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From The Archives: Daley is first mayor to lead gays' parade (1989)

By Lori Rotenberk

Originally published June 26, 1989

“Happy Gay Day,” a young man called out to Mayor Daley. The mayor turned and smiled to acknowledge the salutation, and his honor was blown a kiss.

With that smack, Chicago’s 20th annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade stepped off Sunday.

It could have been the city’s boisterous St. Patrick’s Day Parade as Daley, wearing a conservative wool jacket on a hot day, waved with fervor to the crowds on the streets and even to those who took to the rooftops.

But the mayor was riding in a bold turquoise vintage Thunderbird convertible as it inched south on Broadway.

Full Pride Parade 2014 Coverage

From The Archives

Remembering Chicago’s first pride march (1970)

Chicago gays put clout on parade (1990)

March of time alters gay parade (1991)

‘Lift the Ban’ Is Gay March’s Cry (1993)

Gay-Lesbian Parade Marks 25 Years of Gains (1994)

And trailing the Daley entourage was a float bearing members of the Chicago Gender Society, in drag, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus singing a rousing and well-received rendition of “These Boots thigh-high Are Made for Walkin.’ ”

“I think it is important for me to take part in this parade to show my support of the gay community, which I believe has contributed to a better quality of life in this city,” said Daley, the first mayor to lead the parade. “I represent all the people and that even means the gays.”

Among those walking the route were Aldermen Bernard J. Hansen (44th), Helen Shiller (46th) and Mary Ann Smith (48th), state Rep. Ellis B. Levin (D-Chicago) and state Sen. William A. Marovitz (D-Chicago).

Twenty years ago, when the first such parade padded down Belmont, only a few members of the gay community participated, and few of this city’s residents were aware of their existence.

Two decades later, Chicago’s gay and lesbian community is a driving political and social force in Chicago, said Richard W. Pfeiffer, the parade organizer. He estimated that 90,000 people turned out for the event, ranking it the fourth largest such parade in the country. Nationally, more than 600,000 people took part in the festivities, with some 250,000 at the parade in San Francisco and 150,000 participants marching down New York’s Fifth Avenue.

“People come in from the surrounding states for this event. It is a political and social celebration for the gay community,” Pfeiffer said.

“At one time a politician wouldn’t have even considered joining us. Today, they know we have clout.”

This year’s celebration also marked the 20th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall Inn incident, which sparked the national gay rights movement. Just after midnight on June 28, 1969, homosexuals rioted when police raided the Stonewall gay bar.

On Sunday, street hawkers sold “I love a parade” and “Out and about in Chicago” T-shirts, plastic handcuffs and yellow hardhats.

Volunteers, meanwhile, collected funds for AIDS research and handed out information on violent crimes committed against gays in the city.

As the spectacle moved south along Broadway, before turning onto Diversey Parkway and into Lincoln Park for a rally, crowds waving rainbow gay and lesbian flags clogged the side streets.

There, residents such as Nancy Hines said they came out to show support for their neighbors.

“I have lived here for five years and I have some friends and a brother who are gay,” Hines said. “A lot of people come to watch this out of curiosity, but at least it is a way for them to see that the gay community is no different than any other.”

Mark Zipprich, a west suburban man who said he “came out” as a gay last year, said the parade “is one of the only ways we can show the public that we are out here and that we are not such a small minority. We really can’t be ignored and I think it is wonderful that politically and socially gays are finding their place in Chicago.”