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Twin Cities Pride: This year, a day of celebration and gratitude

Richard Leyva, state Sen. Scott Dibble, state Rep. Karen Clark, Jacquelyn Zita
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
State Sen. Scott Dibble, second from left, and his husband, Richard Leyva, state Rep. Karen Clark and her partner Jacquelyn Zita walking in the Pride Parade on Sunday.

The beautiful sparkle ponies poured into downtown Minneapolis by the tens of thousands Sunday morning, wedging themselves in half a dozen deep along both sides of a one-mile stretch of Hennepin Avenue. They danced and hugged and scrambled after Mardi Gras beads and candy thrown by marchers in the Ashley Rukes GLBT Twin Cities Pride Parade.

Taking place six weeks after Minnesota became the 12th state to recognize same-sex marriage and days after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two decisions advancing the cause nationwide, the parade drew an exceptionally diverse crowd. The throngs were so large officials cordoned off the parade route with pink tape.

When the flimsy barriers ended up on the ground, it didn't matter. Two historic votes — the first rejecting a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage — took place between last year’s Pride festivities and this year’s, and the mood was celebratory.

The annual festival took place on the 34th anniversary of the riots at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, the Greenwich Village gay bar where patrons, tired of police harassment, rioted in 1969. The first “gay liberation” march — later rechristened Pride — took place a year later, kicking off a movement that has had decisive victories in recent months.

This year, both the political overtones and the public — if only for a day — display of queer culture took a back seat to gratitude. There were families carrying babies and towing toddlers in wagons. There were dykes on bikes, drag queens in wedding gowns, school groups and rainbow-clad congregants from dozens of faith communities. (Sample placard: “God knows you’re fabulous and so do we.”)

Cops on Segways

There were cops on Segways trying to keep the game-bound Twins fans who were driving across the route — and who might have wondered whether they had driven into an adults-only Disney production — from running the revelers over. Meanwhile, Minneapolis’ lesbian police Chief Janee Harteau waved from the back of a motorcycle near the front of the parade.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau
MinnPost photo by Terry GydesenMinneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau waving from the back of a motorcycle near the front of the parade.

Fitness instructor Doug Melroe traditionally tops the final, hotly awaited and over-the-top float of the parade on behalf of the gym The Firm. This year, he was clad mostly in paint and a crown.

“We won,” he yelled. “We can get married — like real Americans!”

Midroute, musician Rachel Kroog walked out into the street, dropped to one knee and, ring in hand, proposed to Shannon Pierce. They will be married on Sept. 8 — only one of an unknowable number of weddings agreed to during the three days of activities. 

Gay and straight roared at the sight of Grand Marshal Chris Kluwe — the former Minnesota Vikings punter who helped galvanize mainstream support for marriage equality — beaming atop a Volkswagen convertible. The pink tape fluttered to the asphalt as fans raced into the street for a handshake or a fist-pump.

Grand Marshal Chris Kluwe
MinnPost photo by Terry GydesenPride Parade Grand Marshal Chris Kluwe.

Biggest cheers for Dibble and Clark

The only cheers louder went up for the walking delegation led by Minneapolis DFL lawmakers Scott Dibble and Karen Clark, who sponsored this year’s marriage bill in the state Senate and House, respectively. They were joined by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum and a small army of candidates for City Council seats and other local offices.

Minneapolis Councilwoman Diane Hofstede showed up decked out in bright orange pants and a royal blue T-shirt — the colors of Minnesotans United, the coalition that worked first to defeat the proposed ballot amendment and then to convince the Legislature that voters would thank them, not punish them, for extending marriage rights.

A number of political figures were conspicuously absent. In 2011, Mark Dayton became the first Minnesota governor to attend the event. A hip injury last week prevented him from even riding in this year’s parade.

A small delegation marching in his place drew modest cheers but also disappointed murmurs. A key supporter of the effort, Dayton in May had a desk set up on the steps of the state Capitol so anyone who wished could watch as he signed the bill into law.

Rachel Kroog proposing to Shannon Pierce
MinnPost photo by Terry GydesenRachel Kroog proposing to Shannon Pierce during the parade.

Also absent: The 15 state lawmakers who have been pledged financial support by a political action committee set up by Minnesotans United to aid those whose support for the law could make them targets come re-election time. Republican Reps. Pat Garofalo (Farmington), Jennifer Loon (Eden Prairie), Andrea Kieffer (Woodbury) and David FitzSimmons (Albertville) are on the list, as is Andover Sen. Branden Petersen.  

While doubt abounds as to exactly how endangered any of them may be — suburban conservatives aren’t nearly as likely to oppose gay marriage as their socially conservative partisans — it’s hard not to think the possibility of being videotaped alongside some of the raunchier participants was too much.

Follows two years of work

Many of those setting the political aside to march were celebrating two years of hard work. Parents of a young gay man, Lisa and Brendt Vanderlinden traversed the route twice, first with Catholics Celebrating Marriage Equality — last year the group marched as Catholics for Marriage Equality — and then again with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

The night before at a party at the Women’s Club of Minneapolis overlooking the Loring Park festival grounds, a number of women who were old enough to remember the era watched fireworks from a rooftop deck. There wasn’t much talk of politics among the happy but stunned partygoers. “You know what I see?” one was overheard asking. “Nothing but blue skies.”

Indeed, in what is perhaps the clearest sign that times have changed since Stonewall, the most notable new category of parade floats were hotels and other potential wedding venues.

The Minneapolis Hyatt perched two grooms in white tuxes, doll-like, atop a trailer made to look like a cake topper. Hell’s Kitchen was represented by marchers in rainbow colors waving balloon pompoms that looked like nothing so much as Dr. Seuss’ Truffula trees.

At the end of the afternoon Sunday, at the mouth of Loring Park, two Minneapolis Police Department officers sat chatting with an older woman who was perched on a walker with wheels. Beyond her, revelers streamed into the park’s sea of booths and stages, while others, satisfied with the sunny skies and the celebration, drifted off. 

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Comments (3)

Terrific article

It is great to live in Minnesota.

Let's all work together to continue our wonderful tradition of fairness and inclusiveness. Much still to be done.

Wisconsin should have it so good.

MN Pushes Forward Toward the 22nd Century

and the vision of the future shown in the "Star Trek" series of movies and TV shows,...

while Wisconsin, and the tea party wing of the US House, push as hard as they can manage to return their states to the 19th.

It was a truly amazing day

The husband and I got there some after noon on Sunday...his schedule leaves something to be desired...and we abandoned the park at about 4:30pm after we decided we had, indeed, seen everything and been everywhere. He says the ratio of gays to straights was higher this year than in previous years...as an until this summer greater Minnesota guy I can't say. It was lovely and welcoming and nobody...not even the pretty boys and there were plenty of pretty boys...were haughty or ungracious.

I will be a St. Paulite as of August 1...we were married in Iowa in January. We were wearing matching shirts that said "This Guy Loves His Husband" and I can't tell you how many people stopped us to tell us congratulations or take pics of us ("guys...you are so cute!" we are both 50 and as such perhaps a novel version of newlyweds)...even RT Rybak gave us a thumbs up! I can't imagine a better day that was had by all!

Well they do need more food vendors and fewer window replacement companies...but that is a small complaint. It was a wonderful Pride!

And to the legislators and their supporters sho approved equal marriage this spring a big thank you! One of the booths was that of a law firm we had thought we would need to pay thousands of dollars to create marriage equivalent contracts...now come August 1...we're just married!