by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
On June 27, Seattle Out and Proud (SOaP) will present the 36th Seattle Pride Parade. According to SOaP officials, preparations for the 2010 parade are in full swing.
"I expect the celebratory atmosphere surrounding our Referendum 71 success to be a keystone of the parade," Jon Mejia, SOaP secretary, told SGN. "Based on initial buzz, coupled with the fact that we have a larger volunteer base than ever before, I think we'll see a bigger crowd than last year with approximately 200 contingents marching in the parade."
Mejia says that SOaP plans to present a thematic and visually arresting parade this year. Due to the Referendum 71 victory, the parade will also be a it more politically charged. In the months leading up to the parade, he said, SOaP will work closely with a number of community groups to present events that better encompass and represent LGBT families, women and those under 21 years old.
With the second largest number of LGBT residents by percentage of population in the country - estimated around 57,900 in Seattle and almost triple that metro-wide - the city is home to a wide variety of LGBT political points of view. To that end, SOaP officials say it's not surprising that this year's Seattle Pride theme, "We Are ALL American," has ignited early fireworks within the community.
"I've had several lively and worthwhile e-mail exchanges on the subject of our theme," said Mejia. "In case there are any doubts, our Pride parade is always a celebration of the uniqueness of the LGBT population while simultaneously a demand for our humans rights to be recognized. The theme's emphasis is on the capitalized word 'ALL,' the meaning being that everyone who lives in America, regardless of race, religion, nationality gender, or sexual orientation deserves equal treatment under our Constitution."
SOaP's main focus will be the passage of Referendum 71 by Washington State voters during the 2009 General Election (which marked the first time in American history that an LGBT civil rights issue was approved at a state ballot box), which granted Washingtonian LGBT residents the same rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples.
Still, Mejia says, a faction within the community feel that the theme is offensive and are charging that it attempts to normalize the LGBT community.
"The theme is a call to return to the founding ideals of this nation and serves as a reminder that everyone who came to this land - be it on the Mayflower hundreds of years ago or as a new arrival just last week - did so because of America's promise to provide ALL of its citizens equal justice, a level playing field, and liberty to pursue happiness," Mejia said in a SOaP press release last week.
In addition to the parade, SOaP will also present several similarly-themed events leading up to the big day. Confirmed events include bowling, a comedy show and a Pride picnic where kids and families will enjoy a soapbox derby, an apple pie eating contest, music and games. Potential sites for this year's picnic are Myrtle Edwards Park, Denny Park and Volunteer Park.
SOaP has announced the return of one of last year's most successful events: "Pride Idol." This year, "Pride Idol" will have an expanded format with auditions held in Seattle and surrounding areas to select 10-12 contestants who will then compete over eight weeks at R Place.
Grand marshals for this year's parade include decorated Marine Eric Alva, Iraq military hero; Greta Cammermeyer, LGBT icon who was expelled from the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and later reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court; and former UW Husky and retired National Football League player Dave Kopay.
Also being honored for their contribution to the Referendum 71 victory are Washington Families Standing Together, Equal Rights Washington, The Greater Seattle Business Association, PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and Seattle Gay News. "Each played an important role in rallying LGBT and allied voters," said Mejia.
SOaP is actively recruiting new board members and volunteers who wish to help make the Pride celebrations more relevant and meaningful. To learn more about service opportunities and upcoming events, visit the organization online at www.seattlepride.org, or at the SOaP Facebook page.
"All are welcome and invited to come out and join the hundreds of thousands of neighbors, friends and family on 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle for one of the oldest and largest Pride Parades in the nation," said Mejia.
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