With the parade’s theme of “indivisible” in mind, parade goers celebrated individualism, acceptance and above all else, love.
Despite record-breaking temperatures reaching 96 degrees Sunday, Seattle’s 43rd annual Pride parade drew hundreds of thousands to celebrate its theme of “indivisible” and demand inclusion in politically divisive times.
For members of the Seattle LGBTQ community and its supporters, the event meant showing up looking how they feel most proud, and that meant a lot of rainbows and glitter.
For Sgt. Nathaniel Boehme, it meant wearing the camouflage uniform of the Oregon National Guard and being the first person ever to march in full military uniform in the parade’s 43-year history.
“It’s a little nerve-racking, honestly,” the Washington State University graduate said just before Seattle’s Pride parade kicked off Sunday morning. “But it’s also really humbling.”
For the last few years, Boehme, who lives in Portland with his husband, Chris, has attended Portland and Seattle Pride events in his civilian clothes, after requests to wear his uniform were denied. But this year, with help from his squadron commander, Boehme’s request was sent to the Pentagon and approved.
Uniforms aren’t supposed to be worn while participating in “any activity such as unofficial public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies or any public demonstration,” according to the Air Force manual.
Essentially, the guard does not allow uniforms at political spaces or events.
But the purpose of the Pride parade, Boehme said, is not to be political, but to celebrate diversity. Boehme works as the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs LGBT veterans coordinator, the first position of its kind in the country.
Boehme served in Iraq under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which didn’t allow openly gay military members to serve. Boehme said he remembers celebrating the repeal of the policy and the lift of the same-sex marriage ban, now 6 and 2 years ago, respectively.
Pride goer Ashley Walickie had marriage on the brain Sunday afternoon.
With the help of announcers TylahMayJackson, Violet DeVille and Diva le Deviant, Walickie pulled her girlfriend of nine months, Nexey Cruz, on to the stage on Fourth Avenue and Bell Street and proposed in front of cheering attendees.
Afterward, Cruz said it was a big surprise.
“You know, we’re at a place in our lives where we’re moving forward, we’re in love, and she’s so beautiful,” Walickie said. “I just can’t imagine spending my life with anybody but her.”
“This is who she is,” Cruz said of the proposal. “It’s just beautiful.”
There were a few minor clashes with protesters before the parade began.
An anti-gay religious group with megaphones and signs tried to weave its way through the start of the parade but were drowned out by motorcycles belonging to members of Dykes That Ride, a newly formed group that led the parade.
Black Lives Matter protesters held a brief sit-in on the route to honor Charleena Lyles, the Seattle mother of four who was shot and killed by police last week after police said she confronted the officers with a knife.
The parade, which started a few minutes after 11 a.m., wound its way along Fourth avenue from Union street up to Seattle Center, and lasted just more than 2½ hours. Seattle Pride’s official website listed 206 registered people or organizations marching in the parade.
Parade participants included members of the Seattle City Council, as well as a contingent from the Seattle Police Department, the Department of Parks and Recreation and Seattle Public Libraries. Mayor Ed Murray also walked the parade route with his husband, Michael Shiosaki.
Many companies headquartered in Seattle, including Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft and Alaska Airlines, had crews of employees marching and handing out company swag.
The heat didn’t stop people from packing the sidewalks along the mile-long parade route. Seattle residents were joined by those outside the city and from other states.
Near the end of the parade, Deviant, a burlesque performer with Seattle’s Sinner Saint Burlesque, thanked attendees for coming and “staying proud through the heat.”
“I bet you Seattleites are probably wishing for our usual overcast day right about now,” Deviant added.