, followed by a local Boy Scout contingent, schools, technology companies such as Microsoft and Amazon, airlines, religious groups, floats featuring bawdy characters, city and state politicians, hospitals and animal shelters. Participation was strong from a number of employee organizations, including Starbucks, Fred Meyer and the City of Seattle. Same-sex newlyweds marched in their wedding attire, and colorfully painted bicyclists also made appearances.
The event commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots, which are often credited as the start of the gay rights movement. The theme of this year’s parade, “Equality: Passed, Present and Future,” celebrated the extensive victories achieved by the local and national equality-based legislative measures that passed in the November 2012 elections. Additionally, two recent Supreme Court rulings, declaring the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional on equal protection grounds, and taking no stand on the merits of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, were passionately noted.
Richard Ke’aumoana Chung, a Hill-based naturopathic physician, attended the event to socialize with friends and celebrate the court decisions.
“At Gay Pride a year ago, the mood was one of anticipation of the imminent state marriage and presidential election battles,” Chung reflected. “This past year and this month have been great moments for equality in the United States of America, and the mood at pride this year is one of relief, affirmation and celebration.”
Among the spectators were families with children, some of whom noted attending PrideFest Family Day at Cal Anderson Park on Saturday. Air Force veteran Michelle Warren accompanied her adult son and his friends to the parade.
“I grew up in a small, West Texas, very conservative town,” Warren explained. “I am a straight mother to a young man who is starting to sexually identify himself in ways I never knew existed. I shared a day with my son; an experience for both of us.”
Warren was especially pleased to see the Boy Scouts represented in the parade.
“All three of my sons were active Scouts and my oldest, the one I went to the parade with, is actually a Scout Camp counselor for the past three years,” Warren said. “To see the barriers fade away in all organizations I have been a part of – church, military, scouts, and my extended family – has been a little emotional for me as I am coming to understand my son and his choices.”
A lone protester – offering only the name “Larry” – objected to the events. His towering sign warned of “Sin, Death, Judgment,” and provided shade for nearby revelers enjoying the 85-degree afternoon. The parade route concluded at Seattle Center, where a festival offered four music stages, a silent disco, food vendors and informational booths.
The festive mood extended beyond the event. In what is believed to be a first in baseball, the Seattle Mariners flew the rainbow flag during their game against the Chicago Cubs. Warren and her family continued the celebrations into the evening.
“As the sun set last night, my son looked at me and said, ‘Thanks for going with me,’” she said. “I replied, ‘Why wouldn’t I? You are my son and I love you.’ This event, from the pre-funk, to the parade, to the post-fest at Seattle Center, allowed me an opportunity to see my son in a community of acceptance.”