Keri Renault

2009 Pride was More than a Capital Affair

Filed By Keri Renault | June 17, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics

Capitol Pride wrapped its 2009 festival Sunday with balmy blue skies and high-flying spirits that eclipsed the temps along Pennsylvania Avenue. What a sight to see for the first time.

As a relative newcomer to the DC scene, I've witnessed many a well-organized, exceptionally entertaining PrideFest in my hometown of Milwaukee. Those events were safely cocooned within the confines of the Summerfest grounds. So it was with great anticipation that I scaled the stairs to daylight at the Archives Metro station early Sunday afternoon, glimpsing the open-air venue.

Larger than life rainbow streamers swayed like choreographed dancers to greet me as I drifted down Pennsylvania Avenue. Towering high above the colorful pomp and eye-catching queer pageantry set far aback from the reverie lie the iconic United States Capitol, aloof and indifferent to its lively street-guests.

My take on the day was quite a bit more global than a simple rally cry for civil marriage as reported in the Washington Post. Frankly, Capital Pride was much more than that....

After reading fellow colleague John Shields' indictment of the Washington Post for its myopic coverage of Capital Pride, I have a confession. Perhaps in our volunteer zeal - tongue firmly planted in cheek - my partner and I contributed to the civil marriage "hullabaloo."

My pitch from the Equality Maryland booth was limited to waving the "Civil Marriage is a Civil Right" bumper sticker. Meanwhile my partner solicited fellow Marylanders from the street, urging them to sign the petition in support of pro-marriage equality. Perhaps the unsuspecting Post reporter was pulled toward a civil marriage scoop by the undertow created by our enthusiastic sales pitch.

Traffic was good. The ink flowed freely and at the end of the day the "ballot box" stuffed. Petitions from Marylander partners were both enthused and committed to equality. Yes, we did note a few couples proudly toting children, but there's nothing much in-your-face about quietly rocking a stroller to keep a restless toddler entertained.

The only people disinterested in signing our petition seemed to be from Virginia, so they had an excuse. Yet even non-citizens admired the efforts of Maryland, taking a few bumper sticker souvenirs in support. Solidarity is a thing of beauty.

As I observed, there was far more at Capital Pride than marriage equality petitions to entertain and impress. There were more vendors from LGBTQ organizations than I even knew existed.

My partner and I paid particular attention to Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The name says it all, but frankly, it left me scratching my head wondering why equality organizations like this need to exist. Wasn't the United States of America founded on separation of church and state? Amazing how the community has to advocate for equality in areas that other Americans take for granted.

Activism for equality takes a seat at Capital Pride, but it's much more diverse than that. Adoption seemed to have a front row seat of its own at the event. Several organizations promoted foster parenting and for animal-lovers, pet adoption. Those are pretty wonderful causes that don't get enough press; yet, there they were working tirelessly to get kids, kitties and canines off the streets and into welcoming homes.

Big business was also proud to promote themselves to Pride-goers. Nationwide Insurance, independent insurance agents, Bank of America and TD Bank were all on hand as was Big 8 accounting firm Price Waterhouse. That's the same company that had a landmark judgment levied against it in 1989 for sex stereotyping. Good to see how far they've come. The people's car was represented by a cool display of Volkswagon models adjacent to the kid's play area and there was a funky assortment of muscle-cars on display at the "midway".

I missed the big name acts, but we did manage to catch a bit of the exceptional gay men's choir and later some spectacular "shake-your-groove-thing" dancing on the main stage as we munched on succulent marinated Thai kabobs and sipped fresh-squeeze lemonade.

But what impressed me the most at Capital Pride on Sunday was the harmonious, respectful nature of the crowd. I didn't see or hear an objectionable incident. There were no scuffles, skirmishes or altercations of which I was aware. Even the first-aid tent looked strangely at peace on this absolutely contented day of commemorative LBGT pride.

My first Capital Pride may be just a snapshot in time, but in reality it's much more. It's a highlight reel celebrating diversity, solidarity and equality. An event I'm not soon to forget, exemplifying just how far we've come with solidarity in the past 40 years.

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