This year’s Gay Pride Parade attracted hundreds of thousands of participants and their friends and allies to celebrate the community and mourn the deaths in Orlando.

Share story

Almost half a million rainbow-splashed people crowded downtown Seattle on Sunday under hot, brilliant skies for the annual Gay Pride Parade.

The usual skimpy short-shorts, fullback-sized divas and disco music were joined this year by thousands of friends and allies showing support and resolve in the wake of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando two weeks ago and an assault on a transgender person on Capitol Hill on Wednesday night.

“We had to push back fear and anxiety. People are getting hurt. People are getting killed. But I’d rather be here, out and proud, than in the closet,” said Ozzy Wheeler, who, with her partner, Barb Brown, joined the Dykes on Bikes motorcycle riders in their traditional place near the front of the parade.

A year ago, the Pride Parade was held just two days after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and participants joyously celebrated the ruling while also honoring the pioneers of the gay-rights movement.

This year, Seattle’s first openly gay mayor, Ed Murray, opened the parade with a moment of silence for the 49 victims of the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub.

“We’re grieving because of what happened two weeks ago today, but we are also here to celebrate our diversity,” Murray said, “and no one will make us stop.”

He then officiated the wedding of a lesbian couple, Angie and Cheryl Cerney, in the intersection on Fourth Avenue near Westlake Park. The couple, in matching gray tuxedos, kissed each other and climbed onto a wedding- cake float as Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” blasted from loudspeakers.

A larger-than-usual police presence underscored the concerns about safety. A phalanx of Seattle bicycle officers contained a group of Christian protesters as they walked the sidewalk along the parade route with signs denouncing homosexuality as sin.

The protesters were first booed then surrounded with chants of “Love wins.”

A float from the gay Latino group, Entre Hermanos, was moved toward the front of the parade, in recognition of the many Latino victims of the Orlando shooter. Marchers donned huge, colorful wings to symbolize the theme of freedom, said organizer Sergio Miranda.

“Freedom to stay in the country, freedom from violence, freedom for people who are gay, but aren’t out with their family. Orlando reminded us that there’s still hate and discrimination,” Miranda said.

Election-year politics also were on parade. Many office seekers showed their support for gay rights, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is seeking a second term.

“This whole state is a proud state,” Inslee said.

Two ballot measures, one to limit access to guns and another that would repeal anti-discrimination laws against transgender people, attracted large contingents of marchers.

Lori Oviatt, the mother of a gay son who came out five years ago, recalled the text of one of the Orlando victims: “Mommy I love you. Im gonna die,” from the bathroom where he was trapped with the shooter.

“Orlando hit me hard,” said Oviatt, who marched with the group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. She said she grew up in a Midwestern family that hunted. She owns guns.

But she said the Orlando carnage was only possible because the killer had an assault weapon capable of quickly firing multiple rounds.

“That’s why he could kill so many people,” she said, saying she supported restrictions on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

Her group marched with supporters of state Initiative 1491, which would allow family members and police to petition a court to keep guns out of the hands of people who pose an extreme risk of violence to themselves or others.

Joanna Paul, with the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said the day’s mood was complicated. “We’re excited to feel so much love from the crowd, but we wish that no community was ever touched by tragedy. There’s definitely a somber note to the day,” she said.

Karter Booher, a young transgender person, marched with a group from Washington Bus, which he said empowers young people to participate in politics.

He was also joined by opponents of Initiative 1515, which would repeal state anti-discrimination protections for transgender people.

“There’s no place for discrimination. We want a Washington where anyone can achieve their dreams,” Booher said.

Kristin and Michele Slotemaker, of Tacoma, brought their three young children to the parade. They haven’t been in about three years, but said Orlando empowered them to come.

“The tone has changed because I think it’s easy to become complacent with marriage equality and it’s easy to think we’re equal and that everyone thinks that, but that’s not true,” Michele said. “There’s still a fight to be treated equally, and I want our kids to know that even though there are people out there who would do us harm, we will stand up for what’s right. We’ll stand up for love.”

Leo Irvine, of Seattle, said, “I’m not going to be bullied and I’m going to stand in solidarity with my community, whether that means I get hurt or not. I’m not going to be scared out of who I am.”

Lane Biag and Alan Draper marched and performed drill-team routines with the faux ROTC group, Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corp. They spun white rifles stenciled with the wording “Rifles Were Made for Twirling” alternately with rainbow flags.

“We wanted to show solidarity, to get more people out and show love for Orlando and our own folks,” said Draper.

Several corporations, including the parade sponsor, Delta Air Lines, and Microsoft, Expedia, Alaska Airlines and T-Mobile sponsored large groups of employees and supporters. King County’s entry included dozens of workers and a Metro Transit bus whose destination flashed “PRIDE.”

Information in this article, originally published June 26, 2016, was corrected June 28, 2016. A previous version of this story gave an incorrect name for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.