Coast to Coast: Pride Parades in New York, Chicago, San Francisco

By L.K. Regan

Pride parades in three major U.S. cities took place this weekend. Though an unfortunate violent event interrupted San Francisco's celebrations, overall the theme was presence. That is, the strong presence of LGBTs in these cities; the presence of major political and cultural figures at each event; and the presence of a need for continued political change. Here are a few of the scenes from Pride events coast-to-coast.

New York
The 41st annual Gay Pride Parade went off in New York City, attended by thousands of participants who watched marchers and floats make their way down Fifth Avenue toward Greenwich Village. The parade marshals included Constance McMillen, the teen from Mississippi who sued her school for refusing to allow her to attend prom with her girlfriend; Lt. Dan Choi, a gay Iraq war veteran and activist who has fought to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT); Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew Shepard was murdered in a hate crime in Montana in 1998.

Local government officials also attended, giving a sense of the size, presence and acceptance of New York's gay community, as well as their importance as a voting group. In attendance were Mayor Michael Bloomberg, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and Governor David Paterson.

To get a feel for a Pride float, you might want to check out this short video of the guys from the W Hotels:

Chicago's 41st annual parade was held Sunday as well, and as in New York, major public celebrities were in attendance—including representatives of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, such as outfielder Ernie Banks, accompanied by the Ricketts family, who recently purchased the team. Also present on a hugely popular float were hockey's Stanley Cup winners the Chicago Blackhawks, represented by defenseman Brent Sopel. In fact, the cup itself was in attendance, and was at least as much of a celebrity as any of the athletes. This year marked the first Stanley Cup title for Chicago in nearly 40 years, and the first time ever that the trophy itself has appeared at a gay-themed event. "We are thrilled that it worked out, as it's important for the city and important for the franchise," said Blackhawks spokesman Adam Rogowin.

Here you can see the reaction to the Stanley Cup's Gay Pride debut:

San Francisco
The 40th annual Pride Parade in San Francisco was meant to be one of the liveliest in the nation, as San Francisco's pro-gay culture has long fostered a free-wheeling week of fun. The main events begin on Saturday with events at Civic Center Plaza including food and music. Later, the party makes its way into the Castro District for the Pink Saturday street party. It was here that this year's events met with trouble, as a 19-year-old man was killed in a shooting that also injured two others.

Police have publicly said that they do not believe the shooting was a hate crime, and city officials are reassuring locals that they do not think future events in the Castro will be canceled because of it. In 2006, a shooting at a Halloween street party in the Castro caused the city to end for good the traditional Halloween events there; many are nervous that Saturday's shooting will lead to a similar crackdown on Pride events—but at least so far, the city seems disinclined to do so.

And this unfortunate incident did not mar the fun on Sunday, when the parade itself went off without a hitch. The Backstreet Boys were the musical entertainment, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, whose home district is San Francisco, delivered a set of videotaped remarks to the assembled crowd.

The presence of such important political and cultural figures at each of the Pride events brings home a theme very visible in the San Francisco events in particular, where the sting of Proposition 8 (the voter-backed ban on gay marriage) is still strongly felt. Even though gays are becoming increasingly accepted, and more and more straight people and public figures will happily attend our events, true equality still waits. In addition to the beads and glitter, dance music and leather pants, many marchers carried signs demanding gay marriage, or a final end to DADT. As Pelosi told the crowd, "San Francisco Pride is the pride of our city and a beacon to people all around the world." Pride is an opportunity to demand change. Here are Pelosi's remarks, which directly take on marriage and DADT.