Lawmakers from Bangor to San Francisco
headed out to the Gay Pride parade this June to shake hands, kiss
babies and make speeches. The annual event is being overrun by
lawmakers sharing the stage with drag queens, dikes on bikes and
go-go boys atop floats.
As lawmakers take up gay rights issues
across the nation, their numbers – and prominence – at the
rainbow colored festivals are swelling.
Sunday's New York City parade was lead
by Governor David Paterson. Paterson accepted the invitation to be
the parade's grand marshal hoping to celebrate passage of a gay
marriage bill he's backing. Instead he walked forty blocks clutching
a rainbow flag while expressing hope the legislation would still
“In my dream, I was grand marshal of
a parade where as I'm taking steps down Fifth Avenue, many [gay] New
Yorkers can take steps down the aisles to be married, which I think
is their right,” Paterson told the New York Times.
“I think that the bill should be
considered,” he added.
Maine State Senator Dennis Damon lived
Paterson's dream last Saturday while serving as master of ceremonies
for Portland's Gay Pride parade after Maine lawmakers surprisingly
approved his gay marriage bill this spring.
“It isn't just the gay, lesbian,
bisexual, transgender community,” Damon said, “it's our community
as a whole. And that's what I hope that Maine will look onto, will
grab onto and continue to move forward with.”
On Monday, New York Representative
Jerrold Nadler will join gay activists outside the Stonewall Inn,
where forty years ago patrons revolted against an aggressive New York
City police department. For five days, thousands joined in
protesting against police who often raided gay bars. The Stonewall
uprising is considered the birth of the modern gay rights movement.
The event will highlight the
frustrations of the gay community at President Obama's unwillingness
to approach gay rights issues, including his campaign promises to
repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, and “don't ask, don't
tell,” the law that prescribes discharge for gay service members
who do not remain closeted or celibate.
Among the half-million smiling faces at
Chicago's brash celebration Sunday were Illinois Governor Pat Quinn,
U.S. Senator Roland Burris and Illinois Attorney General Lisa
Madigan. Illinois Representative Mike Quigley said “It's a
beautiful day and a beautiful time for equality” while celebrating
his 27th Chicago Gay Pride parade.
Earlier in the month, New Jersey
Governor Jon Corzine called gay marriage a “fundamental right”
and promised to back a gay marriage bill in his second term at an
Asbury Park Gay Pride appearance. The governor posted footage of
himself speaking in front of a giant gay flag at the event on his
Facebook re-election campaign website.
“This is fundamental,” he said.
“It is about what we are about as a country. What we're about as a
people. Human rights, civil rights, are absolutely key. In God's
eyes we're all one people, and we need to recognize that and behave
Corzine signed a civil unions bill in
2006, calling it a “proud” moment, but made it clear that he
believed marriage was reserved for heterosexual couples. While
Corzine has indicated before he was altering course on gay marriage,
the Gay Pride announcement still took many by surprise.
President Obama, who declared June Gay
Pride Month, will bring the parade to the White House. The president
is expected to address a gathering of gay rights leaders Monday at an
East Room reception that commemorates the 40th anniversary
of the Stonewall Inn riots. (But administration officials have
already said not to expect the president to announce any new efforts
on gay rights.)
About ten years ago, gay activists
grumbled about the commercialization of Gay Pride, the sense back
then was that the parade had lost its political edge. Then lawmakers
decided to join the party, altering the dynamics once again.
Back in Chicago, a reveler summed up
the changes. “Twenty years ago, this was a very solitary event,”
David Sinski told the Chicago Tribune. “You'd come along
with like-minded people. But now there are so many straight people,
politicians, corporations, youth groups. Now there so many things
that aren't questioned. It's much more of a celebration.”