Worldwide Pride Parades Offer Solutions for Targeted LGBT Individuals

This past weekend saw a large amount of pride parades all across the world, with some creative solutions for those who could not participate.

Marking the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City (NYC), the United States had pride parades in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and of course NYC. The focal points of the weekend were the people who made the Supreme Court rulings possible: the San Franciscan parade had two couples who brought the Prop 8 case in front of the Supreme Court—Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo—who were married just after the marriage ban was lifted; and Edith Windsor, the woman who was the plaintiff in the DOMA case, helped lead the march in NYC.

Internationally, pride parades were met with different reactions, though all of them included some sort of large political message. A week ago, on the one-month anniversary of gay marriage in France, Paris held its always popular pride parade, marching to the Place de la Bastille, the location for its traditional huge dance party. In Istanbul, the pride parade joined with the thousands of protesters already in Taksim Square and marched down Istiklal Avenue with banners of support written in Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish, and Arabic. Pride parades in Bogota, Caracas, and Toronto were also well attended and celebrated.

Things were a little bit different in Russia. The Russian government has always been openly hostile to its lgbt community, beating, arresting, and detaining known queer people, their allies, and their supporters. Last year the Russian government upheld the Tverskoy District Court ruling that banned gay pride parades from the city of Moscow for 100 years. While it sounds like satire, the government is quite serious about it, and has received condemnations from international human rights groups, including the European Court of Human Rights.

On Saturday, June 29, protesters were arrested in a pride rally in St. Petersburg. Nationalist civilians, who outnumbered the protesters 5 to 1, also showed up, throwing rocks and eggs and shouting “Sodomy will not pass.”

This year, in protest of the government, Russian lgbt activists decided they would have their pride parade, just away from their native soil. The day after the protests in Russia, supporters took to the streets during the NYC pride parade and held their own “Virtual Pride” <>. Using geolocation and social networking technology, every step of the parade route showed on a map of Moscow in the route that the pride parade would have taken, and supporters populated the route by using the hashtag #virtualpride to make speech bubbles pop up along the route.

Virtual Pride was officially supported by the directors and organizers of the parade. Tish Flynn, media director for NYC Pride, explained, “We think it’s really important that anyone is allowed to celebrate a pride. If it’s not a safe space where they live, either internationally or here, we feel like everyone should be able to take part in some sort of pride celebration.”

While attitudes in Russia have not gotten better toward lgbt people, the ever-increasing spread of pride parades and positively-changing attitudes shows a lot of progress throughout the world. It is definitely a season to feel pride, and celebrate.

Will Phillips Ends His Silence: The Pledge from A Historic Young LGBT Activist

After more than three-and-a-half years, Will Phillips finally got to say the Pledge of Allegiance in a nation with greater equality.

Will’s journey as a young gay rights activist started when he was 10. In his 5th grade class in the West Fork School District in Arkansas, Will decided that he couldn’t in good conscience stand for the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, which got him in trouble with the entire school. On the original CNN interview he did with his father in November 2009, the reason that he decided to stay seated was because, in his words, “I’ve always tried to analyze things because I want to be a lawyer… I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.”

He took the stand, or more aptly kept his seat, because he thought if gays and lesbians couldn’t get married, then he didn’t want to repeat a dishonest pledge. His parents are straight and married, but the family was working to be an ally to the lgbt community, had attended pride parades, and were dismayed by what was going on in the country on the subject of equal rights. He was constantly bullied by peers after this declaration, but has since never backed down because of them. When responding to comments about being un-American, he said that being an American means, “Freedom of speech. The freedom to disagree. That’s what I think pretty much being an American represents.”

Since his protest, he’s been recognized internationally. The National Center for Lesbian Rights awarded him with the “Fierce Ally Award,” the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) awarded him a Media Award for “Outstanding TV Segment,” and he has spoken at several Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) events encouraging people to stand up for protecting equal human rights and for denouncing hate groups’ efforts against gay marriage legislation.

To honor him, Will got to be the Grand Marshall in both the 2010 Fayetteville, and then the 2011 San Antonio, Arkansas Gay Pride Parades. Social conservatives saw this as “brain-washing” and using a child as a spokesperson for immoral subjects, while Will’s parents constantly denied this point, saying it was his idea and his design.

On Saturday June 29 this year, after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, Will got to recite the Pledge of Allegiance publicly after the Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade.

During his speech before the pledge, he stated that there is still more work that needs to be done throughout the country. He mentioned bullying in schools, job discrimination, marriage discrimination in the remaining 37 states lacking or banning marriage equality, women’s rights, reproductive rights, immigration reform, and exercising everyone’s important obligation to vote.

Even with everything that needs to happen, Will reminded the crowd to enjoy the historic time. “Spread rainbows around the world and make it a more beautiful place. Today is a day to celebrate. We’ve earned this. The court decision on DOMA and Prop 8 is a huge step in the right direction and opens the door to so much more change.”

You can see his speech and recital of the Pledge of Allegiance here

If you want to relive the words or see from where he’s come, you can watch the original 2009 CNN interview below: