Fun — and marriage vote — on minds at Seattle Pride Parade
The upcoming vote on gay marriage was on a lot of minds at the 38th annual Seattle Pride Parade Sunday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
There were feather boas and false eyelashes galore, but Sunday's Seattle Pride Parade also had a less-flippant side this year as proponents of gay marriage mobilize for a November vote.
By far the biggest contingent in the 38th annual event was Washington United for Marriage, a coalition of groups calling for a yes vote on Referendum 74 to affirm the right of same-sex couples to wed.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn joined more than 300 marchers wearing "get engaged" T-shirts and tossing green rubber wedding bands to onlookers stacked four-deep in some spots along the route.
The Rev. Troy Perry, a pioneering gay activist, traveled from Los Angeles to exhort Washington's gay community and its supporters to muster the money and votes it will take to overcome opposition. "When people bring the fight to us, we fight back," said Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches. "I want to be treated like every American. That's it. That's my gay agenda."
Some of the day's loudest cheers went to Gov. Chris Gregoire, riding in the parade as a grand marshal. Earlier this year, Gregoire signed into law a bill adding Washington to the small list of states where same-sex marriage is legal. But opponents, organized as Preserve Marriage Washington, gathered more than 200,000 signatures to put the question to a public vote. A "yes" decision on Referendum 74 would uphold the law. A "no" vote would overturn it.
Josh Kim, of Federal Way, was among scores of people circulating through the throng with clipboards, offering to sign up new voters. "Hey, guys," Kim said. "How would you like to help me get married by registering to vote?" Response was good, he said. "I've ripped through about 11 people in 45 minutes."
Marching with a group from Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle, Chris Christensen carried a sign that declared: "Sven and Ole for marriage equality."
"You know, they're always the butt of Scandinavian jokes," said the Bainbridge Island woman, whose comfortable shoes and fleece vest were at odds with the bustiers, spike heels and chaps sported by fellow marchers.
Emcee Aleksa Manila, hair piled high atop her head in a crimson confection, prowled Fourth Avenue with a cordless microphone. The crowd roared when she asked: "How many of you guys want to get married in November?" A small army representing Microsoft marched with banners that read: "Marriage equality is good for business." Alaska Airlines and Expedia.com both touted gay-friendly travel.
With a ringside view from the grandstand, 89-year-old Anne Melle-Hilgermann attracted a steady stream of fans and friends. They blew kisses, snapped pictures and slipped her goodies — stickers, candy and beads. A longtime board member of Seattle Pride, the group that organizes the parade, Hilgermann said she's finally resigned herself to not being able to march anymore. "I give them my support," she said, laughing. "That's about all I have left."
The upcoming marriage vote adds special significance to this year's parade, she said — as does the fact that she's around to see it. "I would be very disappointed if it doesn't pass," she said. "It's about time we had equality."
Not everyone had marriage on the mind, though. The drag queens from Haus of Paradisco were all about looking fabulous as they performed a raunchy routine to the Spice Girls' "The Lady is a Vamp." Dressed in primary colors, the group was there to represent the rainbow, said Drew Paradisco, whose emerald ensemble featured beads, brocade and a cutaway feather skirt.
Dirk Strong, from Auburn, opted for black leather and a spiked collar. Marriage probably isn't in his future, he said with a shrug. "But people who want it should be able to have it."
Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or firstname.lastname@example.org