LGBTQ people and allies lined the route of the the 48th annual Pride Parade, which took form Sunday as both a celebration of LGBTQ progress and a political call for action.

For Jessica Harding, a 35-year-old Chicago resident, the parade meant both. She and her wife, Lindsay Harding, came with their 3-month-old baby, Jacoby, whom Jessica Harding adopted this week. Lindsay Harding gave birth to Jacoby through reciprocal in vitro fertilization, so he is Jessica Harding’s biological child but was carried by her partner.

“It was a long and expensive process, so we’re here to celebrate but also understand that other families aren’t as lucky as we are,” Jessica Harding said. “We’re here to show that [LGBTQ people] can have families too, there is a way, and there are people who’ll support you.”

Linsday (left) and Jessica Harding celebrate their first pride with their 3-month-old son, Jacoby. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

The parade stepped off about noon from Montrose and Broadway with Mayor Rahm Emanuel leading the way alongside one of his daughters. Its route wound throughout the Uptown and Lake View neighborhoods before ending at Diversey and Sheridan.

“While we’ve gone a very long distance, we have a lot of freedoms and liberties that . . . are under attack, so it’s more important than ever this march to reassert our common values,” Emanuel said before the parade.

Parade marshal Lea DeLaria, a downstate Belleville native most known for her role as “Big Boo” in television series “Orange is the New Black,” was moved to tears by the crowd’s cheers as her car drove along the parade route.

“It’s a joy to be celebrating this kind of event in my home state,” DeLaria said. “It’s exciting to see us all come together as a disenfranchised group of people to say, ‘I matter.’ ”


While other cities have chosen to incorporate themes of resistance inspired by the country’s political climate, Chicago’s Pride organizers maintained the traditional parade format, taking the theme, “Viva la Vida / Stand Up, Stand Proud.”

Roger Bottorff, a 65-year-old Kankakee native who first attended the parade in 1979, said he was relieved the parade did not fully embrace a resistance theme.

“Back then, the parades were more community-based and political protests, but this is more representative of what the parade has become,” Bottorff said. “I’m not against the resist program, but this is a Pride Parade, not an anti-president parade.”

Bottorff came to the parade with his husband, Larry Gehrke, whom he married in 2014, when same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois.

Larry Gehrke (left) with his husband Roger Bottorff at the Chicago Pride Parade. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

“We had pro-gay marriage groups who would participate in the parade back in the day, and I never believed it was going to happen,” Bottorff said. “What’s wonderful today is to come out here and reflect on how much we have accomplished.”

Still, some parade participants walked with signs reading “Resist” and chanted slogan protesting President Donald Trump’s administration.

Kofi Ademola, of Black Lives Matter-Chicago, marched with the Trans Liberation Collective to oppose police presence in the parade and call for a more inclusive Pride celebration.

“We’re hoping that a more radical Pride can emerge just like in the spirit of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who kicked off the Stonewall Riots and fought for trans liberation and inclusion, across the intersections of poverty and everything else in oppression that affects people of color,” Ademola said.

Adrienne Little came from Merrillville, Indiana, with her fiancee to celebrate the Pride Parade. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

For Adrienne Little, a 37-year-old woman from Merrillville, Indiana, the parade was a time to celebrate with her fiancee.

“I’m here to represent gay love,” Little said. “It means a lot to see so many people here who agree that I should have the same rights to a high-quality life as anyone else.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidates J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) all participated in the parade. They spoke at a pre-parade party to recognize the LGBTQ community and speak on the the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who also participated in the parade, said it was a day to “stop and celebrate love and then get back and fight some more.”

Ana Melendez (left) and Jorden Rodriguez came to the Chicago Pride Parade for their first time Sunday. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Jorden Rodriguez, a transgender 16-year-old boy from Des Plaines, came to the parade for the first time and said he was amazed by its “accepting environment.”

“This is where I can be myself, and no one is trying to stop me from being myself,” Rodriquez said. “I am so happy to see people who are like me.”