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Ruling pervades pride parade

Same-sex marriage decision sets the tone for thousands at West Hollywood event.

June 09, 2008|Jack Leonard | Times Staff Writer

As many as 175,000 revelers, from the spectacularly garbed to the sedate, converged on West Hollywood on Sunday for the city's annual gay pride parade, a celebration given added meaning since the state Supreme Court struck down a ban on same-sex marriage last month.

Seth Hutton and his fiance, Alvin Black, reflected on the landmark decision as high school students waved flags and loudspeakers from a nearby float boomed out Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World."

"It's really overwhelming," said Black, 20. "It's fun to come here and see the high energy."

The couple said they had flown from Portland, Ore., to attend the parade for the first time, drawn by the historic events that paved the way for same-sex marriage ceremonies to begin in California on June 17.

"For us, it's like peering into the future -- coming down here and seeing what the rest of the country is going to look like," said Hutton, 31.

L.A. Pride organizers estimated that up to 375,000 people attended the three-day celebration, which began Friday evening. The 38th almost-annual parade -- one year was skipped -- honors the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

On the 1.4-mile parade route along Santa Monica Boulevard, dancers in skimpy briefs strutted atop flatbeds and a firetruck.

Convertibles carried elected officials waving at the crowd and men in drag, including Allan Penales, an actor from "La Cage aux Folles," which opened Saturday at the Knightsbridge Theater in L.A. He wore a flowing white gown with a 2-foot-high sequined headdress.

Among those honored were Robin Tyler and the Rev. Troy Perry, two plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to last month's Supreme Court ruling. Rodney Scott, president of the Christopher Street West Assn., which organized the event, said the decision to honor them had been made before the ruling.

"This is an incredible opportunity for our community to celebrate," Scott said.

He said that he and other activists are mindful of a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials estimated Sunday's crowd at up to 175,000, an increase of about 25,000 people from last year.

"I think there's a renewed energy in the community about gay marriage," said Sheriff's Capt. Buddy Goldman, who runs the department's West Hollywood station. "There really is an upbeat feeling."

Authorities reported no major incidents at the event.

At one point on the route, which ran from Crescent Heights to Robertson boulevards, fewer than a dozen protesters stood with bullhorns and signs that read "God Abhors You" and "Smile: Satan Loves You." But their presence did little to dampen spirits at the event, as some parade-goers snapped photos of them or walked past laughing.

Many attendees, such as Lu Dalmeida and her partner, Genevieve Gates, kept their focus on having fun.

The event, Dalmeida said, gives thousands an opportunity to celebrate without worrying about discrimination.

"So much of the time, even if we're not closeted, we are still wary of what people are thinking," she said. "It's a nice way to let go."

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

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