Joyous cheers and disco music marked a Seattle Gay Pride parade held after the Supreme Court’s ruling legalized gay marriage across the country.
Joyous cheers and disco music surged through downtown Seattle Sunday as the always-irreverant annual Seattle Gay Pride parade became an ecstatic celebration of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to legalize gay marriage in America.
The crowded, noisy revelries were punctuated by a few raindrops, which only prompted one diva on a float with a sound system to lip sync the Barbra Streisand standard, “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”
For many participants, the celebration was a time to reflect on how far the cause of gay rights has advanced in the past few decades, and to thank the pioneers of the movement for their courage in the face of condemnation and discrimination.
The owners of Wildrose, Seattle’s pioneering lesbian bar, Martha Manning and Shelly Brothers, led the parade as grand marshals along with a dozen or so members of the Seattle Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
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The Sisters debuted in San Francisco in 1979, with men in drag donning nun habits and painting their faces to hide their identity. In those days, recalled Sister Amore (aka Mike Konkel), you could be fired from your job for being gay or out of fear of having AIDs.
“Friday was an affirmation of all the work that has gone on since those years,” said Konkel, his red face paint only partially obscuring an orange beard — coordinated to match an outfit of a red tank top and orange tutu.
“We knew we were right, we knew we should be recognized, but now there’s no gay marriage. There’s just marriage,” he said.
Deidre Ballein, a founding member of Rainbow Families, pressed through the crowd of spectators for a spot along Fourth Avenue with her partner of 20 years — and now wife — their friends and three children, ages 16, 11 and 8.
“When I first came out, the Supreme Court had just upheld anti-sodomy laws and a lot of folks in the gay community said we shouldn’t bother trying for marriage. I’m really glad people didn’t give up,” she said.
Her daughter Sadie, who first marched in the parade as a toddler, described the hundreds of people several deep along the sidewalk at Fourth Avenue and Pine Street as “a little overwhelming.”
“It’s more fun, more crowded because of Friday,” said the teenager. “I thought it was important to show my support.”
Matthew Bonner, 20, who drove here from Nampa, Idaho, wore a pink feather boa draped over his 6-foot-7 inch frame and a burgundy T-shirt that said “I’m Gay and I’m Damn Proud of It.” It was his first Seattle Pride parade, but his second pride parade in a week. Last weekend he was at the Boise Pride Parade and he said there was a lot of anticipation that the Supreme Court ruling could come down this week.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” he said of the court decision. “So many people have fought for gay rights. It’s humbling to be in their presence.”
Asked about his pink boa, Bonner said, “I’ve had it forever, probably since I was 8. I think that’s when my mom knew.”
A half-dozen gay men marched in extremely small red, satin briefs and white feathered wings. One buff young man who identified himself as “King” said it was also his first Seattle Pride parade.
“It’s amazing. I’m ecstatic. Marriage equality is definitely a celebration. My generation had to struggle a little, but everyone following behind is going to have it easier. It’s open doors.”
Large contingents from Amazon and Microsoft marched in pride T-shirts. Other groups represented the city of Seattle, T-Mobile (Mobilize for Equality their float proclaimed), an electrician’s union and a Methodist Church group with signs that said “God Loves Me.”
City Council member Tom Rasmussen, the council’s first openly gay man, said he attended his 50th high-school reunion Saturday night and had the extraordinary experience of being congratulated by “600 straight people.” Coming out in high school wasn’t an option for him and other gay and lesbian students, he said.
“The image of a gay man was extremely negative. The hostility was terrible,” he recalled. “The best thing was to keep quiet.”
Another reveler, Emperor Victor Thompson, rode on the Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle float, along with other royalty including Lucy Paradiso, a drag performer at the gay bar Neighbors who wore a vintage polka-dot swim suit, blond wig, fishnet tights and 6-inch heels.
The Seattle branch of the Imperial Sovereign Court, a national gay-support organization, was organized in 1971 to help protect the community against violence including police raids at local gay bars, Thompson said.
Now they raise money for LGBT youth scholarships.
Thompson and his partner married in 2004 when then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome authorized ceremonies. The California state Supreme Court soon declared the marriages illegal and Thompson said he vowed to not marry again until everyone in the country could.
Friday, his partner called him from the iconic Stonewall Inn in New York City — considered Ground Zero of the gay movement — where he was vacationing. The historic tavern, site of some of the first protests against police raids, was packed with other gays and lesbians celebrating.
“He called to say, ‘I guess we’re getting married.’ ” Thompson said, still marveling. “I get to marry my partner, who is my life, for real now.”
Information in this article, originally published June 28, 2015, was corrected June 29, 2015. A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Barbra Streisand.