Annual Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade draws throng championing both diversity, unity

Sitting on a shaded curb waiting for the Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade to pass by Saturday was a newly engaged lesbian couple who wanted to show their little boys that it is OK to have two mommies. Crossing in front of them was a 37-year-old man wearing only rainbow-trimmed briefs because he felt like it. Not far behind was a 9-year-old boy marching with his mom because he wanted gay people to know that "most people are friendly and would never hate on them." Next came a strutting drag queen who wants to be himself whether he is performing onstage or drinking beer and cheering for the Ohio State University football team. >>Video: Scenes from the 2018 Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade Shortly after the parade ended, a mom from a small conservative Ohio town continued to show support for her gay teenage son and his friend who hasn’t told many people she is gay. The theme of this year’s parade was "Pride for all," and it appeared that the estimated half-million people who flooded Downtown represented everyone imaginable in the gay community and beyond. "Look around here, and you see a united front of gay, straight, transgender, young, old, and people of all colors, religions and backgrounds," said Tim Coffey, 51, of Columbus, who has been marching for 20 years and was carrying the parade’s "The End" sign. "We are all in this life together, and this is a celebration of being who you want to be." The parade kicked off midmorning as rainbow-colored smoke rose into the sky and thousands of marchers danced and shouted. Hundreds of thousands of onlookers lined High Street almost 10 rows deep, waved flags from their businesses and balconies, and wildly cheered for more than a half-mile to support the LGBTQ people and their supporters in the parade. The first local Pride Parade was in 1981, and drew only about 200 people. Some of them were so leery of marching in public that they wore bags over their heads. One of Saturday's marchers said she attended her first parade 16 years ago but tried to avoid all cameras because she didn't want anyone to know she was gay. Today, the parade is among the biggest Pride celebrations in the nation. Almost 10,000 people marched in the parade, representing more than 200 entries from civic groups, churches, businesses and other organizations. Liam Marcinick, 50, and his husband, Brandon Pollak, 31, walked with the Harmony Project, the organization that Stonewall Columbus selected as the parade’s community honoree.The Harmony Project is a singing organization that focuses on breaking down barriers through the arts. "The Harmony Project is all about community service. We have 17-year-olds to 78-year-olds. Black, white, gay, straight, trans, you name it," Marcinick said. "It represents diversity and therefore the gay community." The event seemed to have everything but trouble. Parade officials said there were fewer anti-gay protesters than in past years, no problems were reported, and no one was arrested. "We're so happy that everyone came out and showed their pride," said Deb Steele, interim director of Stonewall Columbus. Join the conversation at Facebook.com/columbusdispatch and connect with us on Twitter @DispatchAlerts The parade lasted just over two hours. There were motorcycles, marching bands, firetrucks, floats covered in rainbow flags and balloons, and politicians rallying the crowd for the November election. "It’s so important to show we are all equal and it’s OK to be gay, transgender or whoever you want to be in life," said Lisa Kelly, 39, of Bexley, who was marching with her three sons. "Be who you are." East of Downtown, a smaller crowd gathered at Mayme Moore Park for Columbus Community Pride, which billed itself as an alternative festival for marginalized members of the LGBTQ community. Ariana Steele and Dkeama Alexis, co-founders of Black Queer & Intersectional Columbus, started planning a separate event after the arrests last year of four protesters who interrupted the Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade. But at this year's Pride Parade, there was far more talk of unity than division. Michelle and Katie Byers have attended Columbus Pride for four years. This year, they brought their 6-week-old girl, Dylan, who was sporting a onesie that said "hatched by two chicks." "We’re always ‘the gay couple,’" Michelle Byers said. "But here, everybody is ‘the gay couple.’"

Reference Link: http://www.dispatch.com/news/20180616/annual-stonewall-columbus-pride-parade-draws-throng-championing-both-diversity-unity

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