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July 2 , 2010

Gay People’s Chronicle  July 19, 2010

A festive, sunny day for Cleveland Pride

Cleveland--As is generally the case in even-numbered election years, Cleveland Pride had a high number of politicians and candidates for office, though fewer than usual spoke from the main stage.

They joined churches, student groups, community organizations, bars, and thousands of individuals marching from West Third and St. Clair to the festival.

The parade was the second largest in Cleveland Pride history, with 2,492 people marching down Lakeside Avenue, past the rainbow flag atop City Hall, down East Ninth to Voinovich Park. In the event’s 22 years, only 2006 was larger, with 3,022.

The Blazing River Freedom Band led the parade, playing the Village People’s “YMCA” and the Ohio State favorite “Hang On Sloopy.”

As they have for a number of years, the band stopped at the Free Stamp next to City Hall, where an anti-gay preacher harangued the marchers. They faced him and his followers and played “Jesus Loves Me.”

This year, the band had help.

Mostly straight allies from Unitarian Universalist congregations, organized by the West Shore church, marched with large white cloth wings. They stopped and stood in front of the anti-gays, forming a barrier between them and the parade. The “angels” remained there as the entire parade passed.

Seeing this, about 100 more spectators stood behind the protesters, cheering the parade and drowning out their shouts.

Thirty-nine units marched in the parade, including company mascots. Non-LGBT corporations like banks and airlines have been increasingly visible in Cleveland’s parade in the last few years.

The 2014 Gay Games coming to Cleveland was also celebrated, with the Games’ host, the Cleveland Synergy Foundation honored as grand marshals.

The 2014 Gay Games will be the largest event ever held in Cleveland and its partner city Akron.

Event organizers did not respond to requests for an official festival count, which would include many people who were not in the parade. The event seemed smaller than the past two years, based on the crowd density and the length of lines at the food vendors and porta-potties.

One first was an area designated for seniors, in addition to ones dedicated to youth and families with small children.

The main stage had 15 different performers, representing the widest diversity of music and entertainment at a Cleveland Pride event. A very popular, separate performance stage held 18 acts, and a DJ spun records in the crowded beer garden.

The Cleveland Department of Health conducted on-site HIV and syphilis testing as part of its Healthy Penis campaign.

Elected officials in the parade and at the festival included Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland, Lt. Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Lee Fisher, Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Bridgette McCafferty, Cleveland councilors Jay Westbrook, who in 1990 was the first elected official to march in a Cleveland Pride parade, Joe Cimperman and Zack Reed.

State Senator and Cuyahoga County Council candidate Dale Miller of Cleveland attended as did Franklin County Clerk of Courts and Ohio Secretary of State candidate Maryellen O’Shaughnessy, State Reps Mike Foley of Cleveland and Mike Skindell of Lakewood, who is seeking the senate seat now held by Miller.

Sandra Kurt, the openly lesbian Akron City councilor, attended.

Openly gay Cuyahoga County Council District 7 candidate Dale Smith campaigned and handed out cards. Max Blachman, an openly gay aide to Senator Sherrod Brown, represented his office.

The most celebrated official at the event was Lakewood councilor Nickie Antonio, who will very likely become the first openly lesbian state legislator in Ohio after November’s election.

Antonio spoke from the main stage, presenting a proclamation from the city of Lakewood.

“Every day, we live our lives without equal rights,” Antonio said, answering a question about why she still comes to Pride.

“I will be the first lesbian elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in January,” Antonio said. “But I’m not going there alone. I’m taking all of you with me.”

“I need all of you to help make Ohio a more welcoming place, including marriage equality,” Antonio continued.

Beth Zone, Fisher’s sister-in-law, presented a proclamation on behalf of him and Governor Ted Strickland.

From the main stage, Cimperman promised that city council would fix the ordinance it passed last year giving non-discrimination protection to transgender people in housing and employment. A last-minute change weakened the employment protection and removed protection in public accommodations.

Cimperman said council would pass the new ordinance “this year.” At the time the measure passed, he told a reporter it would be done this spring.

Cimperman also promised council would take up the issue of partner benefits for city employees this year.

“If you are young and LGBT, Cleveland is for you,” Cimperman said.

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