June 24, 2012
By Art Golab and Emily Morris
This year’s Pride Parade stepped off at 12:05 p.m., led by Gov. Quinn.
Just before Quinn joined the marchers, he talked about the momentum that’s occurring in favor of gay and lesbian equal rights.
“There have been hundreds and hundreds of civil unions in almost every county in our state. I think that’s a good step. I think there are more steps to take,” Quinn said.
“I think marriage equality is something that we’re going to get in Illinois. It’s going to maybe take a little while, but I think it’s important to move forward.”
Organizers told the Chicago Sun-Times they expect up to 1 million people to view the increasingly popular parade this afternoon.
An hour before the parade started, parade watchers were already lined three deep along Halsted Street.
The warm sunny weather is bringing out lots of scantily dressed revelers.
Many of the state and city’s top public officials gathered for a pre-parade schmoozefest at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted.
The parade has a new route this year. Starting at noon Sunday in Uptown at Montrose and Broadway, the parade will continue south on Halsted and then pick up Broadway again at Belmont, as is heads toward Diversey and then east to Cannon Drive.
Richard Pfeiffer, a coordinator for Pride Chicago, said the new route will afford more room for people to watch the colorful floats. “We’re thrilled with the new parade route,” Pfeiffer said, adding that with all the gains for the gay and lesbian community nationally, the parade has a lot to showcase.
“This is both a political event and a social event,” Pfeiffer said.
Billy Crowe, 33, of Valparaiso, Ind., was attending his fourth Pride Parade. “Everything is much more organized this year,” he said, noting that there was more room for people to stand and watch. “Everyone is so excited about Obama backing marriage,” Crowe said.
“Everyone is in such a good mood this year, compared to last year. You can really see a difference.”
Also in the throngs of parade-watchers was Doyal Turner, 39, who recently moved to suburban Romeoville from Florida to join his partner David Burgess, 43. This was their first Pride Parade together.
Asked what the day means to him, Turner said: “Showing people we’re proud of who we are.”
At the pre-parade gathering, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon called for lllinois to do more to move toward same-sex marriage.
“Last year, we were moving toward unions; now I think we’re moving more toward marriage,” Simon said. “We need to be ready as a state to stand behind people who have been discriminated against.”
What started in 1970 as just a few die-hard activists marching for fair treatment grew into a social event that attracted not just gays and lesbians but their straight family and friends; politicians looking for gay votes and business owners looking for gay clients.
Last year parade organizers and residents of the Lake View neighborhood were overwhelmed when three-quarters of a million people jammed into the neighborhood for the parade.
People up and down the lakefront have taken to hosting parties for friends who come to watch the parade. Organizers hope the crowds this year will be a little more spread out than last.
Since last year, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been repealed and a new group of gay sailors has formed at the Great Lakes Naval Base. They will march in this year’s parade, Pfeiffer said.