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Originally published June 26, 2011 at 10:59 AM | Page modified June 26, 2011 at 9:14 PM

Sunday Pride Parade draws diverse crowds

There were bustiers and ball gowns, leather chaps and fishnets. But participants in Seattle's 37th annual Pride Parade Sunday cut a wide swath across the community, featuring numerous corporate and civic groups, from Microsoft and Starbucks to labor unions and church groups.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Of course, there were bustiers and ball gowns, leather chaps and fishnets. But participants in Seattle's 37th annual Pride Parade Sunday cut a wide swath across the community, featuring numerous corporate and civic groups, from Microsoft and Starbucks to labor unions and church groups.

It took more than three hours for approximately 180 parade contingents to make their way along Fourth Avenue, from Union Street to Denny Way. As the last entries passed, the crowds filled the street and headed to Seattle Center to continue the party at PrideFest, a free festival hosted by One Degree Events.

New York state's historic vote Friday to legalize gay marriage, coupled with the United Nations' resolution endorsing the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people that passed earlier this month, added to the celebratory atmosphere.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, wearing an "I [Heart] NY" T-shirt, stood before crowds gathered at Westlake Park and spoke of the importance of the New York law. "Washington state will be next! Washington state will be next!" he shouted to thunderous applause. He then slipped a Seattle Pride T-shirt over his other shirt.

King County Superior Court Judge Jim Doerty, who was one of three "real-life" judges asked to judge parade entries, echoed McGinn's praise for New York.

"It's wonderful," Doerty said. "It's another great big reason to celebrate."

Adam Rosencrantz, board president of parade sponsor Seattle Out and Proud, estimated crowds at 400,000, in excess of last year's 250,000.

"It's an exciting time," he said. "I think one message for us to remember is why we're doing it (Pride festivities). In this country, we can do this. But there are places around the world where if anybody finds out you're gay, it's punishable by death or life in prison."

The Seattle event represents the diversity of the local gay community, he said, and reflects broad political and corporate support. Numerous local politicians and representatives of Macy's department store, Amazon.com, Group Health Cooperative and other groups participated in Sunday's event.

Grand Marshal George Bakan, editor of Seattle Gay News, one of the country's oldest gay publications, looked not unlike Santa Claus as he rode on the back of a red Mini Cooper convertible. Other grand marshals included the owners of the Seattle Storm basketball team, renowned author Armistead Maupin and Daniel Hernandez, the aide who rushed to help Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head in Tuscon, Ariz., in January.

Lots of skin was on display, largely thanks to a contingent of rollerbladers and bicyclists who wore body paint and little else. Pirates, gladiators, cowboys, drag queens, burlesque dancers and Goths mixed together in a colorful swirl of makeup, costumes and platform boots.

Members from the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union wore T-shirts that read, "I [Heart] civil liberties," while employees of Public Health — a group of gay seniors carried signs with slogans including "Love is ageless" and "LGBT seniors paved the way."

Seattle police reported no major problems on Sunday, said spokeswoman Renee Witt. Pride events are typically peaceful "and we don't have any problems with them," she said.

However, there were conflicting reports about a melee on Capitol Hill in the wee hours, during which vandals smashed windows of two businesses and damaged police cars. Witt said she didn't know the motive for the destruction but didn't believe it was related to Pride.

"I'm 99.9 percent sure the ... group that caused the problems took advantage of an opportunity" and were "completely separate" from those who were celebrating Pride-related festivities, Witt said.

But Seattle Times news partner Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported a possible connection at http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2011/06/26/police-bust-up-broadway-march-after-broken-window-reports-of-crowd-violence.

Earlier Sunday, the Rainbow Flag was raised atop the Space Needle. Officials weren't planning to raise the flag this year, said Space Needle spokeswoman Mary Bacarella. But after receiving an overwhelming number of requests, those in charge of the Seattle landmark issued a challenge about two weeks ago: Raise $50,000 for charity and the flag would fly.

The money will be evenly split between The Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) Scholarship Program, Lambda Legal, It Gets Better for the Trevor Project, which aims to empower gay teens, and Mary's Place, a homeless shelter for women and children.

Gonzalo Cortinas, an accountant from San Antonio, Texas, stopped to take a photograph of the Space Needle's Pride Flag from a parking lot on Fourth Avenue. "We're having a blast," said Cortinas, who, with his partner, Kevin Dix, has visited a different city each year for the past six years to celebrate pride festivities.

While parades in other cities always include local politicians and gay groups, Dix said Seattle's parade clearly represented the larger community.

"The community outpouring is incredible," said Dix. "You've even got kids dancing in it."

The parade's historic roots date to the Stonewall riots in New York City, when, in the early hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The Stonewall Inn was popular with some in the gay community, sparking spontaneous riots and becoming a defining event in the gay-rights movement.

On Friday — more than four decades after Stonewall — the New York state Senate approved a bill legalizing gay marriage. The 33-29 vote made New York the sixth state — and the most populous one — to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Eight other states, including Washington and Oregon, allow civil unions, which provide gay couples with extensive marriagelike rights.

Information from The Associated Press and Seattle Times staff reporter Susan Gilmore is included in this report.

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