Boston Pride Parade 2012: “Redefining What Pride Means”

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(Left-to-Right) Evan Lanctot of North Attleboro and James DiMarco of Foxboro. It was DiMarco's first Boston Pride. Photo: Chuck Colbert

By: Chuck Colbert/TRT Reporter–

Prayers and petitions to the patron saint of Boston Pride were made. And Barbra Streisand delivered.  For the first time in four years, it did not rain on “our” parade, as tens of thousands of LGBT people and allies celebrated the strides of gay-rights progress in the last year, locally and nationally.

Clear blue skies, temperatures in the upper 70’s, and low humidity may well account for the increased turn out, as more than 200 contingents trekked the nearly three-mile parade route, which took two hours and forty-five minutes, from the city’s Back Bay neighborhood to City Hall Plaza for the après-parade festival.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino rode the entire parade route in a beige convertible with Governor Deval Patrick and his wife Diane, following right behind on foot.

Before the parade stepped shortly after noon, Linda DeMarco, president of Boston Pride, voiced the sentiment felt by many. “This is a fantastic, beautiful day,” she said. “This is going to be the best parade the city has ever had.”

Watching the procession on Boylston Street, first-time parade observer, 18-year-old James DiMarco voiced another common meme for the afternoon. “It’s fun, exciting,” he said.  “I like it.”

A day off from work drew 21-year-old North Attleboro resident Evan Lanctot to Boston.  “I normally go to Providence,” he said.

The corporate presence in the parade was noticeable and up from a year ago, with a wide range of Greater Boston’s key industries represented, everything from financial services to hospitals, medical facilities, and health care providers to public and private schools and high tech firms.

As always, numerous religious groups, contingents representing mainline Protestant denominations, the Unitarian Universalists, Jews, pagans, and Episcopalians, among others, signaled unconditional approval of and welcome to LGTB people.

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts, and retired Bishop Barbara Harris also of Massachusetts, were present among marchers of their faith tradition.

The Catholic group Dignity and another intentional Catholic worshipping community, the Weston-based Spirit of Life, were parade participants.

Spirit of Life’s, the Rev. Jean Marchant was among the Catholics.  “I am thrilled to be here,” she said.  It’s a wonderful day.” It was Marchant’s first parade.

One faith contingent from a United Church of Christ congregation, sent an unequivocal message of inclusion, changing, “No matter who you are, no matter what you do, you’re always welcome at our church because God loves you.”

Unitarian Universalists (UU) held a both a political and religious message. A UU placard read:  “Separation of Church and Hate.”

Just as LGBT affirmation from faith groups and pro-LGBT businesses marked the parade and festival, so did the politics of gay rights play front and center.

“Pride is very political this year,” said Wilfred Labiosa, vice president of Boston Pride.

Onlookers and marchers alike were in a celebratory mood given three important and recent gay-rights victories.  Earlier this spring, for example, President Barack Obama said he now supports same-sex marriage, becoming the first sitting president to back marriage equality.

The LGBT for Obama contingent was among the largest this year, underscoring the importance of his re-election.

Longtime gay community leader and activist, Don Gorton, said “The consequences of a Romney victory are too frightening,” adding, “We in Massachusetts know much better than most folks around the country that Romney [the presumed Republican Party nominee for president] is hostile to the LGBT community.  He may have very few core convictions but disliking us is one of them.”

Last month, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, upholding a lower court decision, found Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to violate the equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution.

Section 3 defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of a man and a woman.  That part of the law prohibits legally same-sex married couples in Massachusetts and elsewhere from receiving more than 1,000 benefits, such as social security benefits and joint income-tax filing status, among others.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the Attorney General of Massachusetts brought the suit in a case everyone knows is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

All along the parade route, the GLAD contingent received spirited and enthusiastic applause, with onlookers expressing appreciation for GLAD’s work and big win.

Marriage equality was on the minds of one gay couple, Paul Meoni and his husband of  seven years Tom Kidd. “We are here with our church, the First Congressional Church of Randolph where we got married,” said Meoni.

This November same-sex marriage related referenda are on the ballot in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington state.

Once again, transgender persons were highly visible in the parade. This year the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) grabbed honors as grand marshals. With good reason:  The hard-fought Transgender Civil Rights Law takes effect on July 1, providing legal protections on the basis of “gender identity” and “gender expression” in employment, credit, and K-12 education. Many in the MPTC group held signs reading, “I Love Trans People.”

Candidates for political office — all Democrats — and elected officials participated in the 2012 Boston Pride Parade.

Many Boston City councilors and state senators and representatives showed their support.

Walking with a large group of backers, Joseph P. Kennedy III, a candidate for office in the  4th Congressional District, was a big hit.  His contingent included U.S. Representative Barney Frank, who is retiring, and fiancé Jim Ready.  Kennedy is running to fill the seat vacated by Frank’s retirement.

In addition, U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas of the 5th Congressional District trekked the parade route with her supporters.

“This parade has been so important in highlighting the issues, the need for change whatever it might be, from “don’t ask, don’t tell” to DOMA,” she said. “I am happy to be here to lend my support, as I do in Congress.”

Tsongas also said one of her “most exciting moments was being able to cast my vote last year to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”  The ban on openly gay military service took effect this past September.

Perhaps, the largest marching contingent was backers of Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, who is hoping to oust incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown. In January 2010, Brown won  a special election to fill the seat vacated by the death of Edward M. Kennedy.

Cambridge resident Jack Wofford was among Warren’s group. “It’s an extremely important race for Democrats to try to retain control of the Senate, and I think she is terrific candidate,” he said.

Public opinion polling shows a very tight race.

Activist Gordon, who marched with the progressive LGBT advocacy group, Join the Impact, said, “mobilization” is key to “swinging the election” for Warren.”

“The Massachusetts Democratic Party is well mobilized after the 2010 election,” he said. “The big advantage we have is that 2.8 million people will be voting in November compared to the 2.2 million who voted in the January special election.”

“The extra people are liberals, so they are not going to vote for Scott Brown,” Gorton explained.

He went on to predict a Warren “win by a narrow but comfortable margin,” with “the LGBT community helping to put her over the top.”

John Auerbach, Massachusetts Commissioner of Health and Human Services, was another public official who marched. He, too, noted the high stakes for the LGBT community on Election Day.

“It’s a really important year in terms of LGBT issues, and there are candidates who have very different positions on issues of concern to [our] community,” Auerbach said. “It is more important than ever that people pay attention to that and get involved.”

Boston’s 42nd annual Pride Parade included the usual individual revelers. Buff, bare-chested men in shorts, some with glitter all over themselves, grabbed eyeball attention, as did drag queens, dressed and coiffed to the max.  Other people sported rainbow colored hair (one man a rainbow Mohawk), as well as colorful, festive attire.  Rainbow balloons, flags, stickers, banners, and other costumes marked the entire parade route as human beings — all visions of vitality — expressed their pride and joy.

Any number of LGBT community groups fielded contingents, including Fenway Health, the Bisexual Resource Center, and the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project (GMDVP), among many others.

“We are here to raise awareness that same-sex partner abuse is real and that the community’s responsible to get more involved, learn about it, reach out to friends, and invest in working against it,” said Joanne Patterson, GMDVP’s development director.

Another community group marching was Gay for Good (G4G), a relatively new social service organization of gay men and women in Boston. Jack Vendetti, who founded Gay for Good (www.gayforgood.org), along with other members of the group were selected by the Boston Pride Committee to hold the Pride Parade banner and serve as color guard.

“We do one or two projects in Boston each month,” he said. “It’s a good way give back to the [larger] community, as well as for people to meet other gay people.”  An upcoming project is clean up at Franklin Park Zoo, said Vendetti.

Founded in Los Angeles, the Boston chapter has 407 members, according to the G4G Web site.

Increasingly, Boston Pride is more diverse, with marching groups  and après-parade festival attendees representing black, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Portuguese language speakers.

Overall Fenway resident Charles Martel said he was struck by how much the parade and festival have changed over time.  The presence of “all those businesses and companies is very much about merchandizing,” he said.

While it remains a “celebration,” Martel said, corporations “are redefining what Pride means.  Representatives from “Macy’s, Google, Staples are about supporting the [LGBT] community and their [gay] employees.”

“But on the other hand,” he said, “They have a market.”

Nonetheless, over the last four decades some things Pride-related remain constant.  “People see friends they have not seen in a year outside of the celebration,” he said, adding, “It’s a celebration that still has a place and value in the community.”

Yet another constant — SWAG, short hand for “stuff we all get,” with marchers throwing the ever-present colored beads and condoms, as some marching contingents provided everything from toothbrushes to key chains to hand sanitizers.

T-J-Maxx made Maxinistas out of everybody, conveniently providing shopping bags for schlepping home all the SWAG.

View the rest of the parade photos at TRT’s Facebook page: http://goo.gl/ppHnq

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