By OB Rag Staffer
Saturday, July 18 marked the 35th Annual San Diego Gay Pride Parade and Festival. The parade is an annual event that draws about 160,000 spectators and 152 floats and contingents. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people are joined by family, friends and supporters to celebrate gay life and have some fun. It started at University Avenue at Normal Street and worked its way through Hillcrest, down 6th Avenue to the northwest corner of Balboa Park.
When I arrived shortly before 11:00, the sidewalks along 6th Avenue were packed with anxious spectators. The weather was the usual perfect day in San Diego. The crowd included infants in strollers, seniors on scooters, and everything in between. There were a lot of families with children. The majority of people were young to middle-aged men and women, and many same-sex couples. Most people were wearing pride beads or a piece of rainbow-colored clothing or jewelry.
The parade started with the lead cars draped with rainbow flags, escorting a large group of motorcyclists. They were followed by floats and contingents from various LGBT groups and businesses. Some of the local gay nightclubs entered floats that featured music and dancers. Most floats, however, contained messages of human rights, activism, and remembering the Stonewall Riot of 1969. Many floats carried signs reading “We all deserve the freedom to marry”. And, of course, rainbow colors adorned almost everything in sight. The full list of entries can be found at .
Ocean Beach was represented by Sunset Cliffs Animal Hospital, who entered a classic VW van covered with rainbow-colored balloons.
There were quite a few government officials in the parade. They included Mayor Jerry Sanders, members of the San Diego City Council, representatives of the San Diego Police, Representative Susan Davis, Senator Christine Kehoe, Assembly Member Marty Block, and others. Smart politicians have learned that they need the support of the gay community if they are to be effective leaders.
One thing that surprised me was the number of churches that entered floats or contingents in the parade, all showing support for gay rights and gay marriage. Obviously they want to distance themselves from the more vocal churches that preach hate and intolerance. It was refreshing to see churches practicing love and tolerance.
The parade ended with a series of classic cars, followed by thousands of people marching down 6th Avenue to the Pride Festival in Balboa Park. The festival is located just south of Laurel Street. Admission is $20 and the festival is open Saturday and Sunday. For more information on the festival, see the Festical page at.
The theme of this year’s parade was “Stonewall 2.0 – Activism for Equality”. It commemorates 40 years since the gay rights movement began on the heels of the Civil Rights movement, with the Stonewall Riot in 1969. It all started when the New York police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. That was the last straw for the gay community, who were tired of being harassed and arrested just for being gay. The people fought back, and have never stopped fighting back. That fight will continue until all LGBT people have the same rights as everyone else, and can live in dignity without prejudice.
The San Diego LGBT Pride website describes San Diego’s first parade in 1974: “The handfuls of brave activists who marched back then recall being afraid of losing their jobs or becoming ostracized in a climate that incited fear and hatred from those witnessing the event from the sidelines.” (Read the full text HERE) That first parade took place while homosexuality was still illegal in California. It wasn’t until 1976, after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Consenting Adults Act, that being gay became “legal”.
There is still a long way to go. On one side of the gay rights movement are the struggles for equality, including gay marriage and gays in the military. On the other side is the fight against hate and violence that is still too often a part of daily life for many gay people. Progress is being made on both fronts, but there is a tremendous amount of hate and prejudice in this country that will have to be overcome.
Let’s take a moment to remember Navy Seaman August Provost, who was found dead at Camp Pendleton on June 30, allegedly murdered for being gay; and the victims of the latest rash of gay bashing murders in New Mexico; as well as everyone who has ever been a victim of violence because of their sexual orientation. This has to stop.
Today’s parade shows how much progress can be made when peaceful activism confronts hate and ignorance. Equal rights are so close…
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