By Greg Hernandez
Classic anthems such as Born This Way by Lady Gaga and I’m Coming Out by Diana Ross blasted from stereo speakers as more than 400 people representing the Los Angeles LGBT Center made their way down Santa Monica Boulevard during the annual LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood on June 10.
The parade came just days after a U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of a Colorado baker who, based on a religious objection, refused to bake a cake celebrating the marriage of a same-sex couple.
Lead marchers wore pink “You Can’t Stop the March for Equality” T-shirts and carried pink signs stating “Demand Equality Now” and “It’s Not About the Cake.” They also carried signs with the names of the 31 states that still allow discrimination against LGBT people.
“It’s important that we’re marching up front and are drawing attention to the fact that in more than half of the states in the U.S., you can still discriminate against people,” said Dave Garcia, the Center’s director of policy and community building.
The Center’s large contingent also included youth and senior clients, AIDS/LifeCycle participants, staff members and volunteers, the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles (Consulado General de Mexico en Los Angeles), Mi Centro, members of LA Derby Dolls, and representatives from the new Trans Wellness Center.
Marchers made their way down the parade route under giant helium-filled balloons emblazoned with “Building the Future” touting the Anita May Rosenstein Campus, the Center’s major expansion set to open next year.
“I’m so happy to be here. It’s time to be bright and show ourselves,” said Larissa Harrison, who was among those carrying the banner for the Trans Wellness Center, a first-of-its-kind facility that brings together comprehensive services and resources for transgender and non-binary people under one roof.
Adam Marinik marched in the 1.5 mile parade less than a day after having completed the 545-mile AIDS/LifeCycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The money raised by the ride goes to support the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation which jointly produce the event.
“After eight months of training, the energy just keeps coming,” Marinik said. “It’s good to represent the ride to the greater community and to raise awareness of our ride because recruiting is something we never stop doing.”
Gail Slater, a resident of the Center’s Triangle Square housing complex for seniors, was among those who rode along the parade route in a trolley car. The LGBT ally said she never misses the parade.
“I got involved in the community many years ago during the AIDS epidemic and volunteered for everything and it’s been wonderful people and worthy causes since then,” Slater said.
U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff, a staunch LGBT ally who had previously participated in AIDS/LifeCycle, visited with some of the seniors before the start of the parade.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” said Schiff, who rode in the parade in a red convertible. “It’s a gorgeous day and nice to see all the seniors here in force. I’m glad I had a chance to spend some time with everyone. I like their ride. That’s quite a nice trolley.”
Youth participants from Center programs including LifeWorks and Community Action Network (CAN) also joined in the festivities.
“It feels really good to be a part of this,” said Alex Souter, a LifeWorks participant. “I want the kids watching to see that they can grow up to be gender non-conforming.”
C.J. Richardson, a Youth Center development coordinator, said it was “a really cool experience” to have so many young people taking part in the parade.
“I think a lot of our youth don’t have the opportunity to be prideful about where they come from,” he said. “So for them to be out here to celebrate their identity in every way, shape, and fashion is one of the most impressive things about the Center and about Pride month.”