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LGBT community celebrates Pride Week

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | JUNE 18, 2012 6:30 AM

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Hundreds of community members painted downtown Iowa City with pride on June 16, leaving behind cheering spectators, honking vehicles, candy, fliers, and dozens of rainbow balloons.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and their supporters honored June Pride Month by parading downtown and gathering on the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City's annual Pride Parade and Festival.

Bridget Malone, a co-head of the Iowa City Pride Committee, said the event, as one of Iowa City's longest running parades, has changed a lot in its 40 years. What used to be more of a protest has evolved into more of a celebration, she said.

"These days, we're very blessed in Iowa to have achieved pretty much 99 percent equality," said Malone. "We are celebrating the LGBT pride in our community, pride in Iowa City, and pride for all of the positive changes that are happening in America."

These changes include the repeal of the national Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy banning openly gay individuals from serving in the military on Sept. 20, 2011, and President Barack Obama's recent proclamation of support for gay marriage May 9.

"We're very proud this year to have our first official color guard at the front of our parade," Malone said, referring to the three LGBT service members who led the procession carrying the American, Iowa's, and pride flags. "It was only made possible by the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It's a big step up and a very symbolic thing for us."

UI student Will Reasoner was one of the many volunteers from the Obama campaign reaching out to the LGBT community.

"A lot of people are happy that the president finally declared his stance," he said. "We in the campaign were finally able to come out and say that we are working for you. That along with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell really lets the community know we're fighting for them."
Jefri Palermo, the development coordinator in the UI School of Social Work and co-head of the UI

LGBT Staff & Faculty Association and the Visibility Action Team, said the festival was a great opportunity to spread word about outreach organizations.

"We want more people to know that we exist and offer help for people in the community," she said. "We just like to be out here and make ourselves visible. It's a celebratory atmosphere and breaks down perceived barriers between LGBT people and allies."

Iowa City resident William Wright said he was happy to see his goddaughter, a gay UI student and member of the university's LGBT Allied Union, as well as other openly gay students express themselves during the Pride Parade.

"Growing up in America today is really hard for everyone, especially women," Wright said. "When you're gay, that's just one more thing. [My goddaughter] has decided she doesn't want to live a secretive life or feel like a different person, and we're very proud of her."

Andrew Greenberg, a recent UI law-school graduate, said he felt a similar sense of freedom at the Pride Parade and Festival, choosing to spend his birthday at the event.

"It's a fun reason to come out and celebrate and be visible," he said. "Iowa City is already a really open community, so it's good to re-emphasize the message and great resources we have here."

While hundreds turned out in support of the community, a few from the opposite side of the gay-rights debate picketed the event. But Malone said that no matter what opinions are expressed, attitudes and actions remain peaceful.

"We always have about one or two protesters who demonstrate, but we just ask people to be respectful of others' opinions," Malone said. "If you don't agree, just ignore them. We never have any trouble."

So little trouble, in fact, that Malone said many people question why the event is still necessary in Iowa City today.

But she said the Pride Parade and Festival remains an essential staple for Iowa City's LGBT community.

"We do it because it's important to remember the people who fought so hard for these changes," she said. "It's important to remind ourselves that we're not all the way there yet, but we're heading in the right direction.

"It's important to be visible so that people can see gay people as not weird or odd but that we're your neighbors, we're your teachers, we're your bus drivers and janitors. We're you."


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