This post was contributed by Lara Sim, Senior Public Policy Campaign Manager, Statewide Poverty Action Network and Debbie Carlsen, Executive Director, LGBTQ Allyship.
Anchored in the iconic Seattle Pride Parade along 4th Avenue, this year’s Seattle Pride showcased the dynamic community in which we live. Following our victories for marriage equality in Washington state, dismantling the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and advances in transgender rights in Washington, the events this year had a certain electric element.
Dominating the celebration was the jubilant feeling that accompanied Friday morning’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on Marriage Equality: It is now legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love. The decision is a historic victory for LGBTQ rights activists who have fought for years in the lower courts. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia already recognize marriage equality. The remaining 13 states had banned these unions, even as public support has reached record levels nationwide. What a victory for equity and human dignity!
Pride parades began as a result of years of repression by the government. This year’s 41st Seattle Pride celebrated the progress we have made in equality and social justice and put a spotlight on the work still ahead of us. That work includes addressing barriers, such as laws on the books that still legalize discrimination.
In his welcome, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray shared some harrowing numbers and reminded us that “in 76 countries, it is still illegal to be LGBTQ and in 10 countries, the punishment is life in prison or death. We know these laws are on the wrong side of history.” During Pride and beyond, we saw our community and our allies come together to make the call for equality and non-discrimination. At Pride, this was the call to action, and we intend to take up the mantle.
The parade itself was humid, rowdy and loud. And it was filled with glitter and love. Over 200 groups pranced, waved and blew kisses from Union Street to Denny Way. We found the 2½ hours of revelry grounded in respect, courage and commitment. Organizers reminded us that Seattle’s Pride Parade is one of the top five parades in the country and that the head count was upwards of a half a million people! As the parade wound down, the crowd made its way to the Seattle Center. To see so many rolling around in the International Fountain after the drizzle of rain earlier in the morning was the perfect blend of silly, celebratory and quintessential Seattle.
Alongside all the merriment, State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu reminded us the fight isn’t over. From her published bio, Justice Yu is the state’s first out lesbian Justice, the first Asian-American Justice, the first Latina Justice, and the 11th woman to ever serve on the Washington Supreme Court. She prompted us to get involved:
For so many of us, acceptance and subsequent success came from an adult or mentor who reached out during a critical time in our lives. You too can be that beacon of hope or voice of comfort for a young person struggling through one of their toughest periods of life. Together we can assist and empower our youth to embrace their identity as they strive for self-sufficiency.”
She is right, of course: The fight isn’t over. For 40 years, in the long arc of struggle for acceptance, we see history changing at breakneck speed. As more LGBTQ individuals pick up the mantle of advocacy, they will help create a world our community never dreamed possible.
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