Pride on pa­rade

Gay wed­dings and rain­bows amid a 40th year of ex­u­ber­ance

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRIGID SCHULTE AND LUZ LAZO

With a land­mark Supreme Court de­ci­sion on same-sex mar­riage ex­pected in the com­ing weeks, the Dis­trict’s 40th an­nual jam-packed, rain­bow-stud­ded Cap­i­tal Pride Pa­rade fea­tured a float with a gay cou­ple ty­ing the knot.

Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional, which spon­sors the pa­rade, ar­ranged for long­time cou­ple Ge­orge Car­ran­cho and Sean Franklin — who met in Texas, where same-sex mar­riage is il­le­gal — to marry atop one of the floats. The cou­ple cur­rently re­sides in New York, where gay mar­riage is legal, but they wanted to make a state­ment in Wash­ing­ton.

By 4 p.m., scores of peo­ple wear­ing rain­bow colors crowded Metro’s Red Line to Dupont Cir­cle, where the mas­sive, bois­ter­ous crowd jos­tled to exit the plat­forms.

Out­side, the neigh­bor­hood was awash with spec­ta­tors — or­ga­niz­ers said tens of thou­sands of peo­ple lined the 11/ 2- mile route that passes many of the city’s well-known gay restau­rants and clubs — cheer­ing as bands marched, hip-hop and reg­gae beats pounded and mo­tor­cy­cles rolled dis­play­ing pride flags. Some in the crowd waved posters

that read: “Born This Way” and “I love my kids, gay and straight.”

Robert Shooltz, 32, who is straight, came from McLean and en­dured an hour-long trip on Metro, with a 20-minute de­lay, to get to the march. “This is so im­por­tant for hu­man rights and equal­ity in gen­eral,” he said im­me­di­ately af­ter pur­chas­ing a pride ban­dana.

It was a spe­cial day for first­time pa­rade-goer Maria Or­tiz, of Sil­ver Spring. She came out to her fam­ily ear­lier this year.

Grow­ing up Catholic, she said, she feared judg­ment from her fam­ily and friends, and at one point was sui­ci­dal. She came not only to sup­port gay rights and same-sex mar­riage but to feel oth­ers’ sup­port.

“I have never been around so many peo­ple like me,” she said. “I am al­ready feel­ing the love.”

The day’s fes­tiv­i­ties be­gan with a rooftop “vow re­newal” cer­e­mony that called on ev­ery­one present to ded­i­cate them­selves to the right for any two peo­ple in love— gay or not— to walk down the mat­ri­mo­nial aisle.

Ten cou­ples had ini­tially signed up with one of the spon­sors, Ar­ling­ton-based GayWed­dings.com, to re­new their mar­riage vows sur­rounded by rain­bow-colored roses, dainty hors d’oeu­vres and a wall of bal­loons on the rooftop of the Em­bassy Ho­tel near Dupont Cir­cle.

But with tem­per­a­tures soar­ing, an hour-long shut­down of the Red Line and sin­gle-track­ing un­til early af­ter­noon — and only one straight cou­ple who had ar­rived ready to re­new their vows— or­ga­niz­ers in­stead asked the crowd to join hands and vow to fight for same-sex cou­ples’ right to marry.

“Do you prom­ise to af­firm your sup­port for mar­riage equal­ity?” in­toned the of­fi­ciant, Steven Gau­daen, 25, who runs a pop-up wed­ding com­pany for gay and straight cou­ples with his wife, Maggie.

“We do,” the crowd re­sponded solemnly.

“Will you be an ally for those in need of an ally?” said the nat­tily dressed Gau­daen, in a suit and pink bow tie, sport­ing a lapel but­ton that read “Love Kicks Ass.”

“We will,” said the crowd of about 30, many of them wed­ding and event plan­ners look­ing not only to sup­port mar­riage equal­ity but to net­work in what is be­com­ing a boom­ing and in­creas­ingly lu­cra­tive mar­ket.

Same-sex mar­riage is legal in 37 states, and 6 in 10 Amer­i­cans say they sup­port it, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Wash­ing­ton Post-ABC News poll. The Supreme Court is con­sid­er­ing whether the Con­sti­tu­tion re­quires the states where it is not legal to is­sue mar­riage li­censes to same-sex cou­ples and, if not, whether they must rec­og­nize the mar­riages per­formed in states where same-sex mar­riage is legal. An af­fir­ma­tive rul­ing could, in ef­fect, make same-sex mar­riage legal through­out the coun­try.

Kate Hoffman, a spokes­woman for Wed­ding Wire, an­other spon­sor of the vow re­newal, said the num­ber of florists, bands, cater­ers and other wed­ding ven­dors who serve same-sex cou­ples has grown from 20,000 a few years ago to 120,000. “I feel very proud that the wed­ding in­dus­try has al­ways sup­ported love,” she said.

Jen­nifer John­ston, of En­ter­tain­ment Cruises, said that same­sex wed­dings make up about 40 per­cent of its wed­ding busi­ness.

“Since D.C. was one of the first places to le­gal­ize gay mar­riage, we re­ally have be­come a des­ti­na­tion for gay wed­dings,” she said, adding that the Ad­vo­cate ranked the Dis­trict the gayest city in the na­tion in 2014.

An­dres Miguel Har­ris, a wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher, said that although he is gay, he has only just be­gun to shoot gay wed­dings, and had needed to learn a whole new way of work­ing.

“In straight wed­dings, ev­ery­thing is so bride-fo­cused. Or you as­sume the bride is posed here, and the groom there,” he said. “With same-sex wed­dings, you want to let peo­ple pose them­selves in the way they feel most com­fort­able. You never want to make as­sump­tions.”

The same-sex mar­riage ad­vo­cates also vowed to march in the Cap­i­tal Pride Pa­rade.

Last year, a mil­i­tary color guard marched at the head of the pa­rade for the first time. This year, a group of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts joined the color guard. In May, Robert M. Gates, a for­mer de­fense sec­re­tary who is the pres­i­dent of the Boy Scouts, called on the or­ga­ni­za­tion to end its ban on gay lead­ers.

Bernie Delia, pres­i­dent of the Cap­i­tal Pride Al­liance, which or­ga­nized the event, said the pa­rade is a re­flec­tion of the grow­ing ac­cep­tance of gay and les­bian Amer­i­cans and gay rights. “We have made re­mark­able progress in the last 40 years,” he said.

Kathryn Hamm, pub­lisher of GayWed­dings.com and one of the spon­sors of the vow re­newal cer­e­mony, said she re­called the ut­ter ter­ror she felt march­ing in the Pride Pa­rade 25 years ago.

Though she and her wife chose not to pub­licly re­new their pri­vate vows on the rooftop party in the morn­ing Satur­day — they were mar­ried in a civil cer­e­mony in 1999 and threw a big wed­ding in 2013 — Hamm said she proudly rode on top of a con­vert­ible Mus­tang dur­ing the pa­rade this year, smil­ing, out, open for all to see and hap­pily, legally mar­ried.

“I have never been around so many peo­ple like me. I am al­ready feel­ing the love.” Maria Or­tiz, a first-time pa­rade-goer from Sil­ver Spring

BRIT­TANY GREE­SON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

JoMcDaniel, 33, of Ar­ling­ton kisses her part­ner, Bo David­son, 37, be­fore rid­ing on a float Satur­day in the Dis­trict’s 40th an­nual Cap­i­tal Pride Pa­rade. A pending Supreme Court case was on many minds.

PHO­TOS BY BRIT­TANY GREE­SON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Clock­wise, from top left: Scott andMelis­saMiles and their chil­dren, 3-year-old Coltrane and 1-year-oldMolly, watch a dancer per­form at Dupont Cir­cle be­fore the Cap­i­tal Pride Pa­rade. A dog named Kayla sports the colors of the rain­bow flag. A joint ser­vice color guard from theMil­i­tary Dis­trict ofWash­ing­ton lines up be­fore the pa­rade. D.C. res­i­dents Kristina Kelly, fore­ground, and Jas­mine Blue wait in their cars for the kick­off of the pa­rade, which went from Dupont Cir­cle to the 14th Street cor­ri­dor. More than 170 groups, walk­ers and en­ter­tain­ers par­tic­i­pated.

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