June 12, 2018 at 5:31 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Thousands turn out for Capital Pride
Capital Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

Troye Sivan was a headliner at Sunday’s Pride Concert. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Tens of thousands of D.C.-area residents and visitors from the Mid-Atlantic region turned out for D.C.’s annual Capital Pride Parade on Saturday and the annual Capital Pride Festival and Concert on Sunday.

And to the delight of both participants and spectators of the weekend’s LGBT festivities, predictions by weather forecasters of heavy rainfall and thunderstorms did not materialize. Instead, thick clouds hovering over the parade, festival, and concert during both days provided relief from the normal oppressive heat that has accompanied the events in past years.

“I think the Lord is looking down kindly on us,” said a young woman standing in front of a booth at the festival set up by United Methodist Churches of the National Capital Area.

The booth was among at least a dozen booths set up at the festival by LGBT supportive churches and faith organizations.

Similar to past years, the parade followed a 1.5 mile route from Dupont Circle to the Logan Circle area, traveling past the 17th Street, N.W. restaurant district to 14th and R Streets, N.W. There were at least 200 contingents in the parade, and thousands lined the streets along the way to watch.

One ‘contingent’ that did not show up at the parade this year was No Justice No Pride, a dissident group whose members disrupted the Capital Pride Parade last year by forming a human chain that blocked the parade’s path. D.C. police at the time rerouted the parade, choosing not to arrest the protesters, an action that averted a confrontation but that delayed the parade for nearly two hours.

Spokespersons for No Justice No Pride did not respond to a request from the Washington Blade for comment on whether they planned to stage a protest against the parade this year. In a statement released in April, the group criticized Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes many of D.C.’s Pride related events, including the parade, for not agreeing to a series of demands it sent to Capital Pride.

Among them were calls for banning police from participating in the parade and festival, barring corporate sponsors associated with defense and weapons manufacturing, and restructuring its board to include more transgender people of color and Native Americans. Capital Pride officials have said they have significantly increased the diversity of the group’s board and volunteers and that many trans people of color have and continue to be part of the Pride events.

Several corporations involved in defense work had parade contingents this year, including Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, which had a colorful float with large models of three fighter jets.

As it has each year since 2014, an eight-member contingent of the U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard representing all five branches of the military also marched in this year’s parade, drawing loud applause from spectators.

Among the parade contingents receiving the loudest cheers this year was a float from the Washington Capitals hockey team, which appeared less than a week after the Capitals made history by winning the Stanley Cup championship. Unlike the past two years, there were no Capitals’ players on the float this year due, in part, according to some observers, to their appearance on the same day at Washington Nationals Stadium to be honored for their Stanley Cup victory.

Also receiving loud applause were Dennis and Judy Shepard, the parents of murdered gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. The Shepards served as grand marshals for this year’s Capital Pride Parade. Among other things, they founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation to address the issue of anti-LGBT violence shortly after their son’s 1998 murder in one of the nation’s most notorious hate crimes.

Among the local elected officials marching in the parade were D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), City Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), and D.C. Council members Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6). All but Evans are running for re-election this year in the city’s June 19 primary.

Also marching the entire parade route was D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who’s expected to win election this year to her 15th term in Congress.

Others marching in the parade were gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese, who’s running against Nadeau for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat in the June 19 primary; lesbian businesswoman Dionne Reeder, who’s running for an at-large D.C. Council seat as an independent in the November general election, and gay Maryland State Sen. Rich Madaleno, who’s running for governor.

Gay Libertarian Party activist Martin Moulton, who’s running for D.C. mayor, and his fellow gay Libertarian leader Bruce Majors, who’s running for the city’s congressional delegate seat, distributed their respective campaign literature at a booth at the festival.

Michael Bekesha, a Republican running for the Ward 6 D.C. Council seat, handed out campaign literature at the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans’ booth at the festival. The gay GOP group has endorsed his candidacy.

There were at least 300 festival booths on Sunday, which lined Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. in three separate rows between 3rd and 7th Streets. Among them were those set up by dozens of local and national LGBT organizations and LGBT supportive groups such as the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Widespread reports that the administration of President Donald Trump is rolling back LGBT supportive policies put in place during the Obama administration did not appear to deter a number of federal agencies from setting up booths at this year’s Capital Pride Festival.

Although the federal agency booths were operated by members of LGBT employee groups at the agencies, sources familiar with the groups said the agencies gave their approval for the groups to appear at the Pride festival. Among them were the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the CIA.

Similar to past years, FBI and CIA employees at their respective booths handed out recruitment literature beckoning LGBT festival goers to consider working for the two security agencies. The two agencies began hiring gays in the 1990s when President Bill Clinton issued an executive ordering banning all government agencies from denying a security clearance for gays solely on grounds of their sexual orientation.

Among the headliner entertainers that performed on the main stage of the festival’s concert were singer, songwriter and actress Keri Hilson and Kim Petras and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Asia O’Hara. Also performing was 22-year-old singer, songwriter, and actor Troye Sivan.

“The community was eager to come out and participate in and experience Pride,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos.

Bos noted that as he has for the past few years, he greeted the crowd from the festival’s main stage near the U.S. Capitol Building by asking how many in the audience were there at a Pride festival and concert for the first time.

“Thousands of people raised their hands and cheered,” said Ryan, adding, “It’s like that every year.”

He said the idea of creating a safe space for such a large number of people, many of whom are young and have just come out as LGBT, is highly gratifying for the Capital Pride staff and its large contingent of volunteers.

Transgender rights advocate Ruby Corado, founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, the D.C. LGBT community services center, was among the leaders of local groups that had both a festival booth and a contingent in the parade.

“I feel happy that people are finally understanding that LGBT Pride includes all of us,” Corado said. “And I see so many more people coming together, and that makes me happy because I do hope that as we gain LGBT rights, no one is left behind. I see trans people getting more recognition than ever and, again, it is important that no one is left behind.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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