Pride parades have risen to June’s highlight occasion in many U.S. cities. Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S., had their parade today in the Boystown neighborhood at noon, Central Daylight Time. 205 entries were expected, along a four-mile route that began at North Broadway and West Montrose Avenue and down North Broadway, with several turns on major avenues and ending at Lincoln Park.
These events have traditionally drawn tens of thousands of revelers. This year was a particularly historical event as June marked the beginning of marriage equality in Illinois. It has been estimated by the Chicago police that last year’s celebration was attended by more than 1 million people. The election year parade has a list of politicians who were on hand, including Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the bill for same-sex marriage, along with Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon. Other politicians also joined the event.
A gay former athlete, Will Sheridan, was the grand marshal, and the parade theme this year was “Reflections of Pride.” Police issued stern warnings about not drinking in public, no rooftop parties, not overloading balconies and not throwing anything into the street below. Violators received fines of $1,000. The orders were issued by Elias Voulgaris, commander of the 19th police district.
A different perspective has risen on this year’s pride parade in Toronto, Canada, with the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) recently informed that they would not be allowed to march the planned occasion. Just days before the event an email to the group from Pride Toronto Director Kevin Beaulieu stated concerns about CAFE and a lack of conformity with the spirit, mission, vision and values of Pride Toronto.
The email stated further that CAFE’s association with men’s rights and anti-feminist groups may impact their involvement on Pride Toronto’s reputation, and the comfort level of other groups participating in the march. CAFE representative Eleanor Levine expressed concern that CAFE had no time to appeal the cancellation on such short notice, and with no time available to cancel their permit.
CAFE has already spent money set aside for supplies and organized volunteers. They plan to attend the event, although they will not march. Genna Ross, chair of CAFE, deemed it ironic that Pride Toronto is violating its own core values which are, equality, diversity, and inclusion.
A host of large corporations are engaging in greater sponsorship of Pride Parades, as same-sex marriage bans are failing in court systems across the nation and substantial support for gay marriage is seen in more communities. The benefits of sponsorship now outweigh any previous risks associated with doing business with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) groups. It is a statement of support for diversity and a way to recruit top talent who want to work for businesses that no longer discriminate against LGBTs.
What began as small, sexually daring and defiant protests are now more family friendly mainstream celebrations, as new companies are enlisted as supporters alongside other companies that have sponsored the cause for years. Much of the support for pride parades and celebrations has gotten its energy from internal LGBT members in many of the large companies who have participated in these events for years. Rising to the occasion of these celebrated events has shown to be good business for all parties involved in Pride parades.
By Andrew Towle