Gay marriage ruling bolsters crowd, Pride Parade

SHARE Gay marriage ruling bolsters crowd, Pride Parade

Large crowds lined the Chicago Pride Parade route Sunday. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

Regulars and first-timers lined the route of the city’s annual Pride Parade, a massive crowd swelled by the landmark Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal throughout the country.

“It feels like victory in the air,” said Chris Van Fleet, standing with friends along the parade route Sunday.

The excitement over the ruling “is totally palpable,” said Julia Storke, who was in town for the parade before she moves to Dubai, where she said gay rights aren’t celebrated.

“It’s more special for me to be at Pride,” Storke said.

Jim Sullivan and Mark Graczyk typically avoid the parade because it’s too crazy, but this year is special, Graczyk said.

They found a calm spot to watch. “This is historic,” Sullivan said.

The parade of more than 200 floats and performers began at Broadway and Montrose and ended at Diversey and Sheridan. Office of Emergency Management and Communications spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said an estimated 1 million people attended the parade.

Eight protesters were taken into custody when a group, members of the black LGBTQ community, hosted a die-in near Addison and Halsted, according to activists.

Spokesperson Page May said the eight held the center of a multi-layered, circle-shaped protest for about 17 minutes before they were physically harassed by “a lot of Pride people.” They were then arrested and told they would only be cited but were being jailed, May said.

The group was protesting to “bring attention to issues that have received marginal attention in lieu of marriage equality,” including violence against the transgender community and homelessness of LGBTQ youth, according to a statement.

In all, Chicago Police said officers issued 15 misdemeanors, three ordinance violations and one felony DUI during the parade. It was not immediately known whether those statistics included the eight protesters.

This year’s Pride events came with added scrutiny, as city leaders viewed Sunday as a last chance to prove the parade should stay in Boystown. The Police Department warned it would issue $1,000 tickets for open alcohol containers, and 90 off-duty police officers were hired to provide extra security.

Few revelers seemed deterred by the warnings. After the parade wrapped up, people sat just off the route on a residential street in Lake View, with unconcealed cases of beer in front of them.

While the future of the parade didn’t seem to be a concern for many parade-goers, the Supreme Court ruling was at the center of the celebration. The ruling, handed down Friday, means the remaining 14 states that do not allow same-sex marriage will have to stop enforcing their bans.

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., participated in the parade for the first time this year, a rare Republican among the politicians who attended the event.

The Supreme Court ruling “makes us much more free as Americans,” Kirk said at a pre-parade party.

Also before the parade, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., lauded the ruling but said the country needs to “maintain this momentum.”

“We need to continue the struggle. LGBTQ are still being discriminated against” within the country and internationally, said Duckworth, who is campaigning to unseat Kirk.

Amber Phelps, 19, of Joliet, comes to the Pride Parade with friends each year.

She said the environment was more accepting Sunday. “I haven’t seen any hate so far,” Phelps said.

Tomi Olivia Mischler came from southern Indiana with her wife, Deb, to watch the parade.

“I haven’t been out very long,” Mischler said. “I just came up here to be part of it.”

Mischler, who identifies as a trans woman, said the push for equal rights needs to continue.

“You’ve got to keep them going forward,” Mischler said.

Ana Santoyo walked in the parade with the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which stands for “Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.” She said the Supreme Court decision was a reminder that the fight for equal rights for all marginalized groups is not over.

“If anything, it shows we should stay in the streets,” Santoyo said.

“This is a victory, but this isn’t the end. It can’t be the end,” said Devin Lee, who came to the parade from Milwaukee. “This is the first step toward ending discrimination.”

For some, the parade marked a confluence of personal and historical milestones.

Isiah Cline married his partner of eight years, Francisco Garcia, on the Thompson Chicago hotel’s parade float.

Cline and Garcia are one of three couples that got married on the float, which stopped at three different intersections to perform the weddings. They were married at Broadway and Sheridan, with their two foster children by their side.

“I’m 45. I was raised in that time when you couldn’t even be out, or even do what we are doing today,” Cline said before the wedding. “Everybody is going to be celebrating the extra freedom. There’s no going back now, it’s a new day.

“It’s something I didn’t believe would happen in my lifetime: The day we are being recognized as full citizens and free, ” he said.


Contributing: AP

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